It’s been a little over a month since Rommek’s Arcane EP came out on Blueprint, and it is pleasant to see how well it’s standing the test of time. In a day and age when so much music seems to become obsolete days after its release (and sometimes before it even hits the shelves…), Arcane definitely feels like a record that won’t be forgotten.
I caught up with Rommek following his gig at IPSE in Berlin with the Disconnekt crew to learn more about the beats and thoughts that went into making such a fantastic release.
The first thing that comes to mind when listening to Arcane EP is how much feeling there is to it. It is hollow, rich in echoes and strange sounds that come together to compose a memorable soundtrack for a beautiful, spiritual apocalypse.
“The processes involved in making this release are symbolic to me and different compared with my previous works. The title track 'Arcane' and 'Doldrums' primarily consists of processed violin recordings, that Aimee Mullen created for me. These have been manipulated and contorted to create ominous and brooding atmospheres. There were pretty much no synthesisers involved in the making of these two tracks, as alone the violin was a super rich resource.”
The name of the EP wasn’t chosen randomly; rather, it clearly suggests the mood of the music in it: mysterious with a hint of hopeful doom to it, as paradoxical as that might sound. All four tracks in Arcane build deep, dark atmospheres with a distinct warehouse mood.
“I’m passionately into working with field recordings, as I believe they give you a unique tone to your sound. They are sonic artefacts that create some sort of embedded narrative and history into your work. For example, I spent 2 days with a blacksmith called Spencer Field Larcombe in his foundry in Devon, recording him undergoing work. This gave me a rich catalogue of quality recordings that I’ve used in pretty much every track I’ve made since... I use them for most of my percussion & hi-hats, as well as ambience across this EP.”
This is Rommek’s second release on James Ruskin’s label, and a substantially different output to the previous Moth Hole (BP043) released just a year ago. Bolder, grittier, more poised, Arcane sounds indisputably like Rommek to anyone who’s seen him DJ.
“Blueprint has been a staple influence for me since I first started becoming engrossed with electronic music and particularly techno. I always admired the dynamics of the label, crossing over into other electronic styles, as well as having a solid, well-rooted sound. It has had a big impact on the whole techno scene as well as my own, so it has always been a dream to work with them.”
Free from the rigid 4x4 structure, the London-based DJ and producer explores alternative beat patterns in Arcane, making it a unique take on techno. I ask him if this is something that comes naturally, or if he consciously seeks to make the music he feels is missing when DJing, or even on the dance floor…
“This happens naturally, as I don't usually intend the make music for a purpose, it just ends up finding one depending on what mood I'm in at the time. It comes in waves though, as recently most of the work I have released has had a broken beat. I like to try challenging myself, and yes it’s useful to have new stuff to play during my sets that is less conventional I guess.”
And is there is a favourite between the tracks that comprise the EP?
“I don't usually have favourites as each track suits a certain purpose or time. However, 'Arcane' itself is the one I have played most during my sets. Plus, it’s special because it’s the first track that I decided to use violin recordings for, and also the first that has had a video created for it. This was done by a friend Gerasimos Lorandos, and I was super happy with the outcome.”
We are back discussing collaborations on this record, and throughout his career. Namely the partnership with James Ruskin which seems to be a solid one. How important has it been to Rommek in establishing himself as an artist, especially one with such an unconventional trademark sound?
“James Ruskin is a down to earth guy, who has been very welcoming to me. He has encouraged and continues to support my own explorations. Blueprint is like a family, and he likes to build up relationships instead of simply being handed over some tracks to release. I’m proud to be based in London, and it helps that I live fairly close to Ruskin, enabling us to meet from time to time for pints in North London...”
Far beyond just techno, Rommek is a proud pupil of the London underground scene with its broad sonic spectrum. On Arcane, the mash-up of influences is clear: it is “the combination of the energetic, gritty UK sound coalesced with deep and transcendental aspects”, as put by the label itself.
“I’m inspired by a lot of different types of sound, and was brought up with a wide range that goes beyond what has direct influence on my own productions. I enjoy music that challenges something through its ideas or just by how it sounds, whether it’s ambient soundscapes, post-punk, IDM, dub, industrial or experimental noise.”
Two of the most impressive tracks in the EP, ‘Arcane’ and ‘Doldrums’, were distilled from classical violinist Aimee Mullen’s strings…
“Aimee used to play Violin in a different act called 'Scald'. After going to see her play one gig in Tottenham, I got to know her better....a lot better... Since then we have been in a relationship. After the Scald project came to a halt, I wanted her to keep on creating music so asked if I could record some strings, and so on from there. Now we are working on our own project together and have a few tracks done, which I’m excited about. So hopefully these will surface some time soon.”
Meaningful partnerships that elevate the quality of the work are clearly a key point for Rommek. Naturally, we speak about another really important one in this industry…
“Matt Colton at Alchemy has done all my mastering for Blueprint and also some other releases. For me, he is the crème de la crème. He is not musician himself who is trying impose his own sound onto your track. He just emphasises what your aim was. I have been able to have sit-in sessions with him during the mastering, from which I took a lot of skills back home. He's worked with artists like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Drexciya to Lee Scratch Perry, Kanye West and Coldplay...
I believe my work is in good hands…”
His simple, sensible and honest approach to the industry is inspiring, especially considering his young age. Rommek might only have a few releases under his belt, but all are on handpicked labels with which the artist identifies, all focused on expressing his feelings rather than what’s commercially viable, all received by the techno community with praises… Rommek seems to be in excellent hands – and not by mere chance.
Released May 26, 2017