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  December 11, 2020 | Guest Mixes

#94 BufoBufo for Deeprhythms

Mixed by: BufoBufo
Location: From London, but Norwich-based
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The amphibian music machine known as Bufo Bufo, an alias of Ben Murphy, has been making waves since his 2017 debut ep "What's That Noise?". The marriage of breaks, electro, house and beautiful melodies has since found the appreciative ears of many. Ben's keeping himself busy with solo work, is one half of the Escape Earth duo, an acknowledged musical journalist and an owner of a few labels. Please keep reading as there was a lot to talk about. And the mix!

Hello there Ben, can you introduce yourself briefly to our listeners, please?

Hi, I’m Ben. I make music under the name BufoBufo. I run the Ritual Poison label with Corporeal Face (Joe Roberts), and we collaborate as Escape Earth. I also run the Batrachian sibling label.

What’s been keeping you busy of late? You’re a DJ, producer and a label owner too? 

I mostly produce, but I buy and listen to a lot of different music, so I do enjoy mixing too. I’ve been working on my debut album, which is out next year some time, as well as some other solo and collaborative projects.

Joe and I have been getting our next release ready for Ritual Poison, a collaborative four track EP as Escape Earth. It should be out in February, and we have another one planned from an amazing artist after that, Angel D’lite. There are also two upcoming releases on my sibling label Batrachian from MOY, and a talented new producer, Wiles

What drove you to electronic music in the first place?

The first music I got into was hip-hop. I used to buy import tapes from the US, and read hip-hop magazine The Source avidly. 

Then when I was about 16, I started to hear acid stuff with breakbeats in, that I really liked, ’cause I could relate to the drums. I loved the early Chemical Brothers when they were still called Dust Brothers - for example, tunes like ‘Chemical Beats’. 

Then I got into techno and jungle/drum & bass, and it all snowballed from there. Although I am into a lot of different stuff, including some guitar music, jazz, reggae and funk, electronic music has remained an obsession for most of my life.

Name a few records or songs that had a big impact on you in your early days and why?

Hip hop wise, things with hefty beats and a lot of atmosphere, like Gang Starr’s ‘Take It Personal’ and Souls Of Mischief’s ‘Let ‘Em Know’. Later on when I got into dance music, I loved Future Sound Of London ‘Papua New Guinea’, because it mixed deep bass with spine tingling melodies and breaks, something that still appeals to me a lot now. Along the same lines I was very into Orbital, particularly the tune ‘Lush’

A few other things would be Dave Clarke ‘Red 2 (Wisdom To The Wise)’ - I loved the energy and how mesmerizingly minimal the synth riff was - totally repetitive, but I could listen to it forever, and also LFO’s ‘Tied Up’. A lot of people are obsessed with LFO ‘LFO’ and their first album, but this lead single from their second album is an amazing industrial hip-hop almost thing that just builds and builds in intensity. I put it on again the other day and it still gives me a residual energy rush, ha!

With jungle, I remember buying Photek’s ‘Seven Samurai’ EP in Beggars Banquet record shop in Putney, London, and being totally blown away by the drum work, which sounded like clashing katana blades. Then I got into Metalheadz in a big way, and a lot of the jungle/drum & bass of the time. I still am very into it, to the extent I’m co-writing a book about that genre at the moment that has been in the making for a few years, and is nearly finished. 

I got into house music a bit later, but I remember it was Faze Action’s tune ‘In The Trees’ that first got me excited, again a very atmospheric piece with those amazing strings.

You are an avid vinyl fan and record collector. Tell us a little about your collection and how you go about finding records to buy?

I have a big collection of all kinds of records, and still have a habit of buying too many. In terms of how I find music, it’s often through radio shows or DJ sets, sometimes by reading about it in books or magazines. 

Occasionally I’ll trawl back through labels’ back catalogues on Discogs - some artists have early gems you can pick up reasonably cheaply. Sometimes I will just dig in charity shops or second hand shops (covid permitting), where you can find the odd dusty beaut.

I just need to ask, how’s your vinyl record collection organised? 

I organise it loosely by genre, so there’s a jazz, funk and soul section, a rock and indie section, reggae section, hip hop, and then all the electronic and dance stuff is in together - though I should probably organise that at some point...

