“Drone Logic’s spiritual home was the dancefloor. This record’s is definitely the road. Those late nights and hazy mornings, finding inspiration beyond the fog.”
It’s enlightening to discover that Daniel Avery’s second album – Song for Alpha, the brilliantly absorbing and visionary follow up to 2013’s flawless Drone Logic – was inspired largely by his transient life spent between nightclubs, flights, the passenger seats of cars and hotel rooms, cementing a worldwide reputation as one of the defining techno DJs of the decade. Unlike the cynicism caused by such travels on countless rock’n’roll antecedents, Avery’s take on the musical world is hugely positive.
“Electronic music is unique in that, whilst it has an immediate effect on the body, the culture surrounding it has the ability to run deep into your life. When I’m in a club, I want to give myself up to music. Witnessing a DJ create an atmosphere from the ground up takes patience and effort from everyone involved present but when the pivotal moments hit, your watch stops ticking. As a DJ, those are the moments I search for and they are the moments that have continued to shape me as a producer.”
The road first began to noticeably influence Avery’s music on 2016’s supremely deft DJ-Kicks compilation – a record that was conceived as a “linear yet expansive trip; a mix concerned with the idea of taking a collective breath and allowing records their own space. Music in which to get lost.”
While Drone Logic was mainly created for and honed by countless DJ gigs, Song for Alpha revels in exploring different spaces. As Avery’s surroundings have changed, so has the sound of the new recordings. Here, the booming sound of the big room is brilliantly countered by the music of the small hours. While the record pivots around a handful of huge dancefloor tracks, they sound odder, sparser than before. These may be club records, but they’re made for dusty, dark rooms, not clinical white spaces. These are rooms where the acid loop that drives Stereo L seemingly curves around and inside the rhythm track; where both Projector and Clear evoke early rave records, only ones played live in a derelict church - pitch perfect soundtracks to strobe lights flickering through broken stained glass. Spaces where the galloping percussion of Diminuendo – reminiscent of CJ Bolland’s Horsepower - fuses to an alarm klaxon that drills deep into your cortex and a breakdown that sounds like a jet aircraft taking off inside the speaker cabinets.
With newfound energy and time to develop, Avery’s sonic vocabulary has expanded: uplifting ambient lullabies such as First Light and Days From Now sit perfectly next to the mesmeric techno assault. William Basinski, Warp’s Artificial Intelligence, Brian Eno plus his own recent excursions with synth specialist Alessandro Cortini all serve as touchstones for a record that sees Avery take his signature psychedelic-electronic sound to new dimensions, a sound that plays to the head as much as the body.
“I’ve become increasingly interested in those moments in a club when the outside world becomes little more than an inconsequential thought at the back of your skull. Eyes closed as opposed to hands in the air. The more time you spend with this idea the deeper you fall.”
For Avery, the actual recording of Song for Alpha (in his studio in a repurposed shipping container situated on the curve of the River Thames) proved a cathartic release from the chaos and white noise that seemed to seep in from the outside world – whether it was wild geo-political shifts or favourite club spaces unfairly threatened with closure.
“It feels like there’s been a stream of difficult news in our community. We are surrounded by negative energy and unavoidable noise. For me, making and finishing the record felt entirely necessary at that point in my life – it was a reminder of the power music has to take you away from all the shit in the world, to provide a light in the darkness. Love is what keeps the world moving forwards. That’s the biggest inspiration for me.”
That spirit, that love, is there at the heart of Song for Alpha, maybe nowhere more so that closing track Quick Eternity. Combining a forceful kick, celestial ambience and cyclonic distortion to dizzying effect, it eventually fades out into a pulsing analogue drone that seems to guide you back to the outside light of the real world. It’s a glorious moment – a full on sensory overload that wraps itself around you like a hug from a stranger at 4am. It’s impossibly beautiful and, like the rest of this record, impossible to resist whether in a crowded club, in the back of a cab, at Heathrow departures or just in your own head.
Close your eyes, press repeat.