Artists and labels alike search for a sound and a business model that can flourish in this brave, new age in music. Against that struggle, Oz’s Enig’matik is something special. We’ve got more coming with this crew, but first, CDM’s Matt Earp takes an look inside what makes this record label work with its founder, in a way I think may resonate with other independent outlets and creators.
And, oh yeah: true to form, Matt goes a bit deeper to chart the larger trends here, and a post-Tipper musical landscape. What’s that mean? I’ll let him explain. -PK
It’s been said that we’re living in a post-Fly Lo world, that Flying Lotus opened the door to a sonic palette of tumbling, loping off-kilter beats, particular kinds of jazzy samples, and of course huge amounts of side-chain compression. FlyLo’s influence on a wealth of producers that have come after him is unquestionable, but for some producers – including the label founder we’ll meet today – it’s more accurate to say we’re living in a post-Tipper world.
Tipper, originally associated with the nu-skool breaks in the late 90s, moved on from that sound long ago. Over the past decade he has created a particular blend of processes, sounds and effects that’s instantly recognizable. These sounds permeate various genres with terribly inadequate names like “psy-chill”, “glitch”, and the ultimately confusing “mid tempo”. But while identifying Tipper’s genres is ultimately a pointless endeavor, his musical characteristics are easy to pick out – extremely clean production, broken as opposed to 4×4 beats, and BPMs that traditionally stretch from 90 to 115 (though in recent years, it’s also taken on a healthy dose of influence from 70/140 land). And through (almost) all of it, there are these particularly squelchy sounds of gurgling synths that are unmistakably Tipper. There’s also, unfortunately, sometimes a heavy dose of truly goofy drum patterns and rhythms that call to mind Heavy D and the Boys from 1984 and 1986. But even that can be fun occasionally, and no one can test Tipper on musicality and dazzling clarity of sound design – no wonder he’s in demand as a mastering engineer for other people’s tunes. Here, just listen to this, it probably intros the sound better than I can using words:
Tipper’s influence should not be underestimated. You just might have missed it it if you don’t live on the West Coast of the US and Canada, or in Australia and New Zealand. Out here we have it in spades and it rules festivals all summer long. And one person who’s take an interest in this particular aesthetic is Jake Rose, the founder of Enig’matik records from Melbourne, Australia. Now, Rose’s label is far from just releasing a bunch of Tipper clones (of which there are many out there). Rather, Enig’matik has taken that sound as a starting point and melded it with other genres and scenes of the past 15 years – hectic IDM, emotional ambient washes, psychedelic permutations, aspects of the entire history of dubstep, and even sometimes a splash of the dark agro soundscapes you might get from a label like Ad Noiseam or Hymen. Not only do all these elements shine through in his Rose’s productions under the name Sun In Aquarius, he’s managed to find more than a couple dozen other artists who share his aesthetic in some way.
Enig’matik is currently a Bandcamp-only label and it’s already 10+ releases deep in just the last 2 years. All the music on the label is extremely clean, extremely complex, and extremely detail-oriented, and it’s wonderful fodder for repeated listening. Plus, a good number of the artists are Australian, making it a great entry for a global audience into a culture whose sounds don’t leave Australia’s shores as often as they should. Doublly exciting is that – minus a few producers, notably Si Begg and Access to Arakas – most of the artists on the label have been releasing music for under five years. The two Painting Pictures on Silence compilations are the natural starting point to check out the label’s sound, but don’t neglect my personal favorite release by Woulg and Child, both of whom have had excellent EPs on the label. And to top it off, the label’s graphic aesthetic is unmatched, with wonderfully diverse, complex, and psychedelic (but not cheesy) cover art, videos, and live visuals for their shows – just check the website and their Vimeo page to see what I mean! [videos below]
Jake Rose is currently wandering the North American hinterlands taking gigs as he can (occasionally with fellow label mates Goosebumpz and Kalya Scintilla), but he took some time out of his travel time to answer a few questions for CDM.
Matt: What’s your background and influences / musical journey?
Jake: I come from a psychedelic background, mainly dance music-orientated. I then discovered various forms of IDM music and was strongly attracted to downtempo psychedelic chill music. I’m fairly open-minded but am always looking for music that moves me in a deep emotional way.
Did you release anything before your were Sun in Aquarius (SIA), or is there any SIA stuff not on Enig’matik?
