Guest Post: 6BIT Collective
Los Angeles, California’s 6BIT collective, aka, Dreams, Wondr, Guy Fridge, Eliot, Future Dollars, Caves, Brotherhood Crusade, Earthly Delight, Oskar Russakis, and Phoebe Bridgers give us the inside scoop on their favorite musicians (and songs) of all time. Their favorites include: Elliott Smith, Sly & The Family Stone, Bibio, and a Norwegian death metal band called Burzum.
After a lot of thought, I decided to go with my favorite producer in the game, Rustie. This is not only because of the BBC Radio 1 mix I was recently featured in, but for a much larger reason that I’ve always admired Rustie for. When i first heard Rustie back in 2009, I was immediately captivated by his distinct sound, a very unique take on electronic music that was refreshing and eye opening to say the least. It was a break from all the abrasive dubstep and house that was popular at the time, yet still a maximalist form of electronic music. He’s come such a long way since then, and is finally getting the recognition he deserves as an artist. However, the main reason I love all of his productions is the underlying theory behind all of them: pop.
He’s found the perfect balance between experimentation and pop music that is a stepping stone to the world becoming more accepting of electronic music as a whole. It’s great because you don’t turn on a Rustie tune and think,”this is pop.” But if you listen to a song that’s making someone millions, or some big house tune that you subconsciously know the melody of, and then listen to a few Rustie tracks, you’ll realize where he takes a lot of his influence from. He’s figured out how to exploit pop in the best way and it’s awesome to hear an artist who can give you the best of both worlds and keep that originality that he’s always had.
I picked an older Rustie track, “Hyperthrust” off his Sunburst EP. This track hooked me back in 2010 when it was released, and even then I overlooked how good the guy was. A year later he made Glass Swords an album which, in any case you don’t have yet, i suggest buying. It’s an electronic masterpiece and one of my favorite electronic albums to date.
Wondr: Nina Kraviz
I was browsing the related videos section in youtube when I came across this jazzy, slow tempo’d house beat. The keys in the beginning full of reverb and the sample of dishes being cleaned up gave me the impression of someone playing to a cafe that had once been full of people but had now cleared out leaving only the few that decided to stay until the end. The drums grew louder and louder and eventually dropped subtly with a deep, round bass that compelled me to close my eyes and focus on nothing else. Only then did I realize the gem that I had found. That’s what I seem to like about Nina Kraviz’s music. Her recent full length LP simply self titled Nina Kraviz, is that empty cafe full of ambient, experimental beats. Only if you take the time to stay and hang out do you find the perfectly smooth house beats she has hidden, scattered among the rest of her tracks on the album. It’s almost as if she is showing everyone that she can make the tracks that people want to hear but sticks to making weird abstract experimental pieces just to keep things true to herself. I started off my music career making experimental music, and realized quick that it wasn’t the best music to play at parties. Since then I’ve been gearing towards producing more bassy upbeat tracks while still holding on to a lot of my early experimental influences. Nina Kraviz kinda showed me a path that I had not really thought was possible. Singing, writing, producing, and mastering her own material, Nina Kraviz is definitely on her way to becoming an influence on many producers and listeners alike.
Guy Fridge: Mosca
Within the inherently ephemeral and transient world of underground club, the work of Tom Reid, aka Mosca, is perhaps the most difficult to pin down. With each successive release, Mosca consistently evades being pigeon-holed, always straddling an array of styles that seem to be ever changing. For example, few would have expected him, let alone any producer, to follow up his UK garage inspired release “Done Me Wrong / Bax” with the dark, 4×4 techno influenced “The Wavey Digi EP.” The diversity of style within Mosca’s work to date relates to yet another compelling aspect of his music, his consciousness of the historicity inherent within UK-based underground club. Mosca always seems to be tastefully acknowledging his forefathers in underground club by either borrowing recognizable sample material or recycling characteristic sounds of previously influential music movements such as the infamous speed garage organ stab. When placed within the greater context and history of underground club, Mosca’s music takes on an added meaning beyond its immediate aural appeal.
Aside from his music’s contextual significance, Mosca’s mastery over production and composition are second to none. Mosca’s composition is almost scientific in nature. No note is wasted or in excess. All compositional elements are meticulously organized such that even if one tiny element were removed, the entire piece would be noticeably different. Though Mosca’s music is certainly aimed at the dance floor, there is a lot of underrated subtlety that goes on in his music. Nothing is overstated. Though you will find yourself compelled to dance to his music, you will never get the same overbearing feeling that you might while listening to someone like Skrillex.
