We catch up with production duo DAAT to discuss the innards of fridges, field recording and the whispers of an artist album.
DAAT's "Fridge" and "Apache" has just dropped on vinyl, having picked up a wave of support from the underground. Representing the pinnacle of their production efforts to date, the 12" is an audio expedition well outside the realms of traditional drum & bass. With this in mind we caught up with the guys...
We hear that field recording now plays a heavy part in your work? What was the catalyst that encouraged you to start working in this way?
One of our driving motivations in DAAT is to continually push our sonic palette and abilities. For both “Fridge” and “Apache”, there was a clear vision of the soundstage that we wanted to achieve and synthesis could only get us so far. This isn’t to say that we’ve abandoned it though, as it’s still a very prominent feature in our tunes (e.g., bass, pads), but certainly with a more subtle role. We began with some rudimentary techniques, but have since become fairly adept at capturing environmental sound on a budget, which was very much motivated by a DIY-aesthetic and foley-style principles. Signal processing techniques (mostly spectral transformations) go hand-in-hand with this process as well, and we’ve found that over time, a simple twist on an old technique can change the overall palette available to us, and can also reveal new manipulation methods in the process. A lot of the science/engineering behind these techniques was gleaned during our studies at Music Technology @ McGill in Montreal, which has really helped us in this regard. The most important aspect is that we have fun doing it, and we have the most fun when exploring new territory.
Listening to your latest work and also previous productions, it becomes clear that you don't make a habit of sampling breaks or extended pieces of melody. Is there any particular thinking behind this?
We are both dedicated to the dissection and analysis of sound on its most basic level. In part, this stems from our experiences in music technology, and our desire to reduce sound sources to component waves. As a result, sample packs or synth presets don’t factor into our creation process, as there is an implicit emphasis on developing our own sound that’s not coloured by outside sources. It’s taken a while to hone in on this and make what we do sound up to the standards of tracks that are made with sample packs, but we’ve learned a great deal in the process. The soundscape of “Fridge” was very much motivated by the desire to interpret the inner workings of a fridge, and breakbeats and melody just didn’t fit the bill. We started with a diagram and recordings, then began the sound design. For “Apache”, we wanted to create a soundstage that conveyed depth and movement without the use of percussion. This one was also created through the use of recordings, sound design, and signal processing.
DAAT productions do seem to stray far from the beaten track most associated with drum & bass, where else can 170 BPM music go?
Anywhere really! We intentionally limit ourselves to the 170 BPM structure, because we’re interested in exploring this exact question. Of course this biases tracks towards certain rhythmic structures and certain feels, but there’s a lot that can be done within these perceived limitations to express new ideas and to evoke different emotions.
"Fridge" has been supported by Rinse FM's DJ Flight, ASC and outside of drum & bass, BBC Radio 6 Music's Rob da Bank. It must be great to know that underground records can still have a wide reach?
The success of “Fridge” caught us by surprise. Needless to say, but it’s quite an honour to have our music played by tastemakers that we respect so much. It has been incredibly validating to know that people enjoy what we are doing, and it gives us added incentive to push ourselves in these directions. It’s encouraging to know that obscure underground records can still reach major stations like BBC and Rinse FM. It’s through the freedom of selectors like Rob da Bank and DJ Flight to control their own programming, rather than having to stick to the mainstream, that makes this possible, and they should continue to be championed by the underground for it.
Whereas "Fridge" still maintains an element of instant impact, "Apache" is far less obvious. How do you go about writing tracks that don't follow any dancefloor orientated formula?
Ambient music is a major influence for both of us, and we attempt to employ techniques from the genre (slow tonal movement, soundscapes, etc). For any of our tunes, the ambience should hold its own without percussion. For “Apache”, we decided to almost wholly forgo percussion, to allow the ambient component to come to the fore. Like much of our work, “Apache” is influenced heavily by dark futuristic anime (Patlabor series among others). In particular this one is intended to evoke images of high speed air transport and giant machines.
There have been rumours of an DAAT album project being worked on behind closed doors? What's the deal, can we look forward to an album?
It’s been a very long and cold winter here in Montreal, but we’ve taken advantage of it by keeping indoors and being productive. Our first album—the HVAC LP—will be released on Detuned Transmissions at the end of June. The tracks on HVAC are consistent in ideology and technique, and reference each other in a variety of ways. “Fridge” and “Apache” are the first two tracks featured on the album, and serve as a jump-off point for the remainder. In the process of working on HVAC, we’ve learned loads about writing for an album (which is much different than working on individual tunes), and we’re already thinking about how to apply this knowledge for our next outing.
DAAT - "Fridge" / "Apache" is out on Detuned Transmissions now.