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A Conversation With: in : exhale

I recently caught up with avant-garde creative in : exhale to chat about everything from his musical influences, to his audio-visual work, to what it was like collaborating with ambient scene heavyweights Myst and Vacant.

A conversation with: in : exhale

Although probably best known to his followers as a producer, in : exhale is a far cry from your quintessential Soundcloud artist. Many aspiring creatives attempt to cultivate and perfect one specific niche and grow their brand from there, but not in : exhale. Instead, he experiments not only with musical genres, but with all sorts of creative projects too, including audio-visual art - an immersive medium which is gaining ever more popularity among urban music fans.
Musically he dabbles, producing at a range of tempos from dubstep to techno. In recent years he has also found affiliation with the emerging Wave genre, which is how I first came into contact with his work.
In : exhale’s aesthetic is geared heavily towards the illusive. He is rarely photographed in clothes which aren't black and he never has his face fully on show. I can understand the desire to remain aloof; when an artist has his fingers in so many distinct pies, it makes sense for him to keep his image ambiguous.
He’s one of the only creatives I know of who manages to pull off separate multiple projects without employing aliases. I have a suspicion that keeping to the shadows has helped in : exhale become comfortable producing distinct forms of art under one name.
Back in June, in : exhale sporadically dropped ‘Impulse’, an aptly-named left-field collaboration with two of the most exciting names on the ambient scene; Myst and Vacant. The piece was deep, murky and unsettling; supplying that grey kind of ambience that fans have come to anticipate from all three artists.
The meeting of these innovative minds intrigued me, and I wanted to find out more about the project. It also presented the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about in : exhale ’s own musical background and the inspirations behind his work.
Although his base is still relatively small, in : exhale’s vivacious engagement with all areas of the downtempo and ambient scenes means he won’t stay underground for long.
As you can probably tell, I’ve been excited about getting to chat to this enigmatic character for a long time. You can find a transcript of our conversation below:

In : exhale

Firstly, thanks for taking the time to speak to Lucid Steps, it’s great to have you!

Thanks for having me.

One of the reasons I find your new releases so interesting is that I never know what I’m going to be hearing. You dabble so much with different genres and sounds. That’s great, I love the impulse not to be tied down or pigeon-holed. What I’d love to know is where your personal musical influences come from, as they must be varied too?  

Well I grew up with my parent’s record collection. So I learned about sound and music through breaking my dad's records, tapes and CDs, and manipulating them on his hi-fi stack. 

The earliest influences must have been from the Soul, Motown and Jazz records in that collection. I still have a vivid memory of picking up a CD with a very futuristic looking cover; I put it in the player, and I was taken aback by how abstract the music was. 

I realized later, that was the first time I listened to a free jazz record.

I started messing around with software based composition at around the age of 12 or 13.

My cousin - who always felt more like a big brother - showed me the software FL studio, and I was hooked ever since. I spent days and nights working on instrumentals, until each one was finished, as I only had the demo version at the time.

These early experiments were genreless, until I got into drum and bass and dubstep later on in life. I also started playing bass guitar in bands, very much influenced by thrash metal, punk and nu-metal, but when I first heard 'Benga & Coki - Night', I decided on that day, I wanted to make electronic music for the rest of my life. I studied and studied away, being influenced by multiple subgenres and styles; I was so captivated by electronic music that I couldn't stop diving deeper.

My college years consisted of a lot of footwork, future garage, and Bristol-style bass music. In college one of my favorite tutors, Alex Wood, showed me what sound arts and music concrete was. This opened up another huge area of experimentation with sound, which I didn't even know existed. This led me to listening and checking out audio visual artists, sound artists, as well as techno, ambient drone, and noise.

In : exhale

That is an incredibly varied musical past. It sounds like electronic music is definitely your calling right now. How did you first get involved with the downtempo scene?

I started listening to a lot of that future garage or that post-dubstep sound, at around age 16 to 17.

This was a period of experimentation with regards to what I was listening to and making. Later I got more into the techno-influenced side of that downtempo sound and strayed away from future garage, while still holding on to its influence. Meeting and working with Vacant reignited my love for that sound, and I started working on mixing the boundaries of both sounds together. Currently focusing on the boundaries between Techno, Garage, Dupstep and Metal.

You’re also involved in audio/visual projects, is that correct?

Yes that’s right. 

So can you tell me a bit about that, and your involvement with other kinds of musical projects too?

At the moment, one of my main interests is computational creativity. The study of creative processes implemented as computational tasks. I'm really interested in the scope of generative composition with computers. The idea of creating digital systems that allow for infinite change and randomized sequencing for both sound and vision. I see it as 'DSP art'. 

