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DjRUM's recent suite of music released by 2nd Drop Records stood out to us for a number of reasons. Given that there’s a certain propensity within electronic dance music for stylistic shifts, bittersweet vocal chopping and super tweaked, soundsystem ready cleanliness, Rum’s three part ‘Mountains’ odyssey should stick out like a sore thumb – but it doesn’t, it caresses most categories with ease. His music is deep, layered as much with restraint as it is palpable sound, but it kicks low, hitting your gut in a similar way to the work of a lot of his peers.
“I work almost exclusively with audio samples so my music has quite an organic, non-synthetic sound to it,” he tells me, as we begin our conversation discussing his processes. “I don’t just sample from records though, I also record myself playing instruments and even singing; although you probably can’t notice it, it’s very heavily processed.”
The two 12”s that combine to form the Mountains EP fully embrace that strictly imposed production style; re-textured samples and static drenched drones crawl over each other behind an array of stringent drum work on the first plate, which is populated by ‘Undercoat’ and ‘Mountains (Part 1).’ Parts 2 & 3 of ‘Mountains’ come separately, backed by the more straight forward garage clip of ‘Turiya,’ but they take the baton from the first part’s strung samples, re-phrasing the intonations with a more trip hop rhythm that over eggs itself suddenly upping to a more hardcore stomp, bringing the gabber-esque kick drum expression to the brittle layers and metallic shards of delay.
“Mountains’ is obviously the lynchpin of the EP,” Rum explains. “The three separate parts were all written at the same time. As I make tunes I tend to generate a lot of material that lands on the cutting room floor as I experiment with different elements. During work on ‘Mountains (Part 1)’ it became clear that there was way more scope in what I was doing than just a 140bpm tune so I started putting together parts 2 and 3. ‘Undercoat’ was similar, although there I managed to keep all of my ideas within one track.”
It’s Rum’s wealth of ideas seem to be the main benefit of this EP. Across the ‘Mountains’ triumvirate he touches on rhythms and moods that it takes most producers an array of releases to touch on, and that’s undoubtedly something that his history as a core component of Yardcore can be thanked for. Being, as he is, relatively new to releasing his productions, one can assume that he’s been toiling away behind the scenes, finding his feet and sharpening his oft-tagged cinematic approach to music; but through Yardcore (a club night and radio show on Sub.fm that’s been going a long time now) it’s easy to trace the sounds that Rum exposed himself to, archiving a whole lot of everything…
“We did our first party back in 2006,” he recalls. “We had Ed DMX, Equinox and Boxcutter booked, but when Boxcutter missed his flight we called in a favor last minute and were lucky enough to get Jamie Vex’d instead. Wow, that takes me back… but it’s hard to say when I got into ‘dubstep.’ I remember a garage head mate of mine playing me ‘Fist of Fury’ by Horsepower back in 2001… is that dubstep? Maybe it’s 2-step… Anyway, I started hearing the word dubstep around 2005 I reckon. That year Monkey Steak’s ‘Grim Dubs,’ Burial’s South London Boroughs EP and the Rephlex Grime compilations got me really excited about that kind of music and I started getting properly into production like a year later. I’ve only ever been into dubstep as part of a balanced musical diet though…”
And that definitely shows in Rum’s music. There’s a carefully weighted balance between movement inspiring drum work and searing atmospherics, but the key to what really caught our ear was his evolutions and the sprawling nature of his composition. By rite ‘Mountains’ should be three separate tracks and as it stands he and 2nd Drop made the cut between the 140bpm aspect and the remaining beat experiments, but the panache with which Rum reaches these tangents really smacks of a hankering for prog music – not in the grandiose 30 minute sitar wigout way, but in the way it shifts slightly and constantly progresses.
“That’s definitely the intention,” he agrees when I finally let the ‘p’ word fall out. “I always found it interesting listening to music like DJ Shadow’s first few of albums – he sampled a lot of prog, but also took influence from the music’s composition. As he sampled the music to make hip hop he was putting it into a structure of his own, but those structures he created usually had an extended, evolving, progressive approach more akin to prog than to regular hip hop. I listen to a lot of jazz from that prog era, and I think it has had a similar influence on me…”
This notion of expansive and fluid structure is one that he explores further on his contribution to our ongoing mix series: “I did it in Ableton. It moves about quite a bit through different moods and genres. There’s reggae, techno, garage, dubstep, classical, funk, soul, hiphop, house… and it goes from quite an upbeat dancey vibe, through some really mellow spaciousness, into some really dark introspection, and ends with a round of applause. I’m pretty pleased with it actually. I think it sets the scene well for my own productions.”
Listen to the mix below: