Hailing from Brighton, Alan Myson’s uniquely floaty brand of dubstep is a mishmash of prominent influences incubated and refined over several years from a markedly more aggressive, monochrome sound. Debuting with what is essentially a hardcore-influenced breaks release in 2006, he signed to Planet Mu a year later and showcased a slower, more measured, but still tough dubstep sound. His Blood Line EP still sounds like a triumph, predicting the sort of testosterone-addled aggro that would soon begin to dominate dubstep, but does so with harsher sounds that are more akin to Nine Inch Nails than, say, the more wobbly side of Coki. It’s this sense of constant outside influence that gives Ital Tek’s music such a tentative and even MOR feeling that both works for and against it; there’s even a direct Radiohead reference in the melody of “Deep Pools,” the closing track from his debut LP Cyclical released on Planet Mu in 2008.
If Cyclical was still the sound of an artist finding his proper footing, he set out on the final path with his excellent Massive Error EP, again for Mu, in 2009. The EP (tracks from which feature in this mix) built on Cyclical with pretty melodies, ‘pretty’ melodies that looked up to the sky in awe rather than morbidly beautiful like many of his previous tracks. Almost immediately after the launch of that EP, Myson started his own label Atom River, on which he has released two EPs, the transitional Mako and the accomplished Spectral Falls, the latter of which for my money is his most confident and complete set of tracks to date. But the focus right now is all on the LP he’s literally just released, his second for Planet Mu, Midnight Colour. It’s an album that finds him slowing the tempo and “finding himself in the [newfound] spaces between the beats,” which I wrote in my glowing review of his album last week. To follow-up on that review, we’ve got a bite-sized interview with Myson and an exclusive mix chock full of his own tracks.
The mix he’s given us is the best kind of guest mix, showcasing a number of his own songs and working in the similar-minded works of others. If you’re not familiar with Ital Tek, I can’t think of a better way to begin to experience his work, and the mix also handily doubles as a preview of the album, with well over half of Midnight Colour‘s tracks represented and a few non-album cuts for good measure. In terms of the other artists featured, Myson clearly has impeccable taste, with bangers from Actress, Ikonika, Kuedo (remixing Slugabed!), and Untold all featuring prominently. Tracklist after the interview, as well as a link to the download. Enjoy this one, and if you like what you hear don’t forget the album is out now on Planet Mu.
How did you make this mix?
In much the same way that I do when I play out, Ableton Live with an Akai MPD24, just jamming it out and then went back over for a couple of effects/loops/edits etc
What inspired it, or was there any sort of concept behind it?
Basically, just the high level of quality music that’s come out and is yet to come out in 2010. This year’s been crazy, so much material every week that blows me away. There’s some new unreleased stuff of mine in there, some Midnight Colour tracks, and some of my friends/label mates new tunes, and everything else is just what I’ve been feeling over the past few months.
Do you feel comfortable being classified as dubstep? Do you feel the music you make is dubstep?
It doesn’t particularly bother me. The word doesn’t even really mean anything anymore as far as I’m concerned and it seems a lot of others feel that way. You walk into a record store and look through the Dubstep section and there are wildely different styles in there. When I’m writing I don’t make a conscious effort to make the music fit into a “dubstep template” or whatever, I just want to write music and I’m sure most listeners appreciate that and just take it for what it is. My first couple of records on Planet Mu were definitely more dubstep than what i’m writing now although I still normally work around the same tempo 130-144 and I always try and make the bass as fat as possible.
Midnight Colour seems to explore a lot more directions than Cyclical. What sort of things influenced you during the making of this one that led to this change in sound?
It just came about by me finally being able to switch off any outside pressure or my assumptions about preconceptions that people might have. I found it quite hard after Cyclical to really figure out what I wanted to do next. I think an even measure of hip hop, game soundtracks and New Year resolution got me through it!
What fueled your exploration with slower tempos? As I noted in my review, even the 140bpm songs feel much slower this time around — was that sort of aural illusion intentional? I seem to notice a bit of flirtation with hip-hop here too, am I correct?
That dubstep triplet rhythm just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I feel that i’ve done tunes in that style and I don’t really want to revisit old territory, my main driving force is just to keep it interesting for me, I think you can hear it in a record when the producer is bored or uninspired by what they’re doing, and I’ve been really excited about writing recently. To be honest I didn’t even think about the rhythm change when writing the album, I just went with what I was feeling. I have been getting really into hip hop over the last year aswell, there’s some new hip hop beats I’ve been doing that I’m really into and they’ll be dropping soon-ish.
I feel like the Massive Error EP was the signal to this shift in your sound. Did you approach Massive Error as an entity meant to be an EP or did it just kind of cobble itself together during the making of the album?
It was definitely a step in this direction after Cyclical. Both the label and myself wanted to put out an EP as it wasn’t the right time to do another album and we chose from about 10 tracks to make it as varied as possible, it doesn’t always work having a wide range of styles on an EP but It went down really well which I was pleased about. It opened the door for me to experiment within my sound a bit more.
If I’ve done my homework correctly, you seemed to start out in more hardcore waters, like really heavy breaks. What drove you to dubstep and then to the kind of more ornate music you make today?
That was just some stuff that I was messing around with when I was first learning about producing, probably a good learning experience for me but I don’t care for it much. Planet Mu first got in touch with me when I was 18 about putting out a record and that was from them hearing my first efforts into “dubstep” and so I had to get my head in gear and start treating music seriously pretty quickly. In 2005/06 it was definitely what was exciting me most in electronic music and maybe as time has gone on I’m more into other music and that has reflected in my productions. I’ve always approached writing music with melodies coming first and as i’ve become more confident and experienced I guess I’ve wanted to bring more musicality into the tunes I make. That’s definitely where I am with Midnight Colour, It’s the first time I’ve had the balance of all the elements right in my head.
Why did you start up your own label Atom River, and what separates it from your releases on Planet Mu?
It was basically just so that I could put out tunes a bit quicker in between the main Planet Mu records. The roster on Mu is massive and their schedule is always packed up months in advance so it’s just a good way of keeping the ball rolling and it’s a new challenge.
What are your future plans for Atom River?
I’m gonna be putting out some more 12″s this year, some remixes, and I am looking to sign some other artists to the label. I’ve just licensed the last Atom River record “Spectrum Falls” for the next Fabric compilation which is mixed by Surgeon.
Anything else you’ve got coming in the near future you’d like to mention?
I’m doing quite a lot of remixes at the moment which I really enjoy, so they’ll be coming out on a number of different labels over the next few months. I’ve been so busy writing tunes the last year that I havnt had time to do that many, but it’s something I’m going to be focusing on more this year. More tunes with Anneka and some live shows with her, and hopefully working with some other vocalists aswell. And just playing out loads. I’ve actually written quite a lot since finishing the album earlier in the year so I’m sure they will be dropping on Planet Mu + Atom River later in the year.
Ital Tek – Moment In Blue VIP (Planet Mu)
Ital Tek – Massive Error (Planet Mu)
Ital Tek – Manhattan (Atom River)
Kuedo – Joy Construction (Planet Mu)
Ital Tek – Spectrum Falls (Atom River)
Ikonika – Idiot (Hyperdub)
Untold – Never went away (Hemlock)
Ital Tek – Giga (Atom River)
Ital Tek – Polymath (white)
Slugabed – Take Off (Kuedo Remix) (white)
Terror Danjah – Menace (Planet Mu)
Ital Tek – Moonbow (Planet Mu)
Actress – Purrple Splazsh (Honest Jons)
Ital Tek – Strangelove VIP (Planet Mu)
Ital Tek – Talis (Planet Mu)