Thursday, 18 April 2013

Fresh TEA: René Audiard

René Audiard seemingly appeared out of nowhere last year with the Pechorin album, a 7-track jewel of lucid dub techno and glowing deep house. A highlight of the LP was “Doctrine”, with its barley graspable groove and spaciously cryptic drum patterns landing neatly at number 4 in TEA’s Top 100 tracks for 2012. It was the third release from an intriguing and emerging label called Supply. 

Six months before, I received an email from a friend in Berlin who wrote, “Who the fuck are B Tracks???” with a link to their Soundcloud page, followed by “Playing at Panorama Bar on Saturday.” I wrote back from my Melbourne bedroom: “Sounds ok through my laptop speakers...” Six months after purchasing Pechorin, the pieces fell into place. B-Tracks were in fact a Boston-Ithica based pairing of John Barera and Soren Jahan, with the latter taking up the alias René Audiard. 

Supply Records is run by Barera and Jahan and since Pechorin, the label has released a further two impressive EPs; Barera’s Black Box referencing Walk Right In and B-Tracks’ Flightless. On top of this, Jahan recently launched his own label, Blank Slate, with close friend Kamal Naeem. 

It’s fitting then, that last Friday at Panorama Bar I heard Levon Vincent play North Lake’s “Griswold”, a track from Blank Slate’s debut various artist release. TEA caught up with Soren Jahan over email to talk about flamenco guitars and Turkish santurs, John Barera’s loft in Boston’s Chinatown, B-Tracks impromptu Panorama Bar set and the storm of attention he’s received so far.

Hey Soren, thanks for speaking with us. Your mix for TEA takes a sudden turn with Audion’s “Kisses”.

For me, it serves as the climax of the set and I liked how the mix-in and mix-out really transforms the track from something purely brutal to something more emotional. I understand if it's bothersome...I should note that this mix, rather than being an example of a set I might play live, is more like a mini-sampling of the range of styles I'm into, arranged in a way that the mixes are kept as interesting as possible. I kept the wildness to a minimum, so not as much EQ cowboying or quick cuts or whatever, which I usually do when DJ'ing at a party. I don't really feel like that kind of stuff always translates well to a home listening setting. Part of what makes it so hard for me to record mixes at home.

Are you based in Boston? 

Believe it or not, I'm actually based in the sleepy little town of Ithaca, New York. More often than not, when I do travel east I end up in Brooklyn, rather than Boston, due to a really unfortunate bus system. Things here are very quiet. I don't do nearly so many local parties or gigs as I used to, and I'm very busy working as a line cook in a Mexican restaurant, but at least I have plenty of time to produce and run my two record labels. 

OK. Do you play in Boston - or abroad often?

I think the last time I played in Boston would have been a few months ago. It's harder to keep track since I'm not on Facebook. I've also done a few things in Brooklyn as B-Tracks with John - this one spot, the Bossa Nova Civic Club. As for abroad, I've had exactly two gigs – one at Elipamanoke in Leipzig, and the other at Panorama bar. So it's almost never. But I'm not exactly blowing up promoters inboxes with booking requests – I just think of gigging as something that I'll focus on later, once I'm based in a larger city. 

Where are you planning on moving to?

It's a done deal. I'm moving to Berlin in mid-July and will spend the foreseeable future there. I've been coordinating some releases and already have some friends there, so I'm hoping to land on my feet and keep pushing as hard as I can. 

What were the first parties you started playing?

They were the reason I launched this crazy dream of being a DJ-producer. Even though these were small house parties around school - with 30 people dancing at a time if we were lucky - I still loved it even though my mixing was shaky and the cops could come knocking any minute. It was just at that time, my second year in college, that I threw down and scored my first pair of 1200's. 

Since then I managed to start doing a few parties at the larger co-op houses around campus, with maybe 50-100 people on a good night. There's something great about playing for kids my own age, or younger – they're more innocent, they don't have work the next day and there isn't nearly as much jadedness. They might not recognise a Villalobos or Shed record, but so much the better – I'm free to get away with a lot more of my favourite music that the heads would roll their eyes at. 

Your bio talks of your father’s tape collection. What sort of music did he collect?

Both my mom and dad had quite a few tapes, ranging from classical to Indian-world music, pop and reggae. Aside from endless Bob and Ziggy Marley, I remember the electronic stuff the best – Tangerine Dream and Kitaro mostly, with a little Deep Forest thrown in. 

