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Beatnik introduces a new cinematic genius, Si Tew.
words Ali RaymondSi Tew: Cold Day
There are so many new producers bouncing around the internet right now, it’s often like a car boot sale when trying to find the gem. But in Si Tew, we have found a true treasure.
He produces the kind of music that will immediately divert your thoughts to pictures and shapes. With infinite depth and complexity, his sounds are the sort of cinematic juice that won’t give you a migraine no matter how much you consume. Comparable to Bonobo and Cinematic Orchestra, or even Bibio, the self-confessed bedroom producer from middle England is sure to put you at ease in his moments of electronic brilliance.
So in the month that his debut album was set to be released, I spoke with the forward thinking Mr Tew, or Simon as his mum calls him.
“I’m always listening to different things. Some of my favourite artists are people like Jon Hopkins. All of his albums are so wide ranging and incorporate so many genres. So I’ve taken that same influence and tried to put together something that gels, and hopefully sounds like one piece of work,” Si explains.
I may hark back to his cinematic and downtempo credentials, but I hope that doesn’t take away from Si’s head-nodding hip-hop and beautiful-soul output. Best seen on ‘Independent Light’ featuring Dwayne Hayden with Jack Da Lad, and ‘Need To Grow’ featuring Pete Simpson. Illustrating that with When The Clouds Ran Away, Si-Tew is introducing himself as a producer everyone can enjoy.Si Tew: Independent Light
“I guess because I try to cover so many genres I’d like people to relate where I’m at musically,” Si says when I ask about peoples first impressions. “There’s things in there like nice classical cord progressions to big baselines, so I guess I’d like them to understand me through this album.”
“With my first album I want to represent all of that. I’m quite lucky with martin from Atjazz records. He gave me free range to do what I wanted.”
“It’s my first stamp on the world so I wanted to make sure it was diverse”
What becomes apparent straight away when speaking to Si is his laidback but attentive style of conversation, glimpsing at a grounded guy with few pretentions.
And yes, while this is his first splash into a gigantic pond, and while many would run away with the idea of the possibilities created by it, Si is content relaxing in his sincerity, a quality that’s reflected in his music.
Releasing his first major piece of music though, as he explains, is nerve-wrecking.
“Yeah, extremely nervous. You know the time you spend in the studio you’re working hard at it, but second guessing yourself constantly. Then just before it’s finished and its ready to come out there are some serious nerves. It’s a personal thing.”
He pauses before continuing:
“I spent so long on it and poured my heart out on it. You shouldn’t really make music for anyone else but yourself but obviously you want everyone to like it. So there’s that nervous stage of acceptance.”
But Si needn’t have worried. The release is majestic.
His story of discovery is a pretty straightforward one. After graduating from university with a degree in music technology, he snatched up the BBC Urban Music Bursary in 2005 for outstanding talents. During the bursary he met Atjazz founder Martin Iveson, who keenly offered him an internship at his studio in nearby and slightly sleepy Derby. Eventually Si moved to the city in 2007 and set up his own studio to work on his music.
The Clouds Ran Away might seem a like a collection of different songs. And though there is an underlying thread that runs throughout, in many ways it is a collection. During his collaborative projects with Martin while recording for television and films he found himself pulling together his own songs, climaxing with this debut.
“It’s very important to keep it true to what your into,” Simon continues as he takes me through his influences and childhood.
“My parents aren’t particularly musical but growing up there was always classical music in the house. My granddad taught me the piano when I was very young. As I got older of course, I was drawn to the electronic and dance scene. I remember getting a Mikey Fin Mixtape when I was 12 or 13. That was all I listened too. I then Started dj-ing at 14.”
His biggest contemporary hero though is a producer Beatnik is all too familiar with.
“For me the biggest influence is Bonobo. I love all of his stuff. Harmonic 313 and Shlohmo’s album too [the electronic producer not to be confused with the beat boxer of a similar name] is something I’m getting into. King brite, and anything on Stones Throw [Records].”
His list brings a smile to my face—an eclectic but stirring selection. A lot of Si-Tew’s music with its lengthy builds and what seems like never ending stings and crashing drums could easily attach themselves to atmospheric film scores.
‘Black and White’ containing harrowing strings is one such example, a song that was actually written as the opening sequence for a short film of the same name.Si Tew: Black and White
“I find myself wondering off,” Simon admits when I ask what sort of reaction his music evokes to him.
“Years ago when I started writing music my friends did take the mickey because I found myself always with an idea for a film. When writing the album I did go off on a tangent I guess, haha.”
Now of course as his tracks gain more popularity and we start to tell our friends and any stranger that will listen, he now has to approach his live sets with cunning dexterity. But as he finishes our chat he guarantees me the best is still yet to come.
“I have a lot of real instruments like pianos, guitars, cellos in the recording of the album. Breaking down the sections and altering it for a live band is actually not as impossible as it may look. The difficult thing is getting guitars and stings to play tracks that are quite synth heavy. But in the end it becomes a different product, which is more dynamic live.
“There is something that the live set can give to the music. It’s a bit more organic. It’s a challenge playing live but something that I think is important to interpret the music differently. It’s gonna make for a much more interesting show.”Si Tew: Reflections
Si Tew website