WORDS

The Rise Of Methlab (Part 2)

monoleth

Rewind to October 2015: The MethLab collective fly into the technological ether with a whole bombardment of projects…. A series with Bad Taste, an interactive player, MethLab Recordings and BNKR ready to sprout. So much activity, ideas and attention to brave new sounds, it was hard to keep up.

It still is…

In this year alone, they’ve released four albums (Revenant, Audeka’s Lost Souls, and two Rawtekk retrospectives), five EPs through their BNKR, Monoleth and artist-centric series,  two MethLab showcase EPs on Bad Taste and three EPs on their Terminal project with Bad Taste and Eatbrain. They’ve also hosted seven events across Europe, created two sample packs and developed their talent roster to 19 artists.

They’ve also just won Best Newcomer Label at the Drum&BassArena Awards.

It’s been another strong year for tech-focussed futurist drum & bass – arguably better than last year as we’ve seen more innovation and less carbon copy aping of particular scene pioneers – but few camps are pushing the sound and techniques as daringly, experimentally or with such a strong ideology as MethLab.

With the awards gold still fresh on their desk, we caught up with MethLab co-founders Jef (MLDj) and Tommy (Broken Note) and a selection of their key artists to see how much of this scene prominance has meticulously planned, how much of it is momentum and grasping opportunities and what we can look forward to in the future….

Was this year’s level of activity and proliferation part of a detailed plan or has it even shocked you?

We’ve been building up to this moment for five years. The label was always on the cards and we wanted to do it in a very considered way. We haven’t come in heavy in terms of volume of releases, it’s more that each release is impactful in some way – taking time to ensure that every piece of music represents a unique idea is important to us. We’re extremely dedicated to this concept, and more importantly the optimal treatment of our artists’ music, otherwise there’s no point in doing it. The level of activity reflects the amount of work that’s going on in the crew to create fresh ideas. Our activities support the crew’s releases on other labels, the artists come first. With our own label’s output everything is carefully planned and executed to ensure as many people as possible can experience what we consider sick music.

The phrase from the last interview that stood out was that you aimed to create a home for the more unusual music that doesn’t quite fit… “The most daring tech music that defies expectations and still smashes the raves – the stuff that confuses the hell out of people and sticks in their minds.” Is that still a key MO?

Absolutely – that’s a serious objective. However, it’s not restricted to that. We are putting out more experimental music for listeners, such as Woulg’s Dragged EP – but trying to balance that with dancefloor remixes from the likes of Audeka and Kursa. The Monoleth series is the crux of the unusual rave music for us, real fringe and heavy instruments that when used correctly just totally  kill everything.

Would you say there’s an art to confusing so it doesn’t alienate?

Definitely, it’s easy to throw a lot of ideas at a listener and it can just be too much because there isn’t a cohesive thread running through it to capture and keep attention. For minimal tracks it can result in boredom and for more intense tracks it can just be an overload of empty sound. The art is to provide as much as is necessary, whether it’s a little or a lot – and for a strong core idea to be present. Also the context in which something is being listened is super important – in the wrong environments people just won’t listen or might immediately be turned off. That requires the empathy of a DJ to recognise the right time and place to push people’s minds further. For us it’s primarily about the quality of the art.

Monoleth has some of the most perplexing arrangements and textures you’ve released so far. This could be because of the beatsy space theme throughout the EP…

The halftime vibe was a coincidence – the Monoleth series is most definitely not focussed on a particular tempo or genre. This first EP was really kicked off by Broken Note’s Rust In Peace which was the first piece of the release and set the benchmark for the standard in terms of what we were looking for. The idea is that it’s a platform for genre-bending music that defies exact description and categorisation… Just badass tunes that behave in unexpected ways. It just so happens that most of the music that we found over a two-year period for this release falls into a half-time D&B tempo. In future, you can expect variants of multiple genres.

The spread between the dancefloor-focussed D&B Revenant and the stranger variations of Monoleth pretty sums up the MethLab scope and philosophy…

We’re just getting started. You can say it expresses the primary scope as things currently stand. Our primary aim for artist-centric releases is to give the space and platform  for artists to express themselves with as little compromise as possible. The VA releases such as Revenant and Monoleth express a wider vision – the combined, and hopefully cohesive, although diverse, ethos of the artists who form part of the collective. That vision is one of forward-thinking dance music, timeless whilst reaching toward a more complex future. The artists who interest us the most are those who don’t copy, but define that future – creators with distinct, detailed and impressive vision – and the extensive technical knowledge to make that vision a reality.

