I first heard FIS via a guest mix he did for dBridge's Rinse FM radio show. Things had been progressing calmly for the first hour or so. A bit of house, a bit of bass music, a bit of drum & bass. Then an uncomfortable claustrophobia took over. The rhythm started to hobble rather than flow easily. Tempo-wise, it seemed like it might be half-time drum & bass. But, then again, not really. Something just felt off...for more than 20 full minutes—clearly the work of a producer who had created a style that was unmistakably their own.
"DMT Usher" was the tune that sealed the deal for me. It was the final track in the mix, and its main bit of melody sounds like a helicopter that can't decide whether it wants to turn on or off. Up and down it goes, a ridiculous bit of sound engineering almost guaranteed a rewind if a DJ ever figured out how to play it. The percussive pattern, like much of FIS's work, is at odds with almost everything else in contemporary drum & bass. If it even is drum & bass.
"I don't actually know the tempo of my tunes," admits Peryman. "I don't make stuff to the grid [of a software program]. There's not a metronome going or anything. It's just sound put down, and it sounds right." Later, he expands on the point: "The rhythm is starting outside the computer, and I take it into the electronic context, and I move in a direction with that, with what that allows. But it starts outside."
The "outside" in this case is Wellington, New Zealand, where Peryman currently resides. The country has been a hotbed of drum & bass-related creativity over the past decade due in no small part to Geoff Presha and his Samurai Records store in Wellington. When Peryman moved to the city to study, he started buying vinyl there and passed tunes to Presha on CD. "It took me a few weeks to listen to them," remembers Presha. "But once I did I was very impressed."
Despite the curious amount of New Zealand producers that seem to revolve around Presha, Samurai and dBridge—who is booked by the agency that Presha works at—there isn't some magical scene in the country. Both Presha and Exit signee Consequence have recently moved to Europe. Tokyo Prose, with whom FIS has collaborated on Samurai sub-label Horo, lives in Auckland—not Wellington.
Talk to FIS about New Zealand, though, and he clearly has thoughts about how the country has impacted his music. His university studies touch on the idea of colonization, and he's quick to point out the strong effect of influences from "the British Empire and London in particular" and that "perhaps drum & bass is a continuation of those connections." That said, there's also just a lot of "dark and heavy music here as well. I think The Piano captures it quite well. There a little bit of melancholy in New Zealand art."
Two local musical inputs these days come in the form of Kapsy and Pylonz, two producers who assiduously keep their work offline and only share it with a select group of friends. (If you search YouTube hard enough, you can find two 10-inch dubplates that Kapsy had a hand in.) At the moment, Pylonz is in Europe learning more about cutting lathes and will eventually bring one back to New Zealand, while Kapsy is an "astute audio engineer" who helped produce albums for the likes of Shapeshifter once upon a time. They throw parties in New Zealand—three last year—but Peryman reports that only "15 or 20 people" came to the Wellington edition. "We're not deliberately exclusive, but we're all busy as well. It's not really a New Zealand thing to make a big fuss of something."
With "DMT Usher" forthcoming on Samurai Music, and Exit Records preparing a limited edition six-track EP that will include "Patupaiarehe" (clip above), the discussion about FIS has already begun. He's prepared for it. When I ask him whether his approach to art came before his music career, he writes that it's "crystallised since my music started attracting attention and when I had to speak with others about it. I wanted to settle on principles that keep artistic praxis and creative travel at the centre."
Unsurprisingly for someone who throws around the word "praxis," Peryman's day job is in the field of academia. But the thing that surprised me most when listening to his tracks over the course of the past month or so is how visceral they remain over time. I still get confused and excited every time I put on "Duckdive," where melody comes in the form of what sounds like an exceptionally close-miked hit from a water bong and the rhythm most definitely seems to be grid-resistant.
Geoff Presha has said that FIS sounds a bit like a mix between Burial and Actress. While I get his point, I'd also bring up another name in the conversation as well. To my mind, FIS most resembles someone like Shackleton. A producer that has suddenly appeared, rather fully-formed, doing something completely individual. He may not "break through," but sounding like absolutely no one else is probably enough.