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FAIK’s Synth Hero mix

An hour of diverse electronica, featuring Xiu Xiu, Venetian Snares, Kenji Kawai and an exclusive remix of Q Lazzarus’ ‘Goodbye Horses’

Every month I ask a world class musical artist to come onto my Synth Hero radio show and mix up an hour of their seminal electronic influences. This month it's the turn of FAIK – who you may also know as Stay Positive – one of the most inventive dance producers around. When we premiered his “Feelfam” video earlier this year, the London-via-Manchester based musician broke drown the difference between FAIK and Stay Positive, saying: “FAIK is what happens when you study music your whole life – getting really, really caught up in every technicality then it suddenly dawns on you that you don’t actually give a shit.” His new found sense of musical freedom reverberates through this mix, featuring everything from Venetian Snares junglist madness and classical composer Olivier Messiaen, to the theme tune from Ghost in the Shell and even his own remix of Q Lazzarus' “Goodbye Horses”.

“I don’t feel particularly heroic, but I am pretty synthy,” he says of the mix. “It has been super nice to get a bit chin-strokey over music and not have to mix at 150 bpm whilst smashing the rave horn sample button so hard I get RSI. Apparently I’ve just learned that my influences are pretty damned fickle and hard to pin down but I’ve given it my best shot for ya! So, after much deliberation, these are my most influential tracks (that I’m willing to admit to). I love them, I hope you do too.”

FAIK BREAKS DOWN HIS SYNTH HERO TRACK LIST:

00:00 BELBURY POLY – “THE WILLOWS”

“Probably the track on this playlist that I’ve had the longest relationship with - I’ve been listening to it (pretty much solidly) for around ten years. It was only just now, swatting up before writing this, that I realised I must have obtained it very shortly after it’s release. I’d always thought it was older - maybe Twoism era Boards of Canada? The minidisc is probably still in my Sony Net MD somewhere in my parent’s attic… Musically it’s such a journey. I love how it starts impenetrably and then rewards you for sticking it out with this fucking beautiful chord sequence around 30 seconds in. It’s a common theme in music I like - juxtaposition. It’s so cliched but you really appreciate beauty so much more when it’s sandwiched by something ostensibly ugly! The palette of sound is gorgeous too and those vocals towards the end that come out of nowhere and... I should stop or I’m going to blow this whole article on one song.”

04:40 AUTECHRE – “DROPP”

“Yeah, this was on the same minidisc mentioned above. This song is brutal. The opening passage is practically Bach (I don’t say that lightly) and then it’s absolutely obliterated by this heavy, distorted beat. Could you imagine writing that opening? Could you imagine writing that opening and then absolutely destroying it like this? It’s painfully beautiful to me. The way they’ve chained/compressed it is great too - this melancholic chord sequence and counter melody fight to get their heads up for air every now and then. They built this beautiful thing solely to drown it. A real angry piece of music in that way.”

07:46 VENETIAN SNARES – “MÁSODIK GALAMB”

“This album came out when I was studying at RNCM (2005). I was living and breathing classical music then - top conservatoires pretty much require you to do so if you want to get anything out of the experience. What a revelation though: all this Bartok, Dvorak, Prokoviev, Paganini (a lot of which I was playing or studying) absolutely mangled. It was refreshing and rebellious and probably the only time I’ve heard someone from outside the classic sphere treat classical music in a sensitive way. Ok that sounds crazy when you’re listening to it but it really is incredibly sensitive. It also doesn’t treat the listener like a fucking idiot like a lot of faux-intellectual faux-classical/electronica crossover does too. He knows what he’s doing here - he’s connecting with the emotional core of the music and passing it through himself as a conduit. Yeah - I like this album a lot.”

13:43 KENJI KAWAI – “MAKING OF CYBORG”

“That’s the “IDM” out of the way. This is the theme music from Ghost in the Shell. Maybe it’s impossible to separate the music from the associated experience (I love this anime) but for me it’s such a crazy culture clash that is as addictive as it is enigmatic. Those thick soupy sci-fi pads with the traditional percussion and close-harmony, sometimes discordant, folk voices on top shouldn’t really work. But they do.”

18:01 PSYCHOLOGIST – “OUT, DAMNED SPOT!”

“I had the pleasure of working with Psychologist on an old project and the guy’s a genius. I have yet to come across anyone working in an even vaguely popular sphere that’s on a par with this guy for lyrical content or top-line writing. As if that wasn’t sickening enough - his production is amazing too. This track is so minimalist but just fucking gets to you. When the ‘chorus' breaks in this track I get frisson for days. The way the music opens out, the emotion in his voice, the space, and that subtle, but insistent, inverted pedal-note in the violins. God-tier.”

20:40 XIU XIU - “BUZZ SAW”

“I performed one of the most important shows of my life supporting Xiu Xiu's side project, Former Ghosts, in Manchester’s Ruby Lounge. I don’t think Jamie Stewart liked me too much. It was the first ever ‘Christian AIDS’ show and we were pretty obnoxious. But half the music industry was there and we had to impress ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I digress! This track is the perfect marriage of physical and synthetic for me. The re-pitched cymbal and the fat analogue synth octave are particularly fantastic. Everything sticks out like a sore thumb (dat snare!) but it somehow all fits heartachingly perfectly. Sometimes I listen to this song and, by the end, realise that I’m gripping the arms of the chair very tightly. Or that my toes are tightly curled under my feet. I don’t know why really.”

