With Solune, music is a family affair. Son of a record shop owner and artist mother, Etienne Dauta’s eclecticism and all-embracing approach only grew broader as years flew by. Fusing elements of disco, jazz, folk and ambient with classic Chicagoan deep house tropes, the French-born, Berlin-based producer kept himself busy running the now sadly defunct Bass Cadet Record store and recording as Arcarsenal with partner in crime Alan Mathias, eventually putting the focus on his solo output last year with a pair of solid releases on BCR.
With the release of his third EP on Secretsundaze just around the corner, we seized the occasion to have a chat with Etienne as he opens up on the making of ‘The Hierophant‘, his evenly-matched love for infectious dance floor rhythms and transcending atmospherics, and gives further insight on his studio methods and current setup. Stream ‘The Vision‘ down below.
Interview by Baptiste Girou
"I wanted to work on a scheme that recalls the way labels used to release tracks in the '90s and early '00s, putting out different mixes of a same track on a same record."
‘The Hierophant’ is your first record to be released outside of your label, Bass Cadet Records. Please tell us more about it – when and how was it recorded?
The record has been done in several sessions between September and December 2016. At some point I was planning to make a release out of these sessions with a 4-track EP on Bass Cadet, with versions of ‘The Vision‘ full mix and drum mix on one side and ‘Sacred Smoke‘ full mix and drum mix on the other side.
I wanted to work on a scheme that recalls the way labels used to release tracks in the ’90s and early ’00s, putting out different mixes of a same track on a same record. It also comes from the fact that, for these sessions I was doing a lot of direct jams into tape, therefore I had to record multiple versions of each track to be able to have something I was happy with. And in the end I had lots of different versions of really rough material to work with.
Then Giles and James got in touch to work together. I sent them a large pack containing some of these tracks, and they decided to work on a full EP showcasing a more varied approach than what I was thinking. ‘The Vision‘ comes out in its full mix, ‘Sacred Smoke‘ in its drum mix. Then they selected two other tracks, ‘Rhythm School‘ that was produced couple of months before, going to a deeper house sound and ‘Idiom Of Peace‘ an Ambient Jazzy essay, leaning towards my electronica side. I think they gathered a solid and diverse EP that encompass different facets of a soulful and deep vibe looking at the dance floor.
"In the end, even if I’m trying not to look backwards too much in my musical work, I must assume that this EP really resonates as a tribute to older things."
It sweeps a lush and wide spectrum of sound, cosmopolitan and groovy. What’s been your main source of inspiration on this record?
‘The Vision‘ was made the day we learnt that David Mancuso passed away. Even if sounding more inspired by Sound Factory, Shelter, Timmy Regisford, Quentin Harris and old Dennis Ferrer tracks, I was very much drawn by Mancuso’s vision when I was jamming. Hence the name… It’s a personal tribute to the roots of NY House.
I think some producers did amazing tech-house at that time in New York, that was made to free both the bodies and the minds through the dance, and that were also at the same time handy for the DJs, because based on a strong dance floor rhythm. Some of these tracks had a very good balance between jazz funk inspirations and tribal rhythms all mixed in an electronic shape.
This track is a tribute to this era which is a bit underestimated to me. ‘Sacred Smoke‘ was done a few days after and I kept the lead from that NY vibe but with a more modern approach. As we are releasing the drum mix, this version gets to the core of the track and focuses on the percussions and rhythm, playing with echoes and delays, sustained by a loud bass line. The result is very deep and mental for a rhythm track.
On the B-side, ‘Rhythm School‘ is a more classic Deep House cut. If you know me a little, it’s no secret that I’m a huge Ron Trent fan, so this track tends more towards the Ron & Chez KMS Records and early Prescription/Balance era with a strong rhythm pattern, lush pads, a solid bassline, heady stabs playing together with delays and a synth that flies away.
The closing track ‘Idiom Of Peace‘ is an ambient piece that recalls a certain jazzy house vibe and melds piano Rhodes, synth saxophones, lush pads and rolling ambience that tides back and forth. The influence would lay somewhere between Instant House, Gigi Masin and Ariel Kalma. In the end, even if I’m trying not to look backwards too much in my musical work, I must assume that this EP really resonates as a tribute to older things.
How did you and Secretsundaze first get in touch? Were you familiar with their events?
I have known Giles and James for nearly 10 years now. I met them in Paris as I worked on a couple of nights where we invited them to play. Then I moved to Berlin, we cross paths few times, also staying in touch by email. Then in last October, my friend Laura from On Board organized the MONA party at Prince Charles where Nick V and she invited Giles. So we had a chance to properly catch up.
A few weeks later I received an email from them asking me if I wanted to participate to the Dance 2017 series or release an EP on the label. I answered them that I was just about to send them a pack… I think there’s a nice connection between us, it only took time to materialise into this release but it’s there since a long time.
I’m feeling blessed to be able to work with these two individuals who carry a huge knowledge. I have a lot of respect for their work. They recently stated that they want to release “timeless, unpretentious club music with soul”. I think they really embody a vision of dance music that I share and keep going on with a nice state of mind.
