The moment the dusty cathedral-like tones of Polymath ignite Signs’ generous eight-track Skin Out EP, you instantly know they’ve climbed another level up the low-end ladder of badness.
A hefty hit of halftime heaviness delivered by Division, Skin Out is the Toulouse trio’s most critical, expansive and, let’s face it, gulliest release to date. The latest in a run of heavily supported releases, it turns out the band – comprising Le Lutin, Opsen and Primal Therapy – have experienced a series of remarkable successes since their first release in 2014.
Instigating their mission with sense-snapping neuro, loaded with fuzzy funk distorted bass and alien textures, they were signed by Cause4Concern’s Optiv before they even had a name. In less than three years they’ve released on some of the most influential and respected labels in the genre… Ram, Eatbrain, Shogun, Bad Taste, Neodigital, Piranha Pool, Plasma Audio and Vandal have all shown us some Signs in the past. And of course Division, the exclusive home for the brand’s more experimental and far-out halftime exercises.
Now fully established in both the neuro and halftime sides of the game, and clearly adept at switching between the two with consistency and clarity, we caught up with the three members to get an idea of what’s to come and where they’ve come from…
They’ve got a combined experience of over 40 years in drum & bass
Signs might be new but its components aren’t. Opsen and Primal Therapy have been on the local scene for 10 years individually with a string of releases on labels such as Melting Pot, Upgrade, You So Fat and Vandal. Le Lutin has been around a little longer.
“Lionel is a pioneer!” says Opsen. “He’s everyone’s favourite DJ here. He goes back to the very beginning.”
Le Lutin was one of Toulouse’s first drum & bass DJs playing at the city’s famous Bikini club with UK OGs such as Roni Size. Prior to Signs he’d already developed a discography featuring labels such as Bingo, Function, Chronic, Trouble On Vinyl and 36Hertz.
“It’s true, we have 40 years of experience together,” agrees Le Lutin. “When we finally got together things just went next level.”
TLDR – even the earliest Signs releases are serious productions as they’d already learnt their chops for years before.
They decided to put a few tunes together because Cause4Concern’s Optiv was coming to town…
“We all live around the corner from each other and I knew they were making drum & bass,” says Le Lutin. “Eventually I took them up on their invites and came to their studio I loved what they were doing. I knew Optiv was playing in town the week later so I suggested we make some tunes for him. We made two tunes, three days later and we were signed to Red Light.”
Cool story (bro) but it actually goes one step deeper… Optiv told them he’d only sign the music if they had a decent name.
“Opsen, Primal Therapy and Le Lutin was too long and boring,” admits Opsen. “Optiv told us we needed a good name before he’d sign the music. This was a sign… We always follow the signs.”
Just over half a year later, Audio was already tapping them up for an exclusive for his Ramlife mix…
Signs – Modulate: a track made specifically for Audio’s perennial face-melting Ramlife mix. An early fan of the band, and a renowned production professor, Audio knows talent when he hears it.
“We didn’t even think he was listening to us!” says Primal Therapy. “It was too soon in our time as Signs for us to even wonder if guys like him were playing our tracks. Within months of coming together we have exclusives on Ram. It was another sign!”
Noisia snapped up Diesel within minutes
The oily, sleazy, engine-revving funk of their fist halftime track Diesel at the start of 2016 marks the start of Signs’ life as double agents flipping between firing 170s and smoking 85s. It was almost never going to be sent to the Groningen trio…
“Noisia asked us for some demos a few years ago,” says Le Lutin. “We thought we’d throw in Diesel just to see what they thought of it. We’d never done a halftime tune before so it was a bit of a gamble. They called back in two minutes to sign it and ask if we’d like to make Division our home for halftime stuff.”
Halftime taps into their roots
“We love being part of it,” says Le Lutin. “There is so much that can be done with the sound and ways to bring influences in through new angles. It’s like a virgin land waiting to be explored. It gives us so much more musical freedom. We listen to a lot-lot-lot of hip-hop and have done so for years. So to go on the halftime beat was very natural. It’s the best of both worlds with that gully UK feel but with the universal beats of hip-hop that are loved around the world. It’s a real cool playground.”
All their sounds are made from scratch
Whichever playgrounds they’re jamming in – halftime or more traditional drum & bass – one thing is consistent: they’re serious studio nerds and spend days on end creating the oddball twisted textures and sounds that hold their broad body of work together with consistency. Besides resampling, pretty much everything you hear in a Signs track is created from a bare sine.
“It’s how you find your sound in the first place,” says Le Lutin. “I think it’s why there’s a consistency in our sound with whatever we make, there’s a link between the different genres so people who know our music don’t get shocked whatever direction we’ve taken the track in.”
The legendary DJ Craze digs Signs so much he started a collaboration with them before he even got to their studio.
A few weeks ago they posted Craze getting jiggy to Skin Out in the Boiler Room…
“Craze tweeted us for music,” explains Opsen. “He suggested a collaboration then we realised the next day he was playing in Toulouse so we invited him over. He’d already started the collaboration before he came here!”
No release date is confirmed on the collaboration but we can also reveal Signs have collaborated with Agressor Bunx, Shield, Annix and fellow French artist Sotilas.
Finally… Signs like to get naked
Kind of. The original term skin out is a raunchy Jamaican phrase for getting naked. But, in a classical example of French philosophical thinking, they see it in a deeper way…
“We also love it in a way like how you’re getting naked when you’re partying or DJing and not giving a serious fuck. Not just taking off your clothes but showing your soul and baring all. That’s what we’re all about.”