Two albums deep into his craft – and another two already locked in the chamber for next year – California-based Akuratyde excels in drum & bass music’s most emotional pastures.
Potent, poignant and most frequently spotted on Blu Mar Ten Music, Akuratyde’s beats tap into the short, sharp and seismic explosion that happened around the late 2000s and is best known as autonomic.
A game-changing twist on the drum & bass format, autonomic prised melody and emotion over any of the genre’s more traditional dancefloor dynamics. It was spearheaded by dBridge and Kid Drama & Boddika (under their Instra:mental guise) but encompassed the work of artists ranging from Synkro to Skream via James Blake. Most importantly, it influenced a whole new generation of artists.
Artists like Akuratyde . At the time he was experimenting with harder styles of D&B, but after his autonomic baptism, he’s spent the last 10 years carving, crafting, sculpting and honing his signature to the crisp, often breath-taking sound you hear today. Loaded with organic instruments, rich in feeling and sentiment and iced with just a smidgeon of nostalgia, there’s a filmic sheen and sense of narrative coded deep into his designs.
Now six years into his Akuratyde project, there are many designs to experience… Building on the ever-growing output of his own label Modern Conveniences, and his 2018 debut album Past Lives, last month saw him release his remarkable second album Home Movies. His most accomplished work to date, it’s a gentle weave of deep, often halftime, dynamics interlaced with echoes of jungle, synth pop, electronica and ambient – another style that’s heavily inspired Akuratyde and will influence the next two albums we hear from him.
Read on to find out more…
Let’s start with the obligatory lockdown question. Did you find many silver linings?
Well, my personality is well-suited to that anyway. I’m happy being at home, doing my thing. My heart goes out to everyone who lost family or friends, and I completely understand why many producers felt uninspired, but personally I was very productive. I wrote my album and two other ambient albums. I’m at my most creative when I’m experiencing strong emotions. I was okay at home but there was always the underlying tension and stress of what was going on in the world so I had a lot of emotions to channel into my work. But day-to-day, things weren’t too different to how I usually live. I love seeing my friends but I don’t go out much.
Yeah you don’t perform as a DJ, do you?
Correct. I suffer from pretty bad anxiety, so it would be a lot for me to do that. I wouldn’t rule it out, but it’s not something I’ve attempted since 2006.
How often do you hear your music through a big rig?
Not that often. I go to Respect in LA four or five times a year but I don’t hear it a tonne. Usually it’s a friend like Random Movement or someone like that. So no, I haven’t heard much of my music through a big rig.
But it has much more personal weight to you, right? This is therapy for you isn’t it?
Absolutely. It’s the best form of therapy and a way of getting my a handle on my emotions.
That’s why Home Movies, and everything you’ve put out into the world, has a lot of emotional latency. It’s quite a sad album overall isn’t it?
There are some highs – Evergreen, Before and White Pedals are high in their own ways. Most of it is pretty melancholy, though, I agree. That’s what I feel most comfortable writing and it’s what I look for in a lot of music. I like a lot of different styles and musical energies but when I’m thinking about the stuff that sings to me the most, it’s pretty melancholy. I do a lot of self reflection, the songs are really personal and because of that it has to be very emotional.
It’s interesting you listed those tracks as they’re all highlights for me. Perhaps I mistook the elements of nostalgia in Evergreen as a pining or yearning for a more simpler time?
I don’t think you’re wrong about that. I’m 40, I started raving in 1997 and I wrote Evergreen as a love letter to that era of jungle. I wanted to connect with that memory – when you’re on the dancefloor and you hear something you’d never heard before and everyone goes wild and puts their hands up.
Yeah! But you’ve done so through an autonomic perspective…
For sure. That’s the stuff that made me want to start writing this music. I was into very heavy stuff – Noisia, State Of Mind, Black Sun Empire – which I still love now but I was looking for other styles and randomly checked London Elektricity’s Hospital podcast which is where I first heard Translucent by Instra:mental & dBridge. It was unlike anything I’d heard before. I was getting into 80s music at the time and listening to albums my parents played when I was a kid, so it fit where I was at with music. It floored me. Then I heard Wonder Where and was even more blown away. I dug into the Autonomic podcast and fell in love with that type of music.
I love how it was delivered in mix form. The music was delivered almost like a story.
Totally. Especially with the influence sections, it was like a peak behind the curtains. Like ‘what are those guys listening to when they’re not listening to drum & bass?’
You’ve worked with Kid Drama recently on your label Modern Conveniences now too, which must have been a nice moment considering how influential Instra:mental were for you. How did that happen?
