Meet the Blu Mar Ten-signed duo who are pushing drum & bass in strange new directions
Often, some of the best drum & bass doesn't even sound like drum & bass when you first hear it. Music with ideas, innovation and instrumentation so fresh within the context of the genre that it’s the outside influences you hear first.
From the first time you heard Brand New Funk, to the first time you heard Ivy Lab’s Sunday Crunk or Dbridge & Kid Drama’s Autonomic project, drum & bass that looks beyond the genre’s occasionally blinkered, dancefloor-focused boundaries is always the most memorable, and often the longest lasting.
Cue Borderlands, the mesmerising debut album from the London/Shrewsbury duo of Robin Andrews and Chris Edwards, AKA Conduct, on Blu Mar Ten Music. A swampy, hazy tagine of sounds that could just as easily soundtrack a dark warehouse in Bristol as it could a long day roaming the Nevada playas or a gravity-free trip outside Earth’s orbit, it’s D&B, Jim, but not as we know it.
The swampy, loose guitar twangs reverberating on Bat Country, the soul-stirring strings of Meraki, the Eno-ish cloud-chowing atmospheres of Grand Panjadrum... Conduct's strong sense of musicality and immersive otherworldliness remind us just how far drum & bass can take itself from the typical rip-snorting festival bangers or saccharine-sweet pop concoctions that often hog the genre’s spotlight.
Anchored with serious dancefloor dynamics such as the roaring Reese bass and brittle tech neck snaps of Divergence and the gully half-time sludge of Piano Tune, it’s clear that while their heads are in faraway, borderless lands, their feet are still very much in the dance, ticking every box a serious drum & bass fan could ask them to. We called them up to find out more…
When I hear your music it’s not the drum & bass I hear first, it’s other influences. There are shades of Ennio Morricone, Trentemøller, UNKLE…
Robin: "That’s really cool to hear. That’s exactly what we want. Those particular acts aren’t conscious influences, but I hear where you’re coming from. For me it’s Hans Zimmer and the game Borderlands. Do you know it?"
Not really. I thought the title was a reference to the fact your music sits in-between so many subgenres and styles...
Robin: "Actually, that's spot on, but that describes the game soundtrack by Jesper Kyd, too! It’s a blend of otherworldly weird instruments. Tuvan throat singing and deep south guitar twangs. Things like that. We fell in love with it instantly."
Chris: "The track Borderlands was very heavily influenced by that, so much so that it changed our outlook. It was so different from what we’d written before and what else was out there. We ran with that approach for the rest of the album project, seeing what influences and ideas we could mould into one piece but still sound fluid and not just a random collection of sounds. We had no idea if the label - or anyone - would like it!"
Blu Mar Ten Music is the perfect home for it. That hook-up came about through a Hunter remix competition, right?
Chris: "Kinda... but not, as well. Chris actually had most of our early work in a folder on his computer without realising anyway!"
Robin: "Jani from L.A.O.S sent it to him because he thought he’d like it. He never actually got round to checking it until we entered the remix competition."
Chris: "And then he messaged us saying ‘How come I’ve got all of this stuff of yours? Why haven’t we met up? Come and see me now!’."
Robin: "From that point we knew we had an album in us, although none of the music that he had at that time ended up on the album. His advice gave us confidence in how we developed."
What was that advice?
Robin: "We knew it anyway but he brought it to the front of our focus: don’t ever feel you have to fit in or follow what’s going on or do the same thing over and over."
Chris: "It was the direction we were heading in anyway. No one wants to hear the same type of track rearranged and rewritten over and over. It loses any sense of soul."
Speaking of soul – I love the word Meraki, which you named a track after. There’s no literal English translation, is there?
Robin: "No - it’s Greek for ‘made with love and soul,’ which we thought was really nice and apt. To be honest, though, we stumbled on it. We have trouble naming tracks and usually look up cool words on Google."
Is that the same with 'panjadrum' in Grand Panjadrum?
Chris: "Yeah, guilty! It means someone who holds themselves in high esteem or thinks quite highly of themselves. It fits the track, because we wanted something big and bold and majestic-sounding."
Who do you hold in high esteem, then?
Robin: "There’s all the usual suspects, but personally, this band I’ve started sharing a studio with have really inspired me lately. They’re called The Rainbreakers, and they're a blues-rock band - miles away from Conduct music. Having a band who play completely different music to me working in the same space has been a massive influence. Having their set-up to record anything I like has been a massive help, too!"
What instruments can you play?
Robin: "Every instrument in a band plus a flute. I’ve been in bands since primary school and picked things up as I’ve gone along."
Ah, you’re one of those guys who could be given any instrument and within 20 minutes bash out a tune on it, aren’t you? If I chucked an accordion at you, what would you do?
Robin: "Run away! Ha!"
Chris: "True... he’s no good on the didgeridoo, either. That’s the only real instrument I can hold a tune on. I can’t circular breathe, but I can put out some sick didgeridoo noises."
Coming up next... Conduct – Borderlands (Didgeridoo VIP)?
Chris: "Already been there… listen carefully to Bat Country and you’ll already hear the didgeridoo licks!"
Words: Dave Jenkins
Borderlands is out on 1 July on Blu Mar Ten Music