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Sonic Router

Sonic Router 022: Ifan Dafydd: Being Correct Is Boring
Oli Marlow , September 13th, 2011 11:38

Oli Marlow of Sonic Router talks to Ifan Dafydd about missing out on hip hop and living with James Blake. With mix

If imitation is the biggest form of flattery then, according to 90% of the vocal people on the internet, James Blake should be blushing like a particularly shy schoolgirl right about now, in the wake of Welsh producer Ifan Dafydd’s debut EP. But then, like tQ editor John Doran wrote recently whilst lambasting the 20 years on reissue of Nirvana’s Nevermind album, Kurt Cobain owes Mudhoney a trip to the cinema and whatever the band want from the refreshment centre. There have always been acts and artists who sound like each other, ones who openly mimic their influences and others who strive more to take a little bit of something and flip it their own way.

When one of Dafydd’s tracks first came to me, in a mix made by Gang Colours, I knew it was pretty special. It had all the hallmarks of greatness: emotion, texture, prominent, playful scales and a wheel worthy drop into uptempo steppiness. The woozy concoction of that prolonged introduction chord and the way the bassline fumbles upwards outshined the obvious shattering of an Amy Winehouse vocal sample on ‘No Good,’ and it was only after, when twitter began claiming that it was infact the work of Blake working under a pseudonym, that I even drew the comparison myself. In the context I heard it, ‘No Good’ sounded like a producer enjoying the opportunity to make music; to create a mighty squall and yes, they were using an obvious vocal hook in a way that’s been done before to do it.

"I lived with James during our last year of university", Dafydd tells me, cooperating with my request to clear up the conjecture surrounding his identity at the first possible opportunity. “His music has undoubtedly had an influence on me. Living with him was living with his music and it grabbed me. I'm grateful for the fact that he introduced me to innovative electronic music that directed me onto the path that I've pursued since moving back to North Wales.”

There is a similar lushness to Blake in the chords; and there’s a proportionate expansive property in the way he draws out the tail of his snare drums, and yep, there’s that likeness in the bounding melodic richness that stems from obvious classical training; but for all the comparable parts, Dafydd’s chords are positively upbeat, possibly even working the scales a little harder, paying more attention to the melody and irking out more of a broadened musical smile.

“I'm not going to argue with people who label my work as biting him,” he continues, all too aware of the rumours surrounding his debut release. “Creating music is a very personal thing so it can be hard to take when people question your integrity, but I'm still finding my own voice production wise and hopefully people will be patient enough to see that.”

“I missed the whole dubstep movement the first time round,” Dafydd admits candidly, letting me know he comes from somewhere different musically. “I see myself as a bit of a latecomer in regards to dance music in general. I've always been into groove music, from Fela Kuti to Sly Stone but right now, for the first time in years I'm discovering new artists creating exciting bass music all the time and I love how progressive and vibrant the electronic scene is.”

‘Miranda,’ the B-side to ‘No Good’ that harbours a different, more subtle and creeping atmosphere, hints further at the producer’s talent, injecting proper tumbledown jazz piano riffs into the haze of synths. If anything it speeds to a gallop in the same way that some of Mount Kimbie’s - another act that Dafydd was presumably privy to whilst studying at university at Goldsmiths - more danceable records do. Ultimately, there is no denying Dafydd’s first release is of their ilk; a sound that unifies found production techniques with a genuine and meticulous talent for musicianship. But much like Blake’s classic Harmonimixes ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’ & A Milli, the tracks put out on Dafydd’s debut may well date back a couple of years, when the wider internet wasn’t so aware of the way Blake builds his tracks and when Dafydd was, as he says, surrounded by his music; and Blake by his.

“I started playing piano when I was about eight and I played cornet in the local brass band,” he tells me, immediately appearing a world away from the Plastic People besotted producers whose love for the way a hi hat cuts through the system always seems to rear up in interviews. “It was when I taught myself guitar that I really took an interest in chords and scales and modes. I enjoyed the methodical aspect of it and I dabbled with jazz guitar for a bit. I jammed with friends mostly as a guitarist when I was growing up and then later played keys in a Welsh-language 9 piece funk band amongst other things.”

“I see myself as a musician first and foremost, rather than a producer, but I really feel that producing has allowed me to break free from being logical about what I'm creating,” he continues, being to theorize the process when pressed on his willingness to incorporate his instrumental background into his tracks.

“Whether a chord progression makes any sense to me theoretically doesn't really bother me as much anymore. Being correct is boring anyway. I started creating electronic music because I wanted to step outside my comfort zone. It's a very meticulous process but you can't beat that feeling when you finish something that you're proud of.”

Oli Marlow writes for Sonic Router

Ifan Dafydd’s ‘No Good’ b/w ‘Miranda’ is out now

Ifan Dafydd Mix

DOWNLOAD: Ifan Dafydd - Sonic Router Mix #99

Chopin – Mazurka Op. 67 No.2
Blawan – Lavender
Pedestrian – Hei Poa
Pearson Sound – WAD
Fantastic Mr Fox – If I
Gang Colours – Dance Around The Subject
Disclosure – Offline Dexterity
Koreless – MD
Joy Orbison – So Derobe
Hors x Henrik Koefod x Kilimanjaro – Fell
Mount Kimbie – Fifty Mile View
James Blake – Postpone
Addison Groove – Footcrab
R Kelly – Exit,br> Ifan Dafydd – Miranda
Cloud Boat – Lions On The Beach
Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good