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Sam Purcell must have an overflowing schedule. Apart from producing under his alias DANCE, he also runs his own Blank Mind label, and studies in his final year at university in Newcastle. Launched in 2011, Blank Mind is a young label where three impressive releases are housed, one of which is delivered by the originally London-born artist himself – his debut EP, which is titled ‘Still / Ha’, released in October. The other two are the juke-oriented ‘3rd World / Hit It From The Back’ 12” by Chicago’s DJ Clent of Dance Mania fame, and the Jab Jab carnival-inspired ‘Cover Me / No Prisoners’ single held responsible by Adrian Lenz and Sandman from Grenada.
Although having only released one record, Purcell’s bracing and combustible music explores visions of the early 90s, investigating and throwing nods to the soul of UK rave culture. Side A Still is a sublime percussion-driven track, exerting synergistic effects with airy chords and creamy-smooth, music box-inspired melodies overriding halcyon rhythms, which sounds exactly like the kind of hidden, little-known but brilliant rave jams you randomly stumble upon when flicking through related YouTube clips late at night.
Dipping its foot into breakbeat, hip hop, and scratching the surface of urban jungle and ballroom house, Ha on the flip is a celebration of funky and jaunty sounds. It simply takes you on a flirtatious journey, because listening to it is like queuing to get into a rave while peering through the tiny smudgy window – you can feel the bassline pulsating under your feet and hear the unhinged thumps coming from the room, but you can’t get in there to dance just yet. It teases rather than serves as a straight-up heads-down dance floor banger, leaving you aching for more.
Venturing into the territory of dark, contemporary dance music by including tracks from Kassem Mosse, Untold, and Tuff Sherm, as well as classics by Basic Channel and Omar-S, Purcell’s immaculate and expansive 50-minute recording for Dummy also incorporates a few slices of exclusive original material. He was also kind enough to answer some questions we sent him over email.
Hi Sam, how’s it going? What have you been up to recently?
Good thanks. I’ve been super busy with the label and with my final year at university.
Please introduce yourself to Dummy readers.
I’m from Putney, London originally but I’m currently in Newcastle.
I set up my label Blank Mind last year, releasing obscure and hard music which I think needs to be heard by Adrian Lenz, Sandman, DJ Clent and finally myself as DANCE. The mission is to put out quality music with no consideration for genre. I’d like to think each release on Blank Mind comes at things from a new angle and taps into some unknown reaches.
Every release is mastered as well possible, and cut onto a 12” plate for the highest quality. I want to keep hold of the magic of collecting music, so each release is unique. 001 had full artwork, Hit it from the Back on 002 plays inside out and I’ve kept 003 as very limited one-off run with no digital. The commodity aspect of music is still really important, otherwise things just slip away.
Can you tell us more about this special mix you made for us?
I guess it’s my imagined dancefloor which is quite a hazy and relentless place. I wanted to keep the selection up front, so there’s a lot of unreleased tracks in there.
I’ve been lucky to be sent some amazing music by producers from all over the place. I think the tracks by Alan Johnson, Tuff Sherm and Velvet Suite Lounge should really excite people.
I try to ensure that everything is well balanced and I don’t dogmatically restrict myself to just new or obscure music – so there’s also a few well-known tracks in there as well, Basic Channel could fit in any mix and make it better.
Please highlight a few tracks included and why?
Nino’s Euphoria is the only beatless track on there. It samples the breakdown of Nino – World Champion, which I heard on an old Fabio set. My jaw hit the floor when I heard it, and I wanted to crystallise and pay tribute to it, in order to suspend and augment that feeling. I wanted to get that kind of wide eyed expanse of hearing something really overwhelming on the dancefloor for the first time, when the music is expanding and reverberating through the space, and it just keeps looping over and over in your head after it disappears from actuality, that disjuntion between private and shared reality.
Also, people don’t really know about Alan Johnson yet, but their music is amazing, Goron Sound sounds like Shackleton doing Acid People, it’s so elasticated and dynamic – I love it.
I think my favourite part of the mix though is probably when Vault meets Still and starts bouncing all over the place, it’s really special when two tunes fit perfectly together like that.
I like your debut ‘Still/ Ha’ EP a lot, do you mind telling us the making of it?
