Hailing from Atlanta, Stranded occupies the position of a genuine musical outlier. “Alienation, romantic rendezvous, 9 to 5 unease, and an apprehension of the future”, are just a few of the topics at the forefront of the recent, self-released ‘Long Dusk’ EP, as well as a previous release on Optimo Music in 2019, ‘Celine’s Dilemma’.
Inspired by a lifelong fascination with dance-music centered cities such as Detroit, Berlin and Manchester, Stranded’s own music sits at odds with the soundtrack of Atlanta, where a sprawling scene is traditionally dominated by hip-hop and rap. Stranded’s stellar #PHANTASYMIX takes in a journey that encompasses both future-facing and roots focused electronic music that easily bridges ideas of rock and electronic music, featuring Killing Joke, Moodymann, Andrea, DJ Krush and Altered Natives.
Headsy, unapologetic and ultimately cathartic in tone, Stranded’s mix was recorded in Atlanta during lockdown and shortly before the United States saw nationwide protests in relation to the death of George Floyd and associated systemic, racially-motivated police violence. Once you’ve enjoyed our accompanying interview with Stranded below, you might wish to read his recent interview here with fellow Atlanta resident and DJ, Ash Lauryn, founder of the Underground & Black platform.
This mix is pretty representative of a typical set from me like when I used to spin once a month in Atlanta before Covid-19. I like to switch between genres and beat styles, but as long and as I can carry a mood throughout, I think it works. I had been building up a track list for a while, and then the George Floyd protests started happening all across the country. Certain songs started to have direct correlations to my surroundings and feelings like the ones by Smith & Mighty, Ikara Colt, and Killing Joke. Also, it was important to me to give support to Black artists that have influences on me like Moodymann and Smif-N-Wessun. The mix is pretty moody and dark at times. I like the idea that it could be played late at night while alone in your apartment, which is typically how I listen to mixes and electronic music.
Then in the middle of all this I released an EP on my own, Long Dusk. All the proceeds from the first two weeks of sales went to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund. I wanted to get these songs out since I was moving ahead with other progressions and pieces of music. I am expecting more to come out this fall via Homage, a label out of NYC.
You are based in Atlanta, a city undoubtedly better known for a legacy of rap, hip-hop and trap than the electronic music associated with Detroit or Chicago. What’s your relationship with the former, and what were your formative experiences with the latter? Do you have like-minded collaborators out there?
Hip-hop is extremely important here, and it drives so much within the greater culture even if folks aren’t actively aware of it. Outkast and Goodie Mob are staples in my collections, and when I was growing up TI and Young Jeezy were on every radio station. I think that collaboration from a couple years ago between 21 Savage, Offset, and Metro Boomin was stellar. I’m pretty proud of Atlanta’s influence on the hip-hop and r&b world.
My introductions to Chicago and Detroit house and techno were very much my own journey. I had to piece together the story. I had to rely on articles, websites, or a random mix here or there. I wanted to know more, but I didn’t really have mentors or older friends that could educate me. I started listening to Juan Atkins and Frankie Knuckles when I was 17 and went from there to acid house, Jeff Mills, and Plastikman. I don’t have collaborators within that space. I’m pretty solo in that regard. There are some excellent DJs and producers here that have ties to those cities like Ash Lauryn, Stefan Ringer, Kai Alce´, Divine Interface, and DJ Pierre. Also, the guys in Atlanta that run DKA Records are strong in EBM and industrial music, and I really enjoy the shows they put on.
Nonetheless, surely the EDM boom of the early noughties left some impact? Many scholars/internet message board optimists wondered if that would in fact leave a positive impact on the state of electronic music in America for the ‘heads’ who stuck with it. Has that happened?
