Nov 27, 2014

SYNTH RADIO 004: Sad City Live

Following the success of Simple Things Festival, we’re bringing you a special live recording of Sad City’s set on this month’s radio show. As one of our favourite new Glasgow producers, Sad City’s early afternoon performance on the Synth Presents stage was one of the highlights of the festival, providing a mesmerising and haunting remedy for the Halloween hangover.

We also go in the mix this month, upping the tempo with some finely crafted techno from James Johnston, Unit Trax and Nightwave, while an exclusive from the hotly-tipped Mirrors sets the pace for Denis Sulta and Mia Dora. The brilliant Arm Watches Fingers starts the show with his curious track ‘Paradiso’, while cuts from Wuh Oh, Hudson Mohawke and Machines In Heaven have also got us pretty excited.

Listen, download and check the full tracklisting below:

1. Arm Watches Fingers – Paradiso (Bandcamp)
2. Wuh Oh – Saxy Beast (Soundcloud)
3. Hudson Mohawke – King Kong Beaver (Warp)
4. Machines In Heaven – Hindu Milk (Debukas Remix) (Soundcloud)
5. Mirrors – Shucks (Unsigned)
6. Denis Sulta – A.A.S (Nite & Day Mix) (DABJ)
7. Mia Dora – Et Le Mein (Optimo Trax)
8. James Johnston – Price U Pay (No Matter What)
9. Unit Trax – Amtrak (Unsigned)
10. Nightwave – Nightlife (Heka Trax)

- Sad City live from Simple Things Festival 2014

Synth Radio returns next month with a 2014 special. Check previous shows at the SynthGlasgow soundcloud.

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Nov 26, 2014

FEATURE: Catching Up With Sante
WORDS: Alex Caslano
PHOTO: Atelier Conradi

Since its inception in 2012 only a handful of artists have released on Berlin-based label, Avotre; as a result, quality control is at an optimum. Founded by Philipp Maier aka Sante, the roster includes the likes of Re:You, Dale Howard and Hector Moralez, contributing only the finest cuts of dancefloor-driven house and tech. It’s a family affair, and Sante likes it this way: “I like to have people on board I know personally and who I like to play along with” he tells us. “I Love having big Avotre nights with our friends and close collaborators; we really look forward to playing b2b!”

This Saturday he’ll be doing just that, as Avotre mainstay, Sidney Charles, joins him for a showcase at Saint Judes. “I think smaller venues with an intimate atmosphere give me more space for musical selections” says Sidney, reflecting on his last set there. “It’s easier to read the crowd and make decisions to play specific tunes.” Sante agrees: "Normally our b2b is peak-time orientated house and techno bangers, so we always watch the crowd, how they react to our tunes and we shape the set from there.”

With their recent showcase at ADE proving to be one of the conference’s most popular events and a relentless tour schedule which has taken in everywhere from XOYO to Watergate, it’s been a busy year for the Avotre family and there’s no sign of things slowing down. “We have a lot planned for 2015; some very special events indeed” confirms Sante. “I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but some of the highlights will be a London Avotre warehouse show, an event during sonar, some exclusive Avotre Ibiza showcases and of course a return to ADE. Hope we can fit it all in, it’s going to be a crazy year!”

Check out a recent mix from Sante below, as well as his new EP ‘Awake’:

Sante plays b2b with Sidney Charles at the Avotre showcase this Saturday at Saint Judes. Standard advance tickets are currently available for £10.00 from Resident Advisor.

Sante on Soundcloud
Sidney Charles on Soundcloud
Avotre on Facebook

Nov 25, 2014

COMPETITION & INTERVIEW: Afrika Bambaataa – Hip Hop History Tour
WORDS: Alex Caslano

This Sunday Afrika Bambaataa brings his Hip Hop History tour to Glasgow. It’s been exactly forty years since the term ‘hip hop’ emerged and a global phenomenon began. As one of the three ‘godfathers’ (alongside Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash), Bambaataa was one of New York’s hottest DJs, and it was through his block parties and record selection that he became known as the ‘Master of Records’. Playing everything and anything as long as it was funky, his selections spanned James Brown to Led Zepplin, with German electro outfit, Kraftwerk eventually finding their way into his set. At first his audience were unreceptive and confused by the white electronic music he was slipping in, but after repeated plays alongside stuff by Gary Numan and Yellow Magic Orchestra, the sound started to gather momentum. This would lead to Bambaataa producing the first electro-funk record with Arthur Baker and John Robie called ‘Planet Rock’, an uptempo slice of futuristic hip hop which is regarded as one of the most important tracks of all time.

