At those times when you spread yourself thin you slowly start to realise little things. Not major, life changing epiphanies, just like these little glitters of information that help you realise a home truth, acknowledge it and move on with your life. And as much as certain people out in cyberspace might rely on this site for tips, hints and music recommendations, I’ve begun to realise that both how something is presented and who is presenting it to me means a whole lot, even before it gets to the ‘us then presenting it them’ at that stage. Yes, I am the best at overstating the obvious, but it’s when you’re inundated with stuff, tied down to commitments and snatching at time that you realise how far trust and good presentation goes.
I also realised this week that Kelpe is one suave fucking DJ.
Having been around the way, Kelpe’s the latest producer to release on Svetlana Industries, a label who’ve worked with people like BNJMN, Brey and 1000Names – though the first time I saw his name on a press release was back in 2003/4 when he released Sea Inside Body on DC Recordings. What’s obvious from his I Felt Fuzzy EP for Svetlana though is just how much he’s honed his production processes. The title track may sound warped, like it’s a scatter of out of time sample fragments set to that dusty break from Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’, but the whole thing opens and peels out into so much more than that. The synth riffs and lead lines are simple but they do damage, the little duh-duh-duh-duh passages leading you back into the lift of the vocal perfectly.
‘Cola Mine’ is the definition of taught. The sweet, pursed electronic bassline acts like the axis that Kelpe wraps his flouncy electronic melodies around, constantly moving like the atoms that form Mr. DNA in Jurassic Park. ‘Frosty Kiss’ starts off moodier and it’s amazing how Kelpe manages to merge all these different aspects of music together on the same three track EP – let alone in the one switch up on one song. He makes music with motion; his suites of melodies just guide you through and then you have to go in again if you’re actually trying to write something constructive in critique of it because aside from the rubbery clang of reverb at the end of ‘Frosty Kiss’, you realise you’ve not noted anything but how fluid it all is.
There’s often been that danger with instrumental hip hop music, that it just blends in to your surroundings and you lose sight of the construction process once your on loop 7 of a 32 bar rotation. I’d be hammering my younger self in the crotch (and wallet, considering the main crux of my 7” collection) to ever go as far as ex-Hip Hop Connection editor Philip Mlynar did on his SF Weekly blog recently, renouncing any kind of positive attributes to instrumental beat music whatsoever, but part of me does totally concede to a principle part of his argument concerning the latter day work of RJD2.
What Kelpe does on the 128th Sonic Router mix makes you think though; he’s assembled a team of 19 beats (no vocals) and he seamlessly strings them together, perfectly marrying one piece to the next. Like I said earlier, it’s all so suave, so smooth and so delicately done but yet it’s super potent at the same time. Plus he included Mono/Poly’s ‘Glow’ so the man gets a tonne of extra bro points from me…
Sonic Router: Let’s start with an introduction. Who are you? Where are you?
Kelpe: I’m Kelpe, whose real name is Kel McKeown and I’m originally from Loughborough. I’m in London now and been living here for over a decade.
What are you using to make it? Can you describe your ‘studio’?
I’ve got a massive desk (not mixing desk, just a large work surface) with lots of small bits of equipment floating around that I plug into Ableton Live, which is the hub of my set up. I use a lot of the Akai gear to control it like the MPD24 and APC40 and an analogue synth I have used consistently a lot for a few years is the Moog Little Phatty. I’m quite into small and portable things that I can also take to gigs, such as the Doepfer Dark energy and Teenage Engineering OP-1 and the small Korg analogue synths like the Monotribe. I also have a Roland RE-200 space echo at the moment, a few guitars, a Technics 1200 and two Genelec 8040 monitors mounted on the wall.
Obviously sampling is a pretty big part of what you do, is that process still important to you now that there is a lot of technology available to everyone?
Yeah I’m into sampling – I never got very far with using old Akai hardware samplers though – to be honest I found it really fiddly and the low sampling times frustrating. If it stayed that way it’s quite likely that I wouldn’t have continued down that route musically and might have gone into a different type of music. As you say, there’s lots of affordable software and hardware that means that it’s so much easier and more accessible these days, possibly even more fun. I’m all for things being easy and user friendly and it’s cool that its available to everyone – people are discovering other production tricks and quirks to make themselves stand out and that’s something that helps keeping things moving forward in electronic music. That said, music made on classic gear sounds even better, and probably stands the test of time more.
