Never mind Valentine's Day, we've all fallen in love with the latest experiments to come out of Leipzig drum & bass lab Alphacut. Label boss LXC tells us more about the "Alpha Cutauri" EPs.
Is it love? Who can say, but if you are alone on Valentine's day this could well warm you up, or maybe leave a cold metallic streak running through you? We are of course talking about Alphacut and their brand new "Alpha Cutauri" EP series. (Have a read of what we've had to say about them here, about half way down- http://organicbeats.co.uk/features/article/low-end-movements-4 if you haven't done so already.) Imagine our excitement then that we were able to pin down label boss LXC for a rare interview. Read on for a few of the man's takes on the project in his own words…
In your own words, tell us a bit about the "Alpha Cutauri"project- where did the ideas and inspiration come from and what are the themes, both ideologically and sonically, that tie the releases in the series together? How does it all relate to the rest of the Alphacut back catalogue?
Alpha Cutauri is a far solar system with a very old cultural history in audio science and sine wave celebration. Whenever you have the chance, catch some interstellar space ride and come along! I'm sorry, but I can't tell you more now, we have a strict philosophy of confidentiality around our sonic tribes...
Alphacut has always been about accelerated breakbeat science and experimenting and having open minds. It was never really about big names or trends, whereas creativity and the unknown are the main focus. Can you imagine how impossible it is to develop a distribution strategy when you want to push such sounds for a vinyl record label? Talks happened about crap like remixes for cash, forced scheduling, kicking out "weak“ tunes, etc. So, Alphacut kept on working with its roots, a mix of independent distributors like Toolbox and Suburban Trash and a huge list of smaller contacts to shops and mail orders. Related to those structures and scenes, Alphacut's sound has always been a bit rougher and energetic. Deep and minimal sounds weren't the easiest to push, although stuff like the Half & Half EPs (another of our EP series, Volume 2 out now) tried to break the ice there. But nevertheless there was a need for a wider concept with such sounds and a new way to distribute them.
I've always had a fascination in deep and drastically reduced bass music- from 2003 until 2005 I worked on a well under-perceived long player called "We Have To Hold Apart“ which was all about weird little screechy and scratchy analogue synthesiser sounds, minimal sub bass, some playful fx and a lot of space in between. Even the artwork had something spacey already, remixing some 80's b-movie science fiction. The result was one hour of cute but also irritating material, and it was released as a free download on plainaudio.com only (http://archive.org/details/pp012mx). Those guys even opened up a completely new third section to their catalogue: "Experimental“. This was before anything like Autonomic or microfunk took place, a funny part of my own studio history now.
"I've always had a fascination in deep and drastically reduced bass music."
By the late 2000s, more and more producers went into the reduced and minimal side of drum & bass and bass music in general. Especially in geographic areas without a strong club culture, bedroom production is popular and sounds become more "free“ - not solely made for dancefloors anymore, but for a broader listening experience. You all know Bop, Dissident and the likes from St. Petersburg, who have all been a huge inspiration for me in the last couple of years.
The Alpha Cutauri idea went off when Koto sent early versions of his EP over, it must have been at some point in 2010. I really enjoyed those easy deep vibes, but couldn't really imagine putting them on Alphacut. However, I kept on listening to these and found more and more interesting similar material. Finally I was able to include some tunes by Felix K, a guy who's work I've been digging for years, and Sub from Austria who fits perfectly into the game as he's released on both Alphacut and our other label 45Seven earlier in 2012. Working with them was a pleasure, both guys produce their stuff really to the point– no useless bells and whistles but love for every important detail. They also use an interesting range of tempo, which was something I also would like to have involved in the Alpha Cutauri series. 170 BPM only is like a dead end, just as a 4/4 measure can be, sometimes.
It's an interesting assortment of artists you've got involved for the first Alpha Cutauri releases. While Felix K and Sub are relative stalwarts of drum & bass, perhaps even cult figures at this end of the genre, Koto is a name that could well be new to some. Could you shed a bit of light on hooking up with and working with him, and what about his music to you stood out from the crowd?
I always enjoy to bring fresh names to the game. Plus, the Koto tunes really printed the picture for Alpha Cutauri directly into my brain... Of course I know there are many others out there to explore and to give such a chance, but in his case it was just so obviously fitting.
