Available for free on Lost Oscillation’s website, Dan Egdell’s first outing as Alga is a 2 track EP showcasing an original and inventive mind.
Four Tet, Caribou and other associated acts have a lot to answer for when it comes to the current crop of SoundCloud wannabes. Luckily, sometimes the slew of homebrewed imitations and rip-offs is interrupted by tracks or EPs which genuinely develop and respect the fundamental successes of their inspirations. Aralia is one such EP.
By avoiding the temptation to smash random sonic textures together in pursuit of a rich and lush soundscape, Alga sidesteps the type of error a lesser producer would leap headfirst into. Still a student, his promising work thus far has shown him maturing into a canny aesthetic operator. Bringing his skill as a DJ to bear on these tracks, elements transition seamlessly; in fact, it seems like the main aim of both pieces to effortlessly end up far from where they started.
“This Is Your Carnival” spins itself a semi-demented fairground ride out of some propulsive brassy pomp. The selection and deployment of instrumentation is ingenious, allowing the track to retain its character even as the constituent parts are piled up, taken away, demand attention, or subtly change the direction. It pays rich dividends here as the midpoint of the track finds the layered pieces stripped away. The hand drumming, satisfying kick and rising mania of the synths is the highlight of its 8 minutes (and it truly is the better for being that long).
Moreso than simply grasping at sound and texture, Aralia illustrates Egdell working as a songwriter and a selector. The joy of “This Is Your Carnival” is in the details: the slight dissonance of the climax; the interplay of the reverbing horn blasts in the introduction; and the finely woven percussive textures that underpin the whole thing.
“Patina” relies even more heavily on Egdell’s percussion work. However, for much of the track these elements are foregrounded in the mix, rather than underpinning. Synth chords, rich basslines and ethereal vocal samples slowly emerge from beneath and behind them. This inverts the formula of the first track and though it leaves some sections feeling paradoxically sparse considering the variety of percussion instruments present, the payoff more than makes up for it.
At just two tracks (albeit two eight-minute tracks) long, Aralia is a teaser of what’s to come from Egdell. Having emerged from an album containing 8 tracks, it is a little disappointing not to be able to hear more of that body of work just yet.
I sat down with Dan (albeit over Skype) to discuss the EP, his musical history, and his inspirations.
EM: So you weren’t Alga to start with, you started out as Slyside?
DE: Yeah, I started as Slyside about 2 years ago when I was in second year. I just kinda decided to start making music, needed a name, went with Slyside and then released something through Anonymous Records in York. Which was great, I really liked the Slyside stuff, but it felt like I’d finished, and it didn’t seem right with the kind of stuff I was writing. So I decided to start from scratch.
EM: Would you say there’s been an obvious progression since your Slyside material? It’s no longer on SoundCloud, so it’s hard to view the material that came before Aralia.
DE: Well yeah, I kinda wanted to ditch the whole thing. Maybe it was a bit of a rash decision looking back but I didn’t want anyone to be able to find out about me and go “oh, you used to be Slyside”; I liked the whole anonymous thing.
EM: Would you change your name again for another project or EP?
DE: Well, probably not because I’ve found a sound and Alga seems to make sense with it. You can still find the Slyside stuff on YouTube. I’m not too happy with that. I like that stuff, but I felt like I needed to progress and it was holding me back to try to sound like Slyside.
EM: When it comes to creating, do you have a procedure? Are there particular elements that you start with, or things you like to have in your mind at the start of a project?
DE: I wish I did! It would make my life a lot easier. No, I don’t. I get ideas when I’m walking around and I record a little bit on my phone, or I find a sample that I like or I find a groove that I like. There’s no real routine, what happens – happens and some tracks dissolve into nothing and others take off.
EM: Were there a lot more tracks that you could have put on this EP?
DE: Yeah, there was actually 8 tracks. I was writing an album in my 3rd year as an equivalent to a dissertation. I handed it in and I was happy with the results but I felt that there were some tracks that could be chipped away and weren’t really needed. And when I sat down it turned out there were 6 tracks that weren’t needed.
EM: Do you do live performance stuff, or do you have any plans to?
DE: I was thinking of getting a band together to do some of the Alga stuff, but now I’m writing again. The plan was to do some gigging but that’s on hold until I have a little more material I think. We might do it after that.
EM: In terms of the EP as a whole, what kind of influences have played a part?
DE: John Talabot, I love the way his tracks progress and his production style and how percussive it all is. I was listening to a lot of his stuff while I was making it. Caribou as well, which is an obvious choice but it was a big influence. Also Nicolas Jaar, even though it doesn’t really sound anything like what I make, it was definitely an influence. And again, jazz, even though it’s not really a direct influence and you might not hear it.
EM: And you play a lot of the instruments on the EP live?
DE: All the drums, all the brass, all the bass is recorded by me. The synth line at the end of TIYC, all the synth stuff was recorded into the computer but the rest was real instruments.
EM: Both tracks are 8+ minutes; did you consciously aim to create a long and smoothly transitioning track?
DE: It wasn’t a deliberate choice, like I didn’t sit down and say let’s create a 10-minute track that’s gonna evolve. It might just be because I’m bad at being concise, I don’t know. It starts with an idea and then I couldn’t end the idea without it changing. I started with it and it was like, this isn’t done yet. I kept going until it felt done and it felt like it morphed into a different song in the second half, but I kinda like that. They both do a similar thing as well which I think works, they both match that pattern.
EM: Thanks for your time Dan.
You can download Alga’s Aralia EP for free from Lost Oscillation’s website.