With new album 'Two Left Feet' out now, Rasmus Faber takes us on a trawl through jazz, disco, UK garage, 90s hip-hop and more
In stores now is Two Left Feet, the third studio album from Swedish DJ, producer and pianist Rasmus Faber.
Coming like nearly all of his output on his own Farplane Records, Two Left Feet is undoubtedly Faber's most eclectic long-player to date. Where 2008's Where We Belong focused mainly on the kind of soulful, often Latin-infused house grooves with which his first made his name in the early 00s, and 2009's Anime Standards Vol 1 saw him exploring far jazzier climes in his Platina Jazz guise, Two Left Feet blends influences from house, Latin, jazz, folk and more, while the vocals – from no fewer than seven different singers, all of them female – lead us at times into out-and-out pop territory (see, for instance, opener Animal).
Such a genre-defying album could surely only come from a producer with a wide-ranging record collection, so we asked Rasmus to talk us through the best bits of his – and true to form for a man who refuses to pinned down to one particular style, he chucked a couple of our time-honoured categories out the window and invented a couple of new ones of his own…
SIX RECORDS THAT CHANGED YOUR LIFE
Pat Metheny – Here To Stay (Geffen Records, 1995)
"One of the artists whose songs has shaped my early musical development the most. It was a tough call between this song and ’James’, but this one came out the winner, as with it I had an almost religious experience during one listen-through. The ever rising emotions in it just grabbed me so hard, I had a moment of complete wonder and awe, like goosebumps in every fibre of my body and soul."
Bill Evans – Haunted Heart (Riverside, 1961)
"Bill Evans was the biggest influence on my as a pianist when I was playing and studying jazz. His phrasing is absolutely exquisite. Not withstanding his performance on Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue, this particular song for me is my high-point Bill Evans moment. The intro is a story in itself and almost makes me cry every time I hear it."
Stephen Sondheim – Marry Me A Little (Company, 1970)
"The composer Stephen Sondheim was one of my early favourites. Especially as a pianist, his arrangements were so interesting: unlike jazz, every note felt so well thought-out, yet it didn’t have the stiffness of some classical music. I learned to play this when I was 16 years old I think, and I drove my family and general surroundings crazy, as I was playing it ALL the time, over and over."
Cheryl Lynn – Got To Be Real (Columbia, 1978)
"This record taught me a lot of about groove. I was listening to this as I started my first funk-influenced bands in my late teens. The grooves of the soul, funk and disco from this era are amazingly tight, without becoming too clinically so, as they sometimes tended to a couple of years later. The musicians had a very natural feel for the groove, and somehow it felt like they were not really studio musicians fluent in every genre, but rather lived and breathed this stuff. I can’t say for sure thats the case, I’m sure some of them were great jazz musicians too, but that's kind of how it sounds."
Bobby Caldwell – What You Won’t Do For Love (Clouds, 1978)
"A timeless classic, this song by Bobby Caldwell just has a completely infectious vibe. There’s this bass solo lick thing towards the end of the song which gives me goose bumps every time. The bass player plays picking throughout the song, but interjects tiny slap bass details here and there, which are just so tasteful and groovy."
Keith Jarrett – Memories Of Tomorrow (Universal, 1975)
"This is the last piece of the monumental Köln Concert. It's a relatively simple piece, and I learned to play it when I was around 12. Playing an instrument can be so interesting in that you can actually play something which you don’t understand musically. So as my musicality grew, I understood more and more of the complexities in the piece."
SIX EARLY INFLUENCES
Artful Dodger – Think About Me (London Records, 2000)
"This track is such a balls-y track to start a dance music album with, being basically a waltz, a 3/4 time signature.The UK 2-step scene felt amazing to me as a young musician who was into dance music, because it was so melodious. There was a certain shine to these songs which I really like, and the tempo just made the energy high without going too mental. This might be a good time to confess that before I released my first record under my own name, I released a 2-step record in Swedish together with my friend Alf Tumble, and Melo on vocals! I wish it was on a par with Artful Dodger, but it really really wasn’t :) No, I'm not telling you the name!"
MJ Cole – Sincere (Talkin’ Loud, 2000)
"I think MJ Cole introduced me to the idea of a well-produced album. I had of course heard well-produced albums before, but I didn’t really pick up on those finer details until I heard Sincere. A work of art, both in terms of songwriting, production and mixing. In those days you couldn’t just go online and read up on the techniques and watch tutorials. You really had to reverse-engineer the whole thing."
Basement Jaxx – Romeo (XL Recordings, 2001)
"This record was significant to me in many ways. Unlike the 2-step records mentioned above, this album had a completely chaotic sound image, yet it sounded so amazing. There were so many sounds in there that I just couldn’t figure out how they were made. Again, this was before tutorials were widely available, and there was just audio witchcraft on this record! The whole album is just a complete trip. Also the way they were kind of 'hiding' the melodies and grooves underneath this layer of dirty, underground production just made everything so much more exciting!"
