Track By Track: Mike Slott – Vignettes
Towards the tail end of February came a special announcement from LuckyMe, the prominent Scottish record label which has been responsible for recent releases by the likes of Nathan Micay, Sevendeaths, Jacques Greene, TNGHT and many more. It's an imprint which has evolved significantly since early formation and it's reach and outlook is very different in the present from perhaps what it was in the past.
Mike Slott is a musician and producer who played a key role in the label during it's early years. Releasing music which sat somewhere between downtempo, hip hop, house and the abstract beat movement which was dominating Los Angeles at the time. His music was widely supported by the likes of Stones Throw, Flying Lotus and the affiliated communities.
Then he vanished.
This year marks the release of his first new music in ten years, an album called 'Vignettes' which is a cinematic collection of atmospheric soundscapes and dream sequences. It's beautiful, shimmering and moody. It carries the same euphoric elegance and precision as the music of LuckyMe's past but carries a maturity which demonstrates the present state of an artist and a label who've grown with the times.
We invited Mike to take us through the context of the album, track by track.
1. Simple Dreams of Simple Days
I wrote Simple Dreams in Brooklyn…whenever I hear it I always get transported to a gig I played in a small club in Berlin. It was winter and all these kids jammed into this little downstairs underground venue. This was my opening track and once the bass hit, I just remember the ‘oooohhh’ sound everybody made. That always stuck with me as I never thought of this track as some super bass heavy piledriver track. Its sparkling and emotive but the sub bass keeps it grounded and physical and I like that sense of symmetry and representation in this track.
2. Milky Oceans
I was listening to a lot of fusion records, soundtracks and new age music when I made this track which is probably quite evident. People like John Abercrombie, Mark Isham, Andreas Vollenweider. I was going through a phase of not wanting drums on tracks and also trying to improvise and record and really not judge the results too much or put them in any box.
3. Letting Go
Around this time, I became more interested in the notion of not paying much attention to what was going on in the music world. I had a sticker I made on top of my studio monitor that just said ”Remember to Forget the World”; a reminder to try and block everything else out when I sat down to make music. So, I think that’s what inspired this title – not so ground-breaking a sentiment but certainly universal. I had a good habit of meditating at the time and the idea of letting things go, of not trying to force outcomes was something I was thinking about often and trying to implement in my music.
4. Keep Me Here
This track was written in Ireland at a time when I was touring in Europe. I would stay at my folks’ place in Dublin in between weekends of touring. I was at the house I grew up in and I just sat in the living room one day with its old wooden ceiling beams and very particular light – it kind of feels like a country cabin retreat meets tropical parrot garden- with my headphones on, soundtracking the moment. I remember it being a very still and peaceful afternoon, watching my family as they passed through the house. It was an emotional few minutes of music to make but by the end of it I knew the track was done and I would use it just as it was.
5. Testing Ground
This track always makes me think of Southern New Jersey – a place I’ve visited and spent a lot of time in over the years. I remember listening to my final bounce while riding around in the car watching an enormous pink and orange East Coast sunset over some mega sized strip mall glowing in the dusk. It brings me back to getting lost in free styling the tracks melodies one over the other when I made it. Its neon technicolour flying birds in New Jersey.
This is the most straightforward one to explain but also the most mystical. I was trying to capture, in sound at least, the story of the martyrdom of the Báb, a young merchant who rose up in late 19th century Iran and proclaimed that humanity was on the verge of a spiritual reformation, teaching many things contrary to the standards of the time like the equality of men and women, the abolishment of all forms of prejudice, etc. Essentially the annulment of previous systems which were no longer serving the needs of humanity…he ignited a spiritual revolution which resulted in large swathes of the population accepting his teachings but simultaneously provoked major resistance and a bloody crackdown from those in power. His story culminates in a very mysterious and tragic execution by firing squad at the hands of 750 rifles in front of 10,000 people.
7. Falling Through
We got to know an older man in Brooklyn who had been homeless for over 30 years, he lived on and off in an old shipping container near the docks in Red Hook. We would see him often on the streets and stop and chat and sometimes he’d ask to listen to music on our phones. He’d grown to a place where he didn’t want to have a proper home anymore, but I always felt there was something kind of chipper about him despite all the hardships he’d sustained. He was the inspiration for the mood and title of this track – people falling through the cracks.
Buy the LP HERE.