Manchester label, club-night and production house Swing Ting have always maintained an agenda outside of genre.
On their new Junction EP, producers and label-founders Samrai and Platt deliver six expertly mixed party instrumentals custom-tailored to their cross-continent cast of vocalists. Jamaican reggae vocalist Alexx A-Game comes through with a syrupy melody on opener, Free Up Your Mind – first laid down at his Kingston studio. The Kingston talent representation continues with the soulful featherweight vocals of Blvk H3ro on the sleek dancehall-RnB cut, Can’t Wait. A voicemail from Kingston’s Gavsborg also plays atop a loose piano line on the EP’s interlude track.
Samrai and Platt land in Ireland to link up with frequent Murlo collaborator Gemma Dunleavy, Manchester vocalists Fox and Tyler Daley appear on closer Contagious, Equiknoxx’s Shanique Marie comes through with a light-footed bashment vocal on the funky-leaning (and aptly titled) Turn It Up.
Testament to their globetrotting network of collaborators and their knack for absorbing genres and musical languages from those they work with, Samrai and Platt have a story for each track. Here, they break each cut of the EP which you can stream or buy here.
Free Up Your Mind ft. Alexx A-Game
Samrai: Although we’d worked on edits and remixes of Braver and Everyday, I met Alexx in person for the first time with [Swing Ting co-founder] Joey B on a trip to Jamaica during Easter 2016. We had arranged to meet at Equiknoxx’s studio in Vineyard Town on our second night in town. Alexx was really easy-going, friendly and very talented. He recorded the verses and chorus all in one session but he had a cold (from a recent trip to St Ann’s) so wasn’t 100% happy with the vocals. On our last day in Jamaica, Joey and I managed to link him at his place in Kingston with his engineer Vern to re-record the parts.
Platt: This was originally recorded over a very different instrumental, but something wasn’t quite right with it, it was a pretty bouncy, almost soca style beat. I remember Bal [Samrai] playing me a different version he’d made, then we kinda blended elements from both together and stripped it way back. It’s definitely a full song, but it’s such a strong intro to me – and I love the way that it holds back until right at the end. I think if you look at our edit of Alexx’s Braver, you can see how little he needs going on, instrumentation-wise – his voice is so powerful.
Can't Wait ft. Blvk H3ro
Samrai: On the same trip to Jamaica in April 2016 me and Joey B met Blvk H3ro via our Equiknoxx crew – we were really impressed by his effortless flow and style at a studio jam and at a stage show (at Rooftop Dayrave). We managed to get him to meet us at Equiknoxx’s studios (for some shrimp soup!) and he recorded this track over a sketch beat Ruben [Platt] and I had put together. It was tight getting it done with our flight home a matter of hours away the next morning but it was 100% worth it! Shout to Gavsborg picking out the beat and Time Cow staying up late to stem the vocals for us.
Platt: H3ro’s got such a good energy on this track. This was essentially a freestyle over a really bare-bones beat that Bal [Samrai] had taken over, but I think we knew really early on that there was something special here. It didn’t take much arrangement/ tidying up to get it fully vibsing. It’s been really fun playing this one out over the last year or so, it’s definitely a crowd favourite.
Addiction ft. Gemma Duleavy
Samrai: Gemma Dunleavy was a connection through meeting her at a festival in Ireland (Castlepalooza) – we were linked through Murlo already working with her and she was down for working from the start. This was originally on a different beat but Gemma’s vocal performance was so good Ruben crafted a new beat switching up some of the chords and synths. We worked on the drum programming together and got some guitar licks added in there. Then for a while we weren’t sure what to do with the track as it was quite different to a lot of our more clubby material but once the tracks from Alexx & Blvk H3ro started taking shape we realised it could form part of the same project. Really happy how this one ended up sounding. Shout to Demus on the additional mixing too.
Platt: I’m pretty sure this is the oldest song on here, in terms of conception at least. The creation of this track was pretty convoluted – Gemma had originally re-sung a track that we’d done with another songwriter, but then also sent us a demo of what would become Addiction over that instrumental. We then totally rebuilt the instro around Gemma’s new vocal, sent it back and forth a few million times and ended up with what is almost definitely the track with the most pop-sensibilities, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. It’s probably also the track that made us realise how fun it is to make these R&B style songs and got us into the groove we needed for to get on with this EP.
Gavsborg meets JP ft. Gavsborg & Without Understanding
Samrai: This Gavsborg interlude is a Whatsapp voicenote from when I finished working my primary school job in July 2016 to try and focus on freelance musical/educational works. Coincidentally Equiknoxx’s Bird Sound Power LP came out on the same day. I remember getting home after a mini-leaving do with my old work colleagues to find this very moving message on my phone. We had wanted Gavin [Gavsborg from Equiknoxx] on the project in some form and planned to record an interlude in the studio but this was “much realer” in his words. The piano part was played by JP – a frequent collaborator who’s also had a great impact on the EP.
Platt: My dad’s imprint is all over the EP, whether it’s from me ringing him stressed out in the studio cos I can’t get a key change to work, or samples of his guitar playing (on Addiction for example). It felt right to stick some of the focus on him, and really, the two people with the most influence in shaping Junction are Gavin and him. We played him the voicenote and he just jammed it out. If you listen really hard, you might realise it’s an improv very loosely based over Tease Me, the track we did with Kemikal (more Equiknoxx crew) a while ago.
Turn It Up ft. Shanique Marie
Samrai: This was the last tune to come together on the EP. Shanique we knew well through our Equiknoxx family – she played our club night in October 2016 and I had met her on trips to Jamaica as well as her performing more recently on our stage at Outlook Festival – she’s amazing live! Gavsborg liked the sound of the project from the tracks he had heard and suggested Shanique would be well suited and up for working on a track. We sent her a rough version of this funky-ish beat and she laid these amazing vocals down that had almost a UKG diva style flavour to them!
Platt: Shanique’s the best, she’s so fun and working on this was super enjoyable. I think this is the most club-ready of any of the tracks on the EP. It feels like the instrumental is at least in-part inspired by those early funky vocal tracks that we love, although the tempo’s dipped a little. Turn It Up probably took the least amount of time to get to the finished version too, it felt like everything just flowed with this one.
Contagious ft. Fox & Tyler Daley
Samrai: We’d been fans of Tyler Daley (his group with Konny Kon – Children of Zeus are great live!) and I reached out to him last summer to work on a track with Fox soon after his Musik EP had come out and we all met at our studio together for a session. Me and Ruben had drafted a quick beat and I remember Tyler blasting out this amazing hook after just a few minutes listening to the track on the sofa. Fox came correct with the verses then it was on us to crack the puzzle. The mix session with Demus was key to bringing out the glitter and warmth in the keys and vocals.
Platt: Contagious took so long to get close to what you hear on the EP. I remember being so frustrated by it – we had these amazing vocals to work with and we just couldn’t get the vibe to match up. It was initially way more percussive, and it wasn’t until we started messing around with the half-time drums in Fox’s verses that things started to feel right. I think we’re both super happy with how this turned out, it’s got this warm feel and it just feels like the proper way to end Junction.