BLISS 5 is a recurring series where we ask respected DJs and producers to contribute a 5-track playlist of tracks that they are currently drawn to and/or have been playing out. Dancing then ensues.
Silence in Metropolis badboy and shenanigan master Justin Nouhra, better known to most as Jus Nowhere, just got back from some international shows in Spain and Iceland with fellow D.C. producer Jackson Ryland. Having cemented himself in D.C.’s dance scene by never being afraid to get deep and by always having crazy, hard-to-access records on hand, we had to capitalize on the opportunity to get his 5 picks. And sure enough, he didn’t disappoint. This is Jus Nowhere’s BLISS 5.
1. Jack J, “Thirstin’/Atmosphere”
“Perfect summer vibes – exactly what I want to hear when the sun is out.”
2. Galcher Lustwerk, “Parlay”
“Sound design is awesome. Loved this one since I heard it in 100% Galcher mix.”
3. Alex Falk, “What Is Free”
“Textbook on how to make a total groover. Love the call and response and the overall simplicity of it, but it never stops pumping.”
4. Taras van de Voorde & David Vunk, “Need You Tonight (Alden Tyrell Remix)”
“Absolutely love the synths in this one – you can’t help but groove to it.”
5. Person of Interest, “What You Think You Want”
“Chunky, distorted. Arps get me every time.”
For a complete playlist, check out Jus Nowhere’s BLISS 5 on our SoundCloud.
A week ago, Brooklyn-based DJ/Producer Moon Boots dropped a funk bomb via Annie Mac’s Soundcloud and we’re still recovering here at Blisspop. It has every ingredient a Moon Boots track calls for: smooth vocals, beautiful melodies, and a groovy bass line. If you’re a fan of classic Moon Boots, you’ll click your heels to this – listen to and pick it up for free here:
Scott Hansen, better known to most as the ambient electronica musician Tycho, is the kind of musician that creates dreams. Having built a career around soundscapes that blur the lines between reality and our imagination, he’s a stellar example of what electronic music is capable of when you deconstruct the barriers of 4/4. Tycho’s also been one of the de facto leaders in the current IDM scene having been compared to artists like Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin in addition to being a major draw at festivals because of his penchant for moody, atmospheric vibes during his live shows. Currently on tour supporting his most recent LP, Awake, Hansen took the time to speak with us prior to his upcoming show with Autograf at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore. We discussed his ethos, the current infrastructure of electronic music, and eating healthy on the road.
Clearly you’ve been making music for a very long time. And you’re considered by a lot of people, like Consequence of Sound, Pitchfork, to be one of the most dynamic voices in electronic music and ambient music. I was curious: when it comes to your music, what kind of stories do you try to tell?
TYCHO: The whole thing is it comes from a place you’re really unable to articulate verbally. So, you just kind of have the idea behind it which is why it’s instrumental. It’s some kind of physical or emotional space. There’s never really some kind of concrete narrative, especially for specific songs, because there’s never a concrete narrative I’m trying to get across. It’s more like an idea. Or a general space.
So, instead of stories, you said ideas. When you’re trying to capture an idea, what’s your process? Do you basically go from soundscape to soundscape until you hit that note?
T: It’s the same for me, I think, as someone who plays the guitar. I sit down and say I’m doing this and I’m going to transmit this directly to some person or some idea. But it’s more like I just start hunting and then something hits me and it kind of reinforces some emotional idea I already had or it’s on some memory I have and I just latch on to that. I’m kind of listening to the song as it evolves and following where it goes. It’s not like a purposeful thing. It’s kind of what just happens when I sit down.
For you, it comes from some kind of carnal instinct?
T: Yeah. It’s like an innate thing. I’m not classically trained, so I don’t know music theory and all that kind of stuff. So I can’t really articulate some of these things. It’s kind of like drawing or art. I just start doing it and stuff will kind of evolve out of it. And it’s the same when it comes to being a music producer. A lot of the time, a lot of the work and the ideas I like the most, come from the process and not from some kind of deliberate action on my part.