But it wasn’t just his pioneering attitude to DJ’ing which secures his place in the hall of fame. Back in the early 70s he formed ‘Universal Zulu Nation’, a group of MCs, artists, dancers and DJs who, for the first time, embraced hip hop as a way of life. It started as a reaction to the violent gangs he grew up with, promoting peace, fun and unity instead. Of course, there’s no underestimating Afrika Bambaataa’s influence in music, but recognising hip hop as a culture is arguably his greatest contribution.

Ahead of the Hip Hop History tour this weekend in Glasgow we managed to grab some phone time with Bambaataa, talking more about the birth of Universal Zulu Nation, what attracted him to Kraftwerk and how hip hop as genre continues to evolve:

Synth: So you’re in the UK this month celebrating 40 years of hip hop culture and 41 years of Universal Zulu Nation with your Hip Hop History Tour; how important was Zulu Nation in addressing gang culture and doing something positive at a community level when you started it?

Bam: Universal Zulu Nation started in the Bronx, spread throughout the city and then the tri-state area. Eventually through all the hard work and the knowledge and the hip hop and all that, it spread throughout the world from the ideology that we taught: the basics of peace, unity and having fun.

Synth: Universal Zulu Nation started quite organically after you were inspired by a trip to Africa. When you returned to New York was it difficult to convince people that the Zulu Nation concept was a positive idea?

Bam: Well, we convinced people and then we had a lot of youth organisations and gangs, stuff like that; so the one’s that were with me turned right onto it (Zulu Nation), but the one’s that didn’t want to be part of it started their own thing.

Synth: Before this interview I watched the online video from your recent show at Leeds where you had the hip hop workshop and everyone was getting involved; do you think this tour brings back that original community spirit?

Bam: Oh, most definitely. What we were doing in Leeds was exactly like the early days of hip hop: people working together to make things happen. And others that didn’t know about it started helping out once they saw that we were doing good work. What I saw in Leeds was definitely what the early stages of hip hop were about.

Synth: Back in 1982 you were part of the first hip hop tour to come to Europe with some of the hottest crews and DJs of the time; what was the reception like at these shows? Were people quite clued up to the sound?

Bam: A lot of people came out to see us, but they were wondering ‘what is this scratching?’, ‘what is this noise?’. It took a while going from city to city, town to town, country to country before people could really get the feeling of what we were talking about. But there were people like Kurtis Blow and groups like Sugar Hill running around that helped people to understand; when they saw the movies like ‘Wild Style’ and ‘Beat Street’ that helped us push it even further.

Synth: You’re often described as a pioneer for being the first to fuse electronic sounds with hip hop and there was a particular record by Kraftwerk which inspired that; what attracted you to ‘Trans-Europe Express’?

Bam: When I heard ‘Trans-Europe Express’ I immediately thought it sounded ‘futuristic-funky’. Other People might have thought, you know, ‘here’s these Caucasians from Germany that know nothing about funky’, but I felt the funk that was in the record. The machines and the noise they were making made me become a fan of theirs and I started playing them to my audience which helped them get well known throughout the hip hop community.

When I wanted to make some futuristic funk, that’s when I decided to use the vibrations of Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra and Gary Numan and put it together with James, Sly and uncle George Clinton; and then that all became history with the electro-funk sound, and then all the other sounds started coming through next.

Synth: Obviously there were a lot of producers and DJs using funk, soul and disco samples to create hip hop back then; when you made ‘Planet Rock’ did you see that as strictly a hip hop record or were you conscious of moving in a different direction?

Bam: Yeah, it was definitely a hip hop record; it was just more uptempo hip hop with an electro-funk sound which is what we called it. That’s what started the whole uptempo movement with all the breakbeats and faster tempos; then we get to England and they were going even faster with the 2-Step and the jungle.

Synth: If we fast forward to 2014, hip hop and electronic music have almost fully merged and genres seem to be blurring more and more; do you think this is part of the natural evolution of hip hop? And do you feel partly responsible for creating that?

