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words Ali Raymond / photography Fabrice Bourgelles
I catch Brendon Angelides aka Eskmo just landed from Hamburg. Leaving the airport hit sits on the 757 bendy bus and through the brief crackle on the phone he explains his current urgent objective – some notorious British grub.
“One of the many things I love about London is the amazing Indian food. So I’m really looking forward to dinner. That’s all I can think about right now.”
“Chicken Tikka Masala is a pretty hard one to say no too”
The electronic producer is notably exhausted though, and with just cause. In the past five years he’s released over a dozen singles and EPs while touring throughout North America and Europe extensively. He’s also remixed works by diverse artists such as Bibio, Spor, STS9, Bear In Heaven and Bar9, to name a few. All while running the Ancestor label, which issued his super dope “Hypercolor” and “Angus Dei” singles in 2009.
Now with the very recent release of his sensational self-titled debut album on Ninja Tune his customary dedication to live shows has predictably skyrocketed too, so you can begin to understand his current chilled façade.
It fact it’s the second time he’s been back in London in the last four days. Not bad for someone who calls the other side of the pond home.
Born in Massachusetts, Angelides grew up in Connecticut an hour away from New York. But in early 2006 he was invited to play in San Francisco. He immediately fell in love with the area’s culture, art, music and landscape and swapped the east coast for west, much to the embrace of the city’s frenetic electronic producer and label community. It’s a destination that not only has influenced his music but has also had a calming spiritual effect on the American.
“The nature aspects of San Fran, the ecology and geographic of the city has been hugely influential. Right in San Fran Gold Gate park is amazing. I spend a whole bunch of time there. They’ve also got great Thai food which is always good for a recharge.”
He notably perks up
“Right over the bridge there are these beautiful Redwood, these giant costial Redwood – Sequoia sempervirens. It’s an immediate spark of inspiration. Anytime I can get around some Redwood that’s really important to me.”
This connection to nature is apparent in the way his approaches music too. He makes the kind of electronic music that is immediately different. Sombre and reflective with a deep appreciation of base while at the same time somehow sounding organic it’s music that travels in and out of many electronica influences.
Initially considered a breaks producer, composing and releasing breakbeat tracks on labels like Vertical Sound,Downbeat and Cyberfunk, after a month-long backpacking trip to the UK Angelides became enthralled with the prominence of base in the relatively new genre of Dubstep. Planting a seed, this love for whopping baselines and a slower bpm features heavily now in everything he does.
A change best witnessed on ‘Hypercolour’.
“At the time I was writing things that would fall in to the breaks category and I was just really interested in the tempo.” Angelides explains his first meeting with dubstep. “Having the half pace and the double pace and being able to fit it all in was really interesting”
Although some tracks may lean towards similarities in dubstep it would be a misconstrued observation to limit his music to one genre. Like the many artists signed to Warp Records such as Flying Lotus and Tokimonsta he to constantly evolving, exploring a new breed of electronic music.
“Totally. You have to. If you just stay stagnate what’s the point. Constantly sharing and evolving feels like a reflection of an inner process.”
Highlighting this new evolutional step, the amazing lead single ‘Cloudlight’ promises all the goodness of Eskmo’s beat brilliance. Pensive and chilled with a huge baseline and a thundering beat it’s a big stand out track with a great video to boot (see end). The abstract nature of the song was also intentional.
“To be honest I don’t like to explain the reason behind my songs. I‘m a big fan of someone reacting to his or her own perception. The overall thing behind it is a rebirth from a loss. It could be anything from an idea, a new direction in life or a death of a loved one.”
It’s not just ‘Cloudlight’ that tackles intensely personal themes. The whole debut is an offering routed deeply in events close to its creator. And oscillating between complex and simple production it’s very different to his previous releases up to this point.
“I intentionally went into in that way” Angelides says “because I didn’t really want to rehash all the same release I had put out the previous year.”
With his album Angelides has surprised many while building a new base of fans. He has taken advantage, as is the opportunity with many debuts, that people still are not sure what to anticipate. An idea that is lost when releasing a second or third album. Here it’s the first time many will have experienced his art.
Produced over the course of a year or so the release is a one on one between listener and producer. Deeply emotional and in places dark it uncovers a man, usually private on many levels, ready to release a lot of emotion.
“I think putting out a debut, in a personal way puts me up for criticism but ultimately I want to show people that’s really what music is about for me. It’s graphitic grounding thing in my life. Essentially this is step forward for me to express whatever has been happening in my life – I’m moving in that direction.”
He’s really happy with the effort too.
“Absolutely . Looking back it very much really represents what I was going through. There is a lot of stuff about family, my little brothers and sisters, past relationships that ended right before the album, and kind of new directions for myself. It’s about really letting go of a lot of stuff, which I thought I wasn’t able to translate. Hopefully some people will be able to connect with that.”
One of the other intriguing sounds of the release is Angelides own vocals. And though on past music we got snippets over a hook or a warp of voice, now we hear the full length of his spoken commentary.
“In this album I had a full on driving need to do it. I thought if I let the fear from stopping me to doing it here I would have missed out on my personal growth and writing.I started writing intensely around July, August of last year after a 3 year split with a girlfriend” Angelides continues to explain the recording process.
“When I got in the studio I just felt I really needed to express it through vocalising it. I use to sing in a band in high school and I just wanted to bring it back to the poetic element which previously had got lost at the waist side because I got lost in the dance element. I had a huge yarning to bring it back and I couldn’t ignore it.”
His multi-genre compositions have been featured on influential labels like Warp Records and Planet Mu. And because Angelides’ tracks encompass a wide range of electronic styles he has gained a bag of critique. Bleep.com described his music as “Masterfully produced… sophisticated, post-Dilla hip-hop funk” while sites like Boomkat said Eskmo is “on his own electronic plateau.” But whatever descriptions might pop up with this debut it seems the best has just arrived.
Directing energy in a positive and often abstract we salute a more personal offering this year in electronica.