Cassius - Cassius 1999 (Virgin, 1999)
"The amount of groove on some of these French filter disco records is just insane, and this is definitely one of them. Like Basement Jaxx, they have this dirty sound which never becomes too slick, but this one is more upfront and catchy."
Mambana - Libre [Axwell Vocal Mix] (Soulfuric, 2003)
"Axwell’s Mambana project was really a big inspiration for me, as I was sort of moving out on the same scene. But even back then he was going for full energy, which is kind of fun when you listen to this track now because it sounds almost like a chill-out track, whereas back then it was a peak club banger!"
ATFC – Bad Habit ft Lisa Millett (Defected Records, 2000)
"One example of all the amazing music Defected Records was releasing around the turn of the millennium. Infectious doesn’t begin to describe it. I played this out for many many years and it always sounded fresh. Actually still does!"
SIX PERSONAL PRODUCTIONS
Rasmus Faber – Ever After feat Emily McEwan (Farplane Records, 2003)
"The song that really kicked things off for me. The first release on my own label Farplane, through the Soulfuric distribution chain, sorted out by my then-management Defected… I was in very good hands! I still love the concept of Latin house, that people should be dancing to these rhythms in nightclubs. It was a time when nightclubs were filled with smiles and beauty, and no raised fists in sight! This one became a big club hit in Japan, which started off my career over there, in turn shaping the turn of events in my whole life to a great degree!"
Rasmus Faber – Get Over Here ft Melo (Farplane Records, 2004)
"It was a funny time back then, because there was no way like today to immediately judge the success of a record. I literally didn’t find out until maybe six months later, when the reports of the vinyl sales came back. But sometimes you got other words, like with this song, which Kenny Dope played, not just once, but twice in a row, during his set at the Miami Winter Music Conference."
Studio Apartment - I’m In Love ft Ron Carroll [Rasmus Faber Remix] (King Street Sounds, 2008)
"Sometimes things just turn out a bit differently for whatever reason. When I made this remix I was in a very difficult place, not really knowing where to go. But this one came so natural. Still, I never really followed up on this style, making more like it, but rather I kept on searching and searching for new sounds and styles. When I listen back at this, I can hear from the melancholy of the strings that I was going deeper than usual, and it remains one of my most popular remixes to date."
Rasmus Faber – Indian Summer ft Frida Sundemo (Farplane Records, 2013)
"I have changed styles many times during my career, because for me, the song always comes before the genre. That said, the onset of the EDM trend threw many people in house music offside for a few years, including myself. I made many songs that I’m proud of, but where I can definitely hear that I’m a bit lost. Indian Summer is significant, because it marks a return to finding my own voice again. The voice of Frida Sundemo feels like it's a mirror into my own soul, I was always so proud to work with her."
Rasmus Faber – Be Real ft Metaxas (Majestic Casual, 2018)
"A very recent single, and worth a mention perhaps because it's one of my most popular tracks. Sometimes when I work with vocals, I end up doing most of the work to make the melody and lyrics work. Not so in this case, I made an instrumental very quickly, in a spur of inspiration, and Metaxas made a flawless topline, with excellent lyrics, melody, and performance. I could just bow and receive the jewels! We were also lucky to sign it to Majestic Casual, a label I really appreciate, very fresh stuff!"
Rasmus Faber – Animal ft Magic Woman (Farplane Records, 2019)
"The first song on my new album Two Left Feet. I am really happy with where things are going. I feel more free musically than I’ve done in years. Just creating, and not fretting over the music business and rapidly changing trends. I’ve allowed myself to reflect on what I really enjoy as a producer, and the result is a much more organic, live-sounding record than I’ve ever done before. I’m delighted again to work with a new vocal talent of this calibre, Arielle Vakni aka Magic Woman. I’m really excited to hear what everyone will think about this album!"
SIX RECORDS THAT RESTORED MY FAITH
Icarus – King Kong (Parlophone, 2017)
"One of these records that I wish I would have made myself. It's timeless, doesn’t use the genre as a crutch, but stands on its own as a killer feel-good track and for me a real floorfiller every time I play it out. I love all Icarus stuff really, great producers!"
Crackazat – Somewhere Else (Local Talk, 2015)
"My fellow Swede Crackazat is one of those guys who just has a magic touch. He’s doing really complex stuff musically, but since it's also both gritty and kind of relaxed, it never gets overboard. Somewhere Else is another one of these floorfillers that never seem to get old."
NVOY – Make You Mine (Black Butter Ltd, 2016)
"I love the use of synth stabs in this way. The song goes really deep and so melancholic, yet the stabs just keeps the energy for the dancefloor. Those moments are fantastic, when the dancefloor can bring you a tinge of sadness amidst the ecstasy"
Just Kiddin – More To Life (POTION, 2017)
"Another one of my favourite producers. Just Kiddin makes amazing dancefloor tunes, and they have a playfulness about them that makes them a total joy."