Name five tracks or releases that are currently on heavy rotation?

Automatic Tasty ‘The Future Is Not What It Used To Be’ - amazing electrofunk / Chicago house style piece from this brilliant Dublin producer.

Eusebeia ‘Evolution’ - I included this in the mix. Forward thinking jungle influenced electronics.

Brother Nebula ‘The Physical World’ - really impressive album from Dallas via London producer Lance Desardi.

Earth Trax ‘LP2’ very melodic and hypnotic album from the always on-point Bartosz Kruczyński.

Ultramarine ‘Folk’ - lovely first album from the Essex folktronic duo, just reissued.

Who are the artists and DJ’s you think deserve more attention than they get currently?

Sully - his jungle productions in the last few years have been just incredible. There aren’t many people pushing boundaries like him. He’s doing something different with his beats that few others have latched onto.

Blixaboy - an electro producer based in Dallas who has a lot of cool ideas and always thinks beyond the confines of the genre.

Lee Kelly - Dublin artist on the rise, making some great beats across the board from electro to breakbeat and house.

Did DJing eventually turn your attention into making music or was it always there right from the beginning?

I am a producer first and foremost, and started producing about nine years ago. From 2003, I’ve worked as a music journalist and editor for a few different titles. I always wanted to make music but didn’t know how to do it. 

I started it as a hobby not thinking it would go anywhere, and then I started to really love doing it, and became addicted. As time has gone on, I have learned more and more, and am still learning all the time. If I could, I’d probably spend nearly all my time making tracks.

How have you evolved as a producer? 

As I’ve learned how to use Ableton to its full potential, and also to use a lot of hardware and software synths, I think my sound has crystallised into something recognisable. What I do is somewhere between techno, breakbeat and electro, but I don’t want to confine myself to one sound. 

I just like to use a lot of melody, and always loved the interplay between light and dark in music - having a light synth line mixed with a growling analogue bass for example, or optimistic sections suddenly giving way to more sinister sounds. I think a lot of the best dance music uses this dynamic.

Are there any new tools that have recently inspired you?

I got a Waldorf Blofeld digital synth recently, which has been great for pad sounds but also leads. It has a distinctive character that is quite different from some of the other synths I use, like the Korg Minilogue and Roland SE-02.

Out of your own releases, which do you have the strongest bond with and why is that?

Most of all ‘Metal’s Winning’, which was recently released on Furthur Electronix. That track in particular kind of poured out of me, and a lot of people seem to like it. 

It gave me confidence to be myself when I produce and not shy away from putting emotional melodies upfront, which is my natural inclination. It also encouraged me to try to make things in quicker bursts while the inspiration is still strong.

What does the coming 12 months hold for you in regards to releases, collaborations etc.?

I’ve just released an EP with Kouncil Cuts, and there is another EP about to be released for Fina White, ‘Endless Rhythm’. That one is slightly more house music in style, but still with some breaks and acid. 

There’s an EP for French label Partout, which was supposed to come out earlier in 2020 but got delayed. In the new year, Joe and I have the Escape Earth EP ‘Monolith On Mars’ coming on our label Ritual Poison, and further down the line there’s another solo record from me on Damo B’s new label EMOTEC

After that, there’s some more music on Furthur Electronix offshoot Altered Sense, and my debut album, which I just finished.

What’s your setup like and how do you work on music (process, themes, details)? 

I have a couple of Adam monitors, an Ableton Push controller and a Focusrite soundcard, which are the core bits of kit. 

Hardware wise, I have a Korg Minilogue, Microkorg, SE-02 (this is really great), Aira TB-3 and Waldorf Blofeld. I also use a load of software plugins.

Sometimes I get specific ideas and go in to make something particular, though it doesn’t always end up that way. Other times I just start with a beat and will switch on a particular synth, and see what happens. Sometimes a bassline sparks my imagination, or sometimes a melody or chord. Other times, digging for samples will take tracks in another direction entirely. 

After recording a basic arrangement, I will cut into it with edits and see what else needs to be added. 

What’s your current favorite piece of kit? 

Probably the Minilogue. To start with, it didn’t seem that impressive, but as I’ve got to know it more and used more of its parameters, I’ve discovered it’s really versatile and also has a very distinctive sound. 

