SPOTLIGHT: Narratives Music
Narratives Music first appeared on our radar at the start of this year, introducing itself with an impressive debut 12” consisting of two slices of militant tech-jungle by label’s co-owners, Blocks and Escher. We reviewed it here. Both Sagan and Broken were received to rambunctious acclaim by figureheads from across the drum & bass spectrum, while their inaugural podcast mixed by Cylon head honcho, Loxy, has since clocked over 5000 hits.
At the end of April, the second offering from Narratives was unleashed on their growing fan base, featuring two more collaborative efforts from Blocks and Escher, one of which Auxiliary frontman ASC has lent his inimitable and ethereal style to. Both Shiver and ASC’s version of Heartshaped are more muted, subliminal tracks than those of the first single, expressing the label’s refreshingly diverse approach towards releasing music.
To coincide with the release, we caught up with label owner Blocks to chat about their swift rise to prominence, past influences and to find out exactly where the elusive Escher has been hiding.
Your first release was extremely well received across the board in the world of drum & bass, with support from Loxy, dBridge, Need For Mirrors and Sam KDC, amongst others. 002 sees the label take a much more subdued approach than the first. Is this an indication of your desire to cover all angles of the sound and its offshoots?
It’s more a question of balance and being able to present the music in a greater context. Hopefully as time goes on, followers of the label may hear and feel themes in all the tracks which bind them together but as separate releases they have contrasting and individual traits which keep them fresh and interesting; I like the idea of keeping people on their toes. My favourite labels (of any genre) have always excited me because of the breadth of style, sound and experimentation they delivered. Labels like 4AD, Warp, early Metalheadz, or what Darkestral and Critical do now; they pioneered by sticking to their guns, leaving an interesting and varied body of work that shines a light rather than following what has been before.
We’re huge fans of ASC and his unique, ethereal approach towards making music, so obviously we were delighted to see him make an appearance on 002. Was it a natural choice to get him on board?
Yeah, like yourselves we’ve been a fan of ASC’s music for a long time and the only word you could use to sum up his work and LP for Non Plus, is stunning! I knew he was a fan of our track ‘Heartshaped’ and when we asked him to remix it for the label we were launching, he jumped at it (well, was pretty keen). He is not the sort of artist to ask which way he should take a remix and ultimately all we wanted was for him to take it apart on one of his journeys. Absolutely loved what he did with it, I love the progression and arrangement of elements. Something we are keen to do with our music is create something that can be listened to from start to finish, that almost grabs you and insists you listen to it in its entirety; something which can be lacking in DnB it seems but ASC hits the nail on the head perfectly with this remix.
“It’s true that there is always going to be that proliferation of copy cats in any genre at any time; I just cant help but feel it now vastly outweighs new music that has longevity and will leave a legacy.”
I read in your recent interview with Drum&Bass Arena that Narratives is in one sense a reaction to the various labels that influenced you. Which were the most formative in establishing your own sound?
I suppose it goes back to what I mentioned in my first answer, my favourite labels were the ones that really strived for variety and dared to explore. The early Metalheadz back catalogue is just unrivalled for me in terms of DnB and has always been a benchmark for quality. Switching from organic and musical elements to contrasting abrasiveness in the space of a release, or indeed the same 12” whilst maintaining such high quality and label ethos was just outstanding. It really didn’t matter who the artist was, Photek, Dillinja, Source Direct; the music just cried out that it was a Headz release. I was always excited that these individual camps such as Full Cycle, Ram, Virus had their own unique flavours and identities without sounding repetitive or stale. It’s one of the things I miss the most in DnB. While its great to see labels such as Shogun, Critical and Darkestral bringing back that core artist and album ethos, there is a crazy amount of dnb that sounds like it was written by the same artist. Whether that’s some ‘minimal’ rim shot vibe or squelchy tech roller, its true that there is always going to be that proliferation of copy cats in any genre at any time; I just cant help but feel it now vastly outweighs new music that has longevity and will leave a legacy.
Escher and yourself certainly seem to work well together as a production pairing. When did you first find yourselves in a studio?
We have been working together for about 3 years now having been introduced by Jem-One and the guys at Rupture (Double-O and Mantra). Through similar tastes we just kinda clicked with our writing and were lucky to get support within the scene relatively quickly. With stuff signed for Digital Soundboy, Renegade Hardware and Horizons we started talking to labels about release schedules etc but in the end just felt we wanted to put out our music in the manner we wanted to. Have complete control, hence Narratives..
There’s been very little word from Escher during all the hype around the label’s emergence though. What have you done with him?
Ha, yeah he can be pretty elusive when it comes to these things. From our first collaborations and indeed solo efforts we both carried an outlook of simply letting the music do the talking but unfortunately in this digital media age and with unleashing our label, we have to mumble out some thoughts and ramblings! Will (Escher) would have been about today to do this interview but I think there is snooker on or he is putting the finishing touches to some chorizo based savoury dish!
Righto, we were starting to think he’s your alter ego. There’s a lot of cross-genre pollination going on in electronic music at the moment. Do you have any plans to dip outside of the realm of 170bpm?
There is certainly a chance! In all honesty, most of the music we listen to isn’t 170 or dnb. We have also been lucky to be getting support from outside of DnB through the likes of Kuedo/ Jamie Vex’d, Laurent Garnier etc, so watch this space..
Can we expect to see cameos from other producers on Narratives in the future, or is it mainly an outlet for you and Escher’s music?
At present the schedule is our music but we have some collaborations finished and in the works with a few artists we really admire. For the time being we simply want to get Narratives to the point where we would like it musically and have it spark people’s imaginations. It would be important for us to have artists really feeling what we were doing with the label so that can be projected in their music. We don’t want to put tunes out just for the sake of an artist name or current trend. I know we live in an age where the context of a release can be broken because of MP3’s, but we still see a release as a 12” package, offering a double A side for an artist to really push their music.
Have you got any gigs in London coming up?
Not in London until Summer(!) but we are planning some Narratives tours so any promoters or bookers interested in dates etc give us a shout
And finally, what’s the one urban essential you couldn’t live without?
Sweet chilli sauce?
Many thanks to Blocks for his time.