Avarice is the latest offering by bass music producer Sayer and it has easily become one of my favorite releases of the year. It was released (August 14th) a year to the day after he had his first appointment with a specialist about hearing loss. The following is a track by track breakdown of the EP from Sayer himself. ***UPDATED VIA TWITTER***
“…some of these songs were written before, some after, but all were mixed post recovery. so grateful to be able to hear, every single day.”
PLAUGE OF MAN
Plague of Man was the first moment writing Avarice where I realized the scope of what I was trying to do. I had written plenty of functional Sayer dancefloor tunes that were easy to mix and got people moving, but would rarely indulge myself to finish longer more musical songs. I have long been hugely inspired by post-rock bands like Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Pelican, and have written plenty of longer form tunes in previous bands, and I think this song draws from that. It was massively rewarding to make something that spoke to my more melodic and macro-compositional sensibilities. Witnessing G Jones through his process writing “The Ineffable Truth” was also a massive inspiration and encouraging example that showed that freeform bass music could have crazy dynamics and still smash the dance when it wanted to. Pretty sure I wrote the majority of the song in one session and then had a ton of edits and reiterating of the main idea over quite a long period of time, from before my hearing issues, through them, and after recovery. This one was also the tune that took the most time to produce on the EP, I think it had somewhere around 170 or so tracks in the project file by the end of it, most of them extremely distorted. The mixdown was the first I finished for the project and it was a beast to tame.
As Plague of Man came together, I kept having visions (as I often do) of humans wrecking the planet for profit, comfort, or out of fear. We constantly do this as a species, consuming the world around us as if our existence doesn’t completely depend on its long-term health. Let alone giving it value of its own, to exist and have its own merit just BEING there; a symbiotic web of species and habitat existing in a balance that has been preserved more or less intact since time immemorial. In that way we are locusts – a plague of biblical proportions destroying everything in our path in an orgy of overwhelming consumption, to exist in a flash and make itself extinct in the blink of an eye, taking our environment with us. Hence the name, and the quote.
This of course isn’t the first time this has happened in human history, there have been several other human civilizations that have written their own doom in greed, but this is the first time we have had the technology to affect things on a global level, a terrifying thought.
As I held onto this feeling, the song became a eulogy for the earth as it was before we came around and fucked everything up, while also expressing a kind of melancholic gratitude in the certainty that even if we destroy ourselves and much of the rest of the earth in the process, life will find a way, our ruins will become its habitat, and our bones will become its food.
Autophobia, for me, is an homage to negative space. I think that silence is the heaviest thing you can add to a song, and dance music especially rarely uses the full dynamic range (of silence to max volume) in the main sections of tunes. The drop of this song is all about playing with that, reveling in the joy of full distorted wildness breaking into nothing, and somehow the nothing seeming infinitely larger than the something. I think as a producer it can be scary to delete things you’ve spent a ton of time on but taking things out is often one of the final & most potent steps in my writing process. Facing that fear can really unlock hidden potential in music, especially heavy electronic music that is so often slammed to all hell with giant sounds fighting against even bigger sounds. Giants would be normal sized if it weren’t for the diminutive stature of their surroundings; context is everything, delete delete delete and you might be surprised at the beast you awaken.
The title reflects this fear perfectly. Autophobia, or Monophobia, being the fear of being alone – The fear of the silence of one’s surroundings, one’s mind, one’s relationships. I personally fucking love being alone and have spent an absurd amount of time alone in my life, and while this of course isn’t possible for everyone to do (and that’s ok!!) I have found innumerable benefits to it. I’d encourage anyone who is able to go out into the woods by yourself, lay in the dirt, and think about the fact that while you may be the only human there, you aren’t alone in the slightest, you never are. We are so intricately tied to everything around us – and being solitary is, in a way, celebrating that connection.
The main section of Force was written on an airplane. Writing bass music in planes is always funny for me because the noise from the plane completely overpowers any bass in your headphones & you kind of have to write the song only listening to the mids and highs, using your intuition alone for the lower frequency elements. Restrictions like this usually end up bolstering my creativity, and I don’t think I would have written such an odd, chromatic lead line if I wasn’t forced to basically use that alone to carry the whole idea.
If you are in a creative slump, I highly recommend intentionally limiting yourself. Write a couple ideas where you can’t use your go-to synth, or can’t use any actual drum sounds, or where you produce the whole beat using only laptop speakers, etc. It usually makes me think outside the box and produce more innovative and unexpected work. I will usually change the title of a project file once it begins to take shape and embody a feeling or idea, and also so I don’t release a bunch of tunes named something like “July 8th 150 fucked drums”. And while being forced to work with less is part of the story here and is where the project file got its name, there is something else that I kept coming back to whenever I would open it and see the word FORCE, and that is this:
Force is the ghoul in the back of the room in modern society. The civilized world claims to have made human lives entirely and exclusively better, that everyone participates in turning the machine because they desire to. The structural underpinning of this, however, is that if anyone steps out of line, overwhelming force will rain down upon them until they return to the status quo. And while forceful practices have existed in nature pretty much since the dawn of life on this planet, the thing that is particularly dangerous in this age is that the amount of force available to those in power is so incredible that its practice and application is almost always top down. A frightful reality. Never has there been such a monopoly on the potential for destruction, and never has that monopoly been overseen by such short sighted and unstable creatures.
Delusion was super fun to make – I fucking love chopping up breaks and that’s how this beat started. Next came the quarter time drums and the stabby synth (that is pretty off time – recorded it in one take and enjoyed how fucked off it sounded), but it needed something else..
Sometimes when producing I ratchet my perception and make not so good decisions (distorted sounds sound normal after a while and I then add too much distortion that I have to fix later etc.). In this case, the (already pretty chopped up) break sounded too straight after
listening to it for too long, and I went in and made the way more fucked up version for the 2nd drop, and I’m so glad I did – without it this beat might have lived forever in the demo pile.
Sometimes not so good practices that sometimes hurt you can lead to a breakthrough. I had been sitting on the vocal for a while, and this beat felt like the time to use it. The concept that humans are a superior form of life, and that the Earth and all of it’s denizens are here FOR US, is a belief that is so commonly held that it has become part of the background static of our culture. At some point humanity stopped thinking of trees as our equals, and started thinking of them as wood incubators, or unprocessed paper, or money waiting to be harvested. If one were to spend any amount of time alone in nature, this belief becomes quite obviously foolish, when you see the rocks, the trees, the birds and the dirt in their natural and connected state it becomes exceedingly apparent we are a part of it all and are not separate overseers. The isolation imposed on all of us by this modern society – the suggestion that WE are HERE and NATURE is over THERE – a separate world to be gawked at on vacation but otherwise existing to fuel the machine of the HERE – is instrumental in creating the delusion that humans are the pinnacle of evolution for which the earth was created.
This belief couldn’t be further from the truth, and is being starkly disproven as we trigger a mass extinction (that will include us if we don’t change quickly) because of shortsighted beliefs that value profit and convenience over life itself. Survival of the fittest indeed. To survive, humanity must shed this delusion and realize that we are no better than the dirt beneath our feet; not because we are worthless, but because the dirt, and everything connected to it, is so incalculably valuable.
“the support on Avarice has been so insane, I don’t think I’ve ever had this much hype for one of my solo releases and I’m so deeply grateful to everyone for listening thank you thank you.”