Stephen James Wilkinson, who releases music under the name Bibio, has shaped the way I produce in so many different ways. After hearing the raw and ambient textures he produced on his albums ‘Vignetting the Compost’ and ‘Ambivalence Avenue’ I knew that I had to look into his ways of production.
The reason I’m constantly gathering so much influence from Wilkinson is because of his unique view of the relationship between sound and vision. In his most recent album ‘Mind Bokeh’ his goal was to include the term Bokeh (the out of focus region in a photograph; the blur or the haze) into the sounds he created for the album. He thought the best way to describe the effect was “like glimmers of sunlight coming through a tree’s canopy.” His idea—including vision, emotion, etc.—is what’s really been the basis of my production ever since I first started, and it’s great to see another artist incorporate this interpretation so powerfully into his works. He can harness emotion from a vision and transform it so methodically into such lush and beautiful pieces of work.
Bibio’s ways of actively venturing away from his classically-influenced repertoire and acquiring characteristics from various neurologically processed visual stimuli is what has had me constantly hooked on his music. Wilkinson has not only inspired me to work off the grid musically, but has motivated me to explore my own internal synesthesia—how what captures my visual attention can be heard as a soundscape—and how that is translated that into the various elements present in my music.
If you haven’t had the chance to check out the works of Bibio, I implore you to do so. Go on a hike, bring your headphones, and listen to “The Ephemeral Bluebell” off of Bibio’s album ‘Vignetting the Compost’. Look up through the trees and enjoy.
I chose to talk about one of my favorite artists to date surprisingly enough he is no electronic or hip hop producer—however a Norwegian death metal artist by the name of Burzum. You might be thinking… what the fuck… death metal? But trust me, I have my reasons. First of all the subculture within music genres holds a super interesting importance to any movement or process of evolution within music, and in my opinion Norway circa the early to mid 90’s was the place to be if you were a long-haired white dude with an urge to fuck shit up. I’m gonna try really hard to not mess this story up… okay so basically Burzum was in this band called Mayhem and there was a constant argument within the band between “Dead” the lead singer and Varg (Burzum) on who was more evil. After time went by the only logical thing in Varg’s mind to do was kill “Dead” and prove he was the eviler band mate. Varg ended up executing this plan and spent about 20 years in jail recording demos on Casio’s and tape decks. Varg was also charged on multiple accounts of arson—because this dude burned down a shit load of churches too… and u tweens think these odd future cats are gnarly. But besides the super crazy story that commonly intrigues most listeners, the music has a few very oddly important aspects to me. When I first heard about Burzum, Mayhem, Dark Throne…etc I was in my school orchestra probably around 10th grade. The drummer in my orchestra was a dope metal drummer and was always putting me and my homie onto underground shit we could listen to even though at the time we were listening to hip hop and dance music like usual. This was around the time I was starting to take music production a little more seriously but big studios, multiple engineers, musicians, and the need to purchase instruments to pull of the level of music I wanted to make constantly daunted me. When my homie (the metal drummer) gave me a CD of Burzum’s Filosofem, I didn’t wanna play it in my mom’s car on the way home from school cause I knew she would assume I was smoking weed, killing cats, and carving pentagrams on my girlfriends backs. So I held onto it till I got home. I remember listening to it and thinking “fuck yes.” This is some real ass shit, not some fucking Hot Topic-major-label-bullshit metal act that uses flame throwers and glitter at their shows.” The rawness of the album is what got me. Even though it was lo-fi and dirty it had a very minimalist and ambient cadence to it that I had never acquired. I later read up on the process in which Varg recorded Filosofem—its said he used no guitar amplifiers but instead hooked up his guitar to his brothers old stereo and plugged his guitar into some generic fuzz petal. He even used headphones as a mic to record the vocals on the album. You may be putting the sound of this album together in your head right now and it sounds something like a screamy distorted mess—but that’s the thing, it’s the opposite. Varg’s use of ambience and minimalism within the album creates an eerie feeling that still doesn’t quite make sense to me today—there’s a 25 minute ambient electronic song on Filosofem…. yeah. It was after hearing this album where I felt confident enough to make an album of my own in my bedroom with a laptop and some shitty speakers, and now I’m writing an article for Portals. All I’m really trying to say is find the importance of everything in life even if you hate it. I believe you can always take something beautiful out of anything.
