Podcast 692: Ryan Crosson
The cinematic sounds of a Covid-evacuated world.
Podcast 692: Ryan Crosson
The cinematic sounds of a Covid-evacuated world.
A whole lot has happened since XLR8R last connected with Ryan Crosson. Back in March last year, Trump was still president and, with the gravity of the Covid-19 still to be realized across much of the western world, Crosson was dusting off his vinyl for the 10th anniversary of Visionquest, the DJ group he forms alongside Shaun Reeves, Lee Curtiss, and Seth Troxler. After a series of 10-year parties, they were due to tour as a four for the first time since 2014, when Troxler left in pursuit of solo projects. It was time to reunite, they said; to make Visionquest’s second chapter as memorable as the first. And then lockdown began.
With clubs closed, Crosson took his attention elsewhere. Raised in Detroit on a diet of post-apocalyptic landscapes, dark warehouses, and the sounds of Plastikman, Matthew Dear, and Magda, house and techno was the focal point of his life even before 2007, when he left his job selling industrial machinery to move to Berlin. While in the German capital, he became known for his lush, organic techno on labels like Wagon Repair, M_nus, Spectral Sound, and Visionquest, but those listening more closely would also notice subtle references to ambient, New York funk, and even jazz, indicative of a musical ear that extends well beyond the club. In dance music’s indefinite hiatus lay an opportunity to develop this area of his sonic palette, and so he buried himself in his New York studio, experimenting with sound and techniques more than ever before. Within a year, he’d produced Notes from Isolation, a three-part experimental album series inspired by New York’s empty avenues.
Recorded earlier this month in Brooklyn, Crosson’s XLR8R podcast exclusively comprises tracks that he’s been crafting during lockdown. Almost all of them are incomplete, but importantly they capture a significant and transformative period for Crosson that he’s been eager to undergo for the better part of his career. Liberated from the music’s functionality, he delivers a sound that’s cinematic and distinctly compelling, and which feels sensitive to the introspective moods brought on by the pandemic’s solitary, meandering days.
01. What have you been up to recently?
Lately or like that past year? There have been some stress points, of course, tons of personal reflection, and some definite moments of relief and joy. So yeah, quite a normal routine minus the DJ gigs! We’ve been lucky to stay close to a core group of about 10 friends who’ve all kept safe distancing and guidelines during the pandemic, just to maintain some human contact. While we’ve missed our immediate families dearly, we feel fortunate to have had our friendships within our little group evolve further. We realize everyone does not have that opportunity and feel blessed and fortunate. Without our quaran-team this past year, it could have gotten much more stressful!
As far as my day to day, I’ve just been burying myself in studio work. I made a choice in June to forget about dance music for a while and focus on other areas of electronic music. The switch over has been tremendously rewarding and loads of fun and has also provided a bit of peace. I’ve always wanted to go down this path and the pandemic actually gave me the time and space to explore. I’ve been experimenting with sound more than I ever have in my life and I feel certain techniques have improved. I’m finally finishing a three album series called Notes From Isolation and then I’m going to take a small break and then get back into dance music under a new alias. We’re also getting Visionquest back up and running in a big way. We’ve just switched our distribution to Yoyaku and we’ll be celebrating 10 years of the label with a limited edition 12″ series that will bring together 15-20 label artists. Shaun Reeves will also be releasing his debut album with two special remix EPs in tow that extends into next year.
02. Yes, last time we spoke you were just gearing up for the Visionquest reunion. How has the pandemic affected that?
You know that shrug emoji on an iPhone where the person has their head cocked to the side and their hands are up on the side? That would be me right now if we were discussing in person or on video. We haven’t discussed any sort of scheduling with each other so I really don’t know. My agent is telling me there is nothing to discuss or schedule because promoters are being cautious because of the pandemic. I think that is completely fair and responsible. This pandemic has a long way to go and it’s better to wait to be to completely sure of what we’re doing.
When things do come back, I sure hope we can work it out, even if it’s just a handful of dates in 2022. Those guys are my brothers and I miss them all dearly. Our lives have all changed so much in the past 10 years, and gigs are really the only time when we can get together in one place to see each other. And when we get together and play, it’s a special kind of magic every time so I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to do it! We’re all at our best when we’re together and I think it would be a lot of fun for everyone involved.
