He makes drum & bass, but not as we know it. Welcome to the wild and warped world of Vorso...
Few artists in the realms of UK bass have strutted into the ether with quite as much sonic sass as Vorso. Total rule-bending, genre-smelting subversion laced with dramatic flair and sudden sharp left turns is the young Bath-based artist's forte: one moment he's weaving your innermost feelings into a deep dream, the next he’s pulverising you with breaks or turbo bass designs.
It’s been this way for over two years now. Since emerging with a slew of halftime heave-ho’s on labels such as Upscale and Flexout, he’s gone on to spread his theatrical muck across a decorated line of labels including Pilot, Monstercat and Inspect, where he appears to have found his spiritual stomping ground.
Earlier this year he released his most ambitious EP, The Imperative. A five-track document that stretched his sound, signature and style into whole new realms with a panache that echoes label mates and peers such as KOAN Sound, Opiuo and Culprate, he’s since followed it with the leftsided UKG odyssey Archipelago and, just this week, Real Torque, a track that’s already scored nine thumbs up from the mighty Noisia.
Each new dispatch revealing a new layer to his sound, Vorso records smack with a depth and sense of derring-do that suggests he’s in this for the long game and will eventually lead to much bigger plans, such as an album and live show.
One step at a time, though. He hasn’t even finished university yet. Hell, the night we called him he hadn’t even played his first gig yet…
What are we interrupting?
"I’ve just been practising for my first ever gig!"
What a moment! Would you say you’re a natural DJ? Or a DJ because you produce, so this is the next logical step?
"Totally the second. But loads of my mates do it and it looks like fun. Plus I’m really looking forward to testing some new bits out."
How are you doing it? Controller, CDJs, vinyl?
"Pretty much standard CDJs with a fair bit of sync on at the moment, I won’t lie. I’m actually keen to explore more of a live set-up. I can see why people go in that direction. I’ve been talking to Opiuo about this, he’s got a whole orchestra with him! But for now I’m happy with DJing. One step at a time…"
So you’re still at uni, right?
"Yeah. I’ve just come back from a year in industry and it’s quite hard to readjust."
Are you studying anything music related?
"No I’m studying computer science, the music is a hobby for now…"
Any parallels between the disciplines of computer science and production for you?
"Absolutely! I’d love to get into plug-in design and making the software."
Do you make your own patches?
"Yeah, I’ve done some bits on Max and Reaktor. My end of year uni project is all about using Ableton and Max for sensing emotion when instrumentalists are playing."
Wow, that sounds pretty deep...
"Yeah, you know the emotions people show on their face and in their movements when they’re playing? I want to bring that into the music and translate it into the production."
There’s some really exciting developments with gesture-based music tech. and things like those Mi.Mu gloves Imogen Heap uses. Catching the natural expressions…
"Yeah, it’s really emotional!"
Your music, too, is very emotional. Are you trained on any instruments?
"I used to play trumpet in a big band in school, but for me it’s come from listening to loads and loads of music. As a kid, before I even knew about electronic music, I was listening to lots of film scores and soundtracks. I loved how they expressed the emotional elements.
"So when I finally got into electronic music and production, after making a few bangers I wanted to start bringing a lot of those emotional elements into what I was doing and incorporate it into the heavy stuff."
So while most kids go all metal or emo in their teens you were vibing to some Morricone and Schifrin?
"Absolutely. Throw some Zimmer in there, too. The more intense the better."
What was the turning point for you?
"Skrillex’s Bangarang. The first time I heard it I was like, ‘Wow, okay, so this is a thing!’ I instantly went online and started soaking as much of it up that I could and found guys like Culprate, Opiuo and KOAN Sound…"
Speaking of those type of mavericks, reckon you’ll release an album? I can imagine you doing a similarly ambitious and narrative project to something like Culprate’s Deliverance…
"I’d love to some time! I’m working on another EP for Inspected and I’m really trying to dial up that emotional factor in those tracks and bringing more of that narrative to the music. I’m actually working on an album at the moment too, with Clockvice."
Oh, cool! You’ve worked with him before…
"Yeah, we’ve done a few tracks together but we’ve been making this crazy, weird EDM stuff since we’ve met and eventually it’s turned into this EP. We did a big session a while back and finished some tunes, started some new ideas and it’s just our take on the more high-energy side of EDM. We’ve had such good fun making it."
It seems like you have very little regard for rules. Is that a fair assumption, or do you put rules in place to stop going too far?
"It is easy to go too far, so yeah I do set some parameters. If you make something too wacky, you can’t release it! But at the same time, if you’re enjoying what you’re making, no matter how many things you do that don't follow the standard rules, then I believe people can feel that and appreciate it."
Which artists are you appreciating right now? It’s been another exciting year for music…
"It has been an amazing year. G Jones is on something else right now. It’s refreshing to hear, especially his attention to melody."
I think there’s a very healthy dialogue between America and Europe with beats right now…
"Definitely. I guess it started with the halftime thing a few years ago. But the beats thing happened in parallel and it’s great hearing the two different styles merging, especially with guys like Ivy Lab."
I knew you first as halftime, but you’ve since done all kinds of styles…
"Yeah, some early bits were all halftime but I’ve enjoyed exploring more UK music like garage and dub. I love guys like Skope, KOAN Sound, Culprate... I’ve explored similar lines to what they have. I’ve got some more bits that are technically halftime but far removed from any drum & bass."
Yeah, a lot of haltime is closer to hip hop
"Exactly! You can take all the cool stuff from drum & bass, like sound design, but have so much more space to play with it. It’s a very exciting place to play."
So what will you be playing on your first gig? Just sticking to the 85/170 axis or do you have some cool transitions?
"Yeah, I do actually have some transitions and some fun stuff planned. I’ve got some halftime bits, some 140 stuff, some collaborations with Opiuo which are slower tempo. It should be interesting."
Words: Dave Jenkins
Real Torque is out now on Music Squad