I use a lot more hardware than I used to, but still rely on soft synths sometimes. Plugin wise, I really like Arturia’s V Collection, things like their Oberheim and Mini Moog clones, plus Rob Papen’s Sub Boom Bass is great.

You run the label Ritual Poison together with Corporeal Face - tell us about your vision for the label and what’s in the pipeline?

Joe and I have similar taste in music, and I think we both want to put out playable but also memorable releases that will stand the test of time. Though there has been quite a bit of breakbeat stuff so far on Ritual Poison, there’s also been techno, house, electro, jungle and even ambient. We don’t want it to be pigeonholed or confined as one thing, 

I suppose it’s broadly a UK take on underground dance, with influences from the weirder side of electronics. After our Escape Earth EP, there’s another great EP lined up from a good friend, Angel D’lite, who is an excellent DJ and producer. On my side label Batrachian, I have two EPs lined up, one from MOY, and one from a new producer called WILES.

Pick one release out of the catalogue and tell us a story behind it, please?

I went with Joe to a Cultivated Electronics vs Neighbourhood club night at Corsica Studios in London. There were loads of really good DJs playing electro and techno there, and Joe introduced me to Warlock, who he knew. We had a chat over a beer, and he said he had really liked our Batrachian release, and said he had a new project, would I be interested in hearing the tunes? 

The following week, he sent me over a link to his Hooverian Blur stuff, and I was blown away. I sent it on to Joe and we agreed we should release it. 

It was a real honour to put out new music from a proper UK underground legend, and his tunes were a really fresh combination between techno and breakbeat which seemed to fit the vibe of the label. Tracks from that EP have been played out by quite a variety of DJs, which was great to see. 

It was also the first time we released music from an artist who wasn’t one of us, as the first three were by me, Escape Earth and Local Group, Joe’s collaborative project with L Major.

Where do you find the music and the artists for the label? 

So far it’s been through friends or meeting people who share a similar musical outlook. MOY, though, whose first EP I released on Batrachian, was a fan of the label who sent over some of his stuff. I really liked it, and wanted to put it out. 

What has been the most rewarding part of running the label?

It’s just great when DJs like it and play the music, and understand where you’re coming from with the musical direction. It’s also a real buzz putting people’s music out, and seeing it do well or resonate, and also making new connections with people. 

You are a recognised journalist writing for many established electronic music publications ranging from DJ Mag to The Vinyl Factory. How did you start your career in journalism?

I did some work experience for a few weeks with DJ Mag back in 2003 and they liked my writing. Afterwards they started to commission me album reviews, and slowly I started to do bigger and bigger pieces for them, and also some online blogs at the time, like Stylus magazine and Speakers Push The Air (both RIP). 

How does electronic music journalism work these days? 

In my case, it’s a mixture of being commissioned to write articles and reviews by different publications, or sometimes pitching them with an idea. I’m lucky that I get sent quite a lot of music, as I’ve been doing it for a long time.

What’s your take on the quality of current music writing? Is there anything you’d like to see more of and vice versa, less of?

I think there are some really amazing writers out there, both older and younger. I see a lot of attention to detail. The best stuff stands out a mile. For me the most interesting stuff is documentation of certain scenes, or past labels and artists who may not have got the credit they deserved at the time. 

Also, new perspectives. For instance, Matt Anniss’s book ‘Join The Future’ (Timo’s note: get this!) looks at UK house and bleep techno in a way that dispels some of the myths of its history. There’s always so much focus on the same old clubs and DJs, but a lot of things were actually taking place behind the scenes or out of the spotlight. This is compelling to me.

How do you seek out relevant topics and which ones have been the most interesting ones recently?

I try to think of things that haven’t been covered, an overarching idea that binds a scene together. I did a piece for Bandcamp on the electronic underground in Melbourne which I enjoyed writing and researching, and a piece about Firecracker Records for them, a label that really deserved the spotlight. For DJ Mag, I did a piece about the Dallas electro scene. Just lately, I interviewed DJ Krust, which was really interesting.

When writing a review of a release, what are the limits of criticisms?

I’m probably guilty of not being critical enough, but I’d rather cover things that are good, as there’s only so much space. 

Recently I reviewed the new Autechre album, which I liked but I lamented the fact that they’ll never return to their early melodic IDM style, also acknowledging that looking back is not what they do. 