Brotherhood Crusade: Slava
Ever since I heard DJ Nate in my friend’s car driving through the Vermont countryside, I’ve been really into the minimal, syncopated, and early Warp-reminiscent rhythms of juke music (as I guess the entire electronic music community has been as of late, or as of like a year or two ago; I’m usually late on these things.) I am not a New Yorker; no, I am from LA; however, my friend Stephen has gone to a lot of shows at a venue/club called 285 Kent and turned me on a brah he’s seen there a few times who goes by Slava. He pretty much does everything I would want to do if I were to make straight juke music but way better. Not only are his rhythms off the hook but his minimal use of simultaneously melancholy and ethereal vocal samples and synth sounds create sonic atmospheres I want to smoke a blunt in, live in, eat a continental breakfast in, drink tea in, dance in(/on top of, like dancing on cumulus clouds), take a nap in, etc. “What I Feel Like Doing” is one of my favorites and one of the best minimal/ambient/juke tracks (and maybe one of the only ones) out right now. Do yourself a favor and check this fresh dude out.
Earthly Delight: Machinedrum
I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of rhythm, melody, and timbre in a track. When it comes to contemporary electronic music, there seems to be a rule where an artist can pick two elements to focus on, but never all three. The artists who serve as my biggest inspirations are those who are cognizant of all three elements and how they interact within their production. Take beat turned-juke turned-bass artist Machinedrum, born Travis Stewart. Although Stewart’s off-kilter rhythms may seem jarring at times and the sub-sonic frequencies in his tracks will vibrate your skull with the right pair of headphones, he never neglects the power of an un-fuck-with-able hook. To me, the ability to strike that careful balance is true artistry.
Oskar Russakis: Sly & The Family Stone
Sly and the Family compliment’s almost anything; I can’t imagine a sly song making anyone feel alienated. This music is prevalent among people who like to have a good time, and I would argue that there is no such thing as a bad time to play some Sly and the Family Stone. Listening to one of their songs is never too serious , just appealing; the care free undercurrent makes it sound much more desirable. I try to keep this in mind when I’m working on my own music, if anything it makes the whole process 100x more enjoyable . I have yet to meet someone who has experienced any kind of serious discomfort while listening to this music, which is usually a good thing.
Phoebe Bridgers: Elliott Smith
Now, if you haven’t listened to him, I guarantee you that someone you listen to has. His songwriting is direct, and for the most part, painfully sad. Alone with his guitar at the 1998 Academy Awards, he performed “Miss Misery,” a song he did for the Good Will Hunting soundtrack, to his largest crowd. Only to be followed by Celine Dion, her orchestra, and several fog machines. His straight forward performances inspired me to play acoustic shows, and his unique recording style has inspired me to double absolutely everything I record. Elliott Smith will always have a place on every playlist I make, and is my go-to answer to “What kind of music do you like?” Listen. Trust me. This song kills.
Future Dollars: Three 6 Mafia & Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder
Three 6 Mafia – Niggaz Ain’t Barin’ Dat (Jake)
It was super challenging to figure out which song I really wanted to write about off of Three 6 Mafia’s Underground Vol. 1: (1991-1994), a collection of their first recorded material. I’ve listened to the whole album through probably over a hundred times and love every track equally. I chose this song because I think it best represents elements of their production, which I’ve tried to channel through my own musical constructions. We use a lot of found sounds for our percussion but I try and sequence and edit the sounds to sound like they were recorded at a low bit rate to match the raw sound that Three 6 Mafia achieves in their early productions. I love how their material ranges from some super thugged out shit to almost atmospheric. This track displays their more atmospheric productions through the dreamy melody and the repetition of the lyrics.
Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder – Talking Timbuktu (Sam)
The collaborative album between Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder, Talking Timbuktu, is the representative for a larger appreciation for a whole style of West African guitar music, something we both try to synthesize when we’re in the studio. For me, there’s a sort of golden ratio with this album that doesn’t exist in the same way in some of the other, more rare groove West African albums I’ve heard. The concept of musical compromise exists very audibly in this record, where you can hear the stylistic differences between the two artists and how their different musical approaches meld together. The rhythms and melodies become a hybrid sound very relateable to us when we’re making music together. More so than other electronic music styles, it’s genres like West African guitar music that informs our work more often.