object blue & TSVI's body music will hit you in the gut
Ahead of their debut collaborative release, we host a conversation between two producers at the forefront of London's experimental club scene
Listening to object blue and TSVI’s music transports you to the pit of a swirling dancefloor, at the moment when a mixture of shock and exhilaration forms in the throat and escapes in a yelp of joy. While most clubs around the world are closed, their debut collaborative release 'Hyperaesthesia’ arrives as a blessed reminder of that chaotic bliss.
In her solo work, object blue tends to push towards delirium with unpredictable patterns running free, whereas TSVI favours a more structured approach to arranging his dynamic rhythms. On the EP, the two London-based producers combine their experimental inclinations to form an intense sound they describe as ‘body music’. That’s reflected by the title, a medical term referring to an increased sensitivity to physical stimulation; and ‘ever-present conversations about machines and sentience’ is another inspiration.
The pair first connected when TSVI read a Facebook thread asking 'Who's your favourite DJs at the moment?' and spotted object blue answer 'TSVI and Loraine James'. All three artists come together on this record, with Loraine James turning in a pulsating remix of ‘Thought Experiment’.
Ahead of the release on Nervous Horizon, we talked to object blue and TSVI about the future of humans versus machines, the impact of the pandemic on musicians, disliking Berlin, and how their styles merged to form turbo-charged club music that can give you disorientated dancefloor feelings at home. Alongside that, we’ve got a premiere ‘Turing Machine’ from the EP. Listen and read below.
This is a first collaborative release for object blue, and one of many for TSVI. How did you find the process of working together?
TSVI: We started by sending each other stems back and forth, but then we decided it would be easier to just meet up. I hadn't really experimented with Ableton Link before, but I knew about this possibility. I thought it could be a more immediate and in the moment way to collaborate, rather than solo work coming together.
object blue: Sending stems back and forth without sitting down together did not work out. Firstly, I was really slow — I'm not like TSVI, I don't write that fast so I always feel guilty for holding onto the stems for six days and adding like two beats, for him to then send it back much more fleshed out two days later. Our first demo was a decent tune, but neither of us were really in love with it. When we sat down and made something together, it was so fun and super effortless.
It was my first time writing successfully with somebody. So after that we just decided to meet when working on music. TSVI did a lot of the arrangements, organising the sections. We ended up with six tracks to choose from for the EP.
TSVI: I think we chose the strongest ones. It was cool to work face to face, because with object blue's music, what really impresses me is this kind of chaotic energy and then everything makes sense at the end of the track. There are lots of ideas that come from a more immediate and experimental place than my music making process.
I've always collaborated with people through stems so this was a first for me doing it as an Ableton Link jam. It was liberating in a way; the ideas came really spontaneously. We both have this kind of ego where you get discouraged with ideas and don’t want to pursue them. But we were both really mellow and easygoing with the process.
object blue: What you said about my process being more chaotic, I completely agree. TSVI tends to know how he wants something to sound and goes and makes it. And I always think I do that, but then two steps later I'm doing something completely different, because this unexpected artifact that an effect made takes my attention.
This is part of the reason why I don't write that fast, because I digress all the time in my process. But when you have Ableton Link on, you can't just fiddle with one sub for ages because the track is running. It meant I didn’t obsess over sounds that much and just kept making more and more of the track. That's partly why we would finish two demos each time we met, and why it was so effortless. It wasn't this painstaking chipping away at a massive rock trying to make a sculpture, it was running without stopping.
TSVI: On my own I spend ages on a sound, and weeks refining the idea of a track. When you're collaborating and linked, it's kind of jamming. You don't have the paranoid thoughts you have when you're by yourself, you just go with the flow.
object blue: Yeah, I was in a writer's block - I still kind of am.
TSVI: Me too!
object blue: I went into a writer's block last November. It's not that I can't make things, it's just that I wake up the next day and don't like it that much anymore. The writing sessions with TSVI was the exception; I didn't have time to dislike things. Even when I wasn't satisfied with a section, I'd ask him to do something to it and he'd make it great. Working with TSVI has been like a treatment.
