April 26: Mefjus will release his second album Manifest on Noisia’s Vision imprint. Three and a half years after his critically acclaimed debut album Emulation, two years in the making; Manifest heralds a new chapter for the Austrian producer as it documents his musical development and wider range of sonic traits than he’s ever shown prior.
Development is evident throughout; the orchestral flare of first single If I Could, the wily slap-bass twangs on Pivot, the tornado rolls of Together, the ghetto gulliness of halftime thumper Work It, the throaty jumpy riff of Muskox, the absolute leviathan tear-up finale The Sirens… There’s a refreshed sense of energy, fun, drama and musicality running throughout the album as Mefjus takes time to explore more styles, add even more details than he’s normally famously known for and fuse more seemingly disparate styles. Here’s how it all came to be…
Emulation had a very strong concept. Manifest probably does too, right?
It does. But not in the same way. The way the whole record came together is really interesting. Working with Vision made the album. In the beginning we were talking about doing an EP and working on that level but it got me thinking about where I was, my production style and what I want to do. Talking to the Noisia guys in an A&R way gave me an idea to want to make an album but it wasn’t clearly an album to begin.
As I’ve progressed it’s come into existence this way. I’ve learnt a lot of about structure and songwriting and how you should approach a song. Like…. What is a song? What makes a song a song? I’ve learnt a lot through the guys and that sparked the idea that if I do another album it will have to be a step up and real update. I wasn’t even sure what to call the album because I wasn’t aware of what happened! I had to sit back and think about what I’d learnt, what I’d done and how I’d gone about it. It was a really natural progression.
So the first album explored synthesis, this album explores the essence of songs?
Yes. There are a couple of very strong differences between the two. First of all, it’s not as dark and more mature in a way. I feel I can say it’s got more musical depth to it. The first one was very much ‘okay this is, this is where I’m coming from’ but you grow up, you see things differently and I think you can hear that.
The darkness comes from a different place, like the orchestral elements that run throughout
That theme wasn’t intentional. But as time goes by you understand music better and you listen to a lot more stuff. Five years ago I wasn’t listening to as much different music as I am now. You explore back and understand the history of music and this understanding is expressed in the music. It has to be expressed in the music because if I had any worry that this album wouldn’t be better than the last album, we wouldn’t have released it.
Were there points when you thought it might not be released?
Oh yeah many times. When you haven’t grasped the thought you’re actually making an album then you’re kinda making tunes from all different directions and not all of them make sense in the bigger picture. I was having a lot of fun exploring different styles, beats stuff, rolling stuff, all the styles I’ve always loved. I had 30 or so demos, some collabs and lots of ideas and there was a feeling like I had too many ideas and not enough direction. There were many times then when I thought ‘fuck it, let’s just put out a bunch of EPs’ but we had another A&R session and it helped to narrow the collection down.
When you’re working on your own you do struggle. Especially because there was no initial concept with this one. I was like what is it going to be? What am I heading towards? Have I approached this the right way and explored everything I want to explore? So we put a deadline on it and that gave me a real push to have everything done and the last half of 2017 was pretty intense! I had moments where I was like ‘fuck!’ It’s hard for you to judge personally and think ‘is this good enough?’ It would have been so much easier for me to write an EP and wait another year to do an album but I’m happy I’ve done it in terms of content, production style, musicality and the range I’ve explored. I’m happy I pushed myself and how Noisia pushed me. To bounce ideas off them and for them to say ‘no, make this even sicker!’ I needed that. It really drove me.
There are a lot of twists and extra little details. Together is a great example. The bassline isn’t a typical Mefjus bassline and it morphs into something pretty outrageous
Yes this was a big thing for me. To put a lot of detail on the second 16 bars after the drop. I’ve found with a lot of music people skip elements when they’re checking new music. They’ll check the intro, the drop, the breakdown and I even find myself doing that. I have to slap myself and say ‘dude you hate it when people do that!’ Our attention spans have got so short. So that’s why with most of the songs the second 16 has just as much new detail and ideas. If I Could does a similar thing. Listen to the drop then listen to what happens 16 bars later when the bassline flips and that’s when the real drop kicks in. I spent a lot of time really including details into these aspects.
That’s like the anti-anti drop. Like a super extended drop
Yeah it is in a way. It makes sense from a practical point of view and encourages more musicality from DJs. If all you have is a drop and then it rolls along with no changes or development, why shouldn’t a DJ mix in another tune so quickly? If you put more content into the production and more detail into a song, without trying to overbake it, then a song has more of a chance to be played out by DJs and also excites more being listened to at home. The way you receive the song on the dancefloor has more benefits that way, too.
Amen! Can we hear more samples on this album? I know Emulation didn’t have samples in that sense because it was a concept focused on synthesis
The main song Emulation was, yes. This record is actually even more synthetic and in the box than the first! But synthesis is not always the answer. It’s the opposite really. Something I learned during this album was that bringing in sounds from a different dimension / environment can make the song and its key elements work even better and underline what they do.
When I say ‘different dimension’ I do not mean in a cheesy way but as in an actual different field or style. So if the tune has a lot of synths in it, bring in some vinyl crackles or crusty shaker or recorded hi-hat and let the sounds bounce off each to make it sound interesting. If there’s a sample-based beats thing then throw in a massive synth bassline. That’s what I learnt about how to upgrade my attitude; going in with a different, objective, perspective and changing but also understand how I perceive music.
You’ve been on quite the trip haven’t you?
100 percent. I have to keep moving, I have to try to keep things interesting. These two and a half years have really helped me understand music more and become a better producer. Learning shit and improving skills; before the album even comes out I’m really happy with this and pleased I’ve done it.
So what’s the next thing for you to explore?
Now I’m looking at how you can perform a record. DJing is cool, I love it, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve been really inspired by guys like Camo & Krooked, Noisia with their AV show. I was lucky to see them all live. It’s very impressive when you link visuals to audio, when the music is very intense and you can sustain and amplify that with graphical content it’s a really interesting aspect. So at the moment I’m on a quest in terms of working out how to perform things. Let’s see what happens with that…