Complimentary States: Daniel Avery On His Surprise New Album 'Love + Light'
Everything Daniel Avery has ever accomplished has been considered, methodical, and thought-through.
The mercurial producer has displayed an exactness of touch, something that ranges from his debut album 'Drone Logic' through to 2018's 2018's 'Song For Alpha', an album that took some five years to complete.
Now, though, he's moving with alacrity. Collaborating with Alessandro Cortini on the critically acclaimed 'Illusion Of Time' LP earlier this year, the project seemed to unlock something within this London based artist.
Returning to his studio just as lockdown commenced, Daniel Avery decided to simply keep working, turning his initial club-leaning sketches into something much more detailed and nuanced.
Surprise album 'Love + Light' is the end product. Out now, it opens with glacial, almost ambient tones, before passing through heady techno chuggers, neo-industrial noises, and rather more meditative textures.
It's a wonderful record, one graced with his innate thoughtfulness, while also pouring his creativity into refreshing, and distinctly different directions.
Earlier this week Clash spoke to Daniel Avery as he relaxed in a London park, enjoying the heatwave and looking back on the steps that took him to 'Love + Light'.
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It’s a surprise release – is this a gift to fans, then?
This album actually came together really quickly. During this time when the world stopped, I was able to sit down with a load of music I’d been making… over the past few years, really. I was able to sit down and start putting things into some sort of order.
It happened so quickly and naturally that these tracks sit together – and I mean that in the most positive sense – so therefore I didn’t feel like it was apt for me to make any big a deal out of it than: here are some things that came together in front of my eyes! I wanted to keep that energy going, I didn’t want to drag it out into a six month campaign, I’d rather just bring something together at a time when I need it, and then share that energy as quickly as I can.
It’s literally been a matter of weeks since it all got signed off. I found it to be really exciting. It was exciting to watch it all come together, and it’s exciting to put it out.
‘Drone Logic’ for example, took a number of years to complete – what was it about making this album that allowed you to work with that velocity?
I think probably several things. The thing that comes immediately to my mind is making ‘Illusion Of Time’ with Alessandro Cortini. The making of that, the process of that, taught me so much about the studio process, and in an even wider sense it taught me about the idea of putting a line under things. Music can have a life of its own if you just let it. You shouldn’t labour over stuff.
Cortini is a big believer in the first take, and imperfections being part of a piece of music, and it got to a point where it completely changed my perception on all of that stuff and it allowed me to really just take a bit of a breath and just finish stuff a lot quicker, and to be happy with how things were when they were finished.
And then of course it was a two-pronged attack, really, because the album came out and then the world seemed to stop spinning at such a rate, and at the same time it was a reminder to me that if you remove clubs for a second, if you remove DJing, if you remove travelling, then really the constant here is being able to make and release music.
That’s been such a beautiful, positive force for me. Not having to worry about it, not having to worry about when you’re going to find time to finish something, or how something might relate to your travels. Putting all your focus on to the music itself, and allowing that energy to come through, and being comfortable with that. It’s been such an amazing feeling, it really has – I feel nothing but positive energy towards the way this album has come together.
And the title is a direct comment on that, presumably?
The title came about – and this is a real story! - in a dream. When all this stuff first started happening and everyone was so uncertain as to what their future would look like, a character came up to me in my dream – and I didn’t recognise him – and all he said to me was: “Just remember… love and light.”
I woke up with a sense of this guy having a point. Really, if you take those words, they will always be a constant, and those are the things that will get you through – for me, music is a combination of those things.
Dreams crop up on the record – the track ‘Dream Distortion’ for example. Has the role and possibilities of the sub-conscious become an increasingly influence on your methodologies?
I do feel that. Hugely. It’s something that I’ve always been interested in, but particularly the past year, it’s really become more important in my life, the idea of taking more notice of those thoughts that come about when you’re not paying attention. Or even the idea of meditation itself, which has become important to me in the past year or so.
I actually feel that this album as a whole is my most dream-like in itself, and also it’s something of a love letter and that world and those thoughts, for sure.
‘London Island’ and ‘Story In E5’ are both located in the capital – is that something that has come from being locked down in specific localities?
I think that’s a big part of it. I haven’t thought about that side of things too much, but it’s interesting. Those two are very London-centric. I guess I can say this: being trapped inside a small area is definitely part of it. But also trying to find some pride in where we are right now. It’s been a difficult few years.
Even thinking about being British, and our relationship to the world, and to the EU, and all the fucking bullshit that’s happened over the past few years. This jingo-ism, this nationalism that seems to be coming out at the moment, that can make one feel pretty despondent when you become surrounded by it, and to think: I don’t know how many of these people I would ever want to talk to! Some of the aggression that has come out of people is incredible.
But for me, I still absolutely love London, and it’s saved me a million times, but I guess if anything those are just attempts to channel the pride I have in the city, and this country, that has disappeared at other times in my life.
