The electronic music world was pleasantly surprised at the beginning of 2018 when lauded producer and DJ Daniel Avery announced that he’d be releasing his brand new album ‘Song for Alpha’. Not only was the news a big deal given the producer’s heralded status, but this will make for his first album since his debut offering ‘Drone Logic’.
Following up such a well-rounded collection of tracks would be a tough task for anyone and the five year gap between both albums definitely represents that, but it also represents a patient producer in a field of restless listeners.
With the album came an EP and the announcement of live performances; an all night long show in District 8, a special seven-hour set in London’s York Hall and a spot on the bill at Bicep’s FMB showcase at Belfast’s Telegraph Building, as well as curating a full day of acts at Lyon’s Nuit Sonores festival.
While he may be considered an enigma, the producer could be more accurately described as measured. He’s played the field for a while now, rearing his head sporadically, but seemingly always at the right time, and he’s done so once again in a recognisably controlled, rather than enigmatic, fashion.
With the ‘Slow Fade’ EP that’s just been released we’re being introduced to a much darker side of Daniel Avery. After previously citing that ‘Drone Logic’ represented a younger sound, it seems as though he’s heading in a more grown-up direction.
“I look back on ‘Drone Logic’ fondly. It was who I was at the time but it was five years ago. At lot has changed in that time. I’ve always been really into the ideas of ambient music and drone music and slightly more experimental things. This time I decided to focus on them and push that button harder. Another big reason is that I’ve been travelling a lot. It felt quite necessary for me to make it.
“It’s a good representation of the quieter moments, away from the club, even though it has influences from techno of course because they’re part of who I am, but only one part. For me, it’s those moments where you can take a breath and take shelter from everything. They’ve become equally important to me. That’s where I think a lot of those sounds come from. It’s more pensive and patient. I don’t like using the word mature, but it’s a good representation of where I am compared to five years ago.”
At the moment, electronic music has become almost entirely segmented. One artist can be solely drum n’ bass and another solely breakbeat. Most artists adopt aliases for when they want to take on different genres outside of their comfort zones. For Avery, his sound has always been raw and electronic, rather than strictly techno or house or anything else.
“It’s never anything I’ve considered consciously in terms of making music. Even though I’ve been doing this for a little while now I still feel like I’m something of an outsider when it comes to club music, it’s not where I started and it certainly wasn’t my first love when it came to music, but it’s obviously something I’m fond of now!
“From my own perspective, when it comes to music that I’m fond of, I’m always drawn to ones with some kind of psychedelic element in them. That could be a hypnotic techno record or a droning ambient record, to me they all kind of occupy the same space in my head so I love them equally. There’s no thought process behind it, I just love any music that can transport you somewhere else, that’s what I’m into.”
With that taken into account, his blasé attitude to genres goes hand in hand with the label that has played host to his two albums; Erol Alkan’s ‘Phantasy’. That reassurance from the label led to the production of a more precise and personal sound.
“I don’t think I’d be able to do it otherwise. It wouldn’t be compatible in any way. One of the things I love about ‘Phantasy’ is that it doesn’t play by any standard rules. It puts as much emphasis on really experimental music as much as it does with stuff that doesn’t have to do with the club. It’s always felt like a right home, I’ve always totally respected what Erol has done throughout his career and through my own experience there’s been no pressure whatsoever to be a certain way. There was no rush, even though it’s been five years, there was no pressure. They trusted me enough to know that what I wanted to do might take some time. I said to Erol that I wasn’t interested in making ‘Drone Logic’ part two and he totally respected that.
“I haven’t stopped making music since ‘Drone Logic’. Two weeks after it came out I was back making music. I’ve got hard drives full of music from that time period. I wasn’t interested in saying the same thing again. I wanted to explore something else. This album has taught me a lot about the idea of patience when making music. You can make stuff as much as you like but those golden moments that you really feel are true to you, they take a lot of time. You can set everything up, but you can’t force them. I’m glad I waited this long.
“An album is a love letter to patience and what can come if you can just take a breath and give things time to breathe.”
A new track is a flick of the thumb away from being a distant afterthought on a newsfeed. Many DJs reflect that impatience in their sets; going from track to track aimlessly, looking for a reaction. Avery’s sets focus on a more longform approach; all night long sets in both District 8 and York Hall in London. Even with shorter sets, such as his Dekmantel Boiler Room, we still see moments when the UK producer has captivated us through an adherence to sheer patience.
“It’s something that I’m really interested in, it’s more important now than ever. There’s just so much information being thrown around all the time; it’s just quick fixes. Music, or any form of art, takes a really long time to make so if people are just consuming it in thirty second bursts what’s the point? I find that kind of demoralising.
“I want to fly the flag for things that take time. It’s important that if you put a record on or a film on or you read a novel that you give those things time. Those are the things that are going to hit home the hardest with you.”
Avery’s in-club sound is unique in that it doesn’t dictate the tone of the night, the tone of the night dictates the tone of his tracks. That transparency is almost unheard of in a genre as in your face as techno. Avery’s tracks have the flexibility to feel handmade and gentle or alive and pulsating, all depending on what they’re placed in between.
“Maybe it goes back to the fact of feeling like an outsider in the middle of it all. I don’t mean that in a negative way. You have to create your own world and present your own world, do things on your own terms. Trying to fit in is not of any interest to me, if that means I can play in several different places then that’s cool but as long as I can create my own world and maintain some truth as to what I am then that’s all that matters”
Having an NTS Radio show definitely helped maintain his relevancy and also allowed him to create a strong bond between his old and new sounds. While we’ve managed to outgrow vinyl, TV and books, radio is something that has stood the test of time, especially within the realms of electronic music. NTS, Rinse, Radar and more are all going from strength to strength and with the help of big names such as Avery, they’re only going to get bigger.
“It really suits me. It allows anyone with a show to explore various sides to themselves. The idea of radio is something else that you put on and you listen to it. It’s someone that you trust, or grow to trust and you listen to the music that they find exciting, played in interesting ways. You don’t have to love every record that gets played, but it means you trust that person enough to give them the time of day.
“I grew up listening to radio with Mary Anne Hobbs and more, if you sit back and you trust them enough, you could find a record that might just change your life.”
Despite being one of producers that tends not to say an awful lot at the moment, Avery has been vocal about the important role clubbing plays in today’s murky political climate. Rather than a means of ignoring what’s going on and pushing it to the back of your mind, to him the club acts as a safe haven and as a break from everyday stress, not a cheap distraction.
“Someone asked me other day, ‘so you just want to run away from life?’. I don’t think that is true at all. An escape when it comes to clubbing is somewhere where you can go and find some form of sanctuary or safety with like-minded souls. It feels like you’re surrounded by support to look at life through different eyes. I don’t know if it’s always been that way for me, but right now it feels more important than ever. A huge part of it is that the whole clubbing experience is founded on the basis of love. People sharing things that they love, making music they love and everyone looking for that same positive goal. In a way, everyone’s searching for a higher energy than themselves. That doesn’t have to be religious or anything. Right now it just feels particularly important.”
Avery’s unmovable patience will be revealed for all to see on April 6 when his album is released and will be a testament to a unique mindframe in a monotonous genre. Patience and rebelliousness have never really gone together, neither have Daniel Avery and techno, but he still sits at the throne.