Track-By-Track: ‘Brownswood Electr*c 2’

Take a trip with the artists shaping bass music worldwide, as they talk us through their contributions to the latest in Gilles Peterson's compilation series.

For those unfamiliar, Brownswood Electr*c represents the bassier, dubbier, dancier side of Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings. Alumni from last year’s inaugural compilation release included Mount Kimbie, Pearson Sound and Mosca. Put together by Brownswood’s Alex Stevenson, this next instalment, out this week, spreads the net wider, taking in sounds from the UK to Japan, Germany, Australia and the USA. Bubbling throughout is a fascination with the off-beat, a tendency toward understated melody and a sensitivity to the warmth that rises from unexpected, fractured patterns. Frederic Robinson, a 19-year-old producer from Germany who contributed Mood Swings (listen on the right), says it’s all about contrast. He’s right: what’s exciting, interesting and, quite simply, makes ‘Brownswood Electr*c 2’ a hugely enjoyable listen is that you can hear the artists feeling their way, playing out the what if’s and building on the back-to-front world of the shifting bass scene.

Track-By-Track: Brownswood Electr*c 2’

01. Ta-ku Hey Kids

Ta-ku: It started as a very simple track that was sitting on my computer for a while. My friend Roughsoul lay down some nice chord progressions with me and I lay down the drums and ad-libs. I’ve never made a track that made me dance in the studio as much as this one. You know the ‘little kicks’ dance Elaine does in Seinfeld? Yeah, that’s the dance I was rocking all night. Something about this track makes me so happy. Even though the track was almost complete, it needed something a little extra – I added a few kid chants to the main verse of the song and found a nice little intro of some back n forth monologue between a pastor and classroom of kids. I feel it fits perfectly. There is no real back story to the song. Except that if you feel like getting your groove on to said song… Please. Feel free.

02. Monky Drunkerdz

Monky: The track Drunkerdz originally featured on my ‘Thoughts’ EP which was released late last summer on Robox Neotech. When Doshy, who runs the label, chose it for the EP it was just a quick idea that I had been messing around with and was very different to how it sounds now. But Doshy heard something he liked in the synth lines and the character of the track, so I told him I would work on it for a bit and if he still liked it we could include it on the release. There were already a few tougher kind of tracks going on there, so I saw this as a great opportunity to explore the more pink, fluffy, melancholic side to my style. This seemed to pay off because it was the track on the EP that people picked up on the most, and I think making it taught me a lot about writing music and helped me to develop my sound. It gave me more of a feel for writing melodies, layering up textures, and made me less afraid to show emotion in my music. Although I haven’t made another track much like Drunkerdz, I think the way it helped me develop my sound can be heard throughout everything I have made since.

03. Anenon Shifts

Anenon: Though I’m completely humbled to be on ‘Brownswood Electr*c 2’, it is pretty funny to me because I don’t necessarily associate my music with belonging in the bass music continuum. I had uploaded the track to my Soundcloud page not thinking much of it at the time and I had a very friendly message from Alex at Brownswood requesting the track for the compilation. I gladly obliged! Shifts is an exercise in four-on-the-floor music making, something I wasn’t really doing at the time. The track came out of nowhere late on a Saturday night after my girlfriend was already asleep. I had a sudden urge to make a song with a steady kick drum that really hit, but was also light on its toes and deft in execution. I really try to make each song of mine a world of its own that a listener can get lost in and I believe that I achieve that with Shifts – it’s very easy for me to just forget my surroundings and dive into the music every time I listen to it. Thick layers of ambient harmonies blanket deceptively simple melodic patterns while the percussion continues to build. All elements find their comfort zones, yet tensely jam away as the ambient harmonies subtly grow stronger and the track runs its course, stripping layers away until the ambiance is all that remains.

04. DJG Automatic

DJG: Automatic came together pretty organically for me in the studio a few months back – I wrote it very quickly, I felt like it sort of wrote itself. At the time I was feeling a little unsure of what direction to head in musically. I was feeling bored with dubstep and Automatic was the first track I had written in many months and it set me in a direction I felt good about. The track has sort of an arc, which a lot of my tunes tend to have. My favorite part of the track is the melody that comes together at the very end.

05. Frederic Robinson Mood Swings

Frederic Robinson: I made Mood Swings during a time when I experimented a lot with looping. I wanted to set the element of repetition in the looped vocal in contrast to the other parts of the track which have a lot of movement. The tune represents my current style of music very well. I do not have a very big attention span and because I listen to my own music all the time it has to be extremely detailed and versatile otherwise I get bored with it way too quickly. That is why the tune is so full of gaps, fills and offbeat drops. I played around with familiar elements from all sorts of D&B subgenres like the microfunk percussion, the full steady subs of liquid D&B and the pianos, rhodes and vibraphone sounds from the more jazz-influenced end of the spectrum. The intro vocal has the same sample source as the chopped loops in the main parts. Having heavily stretched airy reverb-overdosed vocals and harmonies in the intro was a nice contrast to the clearly defined sounds in the rest of the tune and that is what it is all about: contrast. Oh, and the time signature is 4/4.

06. Synkro & Indigo Knowing You

Synkro & Indigo: Having a scan through some old records we came across the “all night” sample that was the foundation for the whole beat. The sample had drums, bass and vocal all in there and whilst listening we accidentally pushed the stop button on the turntable creating that effect. All the elements seem to gel nicely after that…everything else just came naturally from the inspiration of that initial little mishap. It was made about a year or two ago now, it has the sound we were into at the time all over it. A bit slower than the beats that we were used to. It encouraged us to experiment a bit more and led on to interesting things!

