Podcast 698: Saka
Infectious, experimental bass from Hong Kong.
Podcast 698: Saka
Infectious, experimental bass from Hong Kong.
With a new release, Penumbra, incoming on Los Angeles label Dome of Doom, Saka is an experimental beat-maker to keep your eyes on. It’s been a wild few years from the Hong Kong-born, United States-based artist, beginning with the six-track Slipstream EP on Bassrush Records, which followed a heady half-time cut on the second volume of the label’s Prophecy compilation series. Since then, he’s put out a handful of singles and, most recently, the Split Punch / Wing Chun EP on Gud Vibrations. His growing discography exemplifies a cutting-edge sonic quality that is both familiar yet unconventional.
When Saka began making music in 2017, he’d been talking about it for years. After a youth spent between Hong Kong and San Francisco, he attended boarding school in Virginia before college in Southern California, which is where he discovered electronic music through American festivals. Encouraged by his friend Sammy Legs, he bought some gear and set about making his own beats, drawing inspiration from the likes of quickly, quickly and Player Dave, before moving to experimental bass through artists like samsin, Alix Perez, and Vide. By fusing these west coast influences with those from his native Hong Kong, he wields a sound palette that is both intricate but chaotically destructive, built around broken beat patterns, rippling melodies, and roaring basslines.
On Penumbra, Saka presents his vocals on record for the first time. Built around the breakup with his partner, the EP is soaked in a wave of deep emotional resonance, and each track represents a different time period of the relationship. To accompany the release, he’s compiled an XLR8R podcast; recorded this past week, it pulls from Saka’s unreleased catalog, some of which will come out soon, and it also leans heavily on tracks from those around him. Expect 67 minutes of infectious, shapeshifting bass rhythms one of the genre’s most exciting talents.
01. What have you been up to recently?
In my spare time outside of music, I’ve been listening to this podcast incessantly. It’s called “mythology” and it’s basically retellings of mythological epics across different cultures. I’ve always been very inspired by mythology and lately I’ve been starting my mornings with a deep stretch to an episode; they’re about an hour long, so it’s perfect.
02. What have you been listening to during lockdown?
I’m really happy to say that I discovered a lot of my favorite songs during the lockdown. Many are artists I’m already familiar with, but never thoroughly listened to all of their work. Some recent favorites as of late Yussef Dayes, Kamaal Williams, Halogenix, Burial, Khruangbin, and Sam Gellaitry.
03. What are your earliest memories of music?
I grew up in a very musical family. All my sisters are musicians, and my mom was a singer when she lived in San Francisco when she was my age, toured with a band and all that. My first memories in general are often of my mother at the piano, singing to us.
04. What is it that drives you to make electronic music?
While I love all types of my music, and my musical background actually lies in instrumentation and singing, electronic music still excites me the most. It appeals to me because of the possibilities. The amount of high-level control you can exert over composing a song from scratch is profuse, and it still feels like there’s so much to explore after all of these years. Additionally, I love how community-focused and rife with dancefloor culture the electronic music scene is. I think it’s a beautiful thing to bring people together over.
05. How did your release come about on Dome of Doom?
I’ve been a big fan of the music that’s come out on Dome of Doom over the years, and Wylie [Cable] and I met a number of years ago when I had first moved to Los Angeles. I’m very excited to get this record out with them; it feels really full circle, especially something that’s a little more emotion-driven rather than dancefloor-driven. Both are equally important to me, but I feel as if they are distinctly different sides of my sound.
06. As the world opens up, how are you feeling about playing live again?
I am extremely excited about live shows and for them to return safely. Hearing tunes from the left-field electronic scene in general on a massive system is one of the most magical experiences to me and life over the past year has felt uncomfortably quiet for myself. I just played a show last week at the Midway in San Francisco and it was so special to get to play all of the sounds I’ve been working on throughout the pandemic. Dancefloors are so, so important for humans.
07. What’s next on your horizon?
I’ll be playing The Untz Festival up north in Browns Valley this upcoming weekend and there’s a few shows to announce over the next few months. Lots of new music coming soon as well, and you can get a little sneak peek in this very mix!
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to hear the podcast offline you will need to subscribe to our Select channel to listen offline, or subscribe to XLR8R+ to download the file. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
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. False Noise “Greys” (Upscale)
02. Saka “Lilac” (Dome of Doom)
03. Saka “Prescient” (Dome of Doom)
04. Saka “Yin” feat. Aido (Unreleased)
05. Saka “ID” (Unreleased)
06. Vide “Reflections ft. Saka” (Lost Dogz)
07. Mirror Maze “ID” (Unreleased)
08. Mindset “ID” (Unreleased)
09. Mirror Maze, Vide & Abelation “ID” (Unreleased)
10. Sumthin Sumthin “Eerie (Ilaman Acapella)”
11. Sumthin Sumthin “ID” (Unreleased)
12. Sumthin Sumthin “ID” feat Clozee (Unreleased)
13. Saka “Split Punch” (Gud Vibrations)
14. Saka “Stasis” (Inspected)
15. Vorso “Strung Out” (Riotville Records)
16. Saka “ID” (Unreleased)
17. Saka “Salvo” (Self-Released)
18. Sinic “Fickle” (Self-Released)
19. COPYCATT “ID” (Unreleased)
20. Kursa & Skope “Fade Out” (Self-Released)
21. Saka “Wing Chun” (Gud Vibrations)
22. Ivy Lab “Cake (Saka Edit)” (20/20 LDN Recordings)
23. Mirror Maze & Kromuh “ID” (Unreleased)
24. Mirror Maze & Saka “ID” (Unreleased)
25. Saka “Penumbra” (Dome of Doom)
26. Camo & Krooked “No Tomorrow (Tom Finster Remix)” (Hospital Records)
27. Connor Q & Saka “ID” (Unreleased)
28. Misanthrop “Deus” (Neosignal Recordings)
29. Arkaik “RD2101 ft. Skylark” (Flexout Audio)
30. Integrate “ID” (Unreleased)
31. Kings of the Rollers “Shella” feat. Chimpo (Halogenix Remix)” (Hospital Records)
33. Saka “ID” (Unreleased)
33. Saka “Let Me Live ft. Amethyst” (Dome of Doom)