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Seams: A Tourist in Berlin

James Welch went to the German capital and recorded what he heard on the streets for 'Tourist', his latest EP

Seams has been busy. Following on from the success of his sell-out single ‘Nightcycles’, and support slots with Gold Panda and Dan Mantle, he packed his bags and spent the summer in Berlin on a visit aimed at widening his perspective. It’s done wonders. The resulting EP, ‘Tourist’, is built upon field recordings that were made on the streets of the German capital, the record’s resonance is a testament to the method. What he’s done, which many before have failed to achieve, is capture the feel for the place and transfer that into his art. dazed met up with Seams - real name James Welch - to get his view on the recording process...

Dazed Digital: Can you describe your sound?
I don't know. I'm still not really sure what my ‘sound' is. To me, each release I've put out sounds completely different to the last, each track is a bit of an experiment, so the results always vary. I've got a few tracks that are very different to everything else I've done, but they haven't found a home yet. I guess my sound at the moment is small fragments of noise being shaped and controlled by rhythm. I'm not really into any music that's in your face, so treating elements delicately is probably part of my ‘sound' too.
DD: The ‘Tourist’ EP is about your summer in Berlin, how was it?
Fantastic.  Moving to another country without knowing a single person there was a real experience, totally took me out of my comfort zone. As I was working there, it felt much more immersive than whenever I've been on vacation, probably because it got to a point where I ran out of my 'holiday' euros and I was pretty much living as the locals do. Berlin's vibe in the summer was a real eye-opener too, having grown up in a pretty sleepy countryside town, I'd never lived somewhere with so much going on. The area I lived in was always bustling with street performers, markets, and stuff like that. Yet at the same time, the pace was always so relaxed, and everything is so spaced out, I never got that claustrophobic feeling I get when I go to London.
DD: Can you recommend any places to hit up right up right now?
Berlin's known for its club life, but I'm really not into that scene. I went to Berghain once for a Hotflush night, but the queue was so long I only caught the last half of Mount Kimbie's set. The place is incredible though, if you like dance music, the sound system is just unreal. Apparently there's no point going before 3am though, and the ideal time is about 9:00 on a Sunday morning. Bizarre. I was much more into exploring the parks and markets, or just cycling around the different neighbourhoods, soaking up the sounds.

DD: How did being in Berlin affect your music?
I was expecting Berlin to assimilate me into the world of dance music, and that the EP I was working on to go all techno, but instead all the sounds of the city hit me with a wave of inspiration and I started a new project within a couple of weeks of arriving.  Originally the idea was to make an EP of nothing but field recordings, (‘Carnival’ was the first track I recorded), but then I wanted to fill out ‘Hung Markets’ a bit and added drums and bass, resulting in more of a beats oriented thing. But the stuff I recorded still formed the basis of most of the music, the drums in ‘Platz’ are just a busker playing for breakdancers in the centre of town, I hardly touched the drums in that.

DD: Why did you choose to use the field recordings in such a major way?
I've used field recordings before, but never as such a focal point. I think I just wanted capture the feeling of the city during the summer, the feeling of community and being outside. Electronic music tends to sound so cold, and claustrophobic to me, as if it was made trapped inside a vacuum. I wanted to try and make music that sounded like you were listening to it outside, in a park or at an open-air or something.
DD: What’s next for you?
I'm in my final year at uni, so doing a degree is pretty much my main plan. But I've got two more releases I've had saved up for a while that just need some finishing touches. They're both very different from each other, one super poppy and one pretty dark, but they both contain me singing, so be warned.

Seams' 'Tourist' EP is out today

Carnival - Seams from *safe solvent™ on Vimeo.