Following the debut artist album by Marco Bailey, Guy Js second artist album and releases from label owner John Digweed himself (in the form of the Structures and Bedrock 12 mix compilations), Bedrock now proudly presents the debut artist album from rising Greek star Stelios Vassiloudis, titled It Is What It Is.
I had always tried to avoid making an album and it's safe to say I had (and still have) various preconceptions and notions about the process of making an album and also the qualities that constitute a successful and well-rounded album. The electronic music genre is wrought with sub-par, hastily produced collections of singles strung together in LP format as much as forward thinking artistic endeavours, so the prospect of making my own statement was (and is) always a very daunting prospect. - Stelios Vassiloudis
Presented over two discs, the album commences with a beautiful cinematic soundscape on CD1, whereas CD2 allows Stelios to showcase his club sound, which develops from laidback deep house grooves right through to a more intense techier acidic vibe. With all the tracks blended and mixed together into a continuous play format to create the optimum listening experience, this is a fantastic release showcasing top quality, forward-thinking music and once again showing why Bedrock is one of the leading labels in the global electronic scene.
You may have already heard Stelios on Bedrock recently in his Wiretappeur guise (his collaboration with Florian Kruse and Nils Nurnberg) with the much-loved Everybody Loves Ice Cream EP whose deep house vibes and warm sounds are firm favourites of many acclaimed DJ's. Now, its time for him to shine in his own right.
When I started work on this album a few years ago, I just wrote non-stop. For the first time in many years, I found myself enjoying the process of writing and arranging music again.
CD1 is a relaxing journey through lush melodic swells, down-tempo grooves, experimental beats, subtle guitars and ambient interludes. Inspired in parts by the originality of the likes of Boards Of Canada, David Holmes and Massive Attack, this superb collection of beautiful instrumental and vocal tracks explores the possibilities and creative freedom afforded when music moves beyond the confines of the dancefloor.
As CD1 builds towards a finale, keyboards and strings give way to the stripped-back, slo-mo house of Sunrise On The Avenue which then morphs into the analogue squelch of Tie Me Up, Stelios sets the stage perfectly for what is the come on CD2 as the dancefloor beckons. If you like deeply groovy laid-back, vocal and instrumental house music with enough depth and variety to warrant many, many repeat plays before anything like over familiarity or boredom sets in, youre in for a treat. This is house music that is sophisticated, subtle, filled with hip-wiggling percussion, intensity, throbbing and ebbing and flowing through the mix with supreme ease. It is the mark of a truly creative producer that by the time the final acidic flourish of Repetition dies away, It Is What It Is feels like a truly inspired journey to the heart, mind and soul of Stelios Vassiloudis.
A big part of this new found enthusiasm and creativity led me to seeking out like-minded musicians and collaborators-people that could bolster or finesse some my ideas and complete my vision. The result of these experiments and the collaborations were some of the strongest, most well rounded compositions I had put together to date and ended up forming the core of the album.
The album is rich with the many vocal talents it hosts, with glorious contributions from Darren Murray (I Burn Like), Astrid Suryanto (Walk Away and Feed), Anna Maria X (Tie Me Up and Isolation) and Tomomi Ukomori (Green In Blue), all of which are exceptional in their own distinctive styles.
Darren and I started working together during the time he was doing vocals for Killahurtz and it didn't take long for me to realize what an amazingly talented and inspired musician he is. He's also tremendously underrated and not terribly prolific. However, we've worked together very happily over the years, often to great effect and his range and versatility made him the first and only choice when I was sourcing for male vocalists to sing on I Burn Like.
Astrid Suryanto has an established history of working with some of the great names in electronic music such as Todd Terry, King Britt, DJ Yellow and Morgan Page, as well as a plethora of top quality labels like Nervous, Plastic City and Armada, amongst many others. Her vocal contributions on Walk Away and Feed are two of the albums highlights.
