It’s 2018 and we’ve managed to speak all things from virtual reality and artificial intelligence into existence. It’s a far cry from when we used to think Marty McFly buzzing around on a hoverboard was never going to happen. Electronic music has developed so much that we’ve managed to see the birth of ‘weightless’ music through the minds of UK producers Mumdance and Logos; a sound that has made its way as far as an album from Italian producer Chevel on the duo’s Different Circles label, a place that’s housed the unique sonic output for almost five years now.
While electronic music is always a tough task to describe on paper, the notion of ‘weightless’ brings that to a new extreme. Chevel’s ‘Always Yours’ LP could simultaneously soundtrack a rogue voyage to the dark side of the moon or the inner mechanisms of a car engine at full throttle.
There’s nothing more futuristic than the boundary-destroying sound we were about to discuss, so the notion of running a successful, four-person Skype call was an afterthought, given the complex extremes the three have already sonically achieved. The Skype call obviously didn’t necessarily go to plan, with James Parker [Logos] gone AWOL for the first half of our conversation.
After a few minutes of trying to get him on the line, our efforts are in vain. A brief pause in our search for Logos allows me to ask how the hell has the ‘weightless’ sound, such a UK-engrossed one, been so perfectly interpreted by an Italian producer? While Dario Tronchin [Chevel] managed to hand deliver his album to the English pair, his first introduction to UK music came at Europe’s most famous breeding ground for electronic creativity.
“The very first encounter I had with UK music was in Berlin actually,” Chevel explains. “They ran these parties in Berghain when I was living there, about 10 years ago and Mala was playing. That was the beginning for me in terms of UK music. Also Hardwax had some strong connections with the UK, they had crates in shop just dedicated to UK music.”
It’s worth noting too that unlike Mumdance and Logos, Chevel’s music hasn’t always been as drastically leftfield, making it a little bit more puzzling that his initial fire was sparked in a place that’s home to some of the most purist techno DJs on the planet.
“DJ sets within techno can get really boring for me,” the Italian artist continues. “I don’t like when techno DJs themselves are focusing on one thing and I was scared that I’d end up that way. Music for me is much more about expressing myself and I don’t want to stick to rules.
I started going to many more live gigs and concerts and experimental music nights and of course the nights that James and Jack [Mumdance] were running. These kind of experiences changed my sound and I found there was much more to explore in the techno field.”
The mention of Jack Adams, commonly known as Mumdance, and James Parker’s Different Circles parties then gives the former Rinse FM host an opportunity to chime in.
“What happened was a few summers ago James and I put on a series of events at this pub called the Victoria, these Sunday evening parties and we did two months worth of programming,” Mumdance intervenes. “What we did was try and stick the biggest lineups into the smallest venue and it was crazy. At one point you had the whole scene in there, you’d have like Perc, Björk, Lee Gamble as well as the grime lot too, it was quite a mad bunch of people.
Dario came down to one of those and gave us a copy of his album and we stayed in touch since then.”
While Chevel’s dip into ‘weightless’ isn’t totally different from what we’ve heard in his more club-orientated sound, ‘weightless’ is the approach that makes sense for producers such as Mumdance and Logos, who have both for a long time been undefinable given the uniqueness and variance within their music. With that being said, ‘weightless’ isn’t intended to be a genre, more so a new approach to producing individual sounds, as Mumdance goes on to outline.
“The main thing with ‘weightless’ that often gets misunderstood is that it’s not really a genre, it’s an approach. I guess it’s hard to explain, but it captures a mood and the idea of reducing things down to the bare minimum, using minimal percussion but still having sub bass so it has still got club pressure. We always wanted it to be open to interpretation and that’s why we did this ‘Weightless Vol. 1’ and ‘Vol. 2’ because we wanted to make it open to interpretation for more people to make sense of it.”
