Drum & bass is a better place thanks to one Kasra Mowlavi. A consummate professional, with a record label – Critical – that operates with integrity and innovation on both a musical and business level, a superb DJ and a promisingly exciting producer. He’s compiled Critical’s latest album release, ‘Critical Sound,’ which, characteristically, is swamped with quality music, a fresh-to-death line-up of burgeoning new talent and is packaged with love.
He’ll be the first person to step up to the decks on the four day birthday weekender which kicks off on Thursday, and to celebrate has dropped us an exclusive mix. You can grab it below, but first read about his take on the new Critical album, his own productions and a guide to some of the new artists featured on the compilation.
You’re playing at the tenth birthday on Thursday, are you nervous, excited, apprehensive?
Really excited, it’s going to be a wonderful evening and to be playing such an occasion alongside two of the biggest names in the scene is a real honour. I can’t wait!
Do you remember your first time at fabric as a punter, and as a DJ?
My first time as a punter will be pretty much 10 years to the day. I was at the Planet V night at fabric which I’m pretty sure was the actual opening night. I remember being blown away by the sound and the design of the club. It was a great evening - Krust performed ‘Coded Language’ live, sweet. DJ wise my first set was this year, around May time. It was a real moment for me; I’ve played all over the place but you can’t beat playing to a packed room in your home town - especially in a club like fabric.
You also have your label Critical’s new two-disc album ‘Critical Sound’ out this month, what’s the concept behind the record?
Concept wise it’s like the previous two albums in terms of it being a representation of what I feel is the best drum & bass around at the time. The main difference being the formats: I’ve gone for 4 piece 12" vinyl alongside the normal double CD - lovingly wrapped in a gatefold sleeve.
The album really captures a relatively recent move towards deeper, more sparse and more intricate arrangements – was this a conscious effort on your part, or is this just what you’re feeling right now?
I never consciously think I’m going to put together a dance floor record or a deep record. I just collate the best tunes I’m hearing from my favourite producers. It’s fair to say the deep, more minimal sound is in fashion at the moment but I just wanted to represent all sides of the scene. People like Rockwell and Sabre are on a more experimental tip, Spectrasoul and Break make high quality beats and bass, Calibre does his deep dancefloor thing and Serum & Bladerunner take us deep into the jungle.
The new sounds are reflected by the number of new artists featured on the compilation… again, is it just a case of these artists making tracks that appeal to you, or are do you actively seek out new producers for these projects?
I’m sent a lot of new music every week by new and established producers, it would be foolish of me to not listen to the new ones to see who is bringing something interesting to the table. I try not to worry about whether a producer is new or not but just think "do I like the tune?""Is it well produced?" “Will it stand up against other tracks?” If the answer’s yes and we can work out a deal, I sign the tune.
The album also features your first solo production to make it to wax – has this been a long time coming, and was it difficult to look at your own work objectively?
I’ve been making tracks with other producers such as D.kay, Lomax and Cyantific for a little while and this album also features a collaboration between me and Sabre. It’s taken me a while to find the time to sit down and make a track solely on my own. I also set very high standards, so self-A&R has been very tricky, I’m always striving to do better so my tracks may take a while to surface. I’ve got quite a few bits I’m working on which sound pleasing so I’m happy with how it’s going so far.
Returning to Critical’s approach to new talent. There’s a wealth of that on the album…can you talk us through some of the newer guys featured on there?
I’ve known One 87 for a little while now. He runs an amazing night in Belgium called Star Warz and he started sending me tunes a few months back. This was one of the first things he made and I love it. Expect great things.
I was tipped off about Stray by Sabre. He’s making really interesting minimal D&B with a futuristic edge. His track ‘Timbre’ is a total destroyer. I’m really looking forward to working more with JJ, both on the label and in the studio.
Triad have been sending me tunes for a little while and as always with new producers you wait a little while and suddenly they have a glut of great tunes. Triad are from Germany and make sublime music, more to come from them soon.
Mr Technicolour, or Pete to his friends, has had some singles out on Simon ‘Bassline’ Smith’s Technique label and is really one to watch – he has a deft touch with a sample, which is fully showcased on the album track ‘Freedom Theme’. Definitely a star for the future.
People have been getting very excited about Rockwell’s music and rightly so, he’s experimental without being pretentious and incredibly original in concept and sound. Look out for an EP coming on Critical in the new year.