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LISTEN: Zhou Quietus Mix
Rory Gibb , March 14th, 2013 07:25

Zhou produce deep, dub-infused tracks rooted in their home city of Bristol's long-running sound system culture. The duo speak to Rory Gibb about new 12" Locust Tree, plus listen to their mix for the Quietus below

Zhou, the duo of Amos Childs and Cris Ebdon, make music that's strongly situated within Bristol's dub-rooted, sub-heavy history. They're members of the city's Young Echo collective - also featuring Vessel, Kahn, El Kid and Jabu - who are currently churning out some of the UK's most fascinating and immersive electronic music, via their own releases and via the medium of their monthly(ish) Young Echo Radio sessions.

Compared to the rest of the crew Zhou's release history is markedly slimmer, but there's an impressive depth to what is present. Their two 12"s to date have been released through Peverelist's Punch Drunk label, which has spent the last six years or so tracking the city's dubstep and bass mutations - and in some ways their just-released Locust Tree feels beguilingly out of time; where the city's scene has largely moved away from dubstep towards house and techno, the title track's delicately looping motifs and steppers' rhythms instead hark back towards earlier work by Peverelist himself and fellow Bristol luminaries like Pinch. But as with last year's 'I Remain' that's core to its appeal, a reminder that there's still plenty of fruitful exploring to do within that tempo and rhythmic bracket. Its partner 'Locust Dub' on the flip is, if anything, even more striking: it seems to run in two directions at once, its percussion pushing restlessly forward while clouds of reverb and delay coalesce into a silvery fluid that washes backward across the track's surface.

A scan through the the tracklist of the mix the duo have recorded for the Quietus, which you can listen to via the embed below, gives some clue as to the kind of influences that are at play in their work. Muslimgauze makes a couple of appearances, an earlier Bristolian generation appears in the form of Tricky, along with dub and reggae, near-ambient electronics and more. Notably, it's packed with a whole raft of new productions from fellow Young Echo members and other friends/contemporaries from Bristol. To read the full tracklist, see bottom of page.

Zhou's is the third mix from the Young Echo we've hosted on tQ - click here to listen to Vessel's 2011 mix and El Kid's from last year - and each one has made the case for the collective being a very fertile creative space. We caught up with Cris and Amos to find out more about their musical history and current projects.

Could you tell me a bit about your background? When did you first start making music together, and were there particular shared interests that made you think that you'd be able to work well together?

Cris Ebdon: We met in 2007 at a time when we were both becoming interested in music production.

Amos Childs: I think that the common strand was reggae and dub music really... I was playing in a band at the time and Cris's music seemed to represent a lot of stuff that I liked about music which I couldn't really reach in a band.

What first drew you to make music? And how did you come through to working in electronic music - were there any particular genres or experiences that drew you strongly towards electronic sounds?

AC: I remember going to Ashton Court festival when I was younger, we used to walk there and I would hear the bass from the other side of the hill, I've always been looking for that in my music. That and Aphex Twin probably like a million other little jitters like me.

CE: I was interested in how technical developments in synthesis filtered into roots music of India and Jamaica, and enjoyed being able to recreate styles of what is effectively folk music in a year 3000 style.

What's your working process like when you're making music? Does it involve a lot of bouncing back and forth of ideas, and trial-and-error, or have you gotten to the point that you're able to flesh out ideas fairly swiftly and intuitively?

CE: We've tried collaborating online but it really takes us both to be in the same room with no distractions to be productive.  With time, the process has become more concise, and we are better now at making decisions and compromises, but there's still a lot of trial and error.

AC: Cris is tidy and I'm messy so we get on each other's nerves, but I think it is worth it in the end.

Could you tell me a bit about your new 12", Locust Tree - when did the tracks for that come together and what kind of shape did you intend them to take? The two alternate versions are have a similar-but-different feel - did one spring from the other or were they both written in tandem?

CE: Locust Tree was built over the course of a day with both of us focused on it. I then worked independently to form the dub, intended as a dubplate special. 

