Having a signature sound really isn’t all that necessary to produce good music. Though it’s great for getting people to associate sound with artist, arguably it has the potential to stifle creativity. Being free from self-imposed standards lets producers create a much more dynamic catalogue of tunes.
Still, it’s always good to nod towards the sounds and experiences that inspire you too. Moreover, it’s important to experiment with existing genres and take them in new directions, to stop the scene from getting over-saturated and comparatively boring to the halcyon days of the underground, as has happened many times before.
One producer who twists existing conventions is 4di, a regular CDR-Berlin attendee who we’ve spoken to a couple of times before and who performed as part of CDR-Summerjam last year. His most recent release, ‘Pulver’, is a refreshing twist on 4/4 hip-hop rhythms with plenty of experimental elements and textural depth. His experience at CDR nights have influenced many of the sounds you hear on the album. “Hearing the music on a club soundsystem was an important reference,” he explains, “especially because there’s a lot of bass in the tunes on ‘Pulver’. Of course, I’m still not sure if the tunes work on big soundsystems, but playing at the CDR-Summerjam gave me confidence that it’s not as uncontrollable as I thought”.
Although the albums’ tracks are anchored in hip-hop and urban beats, the technical influences go way beyond. ‘Pulver’ features elements of “avant-garde classical music, early electronic music, neue musik, and electroacoustic” sound. 4di was interested in and “started to get excited about the very beginning of electronic music production”, referencing the pioneering auditory explorations of the 1940s. With ‘Pulver’, he wanted to focus on the roots of electronic sound. “I sampled and discovered those obscure and dusty soundscapes…created drumsets, build synth patches and created atmospheres based upon these crates”. There are also a couple of tracks that he co-produced with gliq, who “created a couple of max patches like the ‘granular delay’,” which they used in both pieces (Pulver & Metronome).
Having a larger range of sounds to your name can have its downsides though. “I don’t think that I have a certain style yet,” says 4di. “I’m struggling a bit with the fact that there is not always a clearly recognisable ‘red line’ in my productions”. This is a veiled drawback through, because his lack of a singular musical identity means he can get away with producing sound in whatever way he likes, which in itself could be a form of musical identity – tracks tied together through technique rather than sonic similarity. He admits a penchant for “always experimenting in all kinds of directions. The music that comes out of this process is very diverse in aspects of genre or sonority”.
It’s interesting that 4di raised this aspect of his work, as ‘Pulver’ is seemingly a cohesive piece. Each track on the album sits well with those adjacent; nothing jars or seems particularly out of place. On digging deeper, 4di admits that the album came about through piecing together works created over the past three years: “After some time, I look back on the tunes I made and try to find groups of tracks that fit together. Over the years, I found out that there were certain periods…but after taking my time, I found the tunes that really fit together.”
A further highlight of the album’s nonconforming nature is the cover art by Bruno Orbit, an artist from Leipzig otherwise known as Ralph Niese. Much like the tracks it illustrates, the artwork is subjective – but alternative too, especially in direct comparison to similarly cogitative albums. “A lot of beatmaker and instrumental albums have very abstract and esoteric artwork: blurred nature images, abstract patterns, random triangle compositions… I wanted to have something more grounded. The lack of vocals makes the music already very abstract and geeky. Ralph’s cover sets a contrast to this and brings a narrative layer to it”.
4di readily agrees that it’s never too early to be planning the next steps as an independent producer, especially as you have to put so much energy into promotion and admin when all you really want do is produce music and experiment with technique. “There’s plenty of stuff in the pipeline,” he says. “The next release could be something a bit more housey and melodic. I’m also thinking about a little beat mix with a bit more classical hip hop beats…Maybe I’ll find a platform/label in the future supporting me with this. But there will definitely be releases coming up”.
If all of this has piqued your interest, 4di is playing his sounds in a set this Friday in the cellar of ‘Normal Bar’ in Berlin (map). It starts around 11pm, entrance is free, and alongside 4di are sounds from Parallel Concept and Genys among others. In the meantime, feel free to check out his eclectic range of musical creations via SoundCloud, which he keeps regularly updated.
Words by: Sam Haughton