It made people more open to electronic music for sure, but it completely nuked the story and history of the music even more than it already was. I went to university for history, and I sometimes get cranky because I know a lot of fans of that world wouldn’t know the importance of the Music Box, Paradise Garage, Tresor, Goa, or Shoom. The EDM boom seemed definitely more about the party and the social element. Granted when I started going to clubs for the first time that was right when blog house became a thing, which was very much a party and place to be seen. I feel like that world was the breeding ground for the EDM boom. Blog house was in the indie clubs, and then it graduated to big room theatrics after having a tryst with trance music and the bastard child of dubstep.
There’s a strong sense of post-punk heritage to your music. Did you come to that strand via electronic music, or the other way round? Who were the figures that influenced your taste?
I will always be a rock kid, and I have loved The Clash, PIL, and Factory Records since I was young. On the American side, The Beastie Boys fit that mold for me growing up as well. Post-punk is my core at the end of the day, and I always appreciated the ethos and open mindedness of those creators. All these musicians loved disco, dub, hip-hop, electronic music, and so on. They were music fans, and I’ve tried to carry that attitude. I’d be remiss to not mention the impact big beat had on me as a kid when I saw Prodigy, Chemical Brothers, and Death in Vegas on MTV. That was my first introduction to electronic music, and I used that as a jump off point. The main catalyst into production and dj’ing was Mo’Wax. It was like a new era in my life began when I first fell in love with Endtroducing. DJ Shadow's techniques and approaches had a massive influence on me. Around the time I got into techno and house was when the very first Hyperdub 12”s came out. That was honestly really exciting for me. I was already into dub, and I used to listen to a drum and bass radio show from my university’s station. This new genre seemed like that next step, and I became hooked on Hypberdub and Tectonic record labels. Those dark, moody textures were just as much in line with PIL and Joy Division as they were with Metalheadz for me.
The mix also features a dose of Smith & Mighty, the Bristol based production pioneers who previously remixed your last release on Optimo Music. So, that’s post-punk, and pre trip-hop in the mix… Their work was quite pioneering, preluding a lot of sounds we then went on to become broadly familiar with over the next decade. From a music connoisseur’s perspective, can you think of any recent or even upcoming sonic equivalents that might make similar impact.
Good question. One release that really sticks out for me recently is by Zonal, which brought Justin Broadrick (Godflesh) and Kevin Martin (The Bug) back together in collaboration with Moor Mother. It’s heavy, dubby, groovy, and dark as hell. I love the combinations of their backgrounds and styles. Cut from the same cloth I’d mention releases from Algiers, Forest Swords, and Fatima Al Qadiri whose recent film score for Atlantics was just as much of a star of the film as the actors. I think the artists off Illan Tape have been on something special with their appreciation of ambient, techno, and hip-hop as well. All these music outputs have a boldness and edge that really connects with me, and they seem like a step ahead with their sounds and what they’re bridging from their influences.
Atlanta is a majority black city, and, by 2010 census statistics, the United States’ fourth-largest black majority metropolitan area. We don’t have the time, nor necessarily the perspective to discuss this in relation to recent events with the depth they deserve. But, following COVID-19 and weeks on at the time of writing from the murder of George Floyd, does the mood in such a large cultural stronghold have an advantage of community and optimism?
Just like loving house, techno, and hip-hop, if you live in Atlanta it’s important to know the influence and importance of Black history and culture here. The Civil Rights Movement is so heavily ingrained into this city, but just outside, in the suburbs, statues and murals of Confederate Soldiers still stand. We had our own recent killing, Rayshard Brooks. We had damage, arrests, and violence. It does feel like there is movement and change, but there were some emotional nights this past month. I marched in downtown Atlanta in June, and the crowd seemed driven together pushing towards a positive outcome. Then we approached the CNN Center, and the national guard and police had their barricades. The mood changed. Then we had an election primary, and that was the biggest turnout I’ve seen for a primary in my life. It made me feel optimistic to see those numbers and that physical presence of people putting their voices to the ballot box. We have a long way to go. There is so much to reckon with, but I always have hope despite the leaders in Washington DC and the Georgia state government being in the way. Community, knowledge, and power together is always the way to go.
John Thorp, July 2020.