Glaswegian-based artist Alex Smoke released his highly acclaimed second album, 'Paradolia' on Soma Records earlier this year. Paradolia is defined as the human ability to creatively perceive coherent images in randomness. This is an unusual word by anyone’s standard but then Alex Menzies (aka Mr Smoke) is an artist very far from the usual. A Rorschach test this is not, more a sonic experiment that explores the parameters of Alex Smoke’s potent psyche.
Alex remarks on its significance ‘I guess the album is the pattern and the tracks the randomness as I didn't have a plan to tie everything together. I also think it describes really well the appeal of music that at first sounds random but makes sense as a whole’.
It is close to two years since Soma unleashed ‘Incommunicado’, Smoke’s masterful debut.
Lauded by critics upon its release in March 2005 it portrayed his instinctive maturity in constructing emotional, deep grooves with intricate production techniques. ‘Incommunicado’ enveloped a myriad of influences including dub, electro, grime and minimal techno. One of the album highlights, ‘Don’t See The Point’ demonstrated his desire to incorporate his own vocals in innovative ways, while voicing his frustrations at the current political climate. This pivotal release augmented the fact that his music was not confined to the dancefloor and could not be pigeonholed by genre.
With ‘Paradolia’ he has taken this blueprint and pushed the boundaries for a composition that is swollen with ingenuity and experimentation. The development of his unique sound is clear to hear, crafting a beguiling symmetry of melancholy and melody. The result is an a listening experience that is more cohesive and inspirational than his debut outing.
As he reflects, ‘I guess I'm happier with my production now. The other big difference is that Incommunicado covered 4 years, whereas this album is entirely within a year so it probably hangs together better’.
Like its predecessor, Alex has once again interpreted styles of music that make an impact on him. With ‘Paradolia’ he has gone a step further, welding disparate genres into mind-bending opuses. The most ambitious track on the album is ‘Prima Materia’. Here he unites his two early influences of classical music (he is classically trained in the cello and piano) and early house to detonate a symphonic explosion that sounds like nothing else in contemporary electronic music.
He includes his own vocals on ‘Never Want To See You Again’, ‘Make My Day’ and ‘Anima’, each of which utilises bamboozling production techniques to devastating effect.
With an intrinsic understanding of how to rock the dancefloor, he has created the magnificent ‘Meany’, the first track to be released as a single (twelve inch version comes with a Matt John remix). This live-set staple is a twisted technoid cut of stuttering disorder that will erupt in the club. Another album seducer is the majestic ‘Snider’, a shimmering techno groove that nods to the minimal sound and his love of classic Detroit. Album opener ‘Persona’ is prime example of the deep and pulsing Alex Smoke sound that we know and love.
The personal nature of his music is evident throughout, on tracks like the reflective ‘A Moment To Myself’, the emotional ‘Something’s Gone’ and the fragile beauty of ‘Left Drift’ his wistful sound resonates. With the razor-edge beats of ‘We Like It Insipid’ he draws attention to his dislike of certain aspects of the world around us. The title refers to the lowest commondenominator tastes of the world as a whole, from McDonalds to the Daily Mail to every other fucking flacid appendage of modern society. His social conscience remains intact. 2005 was the year in which we witnessed this young producer’s rapid ascent through the ranks of the techno elite, consistently being placed in lists alongside the best techno and minimal producers the world over. Since the release of ‘Incommunicado’ he has been booked to play many of the most highly regarded clubs and festivals in the UK, all over Europe, to USA, to Russia, to Japan and beyond. Alex reflects, ‘It’s all been slightly surreal, because everything has happened so fast, but it's obviously been brilliant. The main thing that I've found hard to get used to is not seeing so much of my friends at the weekends so next year I'm taking more time off’.
Atop his remarkable two album releases on Soma, his coveted releases on Berlin label Vakant have cemented his club credentials and found their way into boxes and laptops of innovative DJ’s everywhere. Not content with a slew of killer twelves, Alex Smoke remixes have constantly been in demand, recently renovating Mylo, Alex Under and Vector Lovers.
2006 has been another landmark year for Alex Smoke, from the release of his mighty ‘Paradolia’ album in March, to remixing musical heroes Steve Reich, Junior Boys and Depeche Mode. He also continued to release singles on cool German imprint Vakant under the Quixote pseudonym to great acclaim. His name has grown not only as one of the most exciting and unique electronic music producers to emerge in years, but also as a DJ, taking bookings across the UK and Europe and even putting a live mix together for the massively popular ‘Essential Mix’ on UK’s BBC Radio One. He was ranked amongst the Top 20 international DJ’s in Groove Magazine’s Reader’s Poll. Now he has just assembled a selection of tracks that perfectly define his influences and DJing style, in the latest instalment of the Sci.Fi.Hi.Fi. mix series from Soma Recordings.
In short succession to Luciano’s already largely revered Sci.Fi.Hi.Fi. mix, Alex mixed this live and in one take using predominantly vinyl with a few exclusive tracks on CD. The result is acompelling journey through electronica, dubstep, electro and techno which is commingled with obscure gems, classic Detroit and some unreleased nuggets from Mr Smoke himself.
The tracklisting and programming is flawless, with Alex injecting forgotten classics into the mix from legendary producers like Basic Channel, Juan Atkins and Robert Hood alongside modern electronic pioneers, including Claro Intelecto, Thomas Brinkmann and Troy Pierce.
The atmospheric opening perfectly fuses the superb Burial’s ‘Gutted’ with City Centre Offices’ Porn Sword Tobacco’, and this emotive introduction paves the way for a subterranean excursion through dub techno and writhing, skeletal rhythms. Alex contributes three twisted slices of rattling funk, including an exclusive Quixote track and a refreshed version of ‘Always & Forever’. The mix is concluded with the magnificent ‘Fokus’ by 2000 & One, a true piece of techno history.
After a brief appearance at Melbourne’s Red Bull Music Academy in 2006 and a January 2007 Australian / NZ tour with Soma Corp where he was regarded by audiences at sold-out shows in both Melbourne and Sydney as ‘the best live act of the year’, Soma Corp is proud to again present the full Alex Smoke LIVE experience fresh off the back of the launch of his own label, ‘
A big welcome back to one of the most brilliant minds in contemporary electronic music.