TSVI: Hopefully there is going to be more.
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How do you think your styles worked together? What did you both like about what the other brought to the mix?
object blue: I love how TSVI's music is really rhythmically rich. His percussion is never sparse, it's really energetic, there's a lot of syncopation going on. I always really like percussion so when I heard TSVI's music, I was like: thank God it's not just a predictable pattern on a drum machine.
TSVI: I think there was a nice middle point between my precise drum programming, and this kind of object blue craziness. I love the unpredictability of her music.
object blue: I like tracks that feel unstable at times. If I can feel my tracks becoming too grounded I need to pull the rug from under it. I need a sound to come in just once in a track and then never return again. TSVI knows this, because I'll say: 'Can I put a bird call in here?'.
TSVI: And it fits. But I'm not like this; I'm very schematic. When a sound comes in it has to be present inside the track multiple times. blue brought this wildness that I love; hopefully that shows in the tracks. Plus there's the Loraine James remix which is crazy. She sent me back the remix in a couple of hours; she writes super quick. I was like: fuck, you made this madness in two hours! I take three weeks to write a loop.
The EP is titled ‘Hyperaesthesia’ and the release notes mention it’s inspired by ‘ever-present conversations about machines and sentience’. How do these tie into the project?
TSVI: We wanted to represent this kind of 'body music', which is very visceral and intense.
object blue: I would rather people feel my music than think about some meaning I was trying to convey. I'm not really trying to convey anything, I'm more trying to elicit a response or lead them to a sensation.
The 'Thought Experiment' title came from us thinking the track sounds like a machine waking up, and then we kept having this idea of this machine becoming sentient, the cogs turning, and then it gets fleshed out. The second one 'Turing Machine' is basically the same, but a bit more chaotic and energetic. I thought it would be funny to imagine this chaotic track trying to pass The Turing Test, because there's a lot of organic parts in the mix. Also Alan Turing is a gay icon so I wanted to put him in there as well.
TSVI: I think all the tracks are related to each other and we wanted to keep this picture of intense body music and machinery. Even if they are completely different sound palettes and rhythms, they fit together because they give this image of chaotic madness.
object blue: I always think about the sentience of machines. I think it's been a topic that's been present in dance music for a while. I really like Holly Herndon’s 'Platform' and what she says about machines versus people. And people are always worried about algorithms and how they might take away our cultural practice of DJing.
We both also really like myths and folklore, and one of the first images we got was also a dog waking up, like Cerberus [the three-headed hound of Hades]. We managed to reach a midpoint between our fascination between machines and myths by combining it into a modern technology based myth: if Cerberus was a robot.
What are your predictions for machine sentience: are we thinking cuddly WALL-E planet savers or bloodthirsty Terminator apocalypse bringers?
object blue: I am not the person to ask about machine sentience, it's too complicated. But, I will say one thing: I really don't believe art can be replaced by machines. It surprises me that people worry about that. My personal measure of whether art is good for me is whether it moves me or not. I really don't believe a machine can make art that would move me completely on its own. I'm more interested in how humans can use machines and technology to make really moving art.
TSVI: I agree, definitely. In relation to the EP, even if we use stuff controlled by a machine like patches and a randomizer, you can still feel the human touch in this music.
object blue: Even if we use generative music software, it's still mine and TSVI's taste - our music personalities, our own cravings - that determine the parameters and how it sounds. It's still very human; so I'm not really concerned about the robot dog anytime soon.
How would you define ’body music’?
TSVI: The first time object blue played the EP was at XOYO and when she played the tracks I felt this incredible energy — even if the people didn't understand what was going on. I felt something in my stomach, like, wow, this is crazy. I don't know if this was your feeling as well?
object blue: Oh yeah, it was 20-year-olds in XOYO throwing gun fingers right in my face; I felt that. I love the breakdowns in both those tracks. A lot of TSVI tracks are my club savers. If my DJ set isn't going that great I'll just play 'Hossam' and everything is ok again, so I'm not surprised the same thing happened.
