Last night I guested on my buddy Alex’s Earnest Endeavours radio show on NTS Live. Over the space of two hours, interspersed between 20 or so minute sections of upfront beats we explored a bunch of different musical avenues. I started at pysch (well weird synth and krautrock) went through awkward indie and electronic folk, to Def Jux era hip hop from the US and the UK before ending up stuck at skweee. In the preparation for the guest spot it’s easy to get carried away, trying to cram a little bit of everything you want to play, going over your music collection and burning CDs; over thinking every possible possibility and how you can react to what the other person plays. The fact is though, you just want to play it all when you’re given that kind of an open remit soapbox to shout from and in a way, with the array of styles and approaches on his debut EP for Saigon Recordings, Northern Irish producer T-Polar is doing just that too.
The three original tracks on his Apollo EP, each travel on their on unique axis. Bound by a production style that leans on the searing properties of hoover bass, teaming it with tough rolling punches on ‘Ghosts of Eckerville,’ technoid kicks on ‘Kriblurk’ and slowed up jungle on ‘Apollo,’ Polar’s work pulls him in different directions.
“I think it’s some sort of soul/house/electronica hybrid,” he offers when asked to clarify the music he makes. “I’m very inspired by vocals, minor chords and music that stands out from the norm. Supercollider, Moodymann, James Blake and Hanna would be big influences. I like the idea of making something that’s unique though and not just a copy of people I listen to.”
It’s rough and primed no doubt from lots of late nights spent in darkened rooms. On ‘Apollo’ he manages to balance a sense of melancholy underneath the jagged step of his drum pattern, woozing the chords like waves of paranoia whilst the vocal sits, chimes and directs your ear. It’s a technique he uses later in the EP after the hard stomp of ‘…Eckerville’ in ‘Kriblurk,’ where the vocal feels like at times it’s the absolute end all when it comes to non brooding timbres.
Sonic Router: It sounds like you’re exploring a lot of different angles centred around the house and techno axis… would that be a fair entrance point to your sound do you think?
T-Polar: Yeah I think so. I don’t really like making the same thing all the time, just whatever mood I’m in. Definitely the more leftfield side of house but also have been known to make more experimental stuff for Belfast’s Acroplane imprint. I think it’s important to put your own stamp on things.
I read somewhere that you’ve been making music for a long time. How did you get into making music in the first place?
I always wanted to make music but the idea of being in a band never really appealed to me. As soon as I started listening to electronic music and found out you could do it all yourself with the help of some gadgets then I thought that was for me; I just had to work out how to use everything… I didn’t really know anyone else doing it and had to start from scratch with no help. I think that can be a much slower way of learning but it’s satisfying and that way you build up your own quirks and methods. After a few years I came across the guys at Acroplane (Electrotoxic at the time) and found some kindred spirits to bounce things off.
So how do you start a session? Do you start with drums or melodies or…?
Yeah it keeps changing. It usually starts with some sort of loose drum scaffold to build around then I just go in whatever direction my brain tells me. Sometimes I just hear a part of a tune that catches me because of a chord progression or vocal phrase that inspires me to build something that reaches a similar mood.
Your EP for Saigon Recordings is out next week…. can you tell us a bit about it in your own words?
Of course… This one and my Zero EP on Acroplane are probably my favourite pieces I’ve released. ‘Apollo’ (the title track) is quite an emotive 2 step track; I tried to make it the audio equivalent of a curvy, sultry female. There’s a remix of it by Orphan101 on the EP. ‘Ghosts of Eckerville’ is the one that seems to be getting people most excited. It’s a dark garagey number and been getting some good support from Mary Anne Hobbs, 2562, Boddika etc. It’s a bit of a homage to the club night called Ecker I co- ran in Belfast that just finished after a good four year run. ‘Kriblurk’ is another emotive one, a bit melancholy peppered with lots of female vocal stabs. Not sure if that’s how other people hear the EP, I’ll be interested to find out. I’m chuffed that Jon at Saigon picked these particular tracks though.
So… apart from the EP, what else have you got coming up release/gig wise?
I’m talking to a few labels at the minute about sorting the next releases but nothings finalised yet. Gig wise a few things in Belfast, maybe this mix will inspire someone to book me a bit further away.
Can you tell us a bit about the mix you made for us then?
Yeah, it’s just a collection of tracks that are doing it for me at the minute, some promos in there from West Norwood Cassette Library and Granholme and some of my own which should be out next year. It’s a good reflection of what I play.
Any words of wisdom?
Just do what you do, be courteous about it and always try to learn more.
DOWNLOAD: T Polar – Sonic Router Mix #104
00: Hirlaj intro
01: Crystal Fighters – In the Summer (Shortstuff remix) [Zirkulo]
02: Orphan101 – Not in [Unreleased]
03: Zoltan – Oh Shakers [Soupu]
04: T-Polar – Hot Lips [Unreleased]
05: T-Polar – Neutrino [Unreleased]
06: Chernobyl – Balança feat. Praga (Edu K Remix) [Exploited]
07: Kid Kut – Get Sum [Well Rounded]
08: Damu – Beat of Zen [Local Action]
09: Rider Shafique – Gun Talk [Build]
10: West Norwood Casette Library – Get Lifted [West Norwood Cassette Library]
11: Jay Riordan & Spookhouse – The Theme [Takeover]
12: Raffertie – Twitch [Ninja Tune]
13: Spookhouse – Whalnut Whipper [Takeover]
14: 2 Bit Thugs – Russian Girls are Dangerous
15: Dj Nada – Die Rhythmen Ein (Si Begg remix) [Chi]
16: Whistla – Pillowtalk [L2S]
17: Don Froth – Balboa [West Norwood Cassette Library]
18: Graphics – Wiping the Eye [Granholme]
19: Cardopusher – Tu Bizcochito [Enchufada]
20: CRST – Dance (Mosca remix) [No Hats No Hoods]
21: DYP – Vocall [L2S]
T-Polar’s Apollo EP is out on Saigon Recordings this Monday coming (24th October).