07. mfp Future Hopes

mfp: I made this track when I was in Toronto, Canada. There was a monthly beat showcase event called Beat Lounge, it’s not a BEAT BATTLE event you see everywhere, it’s more to share and show what YOU GOT. So no competition at all, though I always focused on how to rock the audience or surprise them to get their attention, and this is something I made for that. It’s a very simple beat, blended with pieces of samples, floating synths and crazy 8-bit thing, but when I was making it something caught my mind and took me this dreamy world. I added the name of this track Future Hopes later (I always name them as beat “number”) because I knew it has a strong positive energy, and at this time, we had a huge disaster in Japan so I wanted to name it as it means something for it.

08. Jus Wan Miles Away

Jus Wan Miles Away started as an experiment, as most of my tracks do. I wanted to try and make a sort of downtempo track with some chopped breaks layered on it. It evolved slowly over several weeks of tinkering around with different synths and basslines. The main synth line is actually two different sounds layered and side-chained, one from an analog minimoog clone by Studio Electronics called the SE-1 and one from Massive. DJG helped considerably with concepts for the bassline change and mixdown. I think it is the best representation of the vibe I always try to evoke with my tracks: a feeling of being really out of your comfort zone and pushing limits, miles away from home with a long road ahead. It’s a kind of bittersweet vibe, a mixture of excitement and joy, sorrow and loneliness.

09. DJ Dials Pillowforts

DJ Dials: Pillowforts is a strange song! I made it while riding a ferry everyday when traveling back and forth from San Francisco to Sausalito in 2010. I was doing a big project out there and spent an hour or two everyday in transit on these ferries. It’s pretty good weather so I’d sit up on the deck and watch the water and do weirdo drum programming, no big deal, except I was really sad about love. The song is a pretty basic lamentation about a girl. It’s funny to look back at these things now, like an old love letter or a ticket to a show or that strange keepsake you for some reason never throw out because it reminds you of whatever beautiful sadness you had. I was so bummed that after my gig in Sausalito was finished I just couldn’t bear to finish the song.. and besides I had no reason to step on a boat. A few months later shit got even grimmer and my best friends took me out sailing to cheer me up. I remember the look on their faces when I busted out my laptop, put headphones on and started working on this song, trying to finish it. After a few hours I was almost done and then my laptop froze, lost everything I had done. We docked on an island 20 minutes later and while my friends were barbecuing on the boat I ran to a shed and jacked some power to plug in my laptop. I didn’t want to lose that main melody I had come up with so I was humming it like a madman. I sat there in the heat, next to this shed and a bush and worked on the song until the sun set while my friends had no idea where the fuck I was. It was pretty good closure and cheered me up. Now my friends go sailing without me and make fun of me cause I’m that guy. Fact- for some reason everyone keeps thinking the song is called Pillowfarts. It’s not, it’s Pillowforts. It’s like a fort that you make out of pillows and live in forever with as many nice sandwiches as you can eat. Tip – when you make a beat on headphones while riding a ferry for a month make sure you get it properly mixed and mastered, cause the first version will sound awwwfulll.

10. Funk Ethics Step In

Funk Ethics: I can’t take all the credit for Step In. It was more of a collaboration with a Henry Hoover. Once he laid the chord progression down I was able to programme some funky metallic rhythms with the help of other household appliances. All in all, Step In encapsulates my love of funk, machines and hoovers.

11. Jack Dixon By My Side

Jack Dixon: I wanted to do something edging slightly closer towards house with this track – and more importantly, something for the dancefloor. I actually went through about four or five revisions, changing and tweaking things constantly, until I was really happy with it. I usually start a track by finding a groove, or spend time getting harmony between the percussion and bassline – but actually I worked in reverse on this track, trying out various tempos and patterns after I’d finished the melody.

12. HxdB Savage Pets

HxdB: This song for me really marked a shift in my approach to production and in the resulting sound. People who might be familiar with my music know that I am known typically for my emotive synths and almost melancholy melodies, but with this tune I strived to create something with a different attitude. Something that would be quirky but still very effective on a dance floor. The funny thing about how the track was made is that all of the synths, the bass, all of the musical elements are simply one note, which I had pitch-bent to varying degrees. What does this song say? “Hey you, you over there, get off your ass and dance.”

13. Stray Break Your Legs

Stray: A lot of the 120 – 140bpm stuff I’m digging at the moment draws inspiration from juke / footwork, chopped vocals and breaks everywhere. With Break Your Legs I wanted to try and bring that kind of sound up to 170bpm, since I hadn’t really heard that done before. The stuttered pace to the track’s percussion and sub is the kind of thing I find satisfying – I like it when a rhythm kinda falls over itself. Not sure exactly what that says about me, although come to think of it I’ve probably fallen over myself a few times in the past (I’ve got flat feet). As for the track’s production, one thing that I remember is it being difficult getting the sub and kick to behave well with each other. I think in the end I just split a bassy kick sample into 3 layers; one for kick impact, one for sub, and one for the distortion. There’s really not much going on in the track, but I do recall it taking a fair bit of careful EQ-ing to get the elements that are there to sit well alongside each other and give the impression of one coherent feel to the rhythm. The track isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but it’s always a lot of fun to play out and tends to bring out the weird in people’s dance moves, which is definitely a good thing!

14. AEED Under The Alps

AEED lives in Switzerland and wasn’t available for comment as he doesn’t use the internet very much.

Brownswood Electr*c 2 was released on June 27th 2011

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