I've always maintained that collaborations are tricky business. Especially when it comes to obtaining a good vocal performance that works in harmony with the music you've written. Generally speaking, vocalists either tend to have too much "vision" or not enough of it. Astrid is an accomplished, well-rounded songwriter as well as a first rate singer so working with her was ridiculously easy.
Based in Japan, Tomomi Ukomori has worked on critically acclaimed releases with key labels in that territory like Avex, Apt International and Green Parrot Recordings, collaborating with the likes of Mathias Kaden, Hernan Cattaneo, OMB and Hideo Kobyashi. Her vocals on Blue In Green take the track to another place entirely.
I met Tomomi years ago at a club I was playing at in Tokyo. After the gig, she gave me a CD of her (then) current material. I became an instant fan. From that night until today her exceptional song writing and talent have taken her far and she has created some very special pieces of music. It was a Mathias Kaden track that I heard her singing on that gave me the idea for a Japanese vocal on "Blue In Green". I think the juxtaposition of a very deep/techy instrumental and Tomomi's soft vocal tone make an interesting mix.
Anna Maria X is a name synonymous with the music scene in Greece, whether as a DJ or a producer/singer. Anna has been one of the main names in the electronic scene, being involved in clubs, radio and, of course, a whole host of releases with her studio partner, Gpal. Her vocals on Tie Me Up and Isolation will linger in your mind for a long time to come.
As far as spoken word vocalists go, Anna Maria is up there with the best of them. It's no wonder she has a thriving side career as a voice-over specialist, the timbre of her voice is unmistakable. She knows electronic dance music. She knows what works and what doesn't. These were the fastest and easiest vocals I recorded for the album.
In addition to the many original pieces of work on this album, Stelios has also teamed up with a couple of other like-minded producers. The Z is a collaboration with Berlin based Sasse, who releases music on his esteemed Mood Music label.
Our working relationship began a few years ago when we started swapping music and remixes for our 2 labels (his-Mood Music, mine-Dieb Audio). Since then we've become good friends, and worked together in various capacities, but hadnt made a complete a track together. The opportunity came up when I started "The Z". I had started developing the groove and main patterns but was lacking a fresh perspective, something to give it extra definition that would set it apart from your usual mid-set fodder. Sasse's touch was just what it needed and he took my initial idea in a whole new direction!
John Dalagelis' involvement with this album project (he co-engineered and co-produced the continuous mixes) resulted in him contributing his song writing and studio finesse to "Sunrise On The Avenue", a DJ tool in essence, but something more sophisticated and not just a "functional" piece of music. John co-runs the uber-hip Dieb Audio imprint and has released music on a wide variety of labels over the years.
John was there when I started being involved in this "scene". He and his brother remixed my first 2 records. Through my (and their) early development as a producer and DJ we were very tight, always bouncing ideas off each other, going out to parties, discussing music and discovering new things along the way. As a studio engineer, John is one of the best I know. He's mixed and mastered with the best and for the best. I knew I wanted his ears and his know-how when it came to putting the extra touches on the final mixes and the mixed version of the album. He ended up mastering it also.
All great albums have a secret story to tell when you scratch below the surface and It Is What It Is by Stelios Vassiloudis is a debut artist album that is more than a collection of great tracks. Across the two discs, it is a journey into the mind of a very talented musician, producer and DJ. If you are open to the emotions on display it will give you glimpses of his very heart and soul. It is an exceptionally exciting, bold and brave body of music that will stand the test of time beyond fickle trends and fashions.
Ive spent a year refining, rewriting, expanding and polishing the album into the two disc form it has today. In keeping with the popular paradigm, this experience has made the journey far more poignant and resounding than the end destination and has made me a better writer/producer. I guess that's what music has always been about for me-learning and evolving. A music professor at University once told me that: "the moment you start to feel complacent and accomplished, you're finished". My professor's words and my unwavering desire to attain (some measure of) perfection would have probably inspired and self perpetuated an endless cycle of writing, rewriting, editing and tweaking until the end of time! But, all good things must come to an end. A line must be drawn. In this light, I think the album title is self-explanatory. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did making it? - Stelios Vassiloudis