Although only in existence for less than six months, discerning dancefloors have already developed a taste for the lop-sided thud and rumble of BECOMING REAL via a super limited release on Tough Love Records. Rhythmically somewhere between HUDSON MOHAWKE (who we interviewed here) and early grime, Toby Ridler’s sound also draws on the ambient sensibilities of classic Warp records (read our guide) to fill out the spectrum. No coincidence then that the label have just asked him to do a remix for them, coming out later this year. With more material coming soon on Ramp Recordings (listen on the right), things are getting real for the young producer very quickly indeed. I caught up with Toby in the rarefied atmosphere of the Royal Festival Hall, chosen for its proximity to Waterloo where his train gets in from his native Kingston. As the interview unfolded the surroundings became oddly appropriate; BECOMING REAL makes the kind of music you might not often hear rattling the Purcell Room but like most artists appearing at The Festival Hall he takes his craft seriously.
This viewpoint is more than likely influenced by the fact he is studying for a fine art degree, although when we touch on that it seems it’s more a case of becoming disillusioned. “I’m doing fine art at uni which I’ve kind of come to hate,” he says. “When I went into the degree I wanted to find out more about art and had some ideas about what it might be but I’ve realised that established art has its own idea of what it is.” Music, I suggest, is potentially more open. He agrees. “I guess something like hip hop has that open aesthetic as part of its cultural heritage. Generally music is a lot more honest, it doesn’t try to be something it isn’t.”
In spite of his reticence toward the visual art establishment, Ridler’s project is what you might call theoretically informed, and if that sounds a little weighty it seems he’s ok with that. You get a sense that as well as making music he spends a lot of time thinking about it as well, as evidenced in the way he refers to BECOMING REAL in the third person, seeking to create something of an abstract entity out of the project. “When I talk about Becoming Real, I talk about it as ‘We’ not ‘I’ because I don’t see it as just me making something,” he explains. “It is like language I guess, I feel like it is my alphabet, the music says what words can’t really stretch to. It starts to create itself, like sculpting out of clay. Untouched clay has every single possibility already inside it.”
Listening to the stuttering rise and fall of compositions like Ghost Step from his recent EP on Tough Love, where he balances crunk drums and whining quasi-oriental synths a la Wiley, you get that sense of communication. It’s there in his attention to detail in the textures and atmosphere that wrap themselves around the rhythms. Some of that ghostly texture comes from his voice, often buried, ghostly almost but present nonetheless. “The tracks that I’ve done so far have had a deliberate kind of K-Records DIY influence but I’m moving away from that to just using the voice for pure sounds. The vocals are part of the texture rather than at the forefront, voices lost in the sound.”
For music influenced by science rather than art, check Adam’s interview with Floating Points.