How does it feel to be releasing turbo-charged club music when there’s no clubs open?
TSVI: At first I was a little bit sceptical. These tracks were meant to come out in July, but we decided to push it back a little bit in the hope of things getting better, but obviously it didn't happen. As it's such intense music I feel very emotionally connected to these tracks; I hope people will be emotionally connected as well, even if there's no club to play the music out to.
object blue: I listen to club music at home, so I'm happy to do that. It's also just nice to be able to give people something to be excited about in this time.
TSVI: Also with Nervous Horizon, the last release was in November with the compilation. We didn't follow up properly after that, so this is the next big statement: even if there is a pandemic, we're still here, we're still putting out good music.
object blue: Yeah, I love that. We thought people would play this in festivals all summer. We were like, 'Turing Machine' is a fucking festival grenade! And it didn't happen and that sucks, but I still really enjoy listening to those tracks at home and I'm sure other people will.
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You’re still managing to hit career milestones this year: blue with your Essential Mix, TSVI adopting your Anunaku alias for releases on 3024 and AD93. How are you feeling about being in music in general? Are you just kind of hoping for the best, or has pandemic significantly affected how you view your work and future plans?
object blue: It might look like I'm being productive, but the things I'm doing now came to me before the pandemic hit. I think by next year I will have run out. We managed to make this EP before lockdown. And I was approached for the Essential Mix back in January when I was fully thinking that I would still be DJing every week. It was really hard for me to record a mix and feel comfortable with it because I hadn't touched CDJs in five months. I went to Pirate Studios to rent CDJs and I was horrible: I couldn't mix, I forgot how long tracks were, I felt like a fish out of water. I was really devastated because DJing is one of my favourite things to do.
Money is hard. Actually something that really changed my life was when Apple decided to use a photo of me in their campaign, this selfie I took about a year ago that they scooped up and paid me money for. That's keeping me going, but I was really on the verge of moving to the countryside or something, because I couldn't justify living in London and paying the rent while reaping none of the benefits of living in a city.
I really am concerned for everyone in the industry. I bet so many people are not going to return to the music industry, because they can't survive like this. Of course I want to get back into doing music full-time - it's my life's work and what I'm good at - but at the same time I really can't think of the industry in the same way anymore. It's sad. I feel like that entire world is going to live with a massive trauma and damage after this, and I will not forget that. I won't be able to stop thinking about that when I eventually — if I eventually get to play again.
Before I went full-time into music I wanted to be an occupational therapist or music therapist. I couldn't afford the tuition so I was going to work for a few years to save up, and then I somehow landed my dream job so started doing that instead. But I am thinking about getting a certificate in something practical that people need. I would love to be able to contribute to people's health, especially after this pandemic.
TSVI: For me, all the releases I had during the pandemic were made and planned last year, so luckily I've been covered through 2020. I haven't been able to write that much club stuff because every time I open Ableton I think: what's the point if I don't have space to play this type of music.
I'm warming to the idea of starting to produce for singer/songwriters or co-producing for other artists. I think this is the direction I want to go, because playing out is not an option right now. I don't think it will be even throughout 2021; it's better to not be optimistic.
I was lucky enough to receive some grants from the Arts Council and I got back my part-time job as a barista, so money's not an issue for now. Creativity wise it's a very bad time. There's music that will come out later in the year that I made last year. I did finish some new stuff but it's not club music. We'll see; it's kind of a weird time for everybody.
You both emigrated to London. What brought you here, and how do you think the music scene has changed over time?
object blue: I moved to London for Uni so I've been living here since 2011. It was just a no-brainer for me to stay in London because of the music and people I met. I couldn't go back to Tokyo and make a living as a musician, there's just not enough money to go around in dance music in Japan. I knew I would have to be here. Everyone moves to Berlin; I hate Berlin, I would never live there over my dead body.
TSVI: I also don't really like it at all. I find London more beautiful and relaxed in the winter. I've always been in Berlin in the winter, and the atmosphere and grey buildings makes me anxious - I'm sure in the summer it's nicer.
object blue: In summer it's full of wasps! The wasp problem is serious there.