Supply Records

How much of an influence was this music?

A couple of Tangerine Dream tapes were pretty much what did it for me. I remember staring at the squiggled lines on the cover of Pergamon while getting sucked out of reality by those arpeggiated synth notes; overcome with some kind of indescribable feeling. I'd never felt anything like that. I must have been around six years old. 

What do your parents think of the music you make?

Both my parents are supportive and by this point they've had a bit of a dance music education, whether or not they wanted one. I think they're a bit bemused by the whole thing. My dad used to call everything I made and listened to “disco”, which infuriated me to no end until I gradually came to appreciate the way things evolved. 

You also played the flamenco guitar. Was this just a childhood thing or did you take it further?

It was strictly a childhood thing. I played classical for 7 years, until I was around 13-14, then the last couple of years I was getting into flamenco. Just around that time I was starting to get obsessed with dance music, and my practising fell off dramatically. In the end it felt too limited when compared to the timbres and textures in electronic music. And for some reason, I could never get past my nerves when auditioning or playing in public. 

John Berera and Soren Jahan

Will you ever pick anything like that up again?

I have no idea. I'm keeping my options open, but for now I feel like I know what I'm looking for in the near future. I'd rather work with other instrumentalists who've been playing this whole time. A project I'm working on with a very good Turkish friend of mine, Ali Cakir, incorporates live recorded santur as well as some other friends on other things. 

You run Supply Records with John Barera. How did the label begin and how are you friends with John?

The label grew out of us meeting up at his loft in Chinatown and starting to make tracks together. We'd been introduced by a mutual friend, Ari (Volvox) some time after the Together competition. The first thing we put out together after a couple of sessions was “Specialize”, the A1 of our first EP. At the time we had a few demos that we shopped around to a few small labels around Europe, but after no end of delays and miscommunications, we felt we had no choice but to put the damn things out ourselves.

I sold my CDJs, we both starved a fair bit and before we knew it, we were stamping records after an extraordinarily lucky break finding our distributor, Honest Jon's. Funnily enough, John (Barera) and I have an incredibly professional relationship. I think that's a natural consequence of how passionate we both are about the music. Sure, we're still good friends and the atmosphere is relaxed, but when we're together there's always a project open. I don't think we could have gotten as far as we have if that weren't the case. 

A loft in Chinatown. 

That's where John lives. It's above a kung fu studio in Chinatown and he's had some fantastic loft nights there. I don't have much equipment so it makes sense for the studio to be centred there. Now that I'm rarely in Boston most of our collaborations are back and forth via WeTransfer, but whenever I'm in town we try to get at least one or two intensive working nights in.

You produce as B-Tracks with Barera. 

John mostly plays basslines, pads, chord stabs and does all kinds of work with his Juno 106. I tend to work on percussions and I am a bit merciless with the delete button. But that's all flexible. Sometimes I'll try a synth take, or John will get on the drum machine. It all depends on the track at hand. Where we really have to compromise is in laying out the final sequence – sometimes it takes quite a bit of back-and-forth because we're both coming from different places creatively, but I think that's part of the strength of the project. 

I'd never worked on any kind of soulful or deep house before B-Tracks. It was all dub techno and minimal stuff. So it's been an exciting and new thing to get into this different vibe and allow a bit of funk to creep into my sound. Not to mention that John is the one who first taught me Ableton. I had no idea what was happening when we first sat down together. 

How was you set at Panorama Bar?

It was fantastic. We're a couple of dudes from Boston, and there we were in the DJ van driving with the other guys to go on that night, Paul Mac, Nautiluss, The Organ Grinder. It was about as pure a clubbing experience as I can imagine, but at the same time, I feel like there's so much more to be had there. It felt perfectly natural to mix there, it had just the right kind of energy - as anyone will tell you - and I can't wait to be back. 

What about your releases before the Supply label. What were they like?

Maxime over at Pertin_nce has been a longtime friend for years. I heard about him through some very interesting producers and DJs in the Ithaca area, namely Sharinne (DJ Laika) and the wonderful Hemiptera. They passed me an EP by Blue Pulp called Delay, which I still play out all the time. I got in touch with him, started sending projects back and forth and before long I had my first entry on Discogs. Enrique at Elefant signed the competition-winning track "Fundament" along with some remixes and Inanna reached out to me shortly after that. It was an exciting start and I very much appreciate their support, but soon after I got the vinyl bug pretty badly and I've been focused on tangible media ever since. I'm fine with digital releases, but since I only spin vinyl, I'd rather have a chance to play my music out.