I just kind of found this out from a buddy of mine when I told him I was doing this interview. I had no idea that Dive was the first time that you went on tour with a live band.
T: I don’t remember when our first show was when we had a live drummer, but yeah. It was right around that time. The record before that, I was dabbling with analog and instrumental guitar and live drums and bass and electric bass a little more, but it wasn’t until Dive where almost every song had multiple live instruments. So I just realized there’s really no way I could represent it live without making a lot of compromises. The initial idea was I just needed to find a way to play this live and then, after we started playing live for a while, it started to become its own sound and the band started pushing the energy into this other direction and it really became something else. I realized that’s when the live show began to take a life of its own. And you would go to the live show, and it wouldn’t be 100% different, but it would be a new take on the whole thing. And the thing about that is, as we played more and more, we thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to capture this on a record?” And that’s what the link was. It’s actually recording the band and working with Zac and Rory during the writing and arranging process. It’s great to actually break out and have different perspectives on the whole process instead of being buried in it alone.
Because now you’ve had new voices working with you during the creative process of Awake, what can you say about your sound in terms of how it evolved?
T: I think there’s a more diverse array of content to draw from. I’ve always looked at music as I was a musician and an instrument of the producer and I happen to be the producer as well. I would do these things and I would create these little ideas. And then, as a producer [on Awake], I came in and looked at them and this pool of content to draw from and went, “Let’s do this and this and move all these things around.” It’s the same thing, but now I have more diverse content to work with. Rory’s drums always help with the process because there’s always these ideas I had about live drumming where I felt like I wasn’t good enough or I couldn’t program them and make it sound passable as human. So having him made the process a lot faster and made everything evolve much quicker. And it wound up becoming a different take on the older sound. It lives in the same spheres that I’ve created with Tycho over all these years. It respects that, but I think it pushes it out into the boundaries of the sphere.
I think James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem once said, “You should never put anything on an album that you can’t reproduce in a live setting.”
T: Yeah. I don’t agree with that at all. [Laughs] I mean, if you made it in a studio, you could somehow find a way to make it live. It might not sound the same. But I think that’s the beauty of live performances. I don’t want to go hear the record. I think for a long time I was trying to make the show sound exactly like the record, and I think we’re still trying to cater to that and not go off the rails, but at the same time people have heard the music a bunch of times and I think it’s more interesting when they hear a different take on it.
Your music has been connected, obviously due to the current Renaissance in electronic music, to other artists like M83 and Neon Indian. And those artists seem to have this common root in music from the 80’s and late 70’s. Would you say it’s an inspiration for you as well? What do you come back to?
T: I think the song textures from the 70’s and the 80’s are seriously ingrained in someone from a particular age group and that was the backdrop of my introduction to music and popular culture in general. The digital revolution was something that happened in my conscious lifetime. I was totally aware of it and I saw it happen and even started music, not on the cusp of it, but definitely when it was starting to become available outside of large studios. For me, it was always a reaction: This doesn’t sound like what I think music sounds like. So, I’m always chasing that kind of texture or soundspace that they were able to achieve with equipment back then. I think it’s just all of us grew up then and it’s ingrained in us.
So it’s not like you’re sitting in the studio and you’re like, “Damn – what am I going to do? Oh. I know what I’m going to do. I’m gonna watch He-Man: Masters of the Universe and pull out an old Tangerine Dream LP and kind of see what happens.”
T: [Laughs] No. It’s not that specific. I think a professional record sounds like, whatever, Fleetwood Mac “Dreams” or something like that. So it’s not even like I’m listening to it and then listening to my recording. Because you’re not going to be happy with it. So you keep looking and start subconsciously chasing down this end result which, for me, ends up being this 80’s big studio sound.