03. A lot has been written about how dance music will respond to from the pandemic. How are you feeling about it?
I’ve written 20 different answers to this question. Each longer than the next but in the same vein. I cannot express myself accurately and feel most of my words will be misinterpreted by people who don’t know me personally. Most aspects will not change which is ultimately sad. I hope people choose to support locally and regionally. I hope people start listening and stop using social platforms as a barometer of quality.
04. What’s been catching your ear recently?
I’ve been going back to some music I missed the past year while I was tucked away working and didn’t really give the proper attention to last year. Lights Fluorescent, Amulets, r.beny, Hiatus Kaiyote, Makaya McKraven, Long Form Editions, Benoit Pioulard, Kelsey Lu, Madison McFerrin. The Waves have a new single out I like. I had the new Floating Points and Pharoah Saunders on repeat last week. It’s understated and simple. I’ve also really enjoyed the Going In label that Bryan Kasenic has created during the past year. Mike Shannon’s soundtrack album on BLKRTZ was really good I thought. The Phantasy—Ibiza Part I and II was excellent. COLORBAR from Bill Patrick and Noah Lampert. Ufffff. I’ve listened to Moses Sumney “Doomed” way too much and it gets me every time. I’ve been revisiting Herbert’s Bodily Functions every few months.
05. Where and when did you record this mix?
This mix was done over the past week in my studio in Brooklyn.
06. What setup did you use?
My computer, a patch-bay, and some guitar pedals.
07. How did you go about choosing the tracks that you’ve included?
I’ve never made a mix like this before as it’s almost entirely unreleased material. I wanted to showcase a portion of the music I made in 2020 and where my head was at the past year. This is not a mix full of dance music which people are accustomed to hearing from me play or produce. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve veered away from dance music and I’ve have tried to explore other sounds and styles. Some of the tracks are complete, and some I am still working on. Originally I tried to pull three tracks from each of the albums I made last year but it became too much like a trailer of what will be coming out. That wasn’t desirable because the energies shifted too much. I wanted to create a slow burn that gradually increases with energy. I hope I’ve achieved that with the 60 minutes I put together and I hope it’s a mix people will want to go back to occasionally!
08. What’s on your agenda for 2021?
I’d like to get my fourth album signed and I’d like to start producing for other artists or bands. The album thing is important to me because of the collaborations. The oldest track on the album was first conceived about nine years ago actually and I had no clue where to place it and what other tracks could accompany it, but over the past two years I’ve been collaborating with more musicians and it’s really taken shape. Once again Ryan Cavanagh is involved in a big way. He and Henrik Raabe from Wareika both provide some stunning guitar work. Emil Abramyan has helped me sculpt two tracks and provided some excellent cello work. Violeta Vicci does a wonderful violin interpretation over some soundtrack-type percussions. Bruno Pronsato makes a small appearance on drums. Yonathan Levi is on upright bass for a drum & bass-type number and the always tremendous Greg Paulus helps me close the album with his trumpet. Getting that one out there would be nice! As for producing for others, I’ve always enjoyed collaboration and think I have a lot to offer when it comes to helping others realize possibilities within their own music.
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Full XLR8R+ Members can download the podcast below. If you’re not an XLR8R+ member, you can read more about it and subscribe here.
01. Ryan Crosson “Lyra” (Unreleased)
02. Ryan Crosson “New World Possessor” (Unreleased)
03. Ryan Crosson “Radio Transistor” feat. Ryan Cavanagh (Unreleased)
04. Ryan Crosson “Solitaire” (Unreleased)
05. Ryan Crosson “Rush” (Unreleased)
06. Ryan Crosson “Red October” (Unreleased)
07. Ryan Crosson “Car Keys In a Fry Pan on Acid” feat. Ryan Cavanagh (Unreleased)
08. Ryan Crosson “Villain of My Story” (Unreleased)
09. Ryan Crosson “Console Heroes” (Unreleased)
10. Ryan Crosson “Mekub” (Unreleased)
11. Ryan Crosson “Cashmere Meerkats” (edit) (Unreleased)
12. Ryan Crosson “Herner Werzog” (edit) (Unreleased)
13. Ryan Crosson “Voice Mouth Face” (Unreleased)
14. Ryan Crosson “Vocal Boy” feat. Ryan Cavanagh (Unreleased)
15. Ryan Crosson “Ramius” (Unreleased)
16. Ryan Crosson “Follow Me Home” (Unreleased)