Concealed Identity shares his influences
Words by Matthew Scott
After hitting double figures with the melancholy ‘Light Leaks’ EP from Rhyming in Fives, Narratives Music characteristically withdrew back into their lair for a few months, teasing us by revealing that #011 would be a single from a debutant to the label but saying no more than that. Fast forward six months or so, interspersed with regular yet unfruitful lurking of the Narratives Facebook and Soundcloud pages to try and find out more, and we were finally informed that the artist behind the eleventh Narratives release would be one Concealed Identity. Previous releases on Tribe 12 and Source Direct’s Vampire Records among others have not prevented Mr. Identity’s identity remaining fairly Concealed, so I jumped at the chance to have a chat with him. But I also wanted to try and reveal the concealed in a way slightly different to parroting my Dad’s favourite song by The Who: ‘So, who are you?’
With that in mind, Concealed Identity kindly agreed to put together a Spotify playlist of influences for us, which you can find at the bottom of this article. But first though, I wanted to dig into the background a touch and find out a little bit about his origins. What, I ask, was his route into DnB in the first place?
“I pretty much grew up listening to heavy guitar music, in particular thrash metal during the mid to late ’80s. In 1992, I started hearing hardcore when I went off to college – I hadn’t heard anything like it before, and it had the same darkness and raw energy that I’d enjoyed in heavy rock/metal. Once I heard jungle in ’94/’95, that was it, I was hooked! It was always the production side of the music though that drew me, rather than the DJing aspect. So I started writing around 1998…”
Almost twenty years on, and with the aforementioned releases under his belt, Concealed Identity has signed two astonishing pieces of music to Narratives. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve fell over myself to praise Blocks and Escher’s label in the last couple of years, but it is not without reason. They preside over what for my money is the most exciting label in drum and bass at the moment. The reason for this is mostly because of the incredible music they put out; music that is firmly orientated towards the future but which winks knowingly back at the likes of Source Direct, Nico, and Doc Scott for inspiration. But it is also because of the approach Narratives take to their music. They release slowly, cautiously, and contemplatively, rejecting the trend of releasing 30,000 new tunes in one year and instead carefully choosing the music they want to put out with the tightest quality control. Which begs the question, how did Concealed Identity link up with them?
“Narratives has been one of the few DnB labels that I’ve genuinely loved from their very first release. To be honest, I don’t listen to a huge amount of DnB, but I pay close attention to a small number of labels that I believe are continually pushing things forward. So when I got a message from Phil Blocks one day out of the blue asking if I’d be interested in working with them, I nearly fell off my seat! To say I’m honoured to have a release on Narratives would definitely be an understatement, given that the label is held in such high regard by so many people.”
On listening to the music though, one cannot doubt that the only home these two tunes – ‘Levanter’ and ‘Calavera’ – could ever have is Narratives. Without gushing too much, they are both astonishing slices of moody yet beautiful drum and bass, almost certainly up there with the best that Overlook, and Blocks and Escher themselves, have put out on Narratives. With the air of one asking Houdini how on earth he escaped from that Chinese Water Torture Cell, I ask how the tunes came about.
“Levanter came about pretty organically really, and therefore was fairly quick to put together – Levanter is the word used to describe the wind that blows through the Straits of Gibraltar and the Med, and I tried to conjure up that image through the music, as well as feelings of melancholy and nostalgia. Calavera took quite a lot longer to finish compared to Levanter, but I’m really pleased with how it came out. I wanted to do a darker and heavier tune to contrast with the other one, and the whole concept of Calavera is definitely dark – the word itself describes the decorative skulls used to celebrate Mexico’s Day of the Dead.”
It’s strange that after reading those words, particularly about the Levanter that blows through the Med, you immediately start to listen to the tunes in a new way. You perceive Levanter with a new sense of wistfulness, and you approach Calavera even more unsettlingly than you did before, knowing what the word means. It shows, now I think about it, the maelstrom of influences that go into the making of both an artist and an individual tune. How experiences of different places can matter at least as much as youthful experiences of music in crafting a producer’s sound. But musical influences are evidently crucial too, and with the aim of providing us all a glimpse of the music that has inspired him over the years Concealed Identity has put together a Spotify playlist of his influences. A playlist, however, that apparently took some whittling down. I ask how the playlist was put together, and if there were two or three tunes in it that are particularly special to him.
“The list was fairly easy to put together, though the difficulty was narrowing it down to just 15! Big Country’s ‘Lost Patrol’ was on the album ‘The Crossing’, and it was the first piece of vinyl I ever bought (way back in 1984!), hence it’s significance – I absolutely rinsed it on my poor dad’s JVC turntable!! What I love about this particular song is its darkness – feelings of almost despair, and this is accentuated by the brilliant use of the E-Bow guitar.
“The second tune I’ll briefly talk about is Metallica’s ‘Orion’. I was a huge Metallica fan throughout my teens, as I was of the whole thrash metal genre – perfect teenage angst music haha! What I love about Orion is of course its heaviness, but also the bluesy breakdown in the middle section (written by Cliff Burton I believe), a wonderful lull and contrast to the rest of the tune – just a wonderfully crafted rock tune.
“Lastly, I’d have to pick one of my two Photek choices – ‘The Hidden Camera’. It’s hard to know where to start with this tune, it to me is just so damn near perfect! It covers such a range of emotions for me whenever I hear it, I just never tire of listening to it – like ‘Ni Ten Ichi Ryu’, it’s a true work of art – Photek’s ‘Modus Operandi’ was, and continues to be, a hugely influential album for me.”
Throughout the rest of the playlist, you’ll find tunes from Radiohead, Massive Attack, Jimi Hendrix, and Blondie, among others, which gives you an idea of the breadth and depth behind Narratives Music #011. Listen, enjoy, and more than anything grab yourself a copy of ‘Levanter/Calavera’ when it comes out. It’s a 12″ that makes you wonder, as always with Narratives, what is coming next, and on that subject the final word goes to Concealed Identity.
“Following the Narratives release, I have plans to release a single through a label being run by a friend/fellow producer in the States (all will be revealed soon!). And I would love to continue working with the Narratives boys, as the experience has been phenomenal so far – there are possible plans but I want to keep my cards close to my chest haha!”
Amen to that. ‘Levanter/Calavera’ is out on the 29th of January on Narratives Music, and you can pick it up direct from their Bandcamp by clicking here. Also, make sure you like Concealed Identity on Facebook and check out a full interview he did with DnB Arena here.