TIM GREEN 'ECLIPSE'
PAUL WOOLFORD 'MDMA’
STEVE LAWLER ‘HOUSE RECORD’
KIWI 'SHORT TAIL'
Irish duo Bicep have scooped the Best Track gong for 2015, with their breakbeat-tinged house bomb 'Just' the people's choice...
Northern Irish men Bicep might well have broken through as party-starting, fist-pumping tops-off DJs, but now they are well and truly making their production mark. Though they were initially associated with a tidal wave of deep house revivalism, recent years have seen them turn out techno-leaning tracks and richly melodic cuts that subtly echo the machine-made soul of Detroit.
Much of the boys’ material now comes on their own Feel My Bicep label, and though they have also released on KMS and 50 Weapons, it was Will Saul and “the amazing freedom he offered us” that saw them put out their biggest cut of the year, ‘Just,’ on his Aus Music label.
Part of the reason for such studio success in 2015 was having an enforced time off at the beginning of the year to work on new music. They did so in their London space using all sorts of hardware they have bought with their DJ earnings to date. “We found a real unbroken flow,” says Matt McBrair of his working process alongside Andrew Ferguson.
“That’s something so hard to find when you’re touring a lot and not sleeping very much. In that time we made almost all our 'original' music for the year. This left time throughout the rest of the year to play around with lots of edits and remixes and just experiment with a lot of our new equipment; it also took a lot of pressure off whilst touring — something we really struggled with in 2014!”
The most significant bit of original material they produced was, of course, ‘Just’. It is a slow burning bit of breakbeat-come-deep-house-come-techno with grainy textures, spitting hats and an absorbing sense of groove that never lets up. Finishing it off in style, some gentle, panning melodies fall down from above like a euphoric cosmic rain. It means the multi-purpose track is as able to warm-up a floor as it is to blow heads when dropped at the peak of the night.
“From America to Asia, Australia to UK and everywhere in between, it's been going off every time we've played it,” says Matt, who admits that both men played equal part in every aspect of the track, which was made using gear including an 808 and 606, Akai MPC200XL and effects like the Boss Space echo as part of a long process of many versions, many mistakes, many possibilities and many accidents.
“I think it strangely manages to find the balance between being very intense but also quite chilled. For example, someone told us they heard Sasha play it as the sun was setting and this totally changed the track for them. Then you drop it in a warehouse and somehow the broken beats go from chilled to sounding really big.”
Having both worked in the professional sector before becoming full-time DJs and producers, Bicep understand how important it is to have a strong routine.
As such, they like to take a weekend off DJing every month and aim to get in the studio at 9am, for ten days straight, every couple of weeks. That is where they write all their music, and they both agree the importance of being able to get their hands directly on the gear is key to being truly creative.
“The workflow is so much more organic and less premeditated,” says Matt. “With ‘Just’, it went through about ten different incarnations that spanned a few genres.
The bleepy riff was originally a more subtle, filtered and mid-range bassy noise, but when we accidentally knocked it up a few octaves the top line it created just worked instantly. The vocal was another total accident. It was actually taken from when we were talking to a vocalist, Sophie, and had left the mic running!”
Already the pair, who talk excitedly about their modular set-up and the endless possibilities it offers, are looking forward to taking January and February off once again. “We’re gonna start working towards an album. It’s something we've always wanted to do, so we're really gonna push ourselves!”