What about your solo material on Supply. Was the Pechorin album a collection of tracks or were they made especially for the LP?

Pechorin represented the best tracks I'd made up until that point for the past couple of years. Many of them were supposed to come out on other labels, but as Supply began to take off and seem more viable, I lost patience and decided to make it happen myself. That was the case with "Pechorin", "Landscape" and "Nowa Huta". The oldest one there is “Memory”, which was made in spring 2010 in filmmaking class. It was actually the score of a 16mm collage called “Cooking,” which was my final project. 

I'd spent 60-plus hours in three days splicing the damn thing together and was in a weird state of mind when I had to make the accompanying score. All of the tracks formed a cohesive unit for me with the exception of “Contract”, which was a last-minute substitution. The track it replaced also contrasted with the others, but in a darker direction, one which I eventually decided against. It was more or less when I first learned to make dub-tinged techno. It wasn't a sure thing for us that Pechorin would sell when we put it out, but luckily we went for it and people seem to have appreciated it. 

It’s a fantastic record. Supply is up to its fifth release, how has managing the label been so far?

John followed up my album with his own house excursions on 004. The tracks all worked for us - an honest expression of his style and it made a lot of sense to show the “other half” of B-Tracks. We're definitely planning on launching some releases by other artists in the near future, but the next release will be our third B-Tracks EP, Flightless. We tentatively have some hard techno slated for 006, but that's not confirmed yet. We're looking to try and flesh out our vision for the label's sound. B-Tracks kind of splits the difference between house and techno without getting too brutal, but we're not afraid of getting dark.

Could you explain the story behind your own Blank Slate label?

Part of it grew out of some demos we'd been sent for Supply that were a bit too leftfield for the sound we were cultivating. John and I both agreed that the material was strong, but couldn't find the right tracks to fit our schedule, which filled up rather quickly. Meanwhile I'd been talking with my longtime friend and DJ partner Kamal about launching our own project. One of his friends, Mirko, impressed us so much with his "Untitled" track that we signed it without hesitation. We worked our way through a bunch of new demos from those previous artists and basically just picked tracks that we both liked. Once we'd picked them, it was remarkable how they flowed together. A high school friend of Kamal's, Max Hull, is an excellent calligrapher and came up with a bunch of script samples for us on short notice and then Blank Slate was born. We didn't actually come up with that name until the very last minute. We just had our first release, a various EP. It sold decently overseas, and can't wait to get further through our planned schedule.

What’s coming up for you?

I'm trying to put together some new releases with labels in Lisbon and Venice, which would be really exciting. I have some material coming up on a new label called The Double R. One of those Turkish instrumental-collaboration tracks should be arriving reasonably soon as well. Next up on Blank Slate is an EP of mine, two epic 12-minute minimal house tracks. In general, though, I'm just trying to keep both labels up and running while saving enough money for a move to Berlin. 

Lastly, what's your favourite tea?

Lapsang Suchong. I haven't had it for a couple of years, but it's really like nothing else. 


01.Achim Maerz - Channel 04 (Sven's ReChannel Mix) [Freund Der Familie]
02.Baby Ford & Zip - Morning Sir [Perlon]
03.Arnaldo - Family [Blank Slate]
04.Akufen - Installation [Force Inc. Music Works]
05.René Audiard - Stranger [[Blank Slate]
06.Philus - Ionit [Sähkö Recordings]
07.Etienne Jaumet - Repeat Again After Me [Versatile Records]
08.Abdulla Rashim - Gizaw 1 [Abdulla Rashim Records]
09.Mattias Fridell - Denial Of All Reality [ESHU Records]
10.Mike Dehnert - Fachwerk 25 [Fachwerk]
11.Audion - Kisses [Spectral Sound]
12.Santiago Salazar - Retiro [Historia y Violencia]
13.Len Faki - Rainbow Delta [Ostgut Ton]
14.René Audiard - Contract [Supply Records]
15.Automia Division - Rays [Out Of Orbit]
16.Technical Onslaught - Eyes Of The Mind [Allabi Records]
17.B-Tracks - Plateau [Supply Records]
18.Maurizio - Domina (C. Craig's Mind Mix) [Maurizio]
19.René Audiard - Cywilizacja Pt. 1 [Blank Slate]