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Producer Mark Barrott has been releasing house music under various aliases – and from various locations around the globe – for years, as well as putting out records and remixes by the likes of Joakim and Todd Terje in his role as International Feel label boss. It was only at the beginning of 2013, though, that he stepped into the limelight as The Sonic Aesthetic, a name he’s settling on (at least for now), and a name under which he makes wistful Balearic house that veers on the side of trance and features the distant strains of acoustic instruments and ambient noise.
Since becoming The Sonic Aesthetic and launching his imprint of the same name, he’s been pretty busy: as well as having a new EP out next month called ‘District Tales’, Barrott recently wrote an essay for The Quietus about how we should log out of our online lives and give ourselves “freedom from choice”. In his words:
“Whilst we now all think we’re oh so cool n’ clever tastemakers sifting through this uber, massive overkill of information and making individual, informed choices, we’re not… in the main we’re being deliberately and stealthily ‘guided’ down one way corridors, all with the ‘consume’ door at the end of them and we have to ask ourselves if this supposed massive ‘freedom of choice’ is a) actually real and b) actually healthy to our creative expression, happiness and freedom as individuals.”
That might be so, but that hasn’t stopped him from (excellently) guiding our choices with this exclusive Dummy Mix. Starting out sinister and hollow, with rattling metallic beats and climbing sense of urgency, this mix eventually bursts and settles into an hour of blissful, breezy beats, culminating in peaceful washes of found sound. Featuring Four Tet, Kate Bush, Terrekke and Boards of Canada among its sweeping tracklist (as well as an “unknown” slot that, we’re told, is the work of a DJ of distinction), this will either make for the most peaceful time you’ve ever spent online, or, if you take advantage of the free download, an excuse to log out and zone out for an hour.
Stream it below, and scroll down for our chat with Barrott and the full tracklist.
Hi Sonic Aesthetic, how’s your day been so far?
Good thanks – I slept really well until 2pm, got up, answered some emails and went and did some sunbathing, yoga and a bit of swimming. Later, hopefully, I’ll get around to tweaking some cutoff freq.
Could you talk us through your mix? Where’s it going to take us?
Well…on one level it’s just a bunch of stuff I like, and on another level it shows what’s influencing me at the moment. I guess it also shows the wide variety of what I listen to – audiobooks (bit of Sherlock in there), to Kate Bush, to Ghostbox to L.I.E.S, to stuff from when I was younger like the Simple Minds track, ending up with a bit of Sheffield in the form of Richard Hawley for old times sake.
You’re launching your new label soon, how are things going with that right now?
The first release is out in early June and we’ve just started promo this week and people seem to really like it, which always helps (!), but after all this time making music, I’ve decided to release exactly what I want and not be influenced by what I think will sell / is cool / will get me remix work or whatever. I’m more interested in scratching my creative itch as ‘purely’ as possible, which segues rather nicely onto your next question…
You’ve said the new EP was inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s ‘First Idea/Best Idea’ philosophy. Would you like to try and stick to that creative template for future label releases?
Definitely – that’s the only way I want to make & release my own music in the future – no more spending 10 days on 20 secs of music – I just want to capture the vibe / emotion of a particular moment in time via a bunch of tracks that may (or may not) have a narrative / theme running through them and then release it as simply as possible without hanging around for artwork / remixes etc. The Sonic Aesthetic label is all (and only) about having a direct line to my musical consciousness.
Any future plans with International Feel you can share with us?
We’ve got a release coming on the 24th June that is very very special. It’s the re-release of ‘Boutade’ by Mugwump together with a new version for 2013 and a great Nu Beat track to complete the package. It was one of the tracks that heavily influenced me at the inception of Int Feel so I’m super happy to be re-releasing it and making it available digitally for the first time as well.
Lastly, you’ve just played a set to a rowdy and uninterested crowd – what track do you drop with the aim of completely clearing the ‘floor?
Mmmmm – Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich should do the trick – unless it was a party organised by The Wire, but those people never leave home do they?
1. Pye Corner Audio – Mirror Sequence
3. Belbury Poly – The Moonlawn
4. Four Tet – Ringer
5. Rekid – 85 Space
6. Spooky – Little Bullet Pt.1
7. Phuture – Jiggerwatts
8. The Sonic Aesthetic – Loophead
9. The Human League – Dominion Jingle
10. The Advisory Circle – Sundial
11. Naum Gabo – Black Lab (Discosession Remix)
12. Boards of Canada – Triangles & Rhombuses
13. Pye Corner Audio – Toward Light
14. The Sonic Aesthetic – Burning Crosses
15. Kate Bush – Hello Earth
16. Simple Minds – Theme for Great Cities
17. Torn Hawk – Shock Tape
18. Terrekke – Asidis
19. Richard Hawley – Last Orders