Jafunk – Why Would You (Country Club Disco, 2016)
"I play piano on my DJ sets, and this song is one of the most fun to play along to. It's got a jazzy chord sequence at the end of every four bars which is just such an earworm on the floor."
Gigamesh – Feral Youth (Gigamesh, 2019)
"Love Gigamesh. Intelligent productions, yet never losing sight of the main driving forces of the tracks. He’s one of these guys I can listen to anything he does and find something new every time."
SIX RECORDS THAT PROVE THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
Tom Misch – Your Love (Beyond The Groove, 2015)
"Musical wunderkind Tom Misch holds the disco spirits high. I just love how freely all his tracks seems to be created. It truly feels like he’s just doing what he feels like, which is very refreshing."
Young Franco – Miss You (Of Leisure, 2016)
"One of these guys who sounds really fresh, but also very skilled and with a mature sense of songwriting. Ace."
Captain Cuts – Love Like We Used To [Lenno Remix] (Sony, 2016)
"Lenno is one of my favourite producers, and a top human being as well. He’s made an astounding amount of great remixes, but if I’m to pick just one it's gotta be this one. Nordic melancholy meets driving dancefloor energy in a neo-disco package."
Cosmo’s Midnight – History (Sony, 2018)
"These guys feel like a more pure soul variation of Disclosure, though comparing them to another group isn’t really fair. This song is on the top of my list: just a killer melody, lyrics, and production. Very, very fresh-sounding, yet the song itself is completely timeless. A masterpiece."
SG Lewis – Aura (Universal, 2018)
"At one point it was like there was no end to the young super talents to enter this world between soul and house. SG Lewis has made one of favourite songs in a long time, a song called Throwaway, but I’m chosing Aura for this list for its infectious playability."
Niko The Kid – Easy Street (Spinnin, 2016)
"Bursting with energy like only a Kid can! These wonderful stabs again. Sure, the sounds may not age too well, but I love how it just jams like hell, with a pretty simple structure, but the chords and rhythm adds a complexity to it which keeps the interest up."
SIX BBQ RECORDS
Armand Van Helden – Full Moon ft Common (Armed Records, 2000)
"BBQ for me is hip-hop, mostly from the 90s, but this one makes the cut for its amazing backing track and Common’s performance. It just oozes heat, and there’s that sample that circles around the best part of the original (Give Me Your Love by Sylvia Striplin)."
The Pharcyde – Passing Me By (The Bicycle Music Company, 1992)
"Passing Me By represents all that I loved in 90s hip-hop music. It was so musical! I enjoyed the rap vocals, but I LOVED the use of samples. In fact, this was before I really had a clear concept of sampling, so I attributed a lot of the amazing grooves to the rap group, rather than the people who made the original. Still, the cool thing about those samples is they always used the best bits, and a few years later it allowed me to rediscover a lot of the originals."
Camp Lo – Luchini AKA This Is It (Arista, 1997)
"The chord change in the famous chorus of this song was magic to me. I had just started discovering this type of modality as a musician and to hear it presented like this, with the super-catchy rhythm hits, was mind blowing. I later found the original, Adventures In The Land Of Music by Dynasty, but as happened very often, the sample contained the best bits, the rest of the song is… meh."
Souls Of Mischief – 93 'til Infinity (Jive, 1993)
"Another one of these chord changes that just tingles the spine. I kind of ripped the chord change for my song Come With Me later on. It was originally sampled off Billy Cobham's Heather, but Souls Of Mischief have managed to turn this into a killer vibe."
Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince – Summertime (Jive, 1990)
"What's a BBQ without this tune?! But really, saying it's just that doesn’t really do it justice. It shows everything that is good with Will Smith, but even more so, everything that's good with Jazzy Jeff. The way this sample (Summer Madness by Kool & The Gang) is used just sets the foot down, this is how it's done. Super-catchy vocal, feel-good rap, and oh that track!"
Black Sheep - Non-Fiction Outro (Mercury, 1994)
"This is the last track on the Non-Fiction album. Another track on the album, Without A Doubt, would perhaps be more fitting on this BBQ list, but this outro track is just amazing, and I could only wish it would have gone on forever. I can’t find any info on any sample so gotta assume the band made it somehow. Some serious musicianship in here and an amazing chord change to boot!"
Words: Russell Deeks
Rasmus Faber's latest album Two Left Feet is out now on Farplane Records. Buy it here
Tags: Rasmus Faber, Farplane Records, Bill Evans, Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, Stephen Sondheim, Cheryl Lynn, Bobby Caldwell, Artful Dodger, MJ Cole, Basement Jaxx, Cassius, Mambana, Axwell, ATFC, Studio Apartment, Icarus, Crackazat, Envoy, Just Kiddin, Jafunk, Gigamesh, Tom Misch, Young Franco, Captain Cuts, Cosmo's Midnight, SG Lewis, Niko The Kid, Armand Van Helden, The Pharcyde, Common, Camp Lo, Souls Of Mischief, Jazzy Jeff, Black Sheep