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Digging Deep: Rings Around Saturn

Digging Deep: Rings Around Saturn
Jack Smith

Melbourne-based artist Rory McPike has had a fruitful couple of years. A meandering Live techno cassette for Altered States Tapes as 2200; a couple of club-focussed, genre-spanning EPs as Dan White; a full IDM-meets-Drumfunk long player as Pickleman amongst others… These neatly-categorised aliases go some way to confirming his reputation as an artist that is just as diverse as he is prolific.

Despite the musical richness found behind these aforemetioned monickers, it’s his output as Rings Around Saturn that beguiles us most. His output for labels such as the ever-excellent Unthank (sister to Lindsay Todd’s Firecracker Recordings) and Analogue Attic (perhaps Melbourne’s most in-form imprint of late) is full of polarities: introspection and stargaze regularly collide, mechanical drum machines meet organic rhythm and simple arrangements evoke emotional complexity.

Does such eclectism carry over to his record collection? You bet. Does he also share a love for the experimental fringes of Drum & Bass? Who doesn’t? Can we presume that the fact that ‘Rings Around Saturn’ shares the same name with one of Photek’s seminal releases, is more than just a coincidence? Well, you know what they say about people who presume: they make a pres out of u and me. And on that bombshell, let’s join the producer as he takes us on a tour of some his most treasured records for a Digging Deep Christmas special (before I whip out another festive homebrew dad joke).


Brando’s Island – Auto Warfare [Million Dollar Records]
Mutant synth punk hit of 2015. Ripper of a record I’ll always plug because it’s brilliant – all 3 of their 7″s are winners. A good reminder to never give people what they think they want.

Orion – Execution S/T LP [Cool Death]
Great band out of Sydney on Cool Death Records. One of the more anticipated records from an Australian band, rinsed their demo for a long time. As a person in music today you hear stories about how vibrant the pub rock scene used to be in Melbourne and Sydney. Orion seem to fill this void of what I imagine or hope the music would have sounded like in pubs decades ago from out in the smokers, bottom of a pint and music blaring through the doors and windows, realising you only have enough change for another drink or a ride home. Youthful agony captured perfectly.

Karen Marks – Cold Cafe [Efficient Space]
Recent re-issue job via Efficient Space / NIMH. Think it was over this song that I first contacted NIMH who would go on to help me navigate through the shit storm of the music industry. It’s a great piece of stripped back synth pop, a proper Australian gem which is getting a much deserved second life. It captivated me when I first heard it as a song that sounds Australian without any cliché references to Australia which is something I’ve been interested in ever since.

Nether – Moon Dub [Space Cadets]
Keeping with the Australian theme… Over 4 records Nether blew me away with his dubby take on dnb and deep space dub. From my first interest in jungle and dnb my interests swayed deep into the weirder ends and Nether seemed to hit the nail in the head with his melting pot of tight production and submerged dub sounds. Space Cadets put out some great records in their short run. What is this guy doing now?

ASC & Bvdub – Symbol #2 [Auxiliary]
Probably my favourite of the Symbol series, dream team collab and again stretched my idea of what can or should pass as dnb. A lot of these autonomic era jams were when I stopped caring about genre with mixing records, and started thinking in terms of sounds with a similar BPM. Dnb is plagued by genre tropes that producers seem reluctant to break and any kind of development gets rinsed to death, its a sad state but for a short time there was a modern period where something new was happening. I could pick 20 ‘autonomic’ era jams to post, it was a real pleasure to listen to those podcasts as they came out, it lead me down many new paths in music.

Morgan Buckley – Innercity Hum [No Label]
One hell of a record and one hell of a producer, proper modern music to me. It’s the meeting of live instruments and electronic production to make something out of this world, that’s what modern music should be. It should be constantly challenging convention and flying far away from tradition and this record is a great and fun example of that. The Wino crew are a big source of inspiration who keep putting out quality records that seem to be uniquely of their own world.

Nebula – Platinum Jazz [Scientific Wax]
Sci Wax + Nebula = a Discogs shark’s dream but you can understand why sometimes. Always loved ‘drumfunk’ and this is maybe the prime example – top sampling, amazing arrangement that owes itself to classic jungle but with a fresh twist. Nebula is one of the best. I’ve spent years trying to nail a tune like he does, I think my production will always be rooted in this UK style of sampling, I’ve got 4 samplers but can easily find a place for another one.

D’Cruze – Lonely [Suburban Base]
Maybe not obscure but just one of my favourite records. As I was getting into jungle I was taken back by the futuristic sound of it all and its sampling of anything, the experimentation still sounds fresh to me having not lived through its progression. My first experiences in clubs were at dubstep/dnb/jungle/reggae parties with a proper soundsystem and for a while I thought that’s what clubs were like, how sorely I was mistaken. A classic jam that reminds me of my first years clubbing and some silly break work on both sides.