This is interesting to me because I’m 25, but I’ve always been that weird kid that listened to indie alternative, electronica, and older music that came out way before I was born. But there seems to be this trend right now in modern music to kind of recapture this organic throwback vibe. Do you think that’s where electronic music is continuing to go? Or do you think it’s eventually going to wear out and people are going to find something new?
T: I think there’s two sides of it. I think, with studio technology, all the old school guys who came out on consoles and analog stuff, when digital came into the picture, were super stoked and like, “We don’t have to deal with this bullshit anymore. We don’t have to deal with tape.” But then, for the next generation of people, we never had access to that old sound. So yes. I think it’s been moving in that direction for a long time trying to recapture that. But if you’re just talking about, like, the 80’s revival or chillwave or that kind of stuff, I think it’s been real popular more recently because you begin to hear more organic sounds instead of just crazy sounds. It sounds more thought out.
So in terms of what we hear in electronic music right now, do you think there will come a time when everything is part and parcel with one another or do you think there’s going to continue to be a division between different forms of electronic music?
T: You’re always going to be pop and there’s always going to be an alternative to the kind of homogenized vein. And there’s nothing wrong with either of those, but there’s always going to be a division between those things.
Are there any artists that you look up to or are friends with you’d like to collaborate with in the near future?
T: Boards of Canada. What they were doing helped me crystallize my vision of what I wanted my sound to be. And now, Caribou. I’ve always followed him and watched his evolution from a solo IDM/electronic guy to being a full band. That’s always been really inspiring. I think I went and saw him play, I don’t remember what year it was, but it was before Dive or right before we started doing the band thing, and I saw him play with a whole live band and that’s when I was like, “I really need a drummer.” It was amazing.
That was like “Odessa”? Around that timeframe?
T: It was like 2009? 2010? I don’t know when that song came out. On Swim? I don’t remember what year Swim came out. But the stuff I listened to before, his IDM stuff was like around 2000 or 2001, that’s what really got me into him.
When you play a set, and you go hard during the set, it’s the end of the night, you’re tired, you’re on your tour bus, what food do you crave the most?
T: [Laughs] We usually have pizza after every show. I don’t know, by that time I’m sweaty and ready for bed. On the road it’s hard to be healthy, so at that point I usually want a salad or something. But at that time, everything’s closed so you can’t find anything good.
That’s not the first time I’ve heard that. We had Chris Lake in DC and on his rider he had Naked juice and Clif bars.
T: [Laughs] Nice.
So, do you feel more alive on the road or more at home in the studio?
T: More at home in the studio. Being on the road is great and it’s a lot of fun, but it kind of feels like you’re in suspended animation because you never feel like you’re getting anything major accomplished. You’re working on the live production, but from an artistic standpoint I’d rather be in the studio writing new stuff. I’m always trying to mess around with ideas on the road, but it gets difficult. It’s grueling. So you’re always wiped out by the time it’s time to sit down and mess around with music. […] I really enjoy this part of the job. It’s really fun to go out and see how the stuff you’re doing at home effects people. And that’s always really powerful. So it makes it all worth it.
As someone who goes to a lot of shows and lives at venues, I definitely appreciate artists who go out of their to create a life-changing experience to their fans. So thank you for that. Now, you’re coming to Baltimore. Have you played at Ram’s Head before?
T: No, no. This is our first time.
What’s the most exciting part of coming to Baltimore, you think?
T: It’s always cool to look at a new market and see what’s out there and see what kind of fans there are. You never really know what to expect. If you go to New York or San Francisco or something, you kind of know what you’re going to get. But with a lot of these cities, you’ll get there and it’ll end up being this crazy show with this crazy fan base that’s pumped up. I’m looking forward to it.
Last question. What can we come to expect from you guys in the next year or two years from you guys?
T: We’ll be done with this album cycle in September. And then I’m going to go back into the studio and spend probably about 4 months on a record, Rory and Zac will come out, and we’ve got a couple of studio dates planned. We’re going to stay in a location somewhere and record there. Basically, we’re looking at spending the winter on a record. I’m not going to put a timeline on it, but my goal is to have it out next year. Maybe late summer. And then we’ll hit the road again!
