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
I’ve been thinking about the legacy of Skull Disco a lot lately. Yeah… that’s the kind of guy I am: an objective romantic with time on his hands who carries a notebook on tube journeys and gets lost in thought loops that never really leave until they get written down. Don’t get me wrong, like a lot of people I’d already concluded a while ago that if there’s a manifesto for driving, bass heavy, soundsytem minimalism stamped anywhere in modern dance music, then it’s there, woven into the pockets of muffled air trapped in between those rickety hand drawn conga lines that Sam Shackleton emphatically made his own. But there was also a marginal attitude to everything Skull Disco did, from the bleak artwork to the imprint’s self-restricted operation and beyond; and it’s proved to be an outlook that, it could be argued, has outshone the impact of the actual music itself.
I know I’m talking in massive, clumpy, greyscale brush strokes here. I’m not naive enough to think that people weren’t setting up tiny outposts in their bedrooms to release the music that they and their friends made and loved before I first heard Shackle on his Mordant Music housed Stalker 7” back in 2004. Nor am I stupid enough to think that Skull Disco was the first label to be pressing gut busting skeletal techno templates onto pieces of vinyl. It’s just that I can really hear how important those transmissions should have been for this liege of new producers now taking up a similar spectral mantle. From the reduction in sound of someone like Hodge, who’s been steadily whittling and honing his tracks down to the purest of impact elements, to Wen’s brittle, bass reliant rattle and Kowton’s and Livity Sound’s whole kick drum + snare + clap + whirly pad (and maybe a splashy ride cymbal) stuffed through an overdrive pedal shtick. You can trace aspects of each all the way back to Skull Disco.*
Facta’s another one of those names. A young producer who’s tunes have steadily defied expectations and sharply matured into a new breed all of his own. Usually, when I write these features I have an angle half mapped out in my head already – or I’ve at least I’ve sat and had a think about what it is I’m actually trying to say and how I can use this person as an example of it. But with Facta… we asked him to contribute to Sonic Explorations purely because every new thing he’s released – from his collaborations with Hodge to his solo stuff and the trajectory of his co-run Wisdom Teeth imprint – has simply been super impressive. ‘Poliwhirl’, which was taken from WSDM001, managed to be both a turning point and a case in point toting a memorably supple but bizarre melody line that gets punched out and assaulted with his bevvy of kick drums.
Like, there are shades of Pev in the constriction and deployment of Facta’s melody but the tune moves like something that could have dropped on a techno label even though it sounds like it should have come out on Keysound considering that it’s got all the right kind of punishing definition to it. Yes ‘Poliwhirl’ hits hard, but it’s got swing. It’s dark but it’s got that light side to it and it does all that while steadily ticking a number of experimental and restrictive boxes.
“My main motivation is to create something new and fresh that excites me in the same way that certain sounds have done in the past,” Facta offers when I probe him on what it is exactly that he is trying to achieve with his music. “That doesn’t mean blindly recreating or mimicking those sounds,” he muses after a pause before concluding; “I’m chasing a particular gut feeling more than anything else.”
“I’d definitely agree that I’ve been going through a bit of an experimental phase,” he continues, agree with one of my earlier questions. “Over the last few years my sound has been in a state of flux – which is probably the result of me trying to actively resist certain frameworks that I’d become too comfortable with. There’s definitely a common thread linking it all together, but it’s been a bit of an aim of mine to avoid letting that thread become a formula.”
SR: But, I mean, the mix you’ve made us… it’s pretty bare bones sort of stuff! Both in terms of its composition and the elements within each tune…
Facta: I’m just a big fan of minimalism in music; I’d much rather concentrate on one or two incredibly well executed ideas than listen to a wild frenzy of different ones.
Why do you think you take that approach? Like did you learn music production or is it just something you picked up? Do you sculpt your tunes for a specific purpose (i.e. THE CLUB)?
My route into electronic music took me through drum & bass and garage into golden era dubstep and grime and from there into techno and more experimental realms. It’s been a process of zooming in on the details and gradually getting more and more out of less and less. It’s also corresponded with me playing more and more in a club setting. Minimalism and functionality really come into their own on a big system.
Where do you feel like its all leading? What do you want out of it?
I have absolutely no idea, but it’s probably for the best not to spend too much time thinking about that sort of thing anyway. I’ve got a bunch of cool projects in the works that will keep me busy over the next year or so. After that, who knows…?
??????? + Gramrcy – Space [Unreleased]
General Ludd – Drum Circle [forthcoming Transfigured Time]
Facta – Alsatian [Unreleased]
Simo Cell – Cellar Door [Unreleased]
Pev + Hodge – Something Else [Unreleased]
Peugeot 305 – Sliding Door [Unreleased]
Alex Coulton – Radiance [Unreleased]
K-Lone – Broke [forthcoming Wisdom Teeth]
Tsvi – Gold Cave [Unreleased]
Wen – Lunar Tide Cycle [Unreleased]
Rhythmic Theory – Future Tense [Unreleased]
Facta – Poliwhirl (Scanner ‘Dark Scan’ Remix) [Unreleased]
* Obviously this is all an oversimplification I’ve included here for editorial effect (especially the caustic bit about Livity Sound – Hi Tom!). If you’d asked the artists I name-check here about it I’m absolutely positive they’d all have other ideas about their own stylistic influences and should be able to spend a healthy amount of time talking up the prevalence of the machines they work with in their music [because they 100% fucking should do]. The point remains: as a writer, you can trace a lineage wherever you want. All you have to do is sit down and spend the time mapping it all out.