Podcast 599: Tracey
Sophisticated minimalism from Amsterdam.
Many of you will recognize Tracey from Dial, the label of Lawrence and David Lieske (a.k.a Carsten Jost), where he recently shared his debut album, Biostar. Across 13 tracks, the rising Amsterdam producer, real name Tom Ruijg, explored ambient experimentation, deep electro, and warm, tonal techno. Lawrence, one of the most attuned in understated minimalism and quick to recognize Tracey’s blooming talents, invited him to become the first new name on the label in over a decade. “Tracey’s immediately apparent strength is an almost supernatural ability to conjure affecting and memorable melodies with minimalist intent, often just utilizing the raw textures of his machines,” he explains.
Tracey first appeared in 2017 with a four-track effort—two originals; two Deniro remixes—on Voyage Direct, the label of Tom Trago. The Dutch artist snapped the tracks up after inviting Tracey, who has a studio in the same building, for a listening session.
By this point, Tracey was already a known figure in the Amsterdam music scene: besides consuming a large chunk of his adolescent years, his time on the city’s dancefloors had driven him to begin DJing around the Dutch capital, which then inspired his earliest productions just a year later. Under his birth name, you’ll find a string of 12”s on Bangbang! and Karat Recordings; and, although fun-loving and soul-filled, they’re a far cry from the slick, sophisticated cuts he’s since put out as Tracey.
2017’s Skyfall debut stemmed from a period of self-reflection. “I started experimenting and making music I really feel instead of what people wanted to hear,” Tracey recalls. “It felt like the right time to change names and to start with a clean sheet.” When Phillip Sollmann (a.k.a Efdemin) recommended the 12” to Lawrence, the Dial head was so impressed that he included the A2, “Earthrise,” a delicately driving house jam, in his XLR8R podcast. Trago, meanwhile, signed Tracey up for another EP, and told him how much Skyfall was inspiring his own studio work. Testarossa arrived less than a year later, followed by appearances on Midland’s Intergraded and Aus Music.
Lawrence had seen enough, so he reached out for an album. “Both David Lieske and I were obsessed with the few releases that were out from Tracey,” he recalls. “I believe that Dial is one of the few labels that appreciates the album as a kind of master discipline, and when Tom [Tracey] sent us his first demo we knew it was a masterpiece.”
Listen carefully and you can hear the whole range of Ruijg’s influences, from the far-sighted futurism of Detroit and the deep space pulse of electro, to left-of-center electronic experimentalism and the alien world of British and European IDM. His music is underpinned by colorful synthesizer motifs and ear-catching melodies with sturdy dancefloor grooves; and while emotive and poignant, it’s also energy-packed and driving.
Tracey recorded his XLR8R podcast, which was originally released as an exclusive to XLR8R+ subscribers, in Amsterdam last month. It’s based around three tracks, one being Tracey’s own, and each appearing at different parts of the mix—beginning, middle, and end. Although it’s high-energy and ravey, it’s also deep, sophisticated, and even delicate at times. Much like Tracey’s productions, it has one foot in the dancefloor but its beauty transcends well beyond. Grab it now via the WeTransfer button below.
Tracey recently contributed a track to XLR8R+, which is available for download now alongside previously unreleased tracks from Tom Trago, Darling, and Deniro, PLUS an exclusive sample pack from Trago himself. Tracey’s contribution is a tripped-out beat cut and can be streamed in full below. You can download it here by subscribing now.
What have you been up to recently?
I’ve started playing tennis again, which is great. I’ve been in the studio a lot, with loads of inspiration. Also played at De School and Griessmuehle for the album release, and both were awesome.
Congratulations on a tremendous album debut as Tracey. How are you reflecting on the release now?
It feels great. I’m super happy with the result, from how it sounds to how it looks. It’s funny because when a record hits shelves it becomes real. From that moment I start appreciating it even more, the whole product. Plus there is no way back!
Can you explain to me how you first met Lawrence, and how the release came about?
David and Peter actually contacted me out of the blue, with the question: would you be interested in doing an album for us? Quite surreal. I’d never met them before. Together we compiled a big part of the album from the first bunch of tracks I sent. After that, I started working on new tracks.
How much do you think of the dancefloor when you’re producing?
Very little. I like to focus on creating a sound, loop, or atmosphere. From there I get inspired to go further, whether it’s club or not.
The music you’ve released as Tracey is different from your earlier work. Why the change in aesthetic—was it just a maturity in your processes?
Certainly a maturity in my processes, which was accompanied by the constant expansion of an analog studio. First, it was sampling what was at the base of what I was making, now it’s hardware. Something you clearly hear I think. Besides that, I only make stuff I really feel now instead of what people might want to hear.
Where was this particular mix recorded?
I recorded this mix in my studio in Amsterdam.
How did you choose the tracks that you included?
I had a few tracks I wanted to include for sure, such as the first one from Conjoint, Code 6 “After Life,” and “HDRCSTCS” from the album. I actually started building around those tracks.
Is there a concept or wider vision behind it?
I felt like recording a high-energy mix with colorful, futurist, and ravey vibes. Containing some of my own tracks, a few upcoming, some favorites, and some new finds.
Where do you envisage it being listened to?
Wherever people like. I can imagine it’s a nice mix to listen to while riding your bike or while jogging, or just while moving yourself around.
How does the podcast compare to one of your club sets?
You could certainly hear me playing this in the club. It could be a good start or the end of a longer set, I guess. In the club, I would probably choose more tracks with the same intensity. That’s what I like about making a podcast: you can play a little bit more with different intensities.
How much of the material that you make do you release?
I would say only 40 percent. I used to be really bad at selling my music or getting it to the right labels. But it seems to have fallen into place more and more over the past year. I still have a lot of tracks laying around that are almost finished, but I find them less interesting as I’ve made progress since then.
What’s next on the horizon, looking forward?
There’s a couple of exciting shows. There are a few remixes coming out, one I did for Lawrence, and I’m working on new material for different releases. So let’s see what the future brings.
Due to issues regarding the GDPR, EU readers can download the podcast here.
01. Conjoint “The Joint” (Source Records)
02. Aleksi Perälä “UK74R1409057” (AP Musik)
03. Malin Genie “Dimlove” (Malin Genie)
04. Tracey “Blue Invasion” (AUS Music)
05. Live Better Electrically “Nothing But The Electricfunk” (Shewey Trax)
06. J.T.C. “Blitz Puff” (High Position Mix) (Bopside)
07. Max Graef “Master Quest” (Tartelet Records)
08. Tracey “Untitled” (Unreleased)
09. Code 6 “After Life” (EXperimental)
10. A² “My Brother” (An Alien Recordings)
11. Drexciya – Aqua Worm Hole (Underground Resistance)
12. Tracey – Untitled (Unreleased)
13. Juju & Jordash “Jupiter SLACK” (Slack Trax)
14. Tracey “HDRCSTCS” (Dial Records)
15. Autechre “Second Scepe” (Warp Records)