Matthew Herbert made quite a pertinent point today in a interview just published with FACT TV about how if, like him, you were listening to dance music 20 years ago you’d be listening to exactly the same noises produced by the same machines if you went to a club now. I don’t think he meant it as a comment on how certain tastemaker DJs are digging for old records to contextualize the overwhelming onslaught of new material; I think he means that there are a lot of people currently recycling the sample banks of early drum machines like the TR808 or 707 or 909; and he’s right. 1000%.
And whilst there’s probably a decent argument for applying the ol’ hardcore continuum theory to the current prevalence of certain sounds or methods and why they’re back again; it’s interesting to note that there are people who are deftly doing new and interesting things with those stock sounds. I don’t think anyone could accuse Pearson Sound of a stagnant reliance on certain sounds - even though he fully admits a lot of his ‘Glut’ era tunes came from someone passing him an 808 sample pack – and even though someone like Boddika is using his trusted machine’s voice, he’s pumping and contorting it to make the kind of simplistic driving music he’s long been a fan of. The possibilities of what one can do when you combine those early beat machines with modern technology (software and analogue) are pretty much endless; there are so many effects, reverbs, EQs and sequencers that make it a doddle to alter or layer up several stock samples to create a whole new sound.
Ross Tones is a guy who does just that. As Throwing Snow he’s released records that conform to the notion of modern dancefloor music, material that does fit in with the current zeitgeist, but he’s definitely sitting somewhere outside of the ‘808 kick + 909 snare x vocal sample + eski click ‘ kind of artists, as his Clamor EP on his newly minted Snowfall imprint proves. Having released records on Ho_Tep, Super, Sneaker Social Club and Local Action, Tones has kind of straddled a line between what was trendy (‘Too Polite’ builds brashy on a faster, almost juke tempo) and what was deep and soulful (‘The Shadows I Make’ which is taken from his collaborative EP with Py on Super). But across Clamor he takes his music further away from the trad notion of dancefloor clarity, creating moments on ‘Brook’ and ‘Perca’ that feel more like immersive hi-fi moments than any semblance of a 'banger'. They’re dense tracks produced with a club system in mind, much like the work of Gold Panda, who provides a remix of Brook on the EP.
Ahead of a live performance in Room Three for the Local Action label’s debut takeover, Tones has bestowed us the honour of premiering the full online stream of the EP track ‘Perca’ ahead of the record’s release on the 13th August. It also gave us the excuse we needed to shoot him a few questions to better introduce his music…
You’re playing here in Room Three for Local Action, the label on which you’ve released a record. Tell us about your relationship with them?
I remember getting introduced to Tom Lea outside a Phonica instore a few years back just as he was starting Local Action and kept in touch. We'd been emailing about the various label I run and kept bumping in to him while record shopping in Soho. I was a fan of the releases he was putting out and sent him 'Pyre', he loved it and we tried to find tracks to fit around that. After a while we gave up and decided that 'variety is the spice of life' and he had the balls to include 'Too Polite' on the EP. We're just good mates who are pretty obsessive about music really
You’ve recently started your own label too, after working with a handful of others. What was your thinking behind this? I mean do you feel you’ve had to shape your previous releases for those labels to suit their aesthetic? Was that why you wanted to do your own thing?
The Ho Tep and Sneaker Social Club 12"s were the first releases on those labels so luckily I didn't have to fit a mould. Local Action and Super are both labels that embrace variety and wanted tracks I had already written so luckily I felt no pressure there either.
I've run A Future Without with Will Plowman for about 5 years and set up Left Blank with John Connon and Patrick Hanrahan, both to push music I believe in but from other artists. So the reasons behind starting Snowfall are purely to push my own music and aesthetic feel without having to sell the ideas to other people. It means I can put out my stranger stuff knowing that it's my money at risk but it also means I can have full control over the artwork and products (not only limited to music). The motivation is to showcase what I want the Throwing Snow project to be about both musically and visually, but it's not going to be my exclusive home, more a creative outlet.
You’re gonna be playing live on the 17th right? What’s that going to entail? Is it a more hands on performance?
Yeah, my live sets vary depending on where I'm playing and to whom, but for the fabric show I'm going to improvise around some of the basic elements of my tracks. I use an APC40 to manipulate loops and a synth, which allows me to vary things quite a lot from set to set. Some tracks will be recognisable others will be made from a patchwork of loops....we'll see what happens on the night! It'll be pretty bass heavy though I should think.
You’re letting us premiere ‘Perca’. Can you tell us about the track?
It came from messing around with double/half tempo changes (as did ‘Brook’) because I love tracks that have a slow/fast feel to them. I also wanted to incorporate string arps and a structure that had a sort of chorus/verse structure. If I was to try and define it I'd say it was a weird mash up of hip house and juke... but whatever it is I think it was the most enjoyable to write from the EP because I had a bassface for about a week after it was finished.
What else is coming up for you in the immediate future?
I'm lucky enough to have made it in to Redbull Music Academy in New York so I'm off there in October.
Throwing Snow wise, I'm currently writing what may turn in to an album, writing a suitably different release to follow the Clamor EP on Snowfall and taking loads of photos to turn in to t-shirts and the like. I've also got a few remixes coming out for Happa, Anchorsong, Tythe, Part Time Heroes and Royce Wood Junior.
I'm also finishing off the Snow Ghosts album for Black Acre with Hannah at the moment which I'm hoping we'll both be really proud of. Label wise, Left Blank have just signed a really exciting new act and we are planning some pretty interesting physical releases for A Future Without. I’m just keeping busy basically…
Catch Throwing Snow performing live at the Local Action Room Three takeover on 17th August.