Five years since their debut album (and 13 years since their debut single), this Friday Artificial Intelligence will deliver their sophomore set: Timeline.
Part love letter to their roots, part forecast for the future, all impressive: you get the feeling it’s the album that Glenn and Zula have always wanted to write. Flowing lucidly through both subs and subgenres, at points it brushes with subtle musicality before painting you gully with rolling sheet metal bass.
A combination of timing and simplifying their set-up (their debut album took four years and comprised a wealth outboard gear and spaghetti mazes of wires), it’s one of those rare D&B albums that hits just as hard on the headphones as it does on the dancefloor.
We caught up with Glenn Herweijer, one half of AI, to learn more…
It’s a cliché, I know, but Timeline has got a real journey feel to it…
Totally. The plan for it was for it be a journey! Creatively it worked out that way naturally anyway; with EPs you have to tick different boxes but with an album, especially when you’re working with label that encourages creativity and doesn’t put limitations on you, you’re a lot freer to do what you want. An album is what it is in that way and we realised we’d fulfilled different things naturally as we went along; tracks for more of the main room D&B DJs, deeper tracks and more leftfield sound while we joined the dots between our older sound and where we’re at now.
Here’s another cliché: It sounds timeless too…
It’s interesting you say timelessness. I know you mean that in the sense of an album that people still want to listen to in years to come. But literally too; Goldie’s Timeless was an inspiration – when he did the performance with the Heritage Orchestra , Zula and I came out of the performance totally inspired and wrote Time Out, which was the first track on the album. On the back of that we were inspired to apply that sound to the album in different ways.
Did you literally hit the studio straight after the concert?
Literally. We both had ideas, went away individually then met up in the studio that weekend. Madly it was the first track we started and last track we finished! The second half of it is a different track which we finished a few months ago.
I like the full circle nature of that. Any other interesting twists or turns?
There’s a bunch of deeper tracks that we were really excited to explore; Rizon is one of our favourite tracks where we felt we’d brought our old sound through and back up to date. Like doing something new but with that older twist.
Speaking of old twists, are you still using lots of hardware?
No. That’s the big different between the last album and this one; the last one was made using a lot of outboard gear but this one is much more in the box. Not completely but definitely changed the way we worked.
You’ve simplified your set up…
Yes, it takes a lot of the admin out of it and helps put ideas down a lot quicker. Stand Alone took four years to make, this took us a year, 18 months tops. A lot more straight forward and far less crashes and technical problems!
Any lessons learnt from Stand Alone that you wanted to apply to Timeline?
Stand Alone feels like such a long time ago now. It was a huge learning curve; a lot of things went wrong so we learnt a lot but this one feels like the right time; new studio, new set-up, different people around us and all the exciting music that’s happening in drum & bass right now. Everything feels right about the timing on this one.
Timing felt right on Stand Alone, too. Dug it out earlier before we had this call. Still sick.
Oh yeah, not to take away from the last album but there was a lot of pressure around it. We’d had some big singles so there felt like a lot of expectation, we’d also had the pressure of it being a first album which is self-imposed but still very tangible when you’re approaching a big project like this. In this way Timeline feels a lot freer – we’re a lot happier about the whole way we’ve approached it.
Loving the Dawn Wall collaborations too…
We are too. They weren’t the easiest of collaborations as they were both done remotely. One of Dawn Wall lives abroad and one of them lives in the UK. Plus Zula and I sometimes work remotely, so the four of us didn’t sit in the studio together. Both tracks came out really well.
I thought you and Zula worked together in the same studio?
Oh yeah we meet up frequently, especially when finalising the tracks. We both have similar skillsets so it’s not down to one particular person doing mixdown and things like that. We’ve found we work well putting ideas down in isolation and meeting up when we have something that’s beginning to come together.
Cliché number three: Old married couple…
Haha, it feels like that! We have our ups and downs but we work well together. We were mates before we made music from going out and hip-hop, similar schools. We’re close friends and work on the same wavelength which has been important.
Give me an album low moment…
It sounds really cheesy but there hasn’t been any. It’s been such an enjoyment to put together – we’ve been on a real vibe throughout the whole thing. We made too many tracks for it! We’ve already got another five track EP locked down and more.
Is that indicative of the freedom Metalheadz have given you on the album?
Not really! We’d done most of the album before Metalheadz signed it. A lot of the main labels were asking us about the album but Metalheadz felt right. We grew up going to Blue Note and have every single 12” between us. It feels like the natural home as they’ve played such a large role in the inspirations we’ve had since falling in love with jungle.
Hear those inspirations at the Artificial Intelligence – Timeline launch: 19.11.15, The Qube Project, London
Artificial Intelligence – Timeline is available 20.11.15 Pre-order.
Image credit: Chelone Wolf