Can we expect the same scope, proliferation and innovation in 2017?

Yes, we’re planning further releases once we’ve further developed the content relating to the material that’s now out there – which will include new videos and multimedia interpretations of the body of work that our artists have entrusted us with. Certainly you can expect plenty of MethLab events, and we intend to return to the development of our interactive player and the ground-breaking context in which we want our audience to be able to enjoy our music. Next up is more material from our BNKR series… Also, more samples for aspiring producers.

Finally… 2016 will go down as a shit year for so many things. Give us three things about this year that have been genuinely satisfying.

As our reality slides into full-on dystopia there’s plenty of sinister inspiration to fuel new heavy ideas. 2016 was really impressive in terms of technological development… drones becoming more complex and designed for personal markets, robotics and AI advancements. The range of tools that humanity has to experiment with is becoming ever more impressive. How they have the potential to be used is another matter. Other key aspects of the year are the rebirth of underground culture in the UK in reaction to the socio-political situation, the fact that people are becoming more distrustful of media and making stronger efforts to be engaged, think critically and correlate and compare news sources to get closer understanding of what’s going on and how it affects them and unbridled technological growth and empowerment.

 

MethLab moments: we asked six of the label’s artists for more insight into one of drum & bass’s most distinctive new operations…

BROKEN NOTE

Describe MethLab in one sentence…

A platform for artists that are doing some different that doesn’t fit into the mainstream consensus but to us clearly has intrinsic artistic value.

Describe 2016 in one word…

Rollercoaster. Or Fuck.

Favourite MethLab tune of the year…

Audeka & Bells Worth – Dark Matter Lunchbox

One thing you want to see happen in 2017…

The true awaking of the human race and recognition of our future as a species.

 

KURSA

Describe MethLab in one sentence…

Incredibly forward thinking with a focus on the aesthetic of the future our real chaotic existence.

Describe 2016 in one word…

Dystopian.

Favourite MethLab tune of the year…

Aethek – Vertabrae

One thing you want to see happen in 2017…

More MethLab events, the most recent MethLab Bristol was monumental. It was the perfect environment to turn people in to absolute animals. Harnessing the chaos and completely letting loose with full filthy grace.

 

AUDEKA

Describe MethLab in one sentence…

A collective of audiophiles who create and support unique sound design and conceptually driven music.

Describe 2016 in one word…

Fulfilling

Favourite MethLab tune of the year…

Aethek – Vertebrae

One thing you want to see happen in 2017…

Success for MethLab so that the collective can pursue creativity without compromise.

 

BILLAIN // AETHEK

Describe MethLab in one sentence…

Self-preserving autonomous system consisted of idea magnetism and the branching out in certain early directions with lots of promises.

Describe 2016 in one word…

2008

Favourite MethLab tune of the year…

It’s wrong to mention own track but Aethek is not really me. He’s really proud with Vertebrae. People think he was Jackson Pollocking on the samples there but it took him years because he was placing each sample manually. So instead of “I meant that modern art crap” it’s one of those psychological musical events yet to be understood. If you divide the number of kicks with the length of the track the next clue will emerge for what’s going to happen in 2017 and 2018.

One thing you want to see happen in 2017…

A change. There are words that sound like leftovers from the past era. Art sounds like floppydisk, and genre sounds… At what point will we stop saying high definition because after 4k 5k 6k do you need to mention it’s high definition? The same comes with art and music. 2017/18/19 will be the gamechanger and I will make sure to see that happen. There’s a way to stop time in this genre and meme naming singularity; it’s blending everything in a bubble that’s about to burst.

 

RAWTEKK

Describe MethLab in one sentence…

MethLab is preparing the future.

Describe 2016 in one word…

Magical.

Favourite MethLab tune of the year…

May we choose Altar Of The Lost by Audeka and Vertebrae by Aethek?

One thing you want to see happen in 2017…

The MethLab collective to go even further

 

ALLIED

Describe MethLab in one sentence…

A worldwide collective of audio visual alchemists.

Describe 2016 in one word…

Fearful

Favourite MethLab tune of the year…

One thing you want to see happen in 2017…

Progress

Progress with Methlab: Facebook / Soundcloud / Twitter