At the moment I’m working on a debut a/v ep, trying to explore the synchronicity between sound and vision, in a generative construct. The a/v works are generally centered around ideas and aesthetics of the future, ethics, philosophy and ontology. The works will live in the form of real-time visualizations, albums or ep's, gallery based installations, and live performance.

Other projects I’m working on include some work with Vacant that I can't announce yet, a/v events with Thru Colours & Matt Feldman (Noise Report), as well as musical projects with Anthony Long, Joey Wyt, & Mitchell Burns.

I'm also starting an audio visual label called 'Percept' from early next year, with a few artists around me. Aiming for a/v releases, a/v live shows as well as records and other net-based experiences. 

I'm also working on visual projects with the guys from Unbound Events.

That sounds like a lot of exciting stuff in the pipeline, most of it audio/visual focused. 

Could you explain how an audio/visual label works? 

Is it more about curating live shows, or releasing tracks and visuals together, or...?

It's a weird one, because it's new ground, so you have to create what you want in the spaces that exist. So instead of just getting the artists releasing MP3 audio, we will drop audio, video, apps and CD, DVD and vinyl for physical release.

We will also do shows an installations in theatres, art galleries and clubs. Since the market is mostly live, that will be the main focus.

That sounds like a very ambitious project, and also very exciting. I love the idea that the future of the electronic music might be more interactive.

I'd love to know if you have recommendations of other a/v groups or labels who are already pulling this kind of thing off, that our readers could check out to get a better idea of what these kind of projects involve?

Okay so it's been approached quite well from a few groups internationally, Austria are really excelling as well as Canada. London is getting really good for it too.

I would suggest reader's check out AntiVj, Raster-Noton or D-Fuse for an idea. 
Also check out the artists Refik Anadol, Joanie Lemercier, Koo Des/NSDOS, Ryoji Ikeda, and Carsten Nicolai for great audio visual works. Personally I bounce off Chris Speed's work quite a lot as he is the only other audio visualist I know in Essex. 

I wanna see if there can be more relationships between audio and video, as a commodity people can take home and collect, as well as experience live. Raster-Norton do really well from the commodity side of things, with vinyl and SD, as well as strange ways of putting things out.

So big things on the horizon! I can't wait to hear more about how this develops in the future.

Okay, so earlier on you mentioned Vacant. Let’s talk a little bit about your recent project with both him and Myst. 

Firstly can I just say how much I enjoyed the collaboration? It's really cool to see unity between three of the most innovative names on the experimental ambient scene. What inspired you to make music with Myst and Vacant?

It came together rather impulsively. I live round the corner from Myst, and go to university round the corner from Vacant. Since we are all within a similar sonic palette, we knew about each other. Conversations about and with each other sparked up, and on a whim we came together.


As artists, all three of you have experimented with sounds across the electronic spectrum, always seeming to find ways to portray the dark and beautiful. This piece is no different and I can hear the distinct contributions from three distinct artists. How did the creative process work? Did you come up with a concept beforehand or just vibe it?

Everything was very spontaneous. We knew we wanted to compose something, but there was no distinct concept or idea, other than sitting behind the tools, and letting expression take over. 

Myst, from my perspective, has a theoretical and tactical approach to his composition, so a lot of the melodic structures you hear come from his practice, as well as arrangement strategies. I can be quite technical and sound-design based. A lot of the basses, textures and spectral layering you hear come from my practice. Vacant has an instinctive process, able to compose near-finished arrangements very quickly, as well as lay out the focus of a composition, so he spent a lot of the time in the hot seat piecing together the source material. 

What did you enjoy most about collaborating with each other?

Work flow. Since we all are similar when it comes to influences, yet still draw inspiration from slightly different areas, there wasn't a clash of intentions when it came to composition. It was a very natural workflow. 

Where did you draw influence from?

We drew a lot of influence from each other, but we also are all heavily influenced by deep dubstep and garage, and ambient works. So listening to others, as well as expression from our environments, fed into this piece.

Yeah I can definitely hear that!

Which other artists are you listening to at the moment?

I'm currently listening to Nils Frahm, Monolake, Alva Noto, Deepchord, Skeptical, Cultrow, Asa, Ryoji Ikeda, Boris Divider, Quantec, Vacant, Blawan, Boddika. 

A huge variety of stuff then. Can we expect any more releases from you, or Myst and Vacant, individually in the near future?

Expect new music from all of us soon. Separately and together.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for the talk. Hope we speak again soon. 

To find out more about in : exhale, visit his website. You can also follow him on Soundcloud or subscribe to his Youtube channel to keep up with his current and forthcoming projects. 

Follow me on Soundcloud to keep up with the latest on Wave and other underground sounds.

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