Bam: Well, you’ve got to remember that hip hop music comes from everybody else’s music, and now everybody else is using hip hop beats to make their music more funky. Many people who think they know hip hop or when they say ‘hip hop’ they're thinking of a rapper; most people think a hip hop record is meant to be 95bpm but that’s just one part of it. You got all different styles; it’s just these wack radio stations aren’t playing all the different categories, and not just hip hop, there’s all the other styles of music they should be playing; you need to keep it going.

Synth: So you’ll be bringing your Hip Hop History Tour to Glasgow this weekend; what can they expect from the show?

Bam: I’m just coming to DJ and play some funky music! This is not a performance, this is someone who DJ's and plays some good music, hoping that people are going to dance and enjoy themselves. We don’t want no wallflowers, we want people that are gonna party! Leave all your troubles, your egos behind and just let yourself go…

COMPETITION: We have two tickets to giveaway to this Sunday’s gig courtesy of Universal Zulu Nation and 02ABC. All you have to do to enter is simply head over to the Synth Facebook and type ‘Afrika Bambaataa: Hip Hop History Tour’ on the wall and we’ll select a winner this Friday afternoon. Please be sure to check the terms and conditions below.

Terms & conditions: Please note that this prize is for two places on the guestlist for Afrika Bambaataa’s Hip Hop History Tour on Sunday 30th November. There will be one winner. The competition closes at 2pm on Friday 28th and the winner will be notified via Facebook comment (please check your Facebook entry in the hours following the closure of the competition). The winner must be 14 years or older. After we have passed on the winner’s details to the event organisers we then pass on responsibility for entry on the night.

Afrika Bambaataa’s Hip Hop History Tour comes to the 02ABC this Sunday. Tickets are available in advance from Ticketweb.

Universal Zulu Nation Website
Universal Zulu Nation Facebook
Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force on Facebook

Nov 20, 2014

RELEASE: DJ Milktray – All Because The Lady Loves EP

After months of anticipation the mysterious DJ Milktray has finally dropped his debut EP on Astral Black. Those of you who have been paying attention will already be well aware of the hype surrounding the Burberry-clad beat maker, with his bootlegs of 50 Cent and Cassidy racking up thousands of plays. Described as ‘RnG’ by the genre-thirsty media, his attempt at injecting a little fun into instrumental grime has certainly gone down well with the dancefloor, attracting heavy support from the likes of Slackk, Cashmere Cat and Nightwave.

Consisting of four bouncy bangers, ‘All Because The Lady Loves’ doesn’t take itself too seriously, with the aforementioned re-rub of Cassidy and R Kelly’s ‘Hotel’ setting the tone. Chopped vocals and rearranged guitar strokes make it the most playful track on the release, but ‘Genieriddim’ also aims for the sweet spot with delicate chords riding a snap beat with an ass that won’t quit. It’s all good fun, and we’re very intrigued to hear what he does next.

Listen to the EP in full below:

DJ Milktray ‘All The Lady Loves’ EP is available now via Astral Black. Catch him alongside Skepta, Jon Phonics, Bu$hido Brown and more for the EP launch party this Friday at the Art School.

DJ Milktray on Soundcloud
DJ Milktray on Facebook
DJ Milktray on Twitter

Nov 19, 2014

GET TO KNOW: Machines In Heaven
WORDS: Alex Caslano

“We tend to put a lot of energy into the live show because subconsciously we're very into what we're playing!” Reflecting on their performance at this month’s Simple Things Festival, we can confirm that Machines In Heaven gave it absolutely everything. Appearing on our own Synth Presents stage, we (and everyone else in the room) were blown away by the passion with which they delivered their music. From spiralling synths to striking guitar riffs, their mix of electronic and live instrumentation made for a truly invigorating experience.

Listen to their latest EP, ‘Hindu Milk’, and that on-stage emotion becomes easy to identify with. Comprised of Davey Gwynne, Greg Hurst and Connor Reid, the trio's sound is both introspective and electric, fusing intricate beat patterns with cosmic chords and reflective vocals. The EP’s title track for example, sees Gwynne use a vocoder in a style not so dissimilar to Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’. As the name ‘Machines In Heaven’ would suggest, there is an almost celestial quality to their music, a suggestion that machines have soul.

