Wild selections from one of Bristol's finest.
Less than five years ago, Larry McCarthy, AKA Bruce, had a goal to release music with the best UK dance music labels. He achieved that rather quickly, and in spectacular fashion. His first two EPs, Just Getting Started / Tilikum for Livity Sound and Not Stochastic on Hessle Audio, announced an artist with a clear sonic signature. This was meaty, banging dance music shot through with an unpredictable playfulness, doling out crowd-pleasing payoffs and moments of confusion in equal measure. McCarthy's background in electro-acoustic sound design allows him to pull the rug out from under the listener, but he always has the tact to drop them safely back on their feet. This push and pull has made for some of the most thrilling tracks in recent memory.
For all his mastery of dance floor pyrotechnics, McCarthy quickly displayed a degree of emotional nuance indicating a future beyond the club. Sensitivity and a deft touch course through 12-inches like The Trouble With Wilderness and Before You Sleep / In Line / Sweat, a strain that recently came to fruition on his debut LP, Sonder Somatic. RA.651 displays a similar balance of light and shadow, placing mind-melters from old hands like T++ and Christoph De Babalon amidst a strong cast of Bristolian contemporaries, from Ossia to Batu to the man himself.
What have you been up to recently?
I've moved house within Bristol, which has been the perfect transition for bringing my album out of the old bedroom it was made in and into the world. I've had a few gigs here and there, started making my own sourdough (which could be going better), picked up skating again and generally enjoying the autumnal crush of these lovely months of the year.
How and where did you record the mix?
In my (aforementioned, new) bedroom a couple weeks back on Technics, Xone:42 and Serato. After prepping it for some time, I ended up nailing it on the second full take I did, which was a welcome novelty. I'm real glad I followed a friend's advice to do it in the morning as I woke up after a big night. With your mind a bit hazy I found it much easier to lock in without stressing about the details.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I felt it could serve as a nice counterpart to Sonder Somatic: amongst a fair bit of new material from myself and close peers, I wanted the selection to share a similar dynamic range and sonic qualities of the album whilst drawing upon various, similar influences and styles. There's slightly less diversity than my normal mixes but that is to intentionally mirror the more streamlined approach my album has in contrast to previous releases. This gave me the chance to recreate and play with the album's themes of space and rhythm. But most of all, it's the sort of set I'd like to see myself pulling off deep in the dance, when everyone''s locked in and the vibe has truly taken a hold.
Talk us through the timeline of creating Sonder Somatic. Did you set out with a specific goal in mind or did the final shape of the record appear to you as you were working?
Kind of both. The brief I started with was little more than stylistic ideas. But due to my slow process of working in short bursts over time and requiring "life" to provide my creative influences, it was within these spaces in-between writing that I found my motives. Following in Hessle Audio's tradition, I spent a great deal of time finding ways to reduce the sounds and themes within the lineage of UK rave culture and the hardcore continuum into a streamlined, cleaner and current aesthetic. Writing this way not only came to be a self-manifesting process as a means of coming up with varied and compatible ideas, but also meant that the bigger questions like "what was the sum of the tracks as a whole; what did it mean; what did they bring to the big-dance-music-table," kind of answered themselves. Also, through streamlining the themes and tropes of dance music we collectively know and love, a hard-to-place anonymity started forming, which slowly became my end goal. I realised that it all came down to producing an LP that had moments and themes that reflect the reasons as to why we enjoy and repeatedly indulge in dance music culture like we do, in and out of the club.
How has the scope of your DJing expanded since the release of your first EP?
Whoa, that feels like a long time ago! I guess I'm not getting myself drunk before playing anymore. I've also got to the point where I'm hardly planning my sets at all, both of which come down to a gain in confidence. Alongside that, I think I've finally come around to the idea that DJing can ultimately be an artistic practise in which, for me, focused spontaneity is key. In that respect, I've come to find ways of performing with the same dynamics as my production, which helps my fondness for simplicity and clarity go hand in hand with my love of big drama. I feel like maybe my inconsistent technical ability has a tendency to let me down with this occasionally, especially when I'm prone to being a bit over-ambitious with selection and tempo changes and the sort. But I understand now that it's all down to maintaining discipline and mindfulness (two things that don't come naturally to me) and everything will be ok!
What are you up to next?
I've got a few remixes on the go and a couple other slightly different projects in the midst. But on the whole, I'm playing gigs, taking a short vacation to see my mate in the south of Spain and generally bracing myself before winter comes.