Thomas Richardson is a Bristol selector on the rise. He hosts the weekly Freedom of Groovement show on Bristol station, Burst Radio, where he explores the origins of a different country’s relationship with electronic music each week. Informed by stints playing drums in bands, Richardson’s DJ style marries his roots in percussion and grooves with a deep understanding of the global context of dance music, with the result that his sets are consistently eclectic, experimental, and always impressive.
For his entry to the series, Tem presents an hour of selections that spans from breaks to GQOM, tied together by ample amounts of bassweight. The mix opens with moody ambient textures, eventually pinned down by a rolling kick-tom pattern. Woozy arpeggiated synths float in atop a passage of playfully chopped breaks, and dreamy chords that waft through the mix. Around 10 mins, Neinzer’s “Horus” is deployed to great effect: the throbbing bassline and hypnotic drum syncopation create a tension laced groove, taking the mix to a passage of darker, dubwise fare. Tension is maintained with twitchy drums and hits of sub bass until Hodge’s barnstorming “Renegades” provides the release, moving things into a series of grooving, yet cerebral techno cuts. A stretch of modular techno workouts follow, where chaotic synth bursts are juxtaposed with tough, galloping percussion. The mix ends on a trippier note, with a 4/4 kick that stumbles through lurching triplet swung percussion, and melancholy pads that see-saw between the ends of the stereo field. Tem provides a mix that subtly undulates between moments of introspection and chaos, all whilst demonstrating a keen understanding of what makes a dancefloor tick - this is excellent stuff.
-- Was there a theme or underlying concept for the mix?
"I’d seen Daniel Avery at Field Day the weekend before and was really struck by how well he managed the energy of the crowd and how fluid everything felt. I wanted to get that fluidity but steer away from repetitive 4x4 kicks and try to blend different rhythms together. The initial concept for the mix was to really focus on drums and percussion but in playing around with different tracklists I felt like that was a bit too one-dimensional, so I carefully deployed some more melodic elements to break it up and keep things engaging."
-- We are big fans of your Freedom of Groovements show, how do you prepare for each show?
"Ah thanks so much! I’ll be totally honest and say that research starts like most things with Wikipedia. “Music of -insert country here usually. That jumping off point just begs more research though, and then it’ll be articles, blogs, labels, Soundcloud… The built-in ‘translate’ feature in Chrome was super helpful with the China and Japan shows."
-- What is the most exciting element of experiencing dance music in the club, and what constitutes to a successful DJ set in your opinion?
"At its most fundamental, a successful DJ is one that gets people moving. What really excites me is when DJs play something that totally takes me by surprise. It could be dropping a song that sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before, or the way they bridged the gap between two seemingly distant tracks. I saw Afriquoi a while back, and the DJ went from “ITT” by Fela Kuti into “Night” by Benga and Coki and it was seamless. I still can’t figure out how he did that. Hearing a track you really love on a decent soundsystem is always exciting too."
-- As a PhD student, how do you balance your music and work life?
"I really appreciate having DJing as a hobby to be honest. It’s a nice creative outlet from lab work, which can sometimes be pretty tedious. I’m never bored looking for new music. I just need to be sensible when I have sets during the week, but I’m not always successful..."
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