He posted about needing help building a website on his social media and that’s my day job, so I reached out and suggested some kind of trade. We chatted a bit and I did his website for him and he did a remix for me. That was a real moment. I wrote this checklist back in 2013 when I started this project: release on Blu Mar Ten Music and collab with, or get remixed by, either Darren (dBridge), Damon (Kid Drama) or Al (Boddika) and within a few years I’d accomplished those!
Have you added any other ambitions to the list?
Not properly but there are always people I admire and would love to work with. I always wanted to work with Synkro and recently collaborated with him on one of my ambient albums I made on lockdown, which I’ll be releasing next year. He did a remix for that and I did a remix for him so that was like a double check.
Did you discover ambient through autonomic or were you aware of it maybe through what your parents played?
I was aware of it. You remember the album Oxygène by Jean-Michel Jarre? My mom played that album a lot when I was a kid. I was mesmerised by the album cover. Believe it or not my dad also bought Selected Ambient Works by Aphex Twin when I was in high school, so that was my first adult experience of ambient. Dad died when I was 20 so when my mum divided his huge CD collection I took that one and it’s special to me. But autonomic was a big catalyst, as was Bop with his ambient remix album of Punk’s Not Dead a few years ago and also Synkro who’s done a lot of ambient work. So all of that has been very inspiring for me. It’s been a lot of fun to make; there’s an ambient song on Home Movies called Modern Conveniences and following that there will be two ambient albums coming out in due course. It was like I was struck by lightening and it kept flowing.
I’m always intrigued by the creation of ambient music. Is it completely off-grid? The sense of arrangement is very loose because you don’t know what you’re counting…
I can only speak for myself but I’ve learnt to do the automation less grid-based. If I’ve got a pad and a low pass filter and I want to gradually introduce it as the song is going then if that was a D&B tune then I’d automate that for 16 bars. But with ambient it’s a lot more random and goes with what feels natural. A lot of ambient is a lot of things filtering up and down, there’s an ebb and a flow to it isn’t there?
Yeah there is. Does it influence how you approach D&B?
Definitely. I’ve adopted that same approach with not being as grid-based. The last song I wrote for Home Movies was Disquiet. When you listen to the ending of that track it’s not four bars of eight, it’s three bars of eight. I wanted it to throw you off a little. It might be subtle, but it pulls in these ideas I’ve learnt from doing the ambient stuff.
You mentioned Modern Conveniences earlier. Tell us about the label!
The title comes from the idea of how technology intersects with our lives. I was really feeling like the 170 community has moved in a different direction and things have gotten a lot heavier and darker than the stuff we were listening to around the autonomic era. I felt like there was a hole where the melodic sound and not a lot of people were releasing or championing it, so I felt there was an opportunity to support and encourage that music. I asked Chris Blu Mar Ten for advice and he joined some dots for me with distribution and I started to get music from people I was feeling. I’ve been overwhelmed with the quality of it and had some incredible names on there.
You’ve built up quite a discography in a short space of time!
Yeah I felt it was important to have a release out every month for the first year of releases. I’m going to ease up on that a little as I become a father soon and I’m moving house. Then next year there might not be so many frequent releases when I release my ambient albums.
So when do they drop and what else is coming?
I’ve mapped out the entire release schedule on the label for the end of the year and the tentative plan with the ambient albums is to release them next year. Maybe one in spring and one at the end of 2022 but who knows…
Are the albums linked or part of a story?
They each have their own story. I can tell you about the first one. It’s called Conversations With Ghosts and it’s based around this recurring dream I had in 2019 where my dad had moved to California. I’d visit him and have dinner with him every Sunday and have these incredible conversations with him. But he’s been dead for 20 years so it was like a conversation with a ghost. So the album explores that idea; what would it be like to talk to someone who isn’t around? When I think about these things, I think a lot about what dad missed; he never got to meet my wife, he won’t get to meet his grandchildren, I think about what I’d like to talk to him about or what I’d tell him about. So the album is based around that.
Wow. What do you think your father would make of your music?
I think he’d love it. Especially the more recent stuff I’m doing. He was into a wide variety of music from punk rock to Bjork to Snoop Dogg. I wrote jungle in the late 90s, it was terrible, but he was into what I was doing. He appreciated it for what it was. I think he’d be really into what I’m doing now, for sure.
That’s lovely. So I have to ask… Do you take a lot of home movies?
Not really. Music is my way of capturing things in this sense. But I do take a lot of photos. I have a Canon camera and some nice lenses so that’s much more of a hobby of mine. Maybe I will in the future, though…