Closer- ARP XP Interview
Sardinian d&b producer ARP XP has been making his name from the small Italian island recently, at the heart of a tight nit scene with a residency at the famous Sun & Bass festival and managing to break out of it with releases on labels worldwide including Critical, Absys and Modulate. Furthering his stake in the game, his debut album, Closer, was released on Parisian label IM:LTD, a label really pushing the deeper side of things out in France.
Unconstricted by tempo, he throws in dubstep, 135bpm and alternative tracks into a predominantly d&b album which keeps it’s flow not through speed and genre but through a distinctly deep, sometimes dubby, sound that permeates throughout. The albums namesake track, which is also it’s intro, starts things off dramatically with some fine vocals from Estel Luz radiating above a cinematic melody and snare rolls before dropping into a steppy break that had me transfixed from the word go. He admits it’s the track he spent most time working on, time which has really payed off by way of this smooth, fairly down tempo track that will appeal to d&b fans and beyond.
Keep Your Head High moves up a gear with a more traditional drum break, sharp synth stabs and a heavy bassline rolling alongside a hypnotic recurring vocal. It’s a much harder, darker track, a vibe that progresses for the next few tunes through the warm bass of Something Wrong to the metallic drums of Sickness of Time, a track that really stands out for me with a nice mix of the serene and the filthy.
As earlier promised, ARP XP steps back and moves down to dubstep tempo for Maybe Tomorrow, moving down steadily and managing to achieve little loss in momentum through a dub fueled piece of drum wizardry. Curiouser goes more experimental, shaping a robotic sound through shrills and clicks thats added to by one of my favourite tracks on the album Papercuts ft. Maurs which, despite being d&b tempo, toys with the genre enough to make it the perfect addition at this point in the album. The ambient vocal snaps in the intro are a lovely touch and the break is incredible. It sits between two lower tempo tracks, the later of which is the the melodic shuffling and reverberating vox What We See, but it manages to slot in perfectly with a sound that might confuse some of the d&b purists but had my ears pricking up in delight.
He continues on a path of darker d&b endeavors till the end of the album, with label boss Caine helping out with Upon Waves, the neck snapping kicks and rising pads of which really stand out, until Stunner provides an alternative edit of Closer which is an incredible way to end the album. He drops the tempo expertly for a really well executed remix with tranquil melodies and a bassline you could almost sit on. It’s a great end to an already great album, taking you on a journey through the deep, touching on the dark and dirty and eventually leading you to the up beat and sublime.
We had a chat with ARP XP to give him the opportunity to tell us a bit more about the album and it’s beginnings.
Tell us a bit about your musical upbringing firstly. When were you introduced to d&b?
My first contact with the d&b sounds happened back in 97. Somehow I ended up watching the video clip of Brown Paper Bag while I was sitting on my sofa, checking the italian MTV channel. I realized I liked it and I found myself totally into it.
What was it that you feel made you really take notice of the genre?
I was a bass player and that bass loop on that song was a revelation. I thought it was going to be really easy to make something similar but in fact it wasn’t. I kept trying and trying, I even bought some useless drum machines and cheap synths till I got to the point I could actually make it happen.
What three records do you think you draw for most?
True Romance (dBridge), Drop it Down (Calibre feat. Fats) and Dainjah (Future Cut).
Good choices! We interviewed Dabs a while ago who actually put us onto you when we asked him about the d&b scene in Italy. What are your views on d&b out there? Any new blood we should know about?
It’s a good moment for the Italian scene now that producers like Dabs, Aeph and Need for Mirrors are giving the movement a new strength. I’m pretty confident things will grow up even more.
Do you think the country, or at least the scene there, influences your musical output at all?
Actually, no. I live in Sardinia which is a sunny sunny place with sunny people. My tunes are dark, deep and dirty so I wouldn’t say I get any influence from the place I live in.
Obviously Sun & Bass, somewhere you happen to be a resident, is coming up this September. As a local, can you put our readers onto anywhere else in Italy they should check out while they’re out there?
You probably aren’t taking in account the fact this place is an island so if actually wanna visit any other city you need to fly over. I recommend you check the whole island out from north to south, get a long trip coast to coast and into the inside. You’ll probably be fascinated by how beautiful it is. Concerning Italy, I especially love Turin in the north. Scene wise I love the guys who ran the Dreamers Party at Puddhu Bar, that’s definitely the best example of how to throw a d&b party in Italy.
Have you played out in the UK much? How do you feel the crowds differ over here?
Yes, I’ve played few years ago at The End and Herbal. Obviously the uk scene is definitely more “musically” educated than the italian scene. In Italy the difference between a d&b party and a rave its not so clear for the masses. It’s a shame.
Your debut album just dropped. Why the name Closer?
Closer is the most important track on the album, mainly because it’s also the one I spent the most time working on. The word “closer” just reflects a really dark period of my existence since I was going through to a very difficult time. I thought it was the best way to name the song and the album.
Can you give us a deeper insight into the release; what brings it all together stylistically and how would you describe it?
Its a flow between different tempos with the same deep and dark vibes.
There’s three artists you collab with; Maurs, Estel Luz and Caine. Can you tell us a bit about how you decided to work with them and what extra you feel they bring to the table?
Maurs is one of my best friends and it isn’t even our first collaboration. Estel is one of my favorite italian singers. Caine (beside being my label boss) is someone I’ve been in touch with for so long and we just have the same tastes so it made sense.
It moves between d&b and alternate tempos, have you always produced a variety of genres? What steps have you made to ensure the tracks still flow together as one entity?
I’ve always been into both d&b and dubstep, but this is the first time I’ve tried other tempos as well.
On the new album I used loads of delay and vocal samples (still delayed) which make the whole album flow deep and dubby. I think the tracks are actually connected to each other since, as I said above, the mood that pushed me to write all of them was just the same.
Would you say your influences and ideas are very different working at different tempos, or is it simply a speed? Do you feel d&b should mingle with other genres more?
I think its finally time to open our minds to any good thing happening to the music scene in general, without any speed limit and mental surrounding.
You’re also a graphic designer, something we happen to be interested in here at Broken Culture, who have you worked for? Is there anywhere we can see your visual stuff?
I designed a lot of artworks for a clubs, festivals, labels and other non related music clients. You can take a look to my website or my behance profile.
Did you produce the artwork for Closer then? What inspired it?
Its a simple typographic project (based on futura). It’s a bit weird, but it’s hard for me to work on anything for myself, maybe because I’m very self-critical with what i realize.
It was released on Parisian label IM:Ltd, following in the footsteps of a few of your recent releases, what drew you to that imprint and what keeps you working with them?
A friend of mine introduced me to Bastien when the label was just starting out. I sent him a few tracks and he liked them a lot, so he asked me if I wanted release some of those tracks for the label.
What else have you got planned for the rest of 2012?
In the pipeline I’ve got a couple of releases, the next one will be another collaboration between me and Maurs, on Dabs’s label Avantgarde, Quadrant’s on the other side. Also coming I’ve got collaborations with RoyGreen and Protone, Fade, Quentin Hiatus and more.
Thanks for the time! Any words to end on?
Visit my website for more info, mixes and news about events and releases and stay tuned for some completely different new stuff. Peace!