"When I had the chance to travel around Mexico to meet my brother who recently moved there, I brought a recorder to capture more material to be able to start a proper project from these tracks. It contains different moments recorded in the Chiapas but not only."
When we discussed your previous tape release, ‘Alteration/Cycles’, you mentioned how these ideas had taken shape during a trip to Mexico, more specifically in the Chiapas region. Are these cuts reflections of journeys you made and/or populations you met there…?
Well, this is a very personal project. In the beginning I had 4 or 5 ambient tracks that I liked a lot, but it wasn’t any skeleton of an album or nothing specific, but I had this material laying there that I really liked. It was a more personal and spiritual approach to what I was doing usually. When I had the chance to travel around Mexico to meet my brother who recently moved there, I brought a recorder to capture more material to be able to start a proper project from these tracks. It contains different moments recorded in the Chiapas but not only.
There’s a spiritual vibe in the air and the people and a specific way the time goes by in Mexico, that we’ve lost in the western countries, and I was lucky enough to catch that. In Chiapas, I was lucky enough to record a cleansing from a curandero from a Mayan Medicine Center, native rites with chickens and ecstatic summonings, a drunk guy singing a childish but beautiful gospel on the streets. I also recorded a lot of jungle material in Chiapas but mostly in Yucatan. Orchestras of bugs and cicadas, beautiful birds, howling monkeys at dawn…
In Guanajuato, I met a medicine-woman with whom we did a Temazcal and I recorded a blessing prayer she did for the opening of a place in the same city… It also contains some few recordings from the urban jungle… When I checked the material back from my trip, I had a whole coherent picture in my mind and I started working following that. Then when I realised that I would need to materialise it on a physical support, the cassette was the most relevant thing for a 80-minute electronica/ambient work… The album is finally built as a travelogue of 16 tracks about that experience.
What’s your studio comprised of at the minute?
Lot of shizzle and cables on the floor. I share my studio with 4 partners so we gathered a lot of gears. I like to mix the flavours of analog, digital and mic recordings. I usually do everything out of the box, I don’t like to work with a mouse too much. We have a Venice F32 firewire mixer which is very convenient to use.
We can do some room recordings, as we have some percussions, guitars, drum kit and other instruments… and use these recordings from the computer back into the mixer on separate tracks in the mix with all our gears running simultaneously. The converters are not the best on the mixer, it lacks some “glue” on the master, so we have a little mixer from Revox which is a clone of Studer to give some warmth and grain. We usually record our masters on a Revox B-44 tape.
I used to do a lot of direct jam to master recordings but since a couple of weeks I started to record again separate tracks. Sometimes it’s better to be able to have more control on the final craft. Let a few elements rest a few days and take it from there with a fresh ear. Anyway I don’t think that music production is something with a truth that lies somewhere. What you get in the end is the most important, how you get it doesn’t really matter. And the best out of that is that you always learn from your mistakes, so the more you work, the more you know, and the more you enjoy to create.
If you had to take just one instrument/machine to a desert island, what would it be?
I would take my guitar and a shaker, sing a few folk and medicine songs and chill.
"Club music is perfect for relief through body expression and dance. It’s a tool that carries great power and to use with precision, which requires an expert reading of a crowd because as a DJ you have to work on a large number of people."
What’s the biggest musical discovery you made recently?
Well I wouldn’t speak of any particular recent musical discovery as, since we closed Bass Cadet Recordstore last December, I hardly had the time and energy to go record shopping. Hopefully I keep track of what’s out as I receive a few promos here and there, but I must admit that I’m not very on point with the latest releases at the moment. So I would rather speak about the fact that I’m very happy that ambient, spiritual jazz and new age music has been gaining a new interest from the electronic scene.
Club music is perfect for relief through body expression and dance. It’s a tool that carries great power and to use with precision, and which requires an expert reading of a crowd because as a DJ you have to work on a large number of people. But for other moments I’ve been more and more amazed by the power of ambient music, for meditation or introspection purpose. Good music at the right time always makes me feel good… One of thing on my to do list as a DJ is to takeover a night in proper chill-out and take care of the souls tired of dancing, rest them and making them ready to get back to dance.
What will you be up to in the coming weeks?
Having my first kid… which will make me the happiest man on earth. I think I will get a lot of positive energy out of it and I’m very curious to see how I will translate that in the studio. On a more practical approach, I’m working with other labels for more releases. I have an EP coming out on Marcelus’ Singular Records. I’m very happy to work with him as the EP will make a shift on his label’s sound, which is usually more techno-oriented, and will make a statement.
I’m also working on an ambient/electronica release for a new label from friends, and I also have a few tracks for a new EP on Bass Cadet, hopefully before the end of the year. With my friend Alan as Arcarsenal, we are also releasing a new EP called ‘Alter-realities‘ on Balance’s sub-label Inner Balance. It’s our friend Jorge Caiado from Carpets & Snares in Lisbon who takes care of that and we are very happy with the release! Regarding Bass Cadet Records, the next Orbits release by Alton Miller is ready and should be out soon, and I’m already working on the next ones.
The Hierophant is released via Secretsundaze on 10th May, pre-order a vinyl copy from Juno.
A1. The Vision
A2. Sacred Smoke
B1. Rhythm School
B2. Idiom Of Peace