23:35 SUSUMU HIRASAWA - “GATTSU”

“More anime! More so than the “Making of Cyborg” this one ties into experience. If you have even a passing interest in anime and haven’t yet seen Berserk I urge you to do so. It’s not the easiest series to get into, sometimes it can drag frustratingly and become a non-sensical mess, but it will effect you. I think that’s another common thread here - something has to effect you or what’s the point? Anyway, this track has some great bubbly synthetic touches over an otherwise kitchy midi-string score but we all know what it’s really about: that chord change. I think, at last check, this tune had 67 plays in three or so months on my iTunes. I actually really want to isolate the vocal sample. BRB...”

27:03 BURIAL - “SHELL OF LIGHT” (OUTRO)

“What can you say about Burial that hasn’t been said a million times already? In years to come people will look back on him as the sire of hundreds of thousands of successful, innovative electronic composers. An incredibly important figure. I think that this is my favourite Burial track - or bit of track. Any time I’ve binged on my extensive Burial back catalogue it’s always this little segment that remains in my head for days. It actually took me an embarrassingly long time to identify it - being, as it is, tacked on the end of Shell of Light.”

28:07 Q LAZZARUS – “GOODBYE HORSES” (CHRISTIAN AIDS REWORK)

“Pretty arrogant of me to play something of my own right? What a dick. In my defence I only found it today (approx. six years after it was written) and have absolutely no recollection of making it. I wanted to throw the original Q Lazarus track in here and searching my computer turned up this weird, chopped and screwed, chemically-influenced version. It reminded me of my own audacity when I first started gaining a little bit of popularity. How it’s important to rub people up the wrong way sometimes. Sometimes. So yes, to answer the burning question, occasionally I do listen to my own music for inspiration. Usually it just makes me feel kinda bad - but I like this one.”

32:10 HOLY OTHER – “WE OVER”

“I’m in awe of this guy. I don’t know how we’ve never met. He was a gigantic influence on the mid-era Stay Positive stuff I made. For this mix I toyed around with a few tracks from “Held” (top candidate: “Inpouring” with 120 plays on my iTunes and counting) but there’s just something about his old stuff… I love the distortion. I’m beginning to feel about digital distortion how we’re all supposed to feel about it’s analogue equivalent. His use of vocal samples is particularly on point.”

35:36 KELLY BAILEY –“SELF ESTEEM FUND”

“Not really sure how I got this far before a game soundtrack popped up - that’s some pretty epic restraint right there. This is from Portal. Lonely, spare, daringly restricted. I’m a big fan of soundtracks but it really says something when a piece of music works even better when taken out of context. I dare you to stick this on your headphones and wander about. It’s practically impossible to not feel like you’re in a William Gibson novel.”

38:39 DISASTER PEACE – “FORGOTTEN”

“Oops! Another game soundtrack! This one’s from Fez. Sonically it couldn’t be more different from “Self Esteem Fund” but they share the accolade of having done so much with so little. It’s an added achievement to be able to produce melancholic music within a 'chiptune’ aesthetic - usually associated so heavily with cheeriness and bubbly Mario soundtracks. There’s some incredible, subtle fx work going on here too: variable bit rates, uneven reverbs etc.”

40:21 M83 – “SISTER” (PART 2)

“This whole album, Digital Shades Vol. 1, is fantastic. There’s something about the stereotypical French aesthetic (particularly in dance music) that I find intensely off-putting. Maybe it’s the synthetic distorted guitar chords, or the horrific ‘jazz chords' but it makes my skin crawl. However - m83 has always embodied everything awesome about modern French music for me. A really high level of emotive earnestness without excessive fromage. I can’t get enough of these chords and, much alike ‘Out, Damned Spot!’ and ‘Buzz Saw’, the emotional poignancy of the vocals just hits me right in the feels.”

42:34 FINALLY BOYS – “LUNAR LOVERS”

“Seeing as we’re already crying there’s no need to hold back. Found out about these guys through AMDISCS. This is one of those tracks that I keep coming back to without really knowing why. It was masses ahead of it’s time. It’s a saccharine car crash of PC Music and Witch House. I really wish I’d been able to see these guys live - I bet it was fucking transcendent.”

47:44 ALICE ANT – “MOTIONS”

“I’ve used this track in hundreds of mixes. As soon as I hear the opening I just feel my shoulders drop - maybe there’s a bit of ASMR going on with those stormy weather samples? There’s so much happening here. It’s all enveloping. I don’t even know how to write music like this? It feels like a track that could have taken years to make and could be anything from 10 years to 10 hours old. Timeless and incredible.”

51:12 SLACKER – “A MILLION DREAMS”

“Only heard about Slacker on the day that he died. I still know little of his back catalogue as this was the first of his tunes that I heard. I guess I didn’t feel the need to look any deeper. Such a good sample: Duke Ellington (I believe!). As with some of the earlier tracks the spareness really gets me.”

52:30 MESSIAEN – “TURANGALILA SYMPHONY / 2ND MOVEMENT” (EXCERPT)

“Ah the Ondes Martenot! The original synth. I performed this piece (in the violin section - not on the Ondes Marenot!) at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. I’ve written essays on this piece but for now - I think I’m just going to listen to it ;)”

Hear more Synth Hero shows here