AC: We had an idea of doing it as a discomix on one side of the record, but Tom [Ford, Peverelist] said we weren't allowed. It ended up being the natural B side.

You work as a duo but there seem to be a fair few shared musical projects with the other members of Young Echo. Given that, for so many modern dance and electronic music producers, writing music is very much a solo concern, I find it interesting that the space you've opened up for yourselves involves so much collaboration (both within Zhou and elsewhere). Is working with others a crucial aspect of what you do? Do you think it offers advantages that you wouldn't find if you were each producing alone?

CE: If one of us has put more into a track, its usually quite obvious. If I've been in the driving seat it will be neater and have much more of a digital steppers drum pattern, if Amos has been driving, the mixing will be ruff and there won't be any drums.

AC: Drums are the devil's medium.

Could you tell me a bit about forming Young Echo and how that's helped to develop your music? Does it offer a good space for bouncing ideas off one another and coming up with new ones?

AC: We used to listen to a lot of music by Joe [McGann, Kahn] and Seb [Gainsborough, Vessel] and Sam [Kidel, El Kid] even before we were Young Echo, I would say our music had been influenced by them all. Now it is really interesting to hear what everyone has been listening to as well, I'm quite bad about finding new music at the moment, so most of the current stuff I listen to will have been shown to me by someone in the gang.

CE: Although the format of the broadcasts has evolved from being just a handful of us in a room, to being more of a party, it still presents an opportunity to share music we've discovered and made. 

If there's one thing that seems to underpin a lot of what you do, it's dub - both in terms of the sound of your music and the kind of music that forms the backbone of the Young Echo shows. Would you say that was true? When did you become interested in dub, and what draws you to it, as a genre and as inspiration for your own music?

AC: I would like to say that was true, I might get cussed out by Seb and Sam for it though. Dub music has such a loose format, I think that is what I like about it.

CE:  I'm drawn in by the low and steady bass lines and the ability of dub artists to build upon and explore a simple groove through mixing and effects.

You've signed to Punch Drunk for your last two 12"s, which seems to suit well, given that it's quite a long-running bastion of exploratory electronic music and dub-rooted sonics within the city. How did you get involved with the label?

CE: Joe put us in contact with Peverelist shortly after his debut 12" also released on the label.

AC: Punch Drunk is really important for the city I think, it is really great to be a part of that lineage going right back to the early Bristol dubstep sound. I think Pev is great, I want him to be like a male seahorse and carry a baby for me.

What's the Bristol scene like at the moment? Does being present within the musical community there inspire your music?

AC: Yeah definitely, there is a really strong extended family in Bristol at the moment centred around Beavis's Roots Radical Sound System. It is exciting to be a part of it.

Could you tell us a bit about the mix you've recorded for us - is there a particular theme or idea that underpins it?

CE: There wasn't really a theme.

AC: Its just music that we both like.

'Locust Tree'/'Locust Dub' is out now via Punch Drunk. The tracklist for Zhou's Quietus Mix runs as follows:

Muslimguaze - 'Extract 1'
Souad Abdullah - 'Title Unknown'
Giant Swan - 'And She Continued To Eat'
Kahn - 'Ode'
El Kid & REI - 'Radial Sheaves'
Muslimguaze - 'Ultra Orthodox, and No Cheating'
Hicha - 'Music For Cities'
Hicha - 'Movement'
Vessel - 'Court of Lions (edit)'
Brain Damage - 'Les Petits Yeux Métalliques'
Ossia - 'Red X'
Ishan Sound - 'Titans ft. Ras Addis'
Ishan Sound - 'Aakrosh'
Mystica Tribe - 'Meditation Stick'
Zhou - 'Noboru'
Kahn & Zhou - 'Prophet ft. Rider Shafique'
Young Jazz Rebels - 'On The Run From Mr. Charlie'
Tricky & Bjork - 'Keep Your Mouth Shut'
Kahn - 'Intention'