This editorial is dedicated to putting the spotlight on artists who create amazing music but always seem to fly under the radar for most dance music lovers. With so much great talent nowadays it's easy to miss out on the many musicians who may not appear on the mainstage but always deliver a headliner performance. Under The Radar has shined the spotlight on Swedish musician Ben Worral, who has been hard at work bridging the gap between jazz and electronic music in an exciting new project called Crackazat.
Perhaps one of the most notable changes in the dance music scene today is the integration of real musicianship in DJ sets. Artists like Disclosure, Big Gigantic, and Kygo have created acts that involves so much more than just blending one song to the next. Swedish producer Crackazat has created a very unique sound that combines the energetic, underground sounds of UK garage house with the soulful fusion of classic jazz music, using a wide array of synths and MIDIs to perform alongside his beats.
This year, Crackazat celebrates the release of his first full length LP on Local Talk, Crescendo, which definitely displays his jazz influence in full force, as nearly every house track is accompanied by live keyboard and synth riffs. The punchy, garage kicks complimenting the quick and catchy chords is largely reflective of a jazz group jamming out live. With all the natural swing and sharp precision, it's truly one of the finest examples of jazztronica to ever grace any sound system.
From the hypnotic, 8-bit intro of “Moon Ballad” to the disco-ey “Miss You Tonight” and finishing with the deep and sexy “Person”, Crescendo is a very colorful album from front to back. Its this diversity that keeps the album from feeling samey, and while the jazzy tracks are the bread and butter, the addition of some great downtempo like “Brother Bond” and its handful of vocal tunes change up the pace quite effectively. Overall its a extremely listenable album that has plenty of soul, which does its wide range of influences justice while being minimal enough to retain an underground, housey vibe. A guaranteed treat for any house purist or anyone who enjoys eclectic music in general.
After discovering Crescendo, I decided to get in touch with Ben and find out more about his unique approach to producing music.
UTR: I just discovered you this year when I listened to Crescendo. I came upon it browsing Beatport and looking for house music with that snappier, garagy, vibe, which the abum nailed. Was that your initial goal when crafting the album? What were your main influences and the biggest challenges?
Ben: Well the album is really a compilation of all my creative efforts over the last 6 or so years. The garagy, snappier vibe you mention, is simply my take on house music, and is probably influenced by the UK house and garage I grew up on. Some of the downtempo tracks are from when I was into the whole post hip hop beat making thing, which bubbled up around 6 years ago and established artists like Flying Lotus, Onra, and Dorian Concept. Believe it or not the first draft of the album included another 5 or so tracks with various singers, aiming for a more commercial based sound. The biggest challenge was leaving those tracks behind, after discussions with the label, and zoning on my more raw underground sound which I already had established.
UTR : The jazz elements are a huge highlight of the record. What is your background with jazz music and has it always been reflected in your productions?
Ben: I grew up tap dancing to Jazz with my mum, who is a tap dance teacher, so in many ways Jazz was my first dance music. In my late teens I started getting really interested in Jazz musicianship and decided to pursue Jazz performance and composition at Uni full time. Simply said Jazz is my biggest passion, and so much of what I do is a tribute to the legacy of jazz.
UTR: When did you get started producing dance music? Did you ever think you'd become a full time electronic musician?
Ben: Before I started producing Dance music, I began recording rock/funk tracks my PC as a teenager, simple looping and drum programming etc. I then got into hip hop production and worked with MCs. A while after that I then got more interested in 4/4 club music, and started trying to find my own sound within that idiom. I had no idea that It could develop into a career, especially as I was neither a DJ or had any experience with club music. Things like Albeton, midi controllers, soundcloud and social media, have made it possible to get my music out there, and perform my own music live as a form of income.
UTR: Do you ever incorporate live instruments during your DJ sets? Would you ever assemble a full band for Crackazat?
Ben: I very rarely DJ, but for my regular live sets, I play keyboards, and spend the rest of the time programming and navigating through my set with an AKAI APC40. I am quite eager to get electric bass, vocals and even guitar in there when possible. Further down the line there is the aspiration to arrange and direct a live Crackazat band.
UTR: Some of my favorite tracks of Crescendo are some of the non-house tunes, like Moon Ballad or Brother Bond. Do you experiment often with sounds and styles and is that something we might see more of in later releases?
Ben: Though my most recent ventures have been in house and 4/4, my passion for hip hop and neo soul is equally strong. On my next LP, I will have more tracks in that vain. Including these styles is crucial if I am to embody all of my elements as Crackazat.
UTR: Has the rise of EDM music's popularity affected your career as an artist with a much underground and classical sound? Especially since most newcomers in the scene are mainly getting exposed to the more grandiose genres.
Ben: Really interesting question, and I'm going to answer in some detail.
Yes it has fundamentally affected me as a producer and musician.
I feel quite a world away from Tommorrowland festival, peak time radio air play and pre recorded sets with thousand pound light shows, Yet I see Avicii sitting in a studio playing a midi keyboard and i think “thats exactly what I'm doing”. I make electronic music on a computer, I am a musician, and I play my own music live to a standing audience.
I think this interview demonstrates that my music is reaching both underground DJs and casual EDM listeners. This was initially hard for me to digest, as I have grown up listening to UK electronic dance music (not the commercial buzz word EDM), so to me it has always been a valid and accessible genre, closely linked to the culture and local community it came from. However what is happening with “EDM” is something completely different. The music has transcended its birth place, the underground and turned in to the most commercial and accessible pop music currently. This in my experience has been both a blessing and a challenge for many DJ's and underground producers. Many feel robbed of there identity, and that their music has been commercially exploited.
There is no doubt that commercial EDM has become pop music for the new digital generation. It's fast, hyper instant gratification is a complete mirror image of today's fast living society. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, smartphones and online life. It's all connected. Techno, house and trance are musical genres that predate online/global culture and what is now called EDM, and in some cases will influence what the new generation of producers will make.
My hope is that commercial EDM producers promote diversity, creativity, communal ownership and don't get stuck in the hype, and underground producers do not get stuck in the past and embrace accessibility and individuality.
UTR: Great stuff! By the way, congrats on recently becoming a father. How has parenthood been treating you so far? Do you see if affecting your music in any way?
Ben: Being a parent is the most profound and fundamental human experience. I think I take more risks now. I have started singing on my productions about topics important to me, and fatherhood is one of them.
UTR: Overall, how do you feel about Crescendo? What do you have in store for your future releases and how do you hope to follow up 2015? Any US appearances on the horizon?
Ben: Crescendo was a way of introducing myself to the electronic music scene, now it's up to me to keep talking, and building a relationship with my listeners and collaborators. I have some remixes coming out shortly. I've also started working on my second album, which I am hoping to have ready by the end of 2016.
No US appearances for the time being I'm afraid, but I do look forward to my first tour there when it happens.
I have my fingers crossed that Crackazat comes overseas soon as Crescendo is a considerably strong debut and one can only imagine things to grow. His jazz upbringing has brought him a long way, becoming a seasoned artist with many tricks up his sleeve and a true trendsetter. Don't miss Crackazat when he arrives at a club or festival near you.
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*All images we're provided by Crackazat