An otherworldly, sanguine forest of braided lights blip around the edges of Megan James as she gracefully saunters through their enveloping elegance. The array of sound which pulses through the club echo out like a child’s laughter on a hazy summer afternoon: distant and comforting; at play. And the crowd breathes, bounces, and moves as a single unit almost as if Corin Roddick’s production is the maelstrom and the audience is the ship romantically bobbing in and out of the electronic tides.
Supporting the release of their sophomore album, Another Eternity, Purity Ring has upped the ante with a new live performance with that could only be described as artistry for artistry’s sake. They’ve always been an act which embraces the affect of atmosphere and the power of performance art, as seen with the DIY cocoon set that made them a must-see act during their last tour, the electronic forest on display during their new set is like the starry-eyed, imaginative fever dream stemming from a young child’s fascination with lightning bugs. These visuals channel a certain electricity complementing the soft, chilling vocals from James as Roddick’s percussive, electro beats swarm the fibers of your being.
What happens is the audience becomes an active participant in the dreamy ebb and flow of the atmosphere as the coos and blips and snares and kicks invite those attending to traverse down into their electro-pop rabbit hole. The choice to open with the rapturous combination of “Stranger Than Earth” straight into “Push Pull” is a warm blanket that slowly shuts down the nerves, but it is a proper glimpse as to the magic that slowly unveils itself during the concise runtime of the show. Songs like “Fineshrine” and “Lofticries” from their debut LP hover through the air like sugarplums ripe for the picking often culminating in pulsing waves of light from the forest shrouding the duo. This is a nice contrast to their live performances of “Flood on the Floor” and “Dust Hymn” which play like a trapped out, Nero inspired trip into dark canyons where lost souls go to rave before eventually culminating in the fan favorite “Begin Again” at show’s end; a song choice that makes the crowd erupt into an electro-pop apex of music ejaculate.
With notes of Cocteau Twins, Björk, and more recent atmosphere masters like M83 or Fever Ray, Purity Ring manages to achieve a level of weird that’s in tune with their soundscapes while having a certain approachability that connects members of different cloths: the ravers; the hipsters; and even a 10 year old girl in the balcony celebrating her birthday. It requires a very rare quality of beatific detail to be yourself without catering to mainstream sensibility while harboring fans from all walks of life. Seeing Purity Ring is like discovering the safe space you never knew you needed.
In 2009, Neon Indian was part of a slew of artists that defined a new era of electronica based alternative rockers combining a love for hot, hazy, summery afternoons with chill electro beats and a love for the theremin. Their debut LP, Psychic Chasms, was the kind of fever dream that yearned for bright colors, a sea of Oakley Frogskins, and broken in Vans slip-on tennis shoes with soundscapes that blended Hipster coolness with fratboy party mode. In many ways, Neon Indian, and their chillwave brethren like Com Truise and Washed Out, were instrumental in the popularity of many similar tropicool, synth heavy acts on the current electronic circuit like Goldroom, Miami Horror, or Poolside.
And now, after 2011′s much heavier, 80′s shoegaze influenced Era Extraña, Neon Indian has released a taste of their newest album.
Titled “Annie,” Neon Indian’s spirit, Alan Palomo, searches for answers by looking to the past for consolation. What happens is the best kind of discovery: by embracing past pop beats like Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” or the lighter side of Oingo Boingo, we get a newer edge from Palomo that samples elements of ska, Latin beat, and a tinge of reggae. These details, lovingly re-appropriated by the Neon Indian crew, fleshes out a pool party anthem with optimum levels of flanger, bass, and sex appeal. Bros be warned – this isn’t going to sound like the mainstream conception of tropical house, especially as it drives into 80′s synth revival at the 3-minute mark, but it sounds fabulous, fresh, and will go incredibly well with a piña colada.