The Oakland artist mixes a masterful house and techno session.
People who bemoan a lack of experimentation in house and techno would be wise to seek out AYBEE and his Deepblak Recordings label. For the past 15 years, the Oakland native has been making and releasing house that gently but powerfully bends the rules. "Experimentation is our core if you listen to us at Deepblak," Armon Bazile told Innate last year. "We are always searching, pushing, that's the only constant." Even Bazile's straightest tracks are bursting with free-spirited energy. On his recent album, The Odyssey, dance floor cuts like "Push Pull" and "Asteroid Lust" bubbled with irregular rhythms; on tracks like "Ark" and "Build Them" he completely went off the deep end. Bazile tends to push things furthest when he's working with Eric Douglas Porter, AKA Afrikan Sciences. He's described their working relationship as sonic rebellion, and on records like the Miles Davis-inspired Sketches Of Space, you can completely see what he means, the pair essentially plugging in their machines and running wild.
This isn't to say that Bazile is unsympathetic to the needs of a dance floor. He's a regular at clubs like Berghain and Tresor in Berlin (where he's now based), and he pushes a lush but gritty sound that sits somewhere in the same ballpark as Fred P and DJ Qu. RA.550 is a calling card for both Bazile the DJ and Bazile the label boss, the mix flawlessly illustrating the distinct sonic world he's built for himself.
What have you been up to recently?
I have been working on new music, settling into the winter work load. I use the winter to really get into some things, as there are no distractions of great weather outside. Experimenting with new tools, tinkering. Getting the label's releases lined up for the spring. A general honing of my craft.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded at IPSE in Berlin. Much respect to Damian for letting me use their space. Standard setup: two turntables, two CDJs, a Pioneer mixer and a Kaoss KP3+.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
The idea behind the mix was a greeting. I often find myself replying to the question, "And you are?" So I tried to think of what would I say sonically to someone who has no idea of where I come from. So I'd like to think of it as a "hello." I also wanted to shoot some energy to the tribes of Standing Rock for making America great again.
How was your 2016 on a personal level?
Classic bitter with the sweet. I really got pulled in a lot of directions this year. Earth was working real hard to teach. I mean, 2016 was a beast on a lot of us emotionally and creatively. This summer my friend, and fellow artist on Deepblak, Derrick Curtis, AKA DFLN (Dreams From Last Night), died suddenly. This really, really knocked me down. Derrick was in my eyes the label's "baby." He was a summation. He was our little source of inspiration. Though he was a new artist to many, he had been making waves in the beat-scene for a minute. I was so hyped to bring his music to a wider audience. Afrikan Sciences and myself routinely just shook our heads at DFLN's capabilities. He was pointing the direction. To us he was a rocket on the launch pad. So when he made his untimely transition it really, really sent me drifting a bit. I definitely spent many a night looking up at the stars smh.
What pulled me back was getting married in September. My wife is, and has been, utterly incredible. Nothing short of a titan. That's a high you never come down from. That keeps it all in perspective. So between gain and loss, just keeping the balance and keeping the creativity fluid has been the mission in 2016.
At some point you just want to get out of this year unscathed. I really have been sick thinking about the folks who lost their lives in my hometown last week in the fire. Oakland in the last decade has really been coming into its own in terms of building its scene for this music. I have been there where those folks were. Getting down in people's garages, basements, anywhere you could get five or ten people to listen to you outside of your bedroom. The joy you would get bringing your records, or plugging in your gear. All just for the opportunity to get down sometimes for ten of your friends. Pure love. Hauling soundsystems in places you know you have no business, just trying to get down. Been there. Sometimes just to have your boy look at you, and give you that shrug/smile while handing you 20 dollars at the end of the night.
That's "the town" though. Folks in Oakland are going to try to make it happen in spite of. That's what "the town" teaches you. Nobody is going to give you "nuthan," it's on you to make it happen. So for those folks to perish like that, it hurts. People were lost trying to put some vibes in air. It's tough. I am inspired though by the love folks have shown my city from around the world, and the positive measures that seem to be getting put in place in the aftermath.
Tell us about a few of your favorites records from this year.
Tommaso Cappellato - Aforemention (Mashi Beats)
I was put up on this record by my dude Afrikan Sciences. One of the coldest albums I have heard all year. Released on Mark De Clive-Lowe's Mashibeats, an LA-based label. Drummer Tommaso Cappellato has laid down a brilliant blend of jazz fusion with techno aesthetics. Heads of the future will be hunting this record down in years to come.
Damon Bell - Altered Visions EP (Meda Fury)
Full disclosure: Damon Bell is my Deepblak label-mate. He put out three stellar EPs in 2016. One on Don't Be Afraid and another on Burek. The latest one is the Altered Visions EP on Meda Fury, and it's some of his finest work to date. He's the last remaining Deepblak crew member based in Oakland, and has definitely been holding it down with his mix of Afrikan- and jazz-based rhythms fused with dance floor sentiment. I always admire Damon's sampling capacity, and the way he flips things on "Akebu-Lan" makes me smile every time I get in the middle of the track. Great movement and energy.
Thundercat - The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam (Brainfeeder)
You give me this dude's album, a Trinidad Colonial and some B13 and I'll sit on a couch in a hurricane.
What are you up to next?
Just prepping for the last gigs of the year, working on my left piano hand and remembering to leave the toilet seat down.