Sonic Explorations is a collaboration that was born out of Sonic Router and Electronic Explorations approaching the same artist for an exclusive mixtape; again. Let’s just say it’s something that has happened a lot over the last six years. We decided to join forces on a collaborative project for 2015. This doesn’t mean the end for either party, at this point it just makes sense to pool resources with Sonic Router providing the editorial context for the Sonic Explorations podcasts that will be hosted on Electronic Explorations. #crosspollination
For a long time now, I’ve been recommending the work of Ayman Rostom to anyone who’ll listen for, as a producer, he’s hit upon a fantastic rhythm. Whether chopping up cop show funk for exceptional UK rappers like Cappo and Jehst under his Dr Zygote guise, directing a compressed range of intergalactic funk into the music of his outstanding Kashmere collaboration, Strange U, or applying his hip hop education to more four four music as The Maghreban, he manages to carve out an incredible atmosphere and create projects that coalesce around their central themes beautifully. Plus the guy’s command of drums is actually exceptional – just listen to The Maghreban tracks like ‘Afric’, ‘Smack Beats’, ‘Casio Remix’ or ‘MT703’.
Rostom’s ‘hook’ for his output as The Maghreban is simply his approach. There’s a real and present naivety to it. He’s not making stuff that’s contrived or overwrought. He’s not focusing impenetrably on minimal things like the frequency range of his high hats, the depths of his compression’s side chaining or the dynamic spaces of his kick drums in relation to his basslines. Obviously, that’s got to be a concern to any producer wanting to produce a workable mix down but, at least in terms of the bigger picture, Rostom’s fresh eyes and his background in hip hop offers him a real freedom of operation and a lack of such defined rules. Working with tools and in a way that might not really apply to such an established style he’s giving his tracks a rough shot voice and a lot of those tracks have proved to be some of the most enjoyable in recent months.
“It’s only recently that I’ve got my head around making and listening to a broader range of music,” Rostom reveals over email, discussing his motivation for his array of projects. “I know a lot of people aren’t so open minded but, equally, I’m meeting people that are very open minded. It’s just a case of different tempos to me really.”
As a bit of a supportive aside: there was an article on Juno Plus yesterday in which Bee Mask made a somewhat throwaway point about the way different DJs contextualize music in their sets. Talking specifically about Pearson Sound’s ‘Clutch,’ Bee Mask made a point about having first heard it in different situations where one DJ, Appleblim, “slipped it in almost mischievously” whilst another, Ben UFO, more slammed it in, rocking the tune’s impact instantly. While both situations revelled in the challenge that the tune presented, Bee Mask notes how “hearing it in each case was like watching someone execute a really hair-raising parallel parking job in one shot” even though they’d approached it in a different way. Maghreban’s music has had the same effect on me – in hearing a guy I know for a certain style squeeze his skill set in another direction. Having heard a slew of different DJs supporting his music and framing it in slightly different ways, it’s opened up the scope of my own peripheral vision.
“To the worst kind of hip hop purist, if you tell them you’re messing around with some ‘odd house music’ you might as well have said you are making EDM,” Rostom continues; “there is no distinction because they just don’t understand it. But then I meet people that know that there is a long kinship there and know about certain producers who bridge the two forms and it’s nothing to them.”
Sonic Router: So do you even approach the two music’s in a different way? Like, I take it that you’re sampling a lot of stuff and processing it in a similar way, through the same samplers or whatever because it definitely sounds like it does…
The Maghreban: Yeah, I approach it all in the same way. Same samples, same drums. Like I said, it’s all just different tempos. If I’ve chopped something and it works better at 120 bpm: cool.
I really respect what you did with the MT70 EP – taking a more restricted palette and using just a single set of source material and exploring that to its fullest… I get overwhelmed by the amount of choice and by the options sometimes. Like you know how Gordon Ramsey goes pit-bulling into a shitty restaurant with a 10 page menu and he demands they ‘strip the menu down to buggery, you fucking mug hick’ or some other overzealous offensive term? Obviously he comes across as a phallus absolute, but his thinking is technically sound. If you can do a certain thing really well then people will start seeking you out exactly for that reason. So other than necessity, what inspired that restrictive approach in you? Is that something you’ve done consciously before, outside of that EP?