The titles of the three EPs so far, "Escapism," "Filmscape" and "Alpha" are all somewhat mysterious and likewise the tracks they contain are named in equally ambiguous manner, each just one word, such as Sub's "History"and Koto's "Motions." Is there a particular reason for this? To me, the vagueness seems to have the effect of allowing the music to stand a bit more independently from the world of language and "lets the tunes do the talking," so to speak- was that an intention?
All tracks have been titled by their respective artists, but that's an interesting interpretation of yours. Don't you think it's just producers being lazy on track names? But hey, even better when it seems to make sense!
The German electronic music landscape is, from an outsider's perspective, dominated by the output of Berlin and the very distinctly lo-fi sounds typically associated with the city. Is that actually reflective of the state of things in German electronica as you see it? How does the electronic scene where you are in Leipzig compare, is it equally healthy and does it have its own trademark sounds in the same way that Berlin does?
Probably there are just way too many great international musicians that move to Berlin- so much potential, but without enough venues to play and places to refine with good audio works. When you live in Berlin, you have to be productive like mad, you have to make noise to get heard. Not sure what you refer to by the lo-fi sounds though… it is a rough city. Individuality got mainstream, everybody is "different“ now.
Leipzig is much smaller (only half a million population) with a pretty much equal scene and subcultural landscape. Especially when you compare the number of citizens, it's way more "grass-rootsy," healthy, colourful, open minded (OK, a bit naïve even), creative and independent. Of course it's the little sister without the big gestures and stars, but who needs that when the vibe is right and the roof is on fire?
"If clubbing is all about tools and bombs, I'm out of it. Variety is gold, music for the mind, the heart and the feet."
The trick is, it's a big village here. Everybody is connected. Networks spread over all scenes really. So, you won't find any special trademark sound. Just, everything is smaller and more about coming together than shouting about what's hip next week. Having a good time rather than taking yourself too seriously. Nobody knows Leipzig anyways, so shut up and dance!
Of course on top of being a label boss you're also a DJ in your own right. This isn't music however that would appear DJ-friendly in the traditional sense of being tailor-made for a dancefloor or club environment. Do you approach your live DJ sets with the same "no-compromise" attitude you've clearly taken with the music you release, or are the "Alpha Cutauri" EPs best left at home on a Friday night to keep them safe in their more natural listening environment?
When playing out, I tend to select for the crowd or venue, pretty intuitively. If clubbing is all about tools and bombs, I'm out of it. Variety is gold, music for the mind, the heart and the feet.
I am part of a collective running a night called "ease up^“ at Conne Island, Leipzig. It's especially set up for deeper, experimental and thoughtful drum & bass music, typically featuring acts like Morphy, Flatliners, Genotype or Hybris. We play Alpha Cutauri sounds there, as well as a good range of other stuff.
You can also play these EPs in Leipzig's finest table tennis bars or some artsy fartsy DIY gallery openings. But of course, they may also be simply served cool, enjoyed on your fine hi-fi home stereo!
With digital increasingly becoming the format of choice for big name and bedroom DJs alike, what is it about vinyl that keeps you releasing on it exclusively? What would your response be to consumers of solely digital music who insist upon "content over format"?
Well, at the moment there are not many requests for a digital catalogue... fans of our sound seem to be pretty much all about buying vinyl, still. But well, why not go digital, sometime, somehow?
Vinyl is great, but limited in some ways. I would like to release tunes digitally, separated in stems, maybe 4, max. 8 tracks for each song, drum grooves, single bass lines, harmonies, vocals - remixing could be done instantly, live on stage. Who's in?!
Finally, what can we expect next from the series, any more releases in the pipeline? What else have you got going on in the wider Alphacut label world?
There are plans for Alpha Cutauri EPs by Dissident, Parallel, Paranoid Society, Muted and more. Feel free to fully support the series by buying at Hardwax, so there will be more shiny deep & bass satellites out soon!
This year Alphacut will celebrate its 10th birthday and its 30th vinyl with a huge label night with 2 floors full of Alphacutaurians and a triple 10“ where guys like Abstract Elements, Sub and Trisector are remixing earlier releases. Really looking forward to those!
Also, the 45Seven 7“ series is going strong with quite a bunch of releases coming up on the sunny side of dubwize. Prepare for niceness by King Fifi aka Flatliners, Theory, Phuture-T and of course Dubmonger & LXC! Boom!
Alpha Cutauri I, II & III are all out now, as well as the various artists "Half & Half EP" Volume Two and Lowcut & Sub- "Detachment Dub"/ "The Big Milking" on 45Seven. Visit http://alphacut.net/ for more info.