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“It’s moods. A mood work.” Cosmin TRG says about his album ‘Simulat’ before laughing a little softly, slightly abashed maybe at the fact it might sound like he’s making a big statement, and sipping his beer. “I’m sure people will listen to it and have no idea what was going through my head when I was making it, but I was kind of in this frame of mind, getting inspired by previous experience and childhood, places I’ve seen, things I’ve done. Getting energy from that.” It’s a great record wherever it comes from; playing light, multi-hued games with the techno template, hardly deviating from the regularity of 4/4, but packed with expression, beats drizzled in light euphoria, unfurling with an easy swing that hints at his varied past musical output.
The Romanian producer has been releasing for a good while now. Starting off under the name TRG, he initially fitted best in the dubstep-and-its-off-shoots area, with Put You Down being the first release on London’s Hessle Audio, the ‘Now You Know’ EP on Tempa, and the ‘Losing Marbles’ 12” on Hotflush among his early output. There’s a bit of 2-step in the exuberant melody of Ritmat on ‘Simulat’, and the trickling Less Of Me More Of You. Mostly though, it’s hard to believe the person who made the ravey, broken Twilight Riddim (from his Tempa EP) is also the man behind something as feathery and 4/4 as Star Motel.
He grew up in Romania, sporadically getting hold of music after the collapse of the Berlin wall, relying on obtaining records from abroad and over the internet, soaking up anything from house and techno 12“s to Aphex Twin music videos on MTV (there’s certainly a bit of an IDM gait to a track like Lillasyster). Getting in to making his own tracks was a gradual process: “I think ever since I heard electronic music I was really fascinated with the process behind it. I did look into different formulas before I made my own music. It took me five or six years before I actually sat down and made music, and then another four or five years before I’d made music that I could actually send out to labels and people.” There’s a steady deliberateness about his productions, the way album opening track Amor Y Otros bubbles and drifts into focus is dream-like, ringing, light – not words one generally associates with techno. Even when he goes darker and moodier on something like Want You To Be, it never sounds oppressive.
He describes what he makes as “de-localized”, and it’s true ‘Simulat’ sounds primarily like a European album, but isn’t really tied to any particular cities sound but rather takes snippets from many. “I don’t really feel like home anywhere. I like switching up vibes and cities.” Since being in Romania, he’s lived briefly in London, and now resides in Berlin. Though he’s making techno these days, and DJing it whenever I’ve seen him play – the acidic taut rhythms of Fizic is a good indication of where his live sound sits these days – he doesn’t credit the city he’s living in with the shift. “I made Berlin sounding music before I went to Berlin. Before I ever went to Berghain or wherever. And I was making the 2-step garage-y thing before I ever went to London. Before I ever went to Plastic People, DMZ or these places.” His music pulsates organically, it sounds like these tracks have been in the making far longer than the few months he claims to have been working on the album for. It’s music that sounds settled, and it fits him well.
‘Simulat’ is his debut album, but it’s strange to think of it like that when he’s quite a few releases deep, and a release like his ‘Universal Crush’ EP on Rush Hour earlier in the year, while only four songs long, worked as much as a complete whole as many full lengths around. The record is out on Modeselektor’s label 50 Weapons label. He spent several months making it in their studios, borrowing a lot of their equipment and hardware – hence the essentially warm, ingrained sound of the album perhaps. “It was the most intense experience.” He says of his time making the album. “At times it was frustrating, at times it was amazing, exhilarating, but it was the most intense.”
‘Simulat’, while certainly not the end point for an artist as shape-shifting as Cosmin – when we speak about where things might go next he talks enthusiastically about synth pop and artists like Maria Minerva, and ideas about doing a live show in the vein of someone like Shackleton with live instruments – it’s arguably some of his best work, a real journey through the possibilities of dance music. “I thought of the album as writing a novel, with different chapters, maybe a sort of narrative, and I just had a lot of fun working towards that goal.” It’s an album that moves in peaks and troughs, slipping and mutating between starry ambience such as Infinite Helsinki, to all out techno insistence as on closing track Form Over Function. “I had mixed feelings before I started. I got really confused when I was making it, and at the end I was close to a heart attack in the last few days [laughs].” The album sounds like it holds all those emotions. It’s that rare thing – a dance album with a real human pulse running through it.
Towards the end of our talk, he asks me what I think the album sounds like. I tell him I think it sounds honest, which he seems pleased with. “Honesty. That’s what I was going for.” He’s a producer moved by what he assimilates gradually over the years, by memories and feelings, effected by small finger prints certain experiences leave behind. “I was at this exhibition in I think Bucharest. There was an installation where there was a looped video with a train, and I think it had Basic Channel as the soundtrack. And it was amazing! Wow! Everyone would pass through and be like oh yeah there’s a train, there’s techno. Oh. And they would be there for 30 seconds. And I was there for like half an hour. The train, techno! It was really interesting and raw. It made sense to me. I mean, most people ask me why I switched from dubstep, garage to the techno thing. I didn’t really think about it. I just woke up one day and I was thinking I have to do the stuff I was really into back in the day. I have to do it. And I didn’t really go back.”