Even over the phone it’s obvious that the producer has a clear vision of what the sound is in his head, but like most of his previous work, it stands entirely on its own in a sea of monotonous electronic music. It’s something that’s naturally harder to grasp, given the sea of easily digestible, four to the floor music out there.
“It just kind of developed,” says Mumdance. “‘Weightless’ has always been about dynamics. I like techno don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I think the producers can be a bit too purist and I don’t think it’s good to be too purist about anything. If something is the same the whole way through then it becomes less effective; you need these opposites;
“You need silence to make sense of sound”
“A break down makes a drop exciting. I was calling them palette cleansers and I just used to play ‘musique concrète’ pieces because I was playing some pretty intense music and after a while it’d be a bit much. If you bring it up and bring it down with interludes and some ambient bits that’s what got me into the idea of [weightless] at first.”
He pauses for a second to gather his thoughts and then offers a clearer example.
“To be honest, James’ album ‘Cold Mission’ is the square one for ‘weightless’ really. There’s that angle I was taking with ambient and ‘musique concrète’ that James thought of doing with grime and deconstructed rave music.
“It’s a shame James isn’t here!” He says, laughing at the fact that he’s doing all the explaining for what has really been a joint venture for the two Englishmen. With that being said, Mumdance’s recent residency on Rinse FM showcased the weightless sound in a contextual atmosphere surrounded by different electronic genres. One week he’d be back-to-back with Nina Kraviz or DJ Stingray, with more legends dropping by the studio in James Ruskin (Who he kicked off his new monthly NTS Residency with) or Sunil Sharpe, who he’ll be playing back-to-back with at the upcoming installment of Higher Vision Festival, to name but a few. His stint on radio put ‘weightless’ on the map and put him on an even wider radar for bookings too.
“The Rinse show was very important in terms of incubating the sound and helping people understand it, because when you explain it on paper it sounds real wanky [laughs]. When you hear it it makes sense.”
Each show brought with it a new announcement poster, 40 in total, and that attention to aesthetic overlaps with Different Circles’ rather unique approach to the visual aspect. Chevel’s album has a simple but striking cover, fully equipped with a neon yellow vinyl that looks like it was pressed on frozen Gatorade. While the album cover is most definitely eye catching, the Italian points out that it goes deeper than being just a pretty picture.
“The whole meaning of the record is in the image,” Chevel explains. “Of course the neon yellow makes the whole thing much more enjoyable, but regarding the image, it’s my tribute to music; you get different flavours from the same machine and that’s my idea of music:
“I don’t want to be one-sided. A lot of artists are worried about being cool and one brand and I want to be the opposite. I want to be the whole machine.”
Much like their initial meeting, Mumdance reaffirms that the colourful nature of Chevel’s album was totally natural and actually against the typical Different Circles grain.
“Initially with Different Circles we didn’t want to have an aesthetic. Everything was just hand stamped and didn’t say which release it was. If you’re too fashionable with something then you can go out fashion with it. It’s good to be competent with the visual aspect and it really frustrates me getting the visual aspect right, but to me the music should come first.
“It was Dario’s idea to have that image and I think it works really well with the sound too.”
Whether it has been through his music, label or radio show, Mumdance has always married chaos with organisation, as exhibited with the creation of his label’s new in-house style. His sturdy demeanor cracks for a minute as his organised chaos comes into question.
“I’m really bad at planning stuff. I just like music and this is just a way where I can fit everything I like together. It has taken me a little while to work out how to do it and for it to make sense. The ‘weightless’ idea is another string to the bow. It’s just like there are peak time tracks, drum tracks and warm up tracks, this is just another type of track.
“If we put the amount of effort we put into this job into another job we’d be rolling. Music is not a job if you want to be rich. You get by, but you it’s about doing what you enjoy.”
