Picture being stranded in a desolate place. Confused, anxious, trying to piece together exactly what’s going on as the scenery around you begins to morph and shift around. Then the ghostly figures emerge from the trees.
You then wake up and realise you’ve been listening to Overlook’s exceptional debut LP Smoke Signals. You breathe a deep sigh of relief.
As an artist, Overlook has been producing some of the most exciting drum & bass at the moment. As a person, Jason Luxton’s broad interests in a wide range of material, from horror film scores to the haunting themes in gothic literature, have been a force behind his creative outlets.
Put together, the result is an unmistakable mix of the finest production that both rattles the systems yet reaches into the deepest corners of the mind of the listener.
His latest work is no exception to this. Quietly waiting in the wings of his other forward thinking releases on Samurai, 31 and Rupture over the last two years, Smoke Signals shines a light from the darker end of the spectrum, where the music does all of the talking, leaving no room for any half measures.
As well as being a sublime debut LP from a producer with an already respected pedigree, Smoke Signals is the result of a matured artist whose focus on mood and atmosphere takes precedence over genre. With this as the keystone, he takes a measured approach, allowing the mood to be soaked through the tracks, all being shaped through the lens of his telling influences. Among many of which; the sense of the unknown and all that that cannot be explained.
In the case of Smoke Signals for Overlook, it’s within the precognitive states of slumber where inspiration is sparked, making sense of the insensible through energetic drums, calving bass lines and chilling soundscapes.
Twinned alongside the themes fitting for any horror film, the album guides the listener through it’s shifting depths and their primal fears, inviting them to interpret it all in their own way. Just like the dream you had last night or that recurring nightmare that you cannot forget.
You’ll find it under the ‘drum and bass’ rack in the record store, especially with its bright, refreshing percussion that harks back to early Photek years, such as Blue Rose, or the brooding collab with Cern on Into The Night. But writing a ‘typical drum and bass album’ was never a concern for the Bournemouth-based producer. And suffice to say, it seeks for the most conscious of listeners and reaches in for something more.
A debut LP also for the prolific UVB-76, a young label of similar minds and motives which shares in Luxton’s ‘no bullshit’ approach to music. Overlook’s output is part of a collective consciousness with his fellow label-mates, who besides contributing their craft only a few times on the album, are championing a sound which is gathering attentions worldwide.
If for any reason you need any more convincing about his work past present or future, hear a few words from the man himself…
Big up on the release! How does it feel now it’s all together?
Thank you! It’s a very surreal feeling to have it out there to the public now, when I first started the album I wasn’t even sure how long it would take, or if I would ever finish it! I’m very happy with how it has turned out, It’s the release that I’m most proud of thus far.
It’s your debut LP, how long has it been in the works for?
Around 2 years. I started the album right after I had a house fire, hence the name ‘Smoke Signals’. The album really came together in the last year of work though, at least that was when it became what it is now.
The album is opened and closed by two beatless, atmospheric pieces in Unknown Transmission and Smoke Signals – reminiscent to that of a film score. Is the LP more than just a drum and bass record?
The LP is supposed to be whatever the listener feels it is, it’s all about interpretation. I was never concerned about writing a typical drum and bass album, I just wanted to put out something personal and hopefully interesting, the genre isn’t important, the mood is.
With releases on Horizons, Samurai and Narratives previously, you now mostly affiliate with UVB-76, in unstoppable form. What’s working with UVB at the moment?
I have been friends with the Ruffhouse guys and Gremlinz for about seven years, we have always worked together since then and pushed each other to go further with our music. The thing that works with the label is the fact that we are all on the same page, and that there is a strong crew mentality between us all. There’s no bullshit, we just want to put out great music.
Not to mention taking UVB shows to Germany, Romania and America…
It’s been a lot of fun taking the label to all of these different places, the response has been excellent. More and more people seem to be catching onto what we are doing.
…and it seems Smoke Signals is at its spiritual home on the label?
The album wouldn’t be the same if it was with another label. I was given complete creative control, which allowed me to explore the themes I wanted to in a much more in-depth way than I probably would have with anyone else.
You only collaborate three times on the album with Ruffhouse and Gremlinz, Cern and Mono. Was it an intention from the beginning to showcase mainly solo work?
That was always important to me. It was a personal project so of course it mostly had to be my own tracks, but the collaborations on the album really fitted into the narrative of the LP, so I’m pleased to have them on there.
You’ve cited John Carpenter within many of your influences. What is it about Carpenter’s work in particular that inspires you?
I saw Halloween when I was very young and remember being especially struck by the opening theme, as I got older I went through his filmography and music, I was blown away. The stripped back and cinematic approach to his work instantly made him one of my biggest influences.
You can see this horror influence in the track names, Who Is This Who Is Coming for example. Talk me through the thoughts behind the names.
The names all have a certain meaning to me but to someone else it could be different. I can tell you about the origins of that name though, I was reading M.R James – Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary and there was a short story called Whistle And I’ll Come To You, My Lad that I couldn’t stop thinking about for a couple of weeks after. In the story a man finds a whistle near a grave, an inscription on it reads Who Is This Who Is Coming and from then on he is haunted by some kind of presence.
Away from music and film, what else do you draw inspiration from?
The unknown, things that can’t be explained in words. Dreams, the supernatural and the idea of precognitive thoughts really had a huge impact on the writing of this album. There is in fact a story going through the tracks, but it works in a sense of dream logic, it’s down to the listener of how they interpret it.
Talk to me about Travelling Without Moving, the progression in that is outstanding.
That came together very quickly, I think it took only a few hours to have a rough version of it ready. The track is supposed to represent a shift in a dream, like the way that you can be somewhere then the next moment you are somewhere completely different. There is a sense of not knowing where things will go from here.
Blue Rose is a personal stand out…how important are vocal samples in your production?
It all depends on the track I’m working on, sometimes it isn’t necessary, for Blue Rose it was. Some of the album is ambiguous, but I wanted that one in particular to be a lot more overt with some of the themes I had in mind.
Do you approach anything differently in your production now compared to your earlier releases?
I guess I have matured a bit since I was younger, now it’s all about trying new techniques and pushing things further than before, I’m using a lot more recorded sounds and recently got some hardware for the studio too. I do think that the fundamentals have always been the same though, I just do what I do and it comes out this way.
The attention to detail on the drums stood out for me on the album, notably on Shadow Play. How significant is the detail of the drums in your production?
The little things add the most character in my opinion. I think the whole album rewards repeated listens because of these details.
Certainly does. It’s receiving a lot of positive feedback; how does it feel knowing this brand of D&B has the supportive following it does?
I’ve been really blown away by the feedback so far, especially by how vocal people have been. It’s also great to see UVB-76 and all the crew getting the recognition they deserve, to me there isn’t a group of more interesting producers on one label, I’m very proud to work alongside them!
What can we expect in the near future?
I’ll be getting my next EP for UVB-76 finished up soon for a release later in the year, and a few other bits along the way. Including a collaboration with Pessimist for his debut album on Blackest Ever Black, which I’m really proud to be a part of as he’s been one of my favourite producers and a good friend from the beginning. I also plan to release some of the music I have made under a different alias with two of my friends from Bournemouth, which I’ll have more details on when the time comes.
Very much looking forward to that. Any final words?
Thank you to everyone that has supported me in the past, present, and future.