You’ve been doing this for a long time now, how did you get into electronic music in the first place?
Well I’ve enjoyed listening to music my whole life. As a teenager I was also really into skateboarding but I broke so many bones doing it I had to stop. So I was staying at home a lot more and to pass the time became something of a computer/games geek – I ended up getting a Commodore Amiga and realised that you could also make music with it with tracker software – Octamed and Protracker. I ended up saving enough money to buy a sampler interface for it which plugs into it allowing you to record audio into it so I started sampling tapes into there and sequencing hardcore/rave music.
You’ve worked with labels like DC, Coco’s MYOR and Black Acre and your sound has constantly evolved?
With my first LP, I didn’t really know what I was doing as much as I do now. My production was much more basic but I think because of that I concentrated on melodies more. Pretty much all of the elements that were in my tracks were musical sounds but these days I’m more into processing audio more and having some non musical sounds and crazy noises in there. So my sound and process has evolved a bit in that way.
I mean you state in your biog that Warp, Do Make Say Think and Harmonia are influences and they’re all quite different from each other yet your sound is still pretty heavily rooted in hip hop. What is it about the rhythm that keeps you coming back to it do you think?
True, I’ve tried to get away from that tempo but I do just keep coming back to it. I often try speeding my track up or slowing it right down but I find myself coming back to that head-nodding tempo. I dunno why but it still seems to be my thing for now.
You’re releasing on Svetlana Industries on a 6 track EP, 3 of which are original productions. Can you give readers an idea of what they can expect from it?
Yeah, its 3 new tracks and 3 remixes by Naïve Machine, Cupp Cave and BNJMN. The three original tracks are relatively uptempo (for me) synthy summer jams with a vague leaning to disco at times. The remixes are pretty varied: BNJMN’s is bassy and laid back, Cupp Cave’s is distorted and abstract, Naïve Machine’s is a John Carpenter style banger at hip hop tempo.
What else have you got coming up?
I’ve got releases in progress but the release plans aren’t finalised yet – there will be an LP coming though. Gig wise, as I write this I’m getting ready to go to Vienna tomorrow to play at Soundframe Festival as part of a Svetlana showcase. I’ve also got various shows throughout the summer – a combination of live shows with my drummer, solo live shows and DJ sets.
Also, we’ve got a free release party lined up at Alibi in London on the 8th May with DJ sets from myself, Buddy Peace, Naïve Machine and Mr Beatnick on the 8th of May.
Tell us a bit about the mix…
The mix is really a roundup of some of my favourite tracks from recently, in fact I’ve avoided exclusives, or at least the ones I thought were exclusives turned out to be already released, ha. Also had to get Rechenzentrum in there as no-one talks about them but their Peel Session from 2001 is one of my favourite records.
Traditionally we ask mixers for some wise words. Do you have any wordly wisdom for our readers?
Have fun making music – only do it when you’re in the mood. Listen back to it in other environments, on the iPod on the bus etc. Don’t try and force yourself into a niche sound or scene too much as it will end before you know it.
DOWNLOAD: Kelpe – Sonic Router Mix #128
Romare – Down The Line
1000names – Water Resistant Rakete
Rechenzentrum – Norden
Coco Bryce – Dub Space
Blank & Kytt – Thursday & Snow (Reprise)
Huess – Splash Pamela
Onra – Hide And Seek
Kelpe – I Felt Fuzzy
Mr Beatnick – Rainbow Road
BNJMN – Black Square
Samoyed – A Small Good Thing
Fulgeance – Hiver Normand
Roj – The Process Revealed
Naive Machine – Back to Basics
Mono/Poly – Glow
Blank & Kytt – Jangle
Ital Tek – Up
Teebs & Jackhigh – Tropics
Hauschka – Schones Madchen
Kelpe’s I Felt Fuzzy EP is out through Svetlana Industries on Monday 23rd April.