Just as he regained his steadfast, stern posture, he laughs again this time as Logos has just texted him a message that simply reads, “FFS”. As we try and get him to join us, the ‘1 Sec’ producer continues, “I’ve always been very impulsive. For example, with Novelist, Pinch, Logos, I met them, felt an energy or whatever, without being too hippy, and was like, ‘Right let’s do some music’. Everyone I’ve worked with has been like that, the same with Dario, since I heard his music I knew I wanted to put that out on Different Circles in some capacity.”
His insightful approach to the microcosm of the electronic music his sound occupies is abruptly overshadowed by a poorly connected Logos, who’s apology slurs for about five seconds thanks a to a weak Skype line.
Thankfully his 4G manages to get a hold of itself and his voice sounds more like a human one, rather than a chopped up sample that would typically be found on a Different Circles record. As Mumdance had previously referred to Logos’ ‘Cold Mission’ album being a blueprint of sorts for their groundbreaking approach to production, it was natural to be inquisitive whether it happened by accident or if he had a grasp of weightlessness at that point.
“I didn’t really have ‘weightless’ in mind” Logos says in reference to ‘Cold Mission’, “The album was an exploration of the sounds on my first EP that I made for Keysound. Some of the tunes there are pretty ‘weightless’.
“I feel like I’m always able to make what I want to make to be honest. Me and Jack did a remix for Perc & Truss recently and that tune is like an early German trance, gabber tune.” Mumdance reaffirms this, “Yeah, proper Dutch hardcore.”
Logos continues on, “Weightless is like a set of useful parameters. I think it keeps us grounded in UK rather than going off and making four to the floor techno, which I’m not really that interested in.”
At this stage it’s clear to see why the pair have managed to share such a clear cut understanding of what is to the rest of us, a pretty tricky notion.
Without getting too lost in the intricacies of production and their respective approach to it, we flip the focus more so on them as people and as musicians. Despite operating within the sometimes emotionless landscape of underground electronic music, the trio’s material definitely carries more personality than most of their counterparts. Chevel was first to answer, quickly reaffirming that the hidden parts of his personality are most evident through his sound.
“I don’t want to sound cheesy [laughs]. Maybe it’s a romantic view on it, but making music for me is a way of reflecting the stuff that I can’t with words. Some things are hard to be open about so this is a medium of doing so, even though it has no words.”
The Italian’s once again well-articulated reasoning is echoed by Mumdance.
“Like Dario says, music is a projection of self and when you start making good music it’s because you’re making honest music. As much as that sounds weird because there are no lyrics in what we do, if you’re trying to project something which isn’t you it definitely has that feeling to it. Every time I’ve been writing things because I enjoy it or think it’s fun or because it’s something I want to listen to that’s when I write good music. The proof is in the pudding, most music that finds its way is honest music.
“One of the hardest things to do is to be yourself.”
Logos immediately chimes in, as if this was a pre rehearsed prompt between the Different Circles duo.
“Maybe aspects of your personality that you like to think are good come across. I’m a pretty messy person, my house isn’t that neat and I can be pretty disorganised as has been witnessed by me joining this interview really late. I’m having a bit of a nightmare day to be honest,” he sighs, sidetracking for a minute. “Musicians try to project their best selves in the music. Like Jack says, the best music comes from those that are totally honest and you see that with some huge artists and I’m not talking about dance music ones either, just in general.”
With that and a quick offer to clear up any quotes that may have been lost due to dodgy Skype connections, we call it a day. The three blue icons that represent Jack, James and Dario each drop off the screen in unison as we close what was an conversation about one of the most spritely new sounds in electronic music. Birthed in the unpredictable and sporadic minds of Mumdance and Logos, ‘weightless’ is finally throwing its weight around the underground scene, with Chevel’s contribution to the concept being a landmark moment that showcases its progression. Despite having a solid homebase in the duo’s Different Circles label, expectations can never really be levelled on them as they’re always only a new track away from redefining their sound, a sound that they’ve finally managed to pin down and explain to the world at large.
Mumdance goes back-to-back with Sunil Sharpe at Higher Vision Festival on June 30.