Thanks. I do like the restrictive approach. It helps me to come up with ideas. All too often when I can do anything, I don’t do anything. I’m working on something with live drums and mainly using synths rather than samples at the moment. It’s what I did on my Dr Zygote album for Black Acre too. I enjoy the challenge. Also I have a chip on my shoulder about being a sample based musician and thus perhaps not having much conventional musical skill, so doing projects that necessitate me to come up with ideas more from scratch like that sort of makes me feel like I’ve done something more worthwhile, without negating the musical validity of a nice chopped sample.
Aside from that, usually if I want to make a bunch of tracks that will work together in some way, it kind of necessitates some sort of limitation. At least it does for me. Otherwise there is nothing to tie them together. I’ve got an EP to drop where I did the tracks mainly on loops live on a desk. And another only using samples from cassette tapes…
I know you’ve been pretty open about a lack of house and techno influence/experience so I just wanted to ask, in the beginning, what made you want to start producing more four four stuff? I don’t really imagine it to be so thoroughly thought out or planned any further than, ‘I was doing that and then I tried this, geez.’ But what made you want to actually put it out and start a new persona for it?
I’d known the producer and DJ Gatto Fritto (Ben) through a mutual friend for a few years, and I ended up moving into their shared flat in NW London in 2013. Essentially, I have fairly low self-esteem and tend to seek the approval of other people. He makes house music so I ended up making house music. I guess before that I had the blinkers on which I described above, those hip hop purist goggles. It’s weird. When I was 12/13, my brother and his friends were into hardcore, then jungle. At 13 I loved tunes by Beltram and a load of other Belgian shit. Stuff on XL, Moving Shadow, Reinforced. Mr Kirk’s Nightmare. Fairy Dust. Satin Storm. The Gonzo by Lost, with the Lyn Collins drum break. I loved this stuff, and most of it had 4/4 kicks. And breaks. We bought the records, and when I had the means I started making jungle. I had my first record out in 1994. All of that music informed the hip hop I would go on to make, yet I still had those purist blinkers on, straight dismissing house.
It was (Ben) playing me a tune by Legowelt that I just thought was dope. It’s pretty way out, it’s some afro styled shit he did on an organ (Nacho Patrol’s ‘Africaspaceprogram’). It’s just heavy and that was the start of the blinkers falling off. Acknowledging that electronic music was that broad a church. Then a few tunes by STL that I just couldn’t deny were heavy like ‘Your Turn’ and ‘Dark Energy’ and i:Cube’s ‘Transpiration’ woke up the old rave shit in me from 20+ years ago.
Obviously you played the long game with The Maghreban and put out your own 12”s, stumping up the money to do so. You must’ve known or believed that it’d get noticed by the right kinds of people. How have you found the process?
I was actually doing one of these restrictive projects we discussed – 12″s in the basement of Music Video Exchange in Greenwich were 25p at the time so I spent £20 on awful house 12″s which I was going to sample to make hip hop beats out of. But I ended up making a house tune out of bits of other house tunes. It sounded OK so I carried on messing about. I already had the means to put out records from experience I had running Boot so I started putting these short run 12″s out. I was willing to lose the money – as an experiment – and put it down to ‘experience.’ The first one went okay and some good people picked up on it so I just carried on. It’s been really fun to be honest. People seem to like the music and that’s massive.
Plus, facilitating people dancing feels good.
1. Gatto Fritto – Solar Flares Burn For You
2. Break the Limits – Tribe Vibe
3. Radio Slave – Werk
4. Jean Nipon – Cause of Action
5. Kinoeye – Mean Old World
6. This Cat Otis – Revolution
7. Ace & Action – Letter to the Better (Bonus Beats)
8. 4 Hero – The Scorcher (Dance Mix)
9. Far Out Monster Disco Orchestra – Vendetta (Mark Pritchard Remix)
10. Call Super – From Which I Fell
11. Anno Stamm – A Night Out With Therese
12. Mort Garson – The Ride of Aida (Voodoo)
13 Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan – The Visitor From Inner Space
14. Padded Cell – Signal Failure
15. Mandrill – ‘Drill in the Bush
16. Wardell Piper – Captain Boogie
17. Sweet Potato Pie – Hot Disco Night
18. Madlib – Mystic Bounce
19. Earl Jeffers – Intergalactic Jam
20. Mood II Swing – I See You Dancing
21. Pender Street Steppers – Openin’ Up
22. D-Ribeiro – D4NGR
23. E. Myers – Home