It’s an intriguing record to analysise – there’s this term ‘building by architecture’ in music, in which clubs, festivals, and physical spaces impact on the way you make music. But this time round there is no architecture…
It’s been extremely liberating! I feel as if I was heading in that direction anyway – slowly – but this scenario at the moment has definitely sped that up. I look by at the time I was making my last album, and that was a really long process – it took five years to make it.
And ultimately that album was me trying to find my place in between two opposing worlds. The constant noise of the road, and then the quiet away from it; me trying to work out what music I wanted to create, moving between those worlds. But this ‘Love + Life’ album, with everything stopping, has allowed me to realise that such a place doesn’t exist in definitive terms, but finding a peace with that knowledge.
Clubs will return and festivals will return, and that’s a big part of who I am, but ultimately everything is in such flux all the time. Things are changing constantly. And a big realisation being over recent months that we have very little control over what comes at us. Yet the one constant for me is that I can go to a studio and make music that is honest and is exactly how I’m feeling that day… and that won’t ever change. In terms of being able to make exactly what I want right here and right now… that struck me a lot, recently.
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There’s a meditative sense on the album, but a lot of the rhythmic engines you choose to work with are particularly heavy. Have you found a way to combine those two elements?
I think so. Personally, I don’t really consider there to be too much difference between a beautiful, quiet, ambient piece, and a heads down, hypnotic, more rhythmic piece, in terms of how they can make you feel. For me, at least, that’s the world I’m always aiming for, a place where those two things can co-exist perfectly, and their doesn’t have to be much difference between the two.
Again, this idea of music having that psychedelic quality to it is something I return to time and time again, and it’s not something that I’ve tried to balance, I like them to co-exist. And that’s why I wanted the two halves of this record to exist as one album, because I love the idea that they can both conjure up similar emotions, ultimately. Even if one would give you a nosebleed, and the other one wouldn’t… I’d like them to co-exist.
‘Fuzzwar’ is named in honour of a shoegaze guitar pedal – do you use things like that in your kit?
I do. My studio has things like guitar pedals, different amps, and lots of effects from that world, it’s always been important to me. Again, I think they form a large part of my sound.
That pedal was actually given to me by a good friend for my birthday, and it’s one of those things where I took it into the studio and the track came out of it almost instantly. One of those perfect moments in the studio. That side of things has always been important to me in the studio.
I feel as if recently, with ‘Illusion Of Time’ and this album, I’ve reached the stage where I don’t think about the influences as much. But then when I take a step back and took at this, those are the best representations of everything that’s ever happened to me. Every side I’ve ever heard, ever record I’ve ever owned… it’s almost a case of relaxing into who I am.
For me, this current album is the most honest representation of where I am. A track like ‘Infinite Future’… I couldn’t really tell you how it was made, I couldn’t begin to describe where it came from, but I think listening back to it recently, it best describes who I am, where I’ve come from, a whole list of influences… and what’s interesting to me if that I didn’t have that thought process when making it. In many ways I feel extremely proud of this album, and in large part that’s because it’s formed naturally and somewhat on its own.
Seemingly you initially set out to make a more club-focussed EP…
At one point, yeah. I’d been working on all sorts of music for a while, but at one stage I thought about doing a club record for the summer, and then of course summer came to look very different! But I take that really as a huge blessing because this album came out of that. I realised that I had so much more surrounding a few club tracks, that deserved to be an album. And I really mean that. The collection of tracks that came out deserved to be an album, proper. And I’m so glad it happened this way.
Do you feel like the album scratches that club itch? Or is there a white label on your hard drive somewhere…?
I mean, a bit of both. It’s interesting. I don’t really know why this is the case, I don’t have an answer for this, but I have noticed that for me, it takes more effort to go in and finish a club track these days. I really have to lock myself away in order to do that these days. The other stuff seems to come first.
I can quite often get distracted when making a club track, and turn it into a sprawling psychedelic piece, removing the drums and making it into something else. I don’t know what that says about my relationship to club music, exactly, it might just simply be a case of me having been in that club world for quite a long time now, and it’s not a case of getting bored with it, but it’s more a case of… as time goes by I become more and more connected to the idea that the thing I want to be remembered for is albums that represent the entirety of me. And that’s definitely more than club music.
I love club music, don’t get me wrong – I still adore DJing, I love that connection you have in a club. But for me, the thing I love more than anything about music is an album. And that’s how I want to go out, really. If I can continue to make albums that’s fine – it’s all I want to do. Club tracks are part of the broader picture.
It seem as though you’re on a creative roll just now, and we won’t be fully out of lockdown for some time – will 2020 bring another Daniel Avery album?
Well! I’m definitely working on something new. I feel as if right now I’m in the most relaxed state when it comes to making music. It’s easily been the most productive time I’ve ever had for making music in my whole life. I feel as if things are flowing, I feel as if the energy is positive, and I’m not going to stop any time soon.
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'Love + Light' is out now.
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