My first proper releases were as Sun In Aquarius; I did a free EP containing some re-interpretations of tracks by The Doors. I then went on to release a EP with Addictech Records.
Where are you based and what are some of the highlights of the scene there?
I have been living in Byron Bay, a beautiful beach town on the east coast of Australia, for the last couple of years. But just before I left for my North American tour, I relocated to Melbourne, which is a large city and the hub for music producers and quality events in Australia. In Melbourne, there is a thriving scene full of world class producers. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world right now; the crowds have very open minds and the scene is generally very supportive and up for new things in terms of experimental audio and media.
What made you want to found a label? What’s the meaning of the name?
Having so many good friends who wrote amazing music and not having a label in Australia specializing in the music I love the most, also wanting to explore a relationship between music and art with likeminded artists. Enigmatic is a word meaning mysterious and sometimes difficult to understand, and I associate this with deep and emotionally rich soundscapes and complex programming.
The aesthetic of the label is definitely clean and detailed -in sound, in music, in art – What makes you drawn to that sort of aesthetic?
It’s all about the details for me; the longevity of hidden nuances is unsurpassed to my ears. I aim for music that is suitable for a plethora of environments.
How many of the artists on the label are Australian? How many do you know personally?
A lot of the artists onboard are Australian; from the start they were always going to be the core of the collective before we moved into inviting some more international guys to jump onboard. I know all of them personally and count them all as good friends, for sure.
From everything I’ve seen the label seems like a one man effort – are there others involved in making it happen?
It’s all me, in a sense, though I am definitely fed inspiration and artist recommendations from other artists on the label. I like to think of the label as a collective, so although I’m pulling the strings I often ask the artists their thoughts on a number of things before I move on them, to keep them involved in the growth of the label.
Who does your art / videos (or is it someone new every time?)
The videos are edited by myself; I do some [Adobe] After Effects work and Cinema 4d for some titles, but the majority of the footage for the trailers is sourced from Creative Commons[-licensed] footage, mainly an animator named Beeple. I was stoked to be contacted by him to let us know he was psyched with the way we had used them, so I was pretty happy, since it was my first efforts of mangling video. Ed.: For more on Beeple, we recently covered his free clips on Create Digital Motion and even interviewed him in 2010.
What upcoming releases are scheduled? Are you planning to do any physical releases?
We’ve got a bunch of stuff in the works. We’ve just dropped the first two chapters of the Mindbuffer remix EP series, which will contain four chapters, finally finishing with a full-length album and music video. We also have some other EPs in the works from other Enig’matik artists from the second compilation which will start to surface soon. That will then be followed by a full length album from Mindbuffer later in the year. I don’t think I will ever find the need to do hard copies unless it’s for promotion at events or specifically requested by an artist. I am, however, interested in some alternative distribution techniques that I’m working on that will definitely involve art pieces for customers to show in their spaces and possibly wear.
Tell me more about the PanFM remix release series – I can’t find the original track anywhere!
The original track has yet to be released; we are going with a model that is similar to the Origami Sound label structure: we are going to release four chapters of remixes, four tracks each. The fourth chapter will contain the original, as well as the Mindbuffer track “Digital Silhouette” from Painting Pictures on Silence V2, and further remixes of that track as well as a film clip that is currently being made.
Does Enig’matik have plans outside of releases – i.e., doing a tour of just the artists, hosting a stage at a fest, etc?
For sure; we are already doing that and we’ve got lots in the works. I’m currently on my first Enig’matik tour with fellow label artist Goosebumpz; when I arrive back in Melbourne, I am organizing an event with three international artists where we will take over a whole nightclub and have 3+ rooms running. I am also in talks to start curating some sessions at some of OZ’s most respected festivals [that's Australia, folks], and will definitely continue to push Enig’matik Records tours in North America with a bigger and better one definitely in the works for 2013.
If you could get a track from any artist in the world for the label – a dream artist – who would it be?
I don’t think I could possibly narrow that down to one artist, some artists which I dream to get onboard Enig’matik one day would be Solar Fields, Amon Tobin, Jon Hopkins, Younger Brother and some Tipper downtempo goodness.
Updated: Enig’matik has posted a teaser for an upcoming free sampler – with Create Digital Music. Stay tuned.
Kid Kameleon is a San Francisco-based DJ, promoter, writer, blogger, historian, archivist, and fan of electronic music.