That’s a very personal perspective, but I think something a lot of people could relate to. 

In your opinion, what actually constitutes a good piece of music writing?

Being incisive, getting to the core of what something is about. Also, style. Style goes a long way, but it’s only fluff if you don’t have any meaning there.

Name a few relevant publications, newsletters and blogs that you hold in high regard and why? 

Shawn Reynaldo’s FirstFloor newsletter is good, he’s a great writer. Simon Reynolds’ Energy Flash blog is always worth a look. Ransom Note. Bandcamp Daily has some great stuff occasionally, and DJ Mag

Obviously I’m biased there! But they’ve had some incisive and original features in the last couple of years.

What’s your take on the current state of electronic music?

Obviously coronavirus has massively impacted the live music scene in a way no one could have seen coming, and that has been awful. But there is hope on the horizon with the vaccines that things could return to live music events again soon. 

As far as the music itself is concerned, I think it’s a healthy time. The underground in the last few years has been very vibrant, with lots of original sounding stuff and people less restricted by genres. 

It’s been good to hear more breakbeat again, although that’s been bubbling under the surface for a long time and I guess it’s to do with cycles and periodic revivals of certain styles.

I really like the combinations between IDM/braindance and breaks or jungle. Everyone from Sully to Floating Points has been going in that direction with some really amazing results. Of course there’s always a danger that these sounds will be overdone and people will move onto the next thing, but the people who are really into it will always be into it. 

For me breakbeat isn’t a fad or a trend, it’s something I’ve been into since I was a teenager. I also really like how ambient has become more popular lately, and there are a lot of interesting things being done in that area. 

Can you name a few local acts, events or locations that should be on people’s radar?

I lived in London all my life up until a few years ago, when I moved to Norwich. There’s not really any big music scene to speak of here, but there are some really good producers and labels. 

Cosmic Pint Glass is an excellent label putting out trippy house and electronics, and they were doing an occasional club night before covid. 

Luke Sanger is doing really cool stuff in a variety of genres

Luke Abbott just released his new album which is incredible

Nathan Fake lives down the road, and newer producers like Miles Otto are doing good things with acid live sets. 

Sully lives here I believe, and there’s also the Hardline Sounds label putting out strong two-step garage. 

So the mix, can you tell us a little something about that? 

I wanted to showcase a lot of the music I’ve liked recently, as well as a few of my own tracks and some forthcoming tunes on Ritual Poison and Batrachian. At one point it moves from around 130bpm up to 155, because there was some more uptempo jungle stuff I couldn’t leave out! Then I wanted to finish with a track I’m really excited to be releasing at some point next year from Wiles, ‘Too Real Eyez’.

Many thanks, anything else?

Thanks for inviting me, hope you like the mix!

playlist

1. Lee Kelly 'Our Place In Time' (First Second Label/wherethetimegoes)
2. MOY 'Nautilus' (forthcoming on Batrachian)
3. Radioactive Man & Ben Pest 'Old Tight' (Asking For Trouble)
4. Nitro 44 'Yes Man' (Modern Urban Jazz)
5. Private Caller '1993' (Self released)
6. Bruised Skies & Thugwidow 'Epic Questing' (Astral Black)
7. Kareem El Morr 'Zoom' (Molten Moods)
8. Overmono 'Clipper' (XL)
9. Brother Nebula 'The Big If' (Legwork)
10. Unknown Artist 'Go Into Nature' (Withhold)
11. Eusebeia 'Evolution' (Warehouse Rave)
12. Escape Earth 'Dropping With The Force' (forthcoming on Ritual Poison)
13. BufoBufo 'Silver Disk' (forthcoming on Emotec)
14. Angel D'lite 'Crystalz' (Banoffee Pies)
15. Nookie 'T-Tree' (Reinforced)
16. BufoBufo 'Cave Network (Corporeal Face Remix)' (Kouncil Cuts)
17. Sully 'Swandive' (Astrophonica)
18. Decibella 'Be True' (AKO Beatz)
19. WILES 'Too Reel Eyez' (forthcoming on Batrachian)

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DJ profile
BufoBufo

Location: From London, but Norwich-based
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BufoBufo is a producer mixing techno with breakbeats, melodic electronics and other influences.

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