Welcome back to our on-going hit series The Director's Cut, where your favorite artists take you behind the scenes of their latest albums, providing cliff notes on each of the tracks in the album, giving you a never-before-seen look into the inner workings of their minds. Normally, this feature is reserved for full-length albums, but every now and then, an EP comes along that is just as deserving.
In this case, we take a look at Lanta Nights, a 6-track EP from London-born producer FD, which is available now via Lenzman's imprint The North Quarter. The release is a masterclass in smooth Drum & Bass teeming with dub, hip-hop, and soul influences.
How to listen: There are a couple of ways to proceed. First, you can listen to the whole EP, which you will find below, and then read the notes. Or, read the notes as you listen to each track. This will completely change your perspective on the whole release itself and bring you closer to the artist and their work.
Words by FD
The Lanta Nights EP was initially written over a 3-month period in the autumn of 2019. Since I’ve been working with The North Quarter, I’ve changed my way of working. I now have a "sketching period," where I basically write as many ideas as I can over a couple of months, and I try to be as spontaneous as I can in the creation phase, working quickly and roughly on an idea, only working or honing it until it has enough of a form so you can see what the idea could possibly be. Once this period is over, I then send the tracks to the label, we decide which are the best ideas and I then get to work on developing those further.
We normally have a couple of rounds of back and forth like this until we decide which ones will make the final cut and need to be worked and developed to completion. I’ve done this for all 3 of the projects (and a fourth I’m currently working on) for the label and so far have enjoyed both the process and the outcomes. I find that working like this helps to make you only really pick the cream of the crop because the truth is, obviously, not every idea can be a good one. Nothing is wasted from this process though, as sometimes something you didn’t like before can suddenly spark a new idea, or maybe it has one or two good elements that can then be recycled elsewhere.
1. Lie To You feat. Akemi Fox
For this EP, I wanted to use totally different drums to those I’d used for the album, so I went digging for inspiration and breaks that I haven’t used before and this track uses a classic I’ve never tried before. I wanted to use it because it has a really organic sound to it and a real swing and groove too. I felt this also made it a challenge though, as I wanted to keep that swing and feel while making it sit and work with other contemporary Drum & Bass drums, which are often very rigid and synthetic – and loud. Once I’d then got the music down, I really liked the idea and liked the way it was simple and about the groove, and so felt a vocal could further elevate the track.
As soon as I came across Akemi and her work, I knew I wanted to ask her if she’d be interested to be on the record. I’m not always so good at explaining what I want for a track, but when I heard her, I just felt that she manages to get such an amazing mix of emotion and subtlety out of her voice, words, and melody that we had to try and get her involved.
She usually works with Teo, and I guess you could describe their work as future-soul, a kind of contemporary mix of Soul and hip-hop. This was the first time Akemi had worked on Drum & Bass, which I can imagine could be a bit intimidating so we just agreed on a rough arrangement of what I’d need to work with and then left it for her to do her own thing and see what inspiration she could get from my instrumental. It seemed like she must’ve really caught the vibe and feel of the track though and I really liked the vibe that she came back with and knew we could have a piece of music to be proud of.
2. The Feeling feat. Kinkai
Working on this track, I felt I’d managed to catch a kind of 90’s Hip Hop vibe, which is a sound I’m really inspired by and is an extremely big part of my musical upbringing. I’m also generally more inspired by music that is about subtlety and letting gaps and space have meaning – it being about the notes that don’t get played. Working with this in mind can often mean that ideas are more based around the groove and the subtle interplay of elements and this can then naturally leave space for a track to have a vocal if you so wish.
Because the track had that 90’s hip-hop feel, it was quite a simple choice to ask KinKai if he’d do something for this. He’s worked with the label before and his solo work often has this kind of thread running through it while coming from a totally contemporary standpoint. And he just absolutely blew it out of the water. It’s such a great feeling when you get sent a totally amazing vocal, and he just nailed this one – super catchy and fresh chorus, great verse and an original bridge – it was a total pleasure working with him and I’m so happy with how he just took the track to a whole other dimension.
I’m actually really picky about vocals on Drum & Bass records and often see it as an easy way out of making a track exciting and interesting enough using just instrumental elements. But when the vocal compliments and adds to the track like his vocal does here, it just grabs me. Super happy with how this one turned out.
3. Dedication (Roller Pt. 2)
When I wrote "Top2Bottom (Roller)" for my Better Days LP, I had a really clear idea of what I wanted to do in terms of feel and style. It was a type of track that I felt was a bit missing from Drum & Bass these days – a roller, a DJ tool, a connecting kind of track – the kind of track that every DJ needs in their "box." It’s unusual for me to write with such a clear aim in mind, and I was really happy with how it came out and a lot of people seemed to get what I was going for and were very appreciative of it too. And so I wanted to do that again with ‘Dedication’. Not everyone seems to hear the link between the two tracks, and that’s cool, but for me, it was very present in my mind and I feel like I managed to make something that performs the same function but still has it’s own vibe.
It took me a long time to get this one right in fact, as the less you have to play with in terms of elements, the better each one has to be. But I like this distillation, breaking a track down to it’s most empirical form and I think if you can nail it, you can create a timeless piece of music. I’m not saying I’ve managed to do that here, but that was the aim at least, and currently, I’m happy with the outcome!
The name comes from the fact that style of track is basically my nod to the producers who used to make these tracks, the unsung heroes of a DJs record box that help link and gel all the disparate parts of a set together, where you’d be screwed if you didn’t have them and they just stay in your box all the time, helping you create that journey and narrative.
4. This Is Not Science
With this track, I really just wanted to go for simplicity. I wasn’t looking to be a scientist, I wanted to be an artist and just go for something super stripped down that can still do the damage and grab people’s attention. Truthfully, I’m really in awe of people who have high technical abilities and can blend that with funk and artistry too, such as Dillinja or Break, and it is something I aspire to and am always working on too, but in this case, I just wanted to keep it big and bold and simple.
The initial framework was just bass and drum machine drums, super empty, and with the second session, I chucked a load more bits in, sounds, effects, drum layers and then to finish I again stripped it all down to just the parts that really worked and bought something to the track, so as to keep that minimal ethos and try and really focus on those sounds and elements.
5. The Creatures From Planet 9
This one is inspired by old 1950’s sci-fi films, hence the title. As I started getting the track down and once I had the main hook sound, somehow it made me think of these old films. I’m not a big sci-fi fan or have a particularly great knowledge of cinema, but the track somehow made me think of that genre and time period and so I went looking for a vocal sample that I could pair with the track to place it more precisely for the listener. I love the style and feel of those films, they have such a particular quality, and although they often seem quite a slapstick to me, I wonder if they were really scary for people at the time? Once I’d found a sample I liked and added a few choice sound effects, it really seemed to bring the track to life.
I also decided I wanted to go for a kind of Bristol-y feel on this, and to me, that means big bubbly basslines with lots of wobbly high notes and really rolling drums. I love that sound and often play a lot of those kinds of tracks when I DJ. So along with the bass, I went for a bongo track that plays almost throughout the track. Often I’ll use bits of percussion only in 8 or 16 bar sections to highlight changes throughout, but for this one, it just had to roll the whole way through.
The naming of the track was also quite a lot of the fun for me. I really wanted to try and convey that 50’s sci-fi vibe and so had a dig through some old film titles to get the right feeling. We then started calling it just Planet 9 to keep it simple and did discuss shortening it to make it easier for the graphic designer, or to make it easier to say or remember, but for me, it had to be the whole thing, it just gets the point across better!
Grab FD's Lanta Nights EP here.