I don't like Berlin because it's not that multiracial. I really feel I'm a racial minority when I'm there. I obviously know I'm a minority here in London but I don't get ‘Ni hao’ yelled at me as often as I would in Berlin. I get harassed at least once a day there. I've just never had a good experience and can never relax. I go to Berghain and I'm like, yeah you know what Berlin is alright, if I can go to Berghain every day I'll be fine—and then I'll get groped, in a fucking gay club. It's so sad, because everyone sold Berlin to me; I was so sure I was going to move there one day. Then the first time I went in 2014 for Berlin Atonal is when I'd decided to try my hand at production and I really wanted to sew myself into this world, so I bought a ticket and went and was really disillusioned by the city. I always still say: you have to pay me to go to Berlin. And I am now not being paid to go to Berlin so I'm not there.
TSVI: The music scene in London has definitely changed in my time here. When we started Nervous Horizon in 2015 I think there was a more defined scene, around this Night Slugs and Hyperdub kind of new club sound. Everything was more linked together in terms of the style. Right now I don't think there's a defined scene or genre, everybody is doing their own thing. I don’t think London is having an effect at creating new genres now, the attention is somewhere else. But it's still good, there's lots of like-minded people, there's still a community; I wouldn't live anywhere else right now.
object blue: When I first started producing in 2014, what really helped me was the fact there were loads of tiny nights thrown by friends in basements for people who are still in Uni but into weird music. They would rent out a tiny dirty venue and I felt such exciting things there. CDR was where I met a lot of people I worked with. I went to Corsica a lot - maybe every week. But what I've seen that concerns me in the five years that I've been doing music here is that, there's like a new big festival every year. It concerns me because they have exclusivity clauses that forbid clubs and small promoters from being able to book artists.
I'm not saying festivals shouldn't exist, I know it's really important for a lot of people and I have had great times at festivals. It just concerns me that it's hugely polarised. Now I feel that unless they're dedicated music fans, a lot of people will get their fix by going to a major event for 10 hours on one Saturday rather than going to a club every other week. I really wish there was some way we could meet in the middle. Instead of stealing line-ups from smaller promoters, why can't big festivals just give smaller promoters a stage or financial backing to curate something? And how come if I talk about this on Twitter I get threatening emails from people who run these festivals who are extremely butthurt that they haven't been criticised in their entire 37-year-old lives?
TSVI: Since I started going out in London six years ago there are less and less club nights put on by just music lovers, and more and more huge festival type events. One reason for that is there are not as many DIY spaces as there used to be in London, so I get that a young promoter cannot make a decent party without making a possible loss. This is bad because promoters don't take as many risks anymore in booking experimental acts as they used to.
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What are your hopes for the music scene coming out the other side of the pandemic?
object blue: I would love to see local talent shine more. There was always a discussion about: why are we paying so much money to international stars? Obviously I love being able to travel and play all over the world but with air travel becoming more expensive and more risky in terms of being medically unsafe, I'd like to see a return to local talent getting pushed more. Currently a scene almost seems to be validated by how many international talents you can bring over, and that's not healthy. There's so many young local talents everywhere, and I want those people to be prioritised more in bookings. It would be cheaper for promoters, and better for the artists and the planet. At the same time I know promoters can't take risks after this, they’re already bleeding money.
TSVI: I think that could be the case in other parts of the world, but in London you have so much talent that you can still book relevant acts and experiment with minimal risk. I can understand in Italy - where I’m from - for example, they have to book the international act in order to make money. But I think in London there is enough talent that you can pick a strong line-up based on people living in the city.
What would be your dream scenario for a hypothetical first party back with a COVID vaccine in place?
TSVI: Back-to-back all night long with object blue [laughs]
object blue: Yeah we should fucking do that!
object blue & TSVI 'Hyperaesthesia' is out September 25 via Nervous Horizon, pre-order it here
Patrick Hinton is Mixmag's Digital Features Editor, follow him on Twitter
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