Thanks. Both these were made and defined by the year I had on exchange in Vienna, and the freedom that comes from being away. I was spending a lot of time walking around, listening to music, completely enchanted by everything – and I had just kind of started getting into hardcore properly at the time as well. I wanted to work with these old breaks as I felt there was room to do produce something really new with them. I was attracted to their functionality, they just seemed to kick out harder than what you can program.
I was spending a lot of late nights at this music studio in the university, which I had pretty much open access to. As I was away from home, not very busy and not really faced with trends and new music, I was really able to zone in on my own thing. I produced Still pretty automatically, it was one of those tracks where I had the samples I wanted to use and it all just fell together in two and a half hours. I really caught hold of that track that session and I didn’t want to lose that vitality so I made sure it was done in one go.
Ha was a bit different, I played in the vocal stabs to a metronome before bed one evening – and woke up and tried out funky drummer beneath it, I then started cutting up the beat to flow with the samples and then more ideas kept coming to me with it. Even though I think of ideas before making tracks, the act of making one is quite intuitive and subconscious. Playing in some of the parts gives the track a really nice looseness and flow, there’s a nice balance between the tight grid of the software and real time intuition.
Why did you start your label Blank Mind?
I felt there was an opportunity to do something special with the Jab Jab tracks by Adrian Lenz and Sandman, so I seized the moment to start the label without needing to second guess. I loved the madness of those tunes – they sound so alien and weird. Cover Me flies away before you get the chance to catch up with it, let alone make sense of it. The tracks didn’t take off as I hoped, but I’m looking at re-releasing them at some point in the future.
What’s your background in music production? How did you get into it?
I started out producing from about the age of 15. I had got into electronic music via Kid A by this point and a friend a few years above me at school put me onto some software, which catalysed everything. I began making tracks with my mates Josh and Karl, as Our Sleepless Forest. They would record most of the parts, which I would then start experimenting with and develop into well produced songs. It was a pretty unusual teen band set up.
How would you describe the sound of DANCE to someone who’s never heard of you before?
The main body of the tracks tends to be quite simple and functional, I try not to clutter or overcomplicate things, ensuring I get the fundamentals right. As the name suggests, I want the tracks to groove; fluidity is the most important thing on any tune but on some tracks like Still, Ha and 94 Chambers, I really want the rhythm to take flight.
I also create microenvironments within the tracks, I like to use generative functions so that parts are always moving in the virtual space, so you’re never really granted clear access to everything that’s happening. Some of that movement is only really detectable at a pretty subliminal level. These small things really make a big difference – the devil is in the details.
What’s exciting you at the moment?
I’m currently reading ‘More Brilliant than the Sun’ by Kodwo Eshun. He argues against the idea that electronic music is anti-human/soulless, talking about how it grants access to more scope for emotion and feeling. It’s inspiring stuff, a good writer can really disprove the myth that music can’t be written or talked about – it just shows the need for new ways of thinking about it.
I’m excited by a lot of the possibilities I see in music happening right now, and new avenues to be explored in the future. I like the idea of applying phase shifting techniques within a dance framework, listening to Come Out by Steve Reich for example – it completely switches you off, disrupts your habitual thought. I’m really attracted to the idea of the dance floor being this totally overwhelming trance zone.
There are some really great things lined up for the label as well, but I’d rather not announce anything until it’s ready and nearer the release date.
Have you got a favourite spot to go dancing?
Best thing you’ve heard/ seen this year?
Actress – ‘RIP’
Svengalisghost – ‘Mind Control’ EP
So many good releases though, I can’t keep hold of everything – I constantly feel like I’m missing out.
Ben Jeans Houghton
What’s next for you?
Getting back to working on some new music – including some collaborations, continuing with Blank Mind and I really want to start playing out, utilise these tunes in their proper environment.
I’m going working on some installation projects over the year as well, more news on that to come.
DANCE – Nino’s Euphoria
DANCE – The Real
DANCE – Not 2
Velvet Suite Lounge – Diggin on You (Main Mix)
Tuff Sherm – Pharmacy
Kassem Mosse – Workshop 12/B2
DANCE – Still
Tuff Sherm – Vault
Basic Channel – Q 1.1/III
Tuff Sherm – Hoax
Omar-S – S.E.X. (A.O.L. Remix)
DANCE – 94 Chambers
Alan Johnson – Goron Sound
Untold – Motion the Dance
Elsewhere – Swiftness
DANCE – Ha
Future Sound of London – Papua New Guinea