DeForrest Brown Jr.
Transcript of final appraisal conducted in person at Brick Lane Coffee Shop, London on 16 January 2024.

Matt Williams (M.W) in converstaion with Deforrest Brown Jr. (D.B)
Firstly, I wanted to ask about the tight range of frequencies evident in the track. What determined those frequencies? You mentioned something about the granular quality of the original material and retaining certain euphoric elements from the rave period between 1990-92, as well as their relationship with the original breakbeats and drum rhythms. Could you walk me through this?

Actually, the idea was to think about not using breakbeats and replacing them with live drums.

You can hear the live drum towards the end very clearly. Is that live drum all the way through?

It’s all live. The mix is played in chronological order, but I skip through sections, scrubbing and stretching it. That’s why you get periods where it’s discernible but not entirely. And the bass was panned stereophonically because of the breakbeats. I wanted to introduce a euphoric high feeling, but when I pumped up the volume, you’ll hear that the bass is actually on the sides. It doesn’t level it out; it vibrates. There’s no midrange either, but that was also because of the field recording. I wanted it to feel hollowed out, not haunted, but more like a pirate radio signal or something.

Did I send you that video of the eclipse? This guy scaled it, and I’ll bounce it out to you. They used to have this night called New Age. The video is interesting; it’s almost like going back to your kind of social realist films, inadvertently capturing the aftermath of the rave rather than the euphoria. It shows the come-down more so. The setting has now been eradicated; it’s just a car park with new student buildings right next to it. It’s totally lost, no trace of it beyond these slightly distorted narratives that keep getting played out around it. It feels manipulative, tapping into middle-aged anxiety or disappointment about how to find those days of happiness within this context.

Yeah, we saw those posters. But that’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about, shoe-gaze and techno hitting the UK around the same time. I’ve been listening to a lot of ARCA alongside Rob Gordon and the new dance out of Detroit. Trying to find this middle ground between that haziness but also a focus on the rhythm.

A focus on the rhythm.

It’s interesting from an American perspective because my parents are completely unaware of rave music and the social phenomena that occurred. Although, they listened to artists like Cybertron but have no idea about the rest. We’ve talked about this, but it’s amusing for me to consider artists like Burial and realise that, perhaps due to my geographic location, that nothing is “buried” for me. It’s far more ephemeral. All I know about rave culture was learned through reading or from late-night infomercials advertising eighties rave compilations on TV when I was a kid. In fact, my first exposure to Drum ‘n’ Bass and Techno was through Anime on Cartoon Network.

Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to complete Dismantling the Hardcore Continuum. Combined with the move to Vancouver, along with the process of becoming an Ex-American, the new album, and the book Assembling a Black Counter Culture, made it difficult for me to envision or consider a way to conclude the project. However, everything came together through the dub mix, which I felt resonated with the ethos of the research and the toolkit when we had spoken in the past.

The more I explore the characteristics of dub and versioning, the clearer its transformative power becomes—it involves taking what already exists and creating new pathways for access. A process relevant to this project because it need not be direct or illustrative. It can be symbolic, abstract, elusive, or reduced to the core musical elements, while placing emphasis on how harmonics, bass frequencies, or drum patterns—whether independently or in combination—can evoke a specific time or experience, sonically embodying a sensibility or historical narrative in an alternate way to images. Consider, for example, the first long-form mix of Dismantling the Hardcore Continuum, which was edited in a more direct, audio-essay style. However the decision to process this through a dub filter was really exciting for me and in line with my personal aspirations for the project, which aligned with the research goals of my PhD, but were more abstract and relied upon key sound markers, including specific bass frequencies, breakbeats, and vocal sample to connect the listener. With the above in mind coupled with your interpretation of the existing material as an “Ex-American”, and what that means within this process of disenfranchise whereby you remove yourself from your historical context and external perception. 