Also releasing their debut album, ‘Bordersbreakdown’, this year, it would seem that the trio are keen to push their sound forward: "we're experimenting more with sound and vision and are striving to create something unique for both the evolution of our sound and the live show" they tell us. It’s certainly an exciting evolution to witness, and it makes Machines In Heaven one of the most interesting electronic acts Glasgow has to offer.

Check out the 'Hindu Milk EP' below, as well as an interview in which we talk influences, musical experiments and what it was like recording at Red Bull studios with access to some seriously rare synths:

Synth: We were seriously impressed with your performance at Simple Things Festival and particularly loved how much energy you poured into it; does that come naturally with your music when you play live?

MIH: Thanks! We particularly enjoyed Simple Things; the stage at Broadcast, like everywhere else in the city, had a pretty awesome line up so we were really looking forward to playing. We tend to put a lot of energy into the live show because subconsciously we're very into what we're playing! There have been casualties before - laptops falling over, guitars flying around, that sort of thing - but the show must go on, so we've all agreed Connor gets to break out the 25 minute freestyle-jazz solo if we need to fix anything.

Synth: It can be a bit ‘smoke & mirrors’ for some electronic acts, but incorporating guitars and being really active on stage seems to bring your music alive; was it always your intention to combine electronic and live elements?

MIH: Yes, it was really. When we first started it was only supposed to be a studio project as I (Greg) was already in a band and didn't have time to be in another! After a short time though, it was clear the band was taking on a life of its own, so we began to reverse-engineer some early, shambolic live shows.

The very first song we did (‘Divided By Zero', from the LP) mixes ambient synths and breakbeats with acoustic guitar in strange time signatures, so that set the template from the start really - throw every influence into every song. I also love all the DFA productions, particularly the way they mix sampled and live drums, so early on we experimented with a live drummer. It didn't quite work though - live drums have a way of taking over a band's sound, so nowadays we use a sampler!

Synth: You recently recorded an excellent track called ‘Feel Slow’ at London’s Red Bull Studios; what was the experience like? We read you had some one on one time with a rare synth?

MIH: Red Bull was awesome - those guys are lovely and made us feel welcome after the long drive. We were very excited at the prospect of being let loose on such a well equipped studio. And yes, we're synth nerds so we were certainly in our element. There were a few beautiful synths there that we were let loose on actually! Most impressive was a Roland SH-3a, which none of us had ever heard of. It was so old it had all sorts of weird controls we'd never seen before. It was actually capable of manipulating time and matter.

Synth: If we talk a little about your musical influences, were there any artists who you bonded over when you first met? And did any of those influences inform your own music?

MIH: Last year driving to festivals was when we really did the most bonding over music, all thanks to our collective CD wallets! Road trip favourites cover everything from The Kinks, The Stooges, Brian Eno and Beach Boys, to Burial, Rustie, Death Grips, Wu Tang, Lorde and Caribou! We were stuck in traffic somewhere between Inverness and Glasgow for 2 hours, but listening to the whole 36 Chambers album four times meant that it was worth it.

Synth: You released your debut album, ‘Bordersbreakdown’, earlier this year on Hotgem; what was the recording process like? You’re obviously quite an experimental band so how did you find focusing all your ideas onto one record?

MIH: It was done over nearly three years (we'd originally planned for one year) in a makeshift studio in a friend's spare bedroom. Original founder, Graham Crossan, had all the songs bouncing around his head but didn't have a way of getting them recorded the way he wanted. So this is where I and producer Brian Docherty came in. Bit by bit I transcribed melodies into electronic form, assembling the songs as we went. Graham had already written all the music in his head, but I was given complete free reign with sounds, beats and effects. For example, ‘Divided By Zero’ started off as a mainly acoustic song, but went off in a completely different electronic direction when I got my hands on it...

Synth: You recently released a new EP called ‘Hindu Milk’; will you be moving in different directions with you music as we head into 2015?

MIH: Our new EP could come as a surprise as there are noticeably less guitars and it has a synthier feel; the next LP is definitely going to be somewhat darker though. We're experimenting more with sound and vision and are striving to create something unique for both the evolution of our sound and the live show. There will be much more information later on, so keep yer eyes peeled!

Machines In Heaven ‘Hindu Milk EP’ is available now via Hotgem.

Machines In Heaven on Soundcloud
Machines In Heaven on Facebook
Machines In Heaven on Twitter