I’ve been contemplating the concept of “latency” quite a bit in general. For instance, the new live set is entirely focused on latency and dub resonances, which brings this mix closer to the new live set’s sound. I thought about it relation to the historical pattern of Black Americans traveling, at different times, either across the Atlantic or up to Canada, whereby both movements occur simultaneously. As discussed, the Futurythmic mix of Dismantling the Hardcore Continuum it comes from the ex-American perspective, it’s literally like saying, okay, techno was exported and transformed into this other thing. But through dub mixing, I can kind of stretch it. And then, being like six hours behind or whatever, over in Canada, there’s this other, temporal reverse, I wanted it to go back on itself and sound really irreverent. Because the only thing that’s really audible from the mix is the opening BBC interview where they’re like, "Do you remember acid house?" And that’s all you get because I figured that would be sufficient to situate the listener.

Between 8-12 minutes in there’s a collection of layered samples from certain track that really resonated with me and did the job of transporting me. 

Oh, yeah, that will be A Guy Called Gerald and then the Ragga Twins.

That combination is interesting because, while reviewing materials for The Eclipse data set, I uncovered an interview with the Ragga Twins. They discussed being invited to create a rave track, primarily for financial reasons, and adopting sound system methods. Yet, their blend of bass with breakbeats and toasting on Spliffhead, (1991) arguably laid the groundwork for the emergence of jungle. While, A Guy Called Gerald, already well-known in rave culture for Voodoo Ray, (1988) progressed into jungle and drum and bass with the album Black Secret Technology, (1995), which resonates with your Afrofuturist approach to the project. Disrupting the conventional narratives around The Eclipse by integrating early Detroit techno-style drums, rejecting the ubiquitous four-on-the-floor beat in favour of a more personalised, intuitive, and organic rhythm pattern, which is underpinned by the original mix and the original field recordings at different sopped and frequencies.

Many of the frequencies used are from the field recordings. I’ve been experimenting with the mixer to quickly overdrive it, creating a latency effect. I moderated this effect in the mix because I didn’t want to detract from the essence of the original track. The intent was to transport the track, especially considering how you might be immersed in the space with the field recorder.

And I thought, what if you deconstruct it? Essentially, strip it down to its core, reminiscent of Jean-Luc Godard’s style — peeling back the entire screen to its barest elements, then rebuilding, and overlaying my own drum patterns, which are played and recorded, not sequenced, that resonate with early Detroit techno.

Okay, as in you peel it back from its edge and there’s another channel behind it in a similar fashion to a palimpsest, but on this occasion, a sonic palimpsest. 

Yeah, that’s the concept. I aim for it to be disrupted, truly disrupted, to the point where there’s a fracture within the stereo field. I need to coin a term for this process because I’ve been deeply contemplating photographic or stereophonic reality. It’s about how to create fissures within the actual stereo field, akin to burning a hole through the screen. Like I mentioned, it’s as if there’s another channel being hidden behind it, being temporarily transmitted.

In a sense, it’s a reference to the fissures or fractures in culture, as discussed in the context of Mark Fisher who argued that it was essential to establish these openings and introduce ideas or content to stimulate discussions and facilitate new perspectives or points of entry, even if they are temporary. 

Exactly. Also in UK dance music, there’s... I hesitate to call it a lack of spatiality because that [makes it seem like] the sounds are regimented and compressed. However, with Burial and certainly with the Hallucinator project, you can hear a sense of spatiality. I thought about that a lot while working on the mix, pondering what would occur if you fused the concept of American landscape or distance with EDM. We lack the traditional context for much of this, even with classical music or jazz. It’s almost like Black individuals saying, “Let’s approach this in the most unconventional way and see what unfolds”. That’s been my approach with Kraftwerk too. I guess because I recall Juan Atkins saying, “I just want to sound funky”, so he aimed to infuse funk into Kraftwerk’s music through hacking. Carl Craig mentioned to me that there’s typically no bass in Detroit techno, except for DJ Stingray. He’s the only one who incorporates bass, which is intriguing because I come from the South, where I grew up listening to a lot of Miami bass. I have a need for or understanding of that bass pressure, but they kept it pristine up there in Detroit.

Do you think that’s because of the Motown influence, which didn’t really have bass? Although you did have Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, which I guess operates as a filler or alternative for bass.

That’s precisely what I was thinking. Going back to the TV screen metaphor, I see the Wall of Sound as resembling a flat screen, while dub is more akin to the convex of the screen. However, my intention is to push the process of stripping back the screen even further, almost to the point of crushing it, starting anew, and engaging in something disruptive.