So it has been a long minute since I have conducted an interview, or a review for that matter, but in this case I was compelled due to a cornucopia of sounds coming from Eric Douglas Porter aka Afrikan Sciences.
Afrikan Sciences has put together a album that is an attack on the senses, one of the few people who chose to make music that does not focus a kick drum on the one or the backbeat on the two and four. Circuitous on Pan is what I would call an avant-garde LP that could someday in the future make its way into becoming a movie score. Really impressive use of sounds, full of many layers, meanwhile the arrangement moves around so subtly that your senses feel the difference but your eardrums are confused. So besides writing a review of the LP I wanted to see what makes Eric tick:
So where did it all begin? It meaning your love for making music.
Afrkian Sciences: It started in the crib, literally, well at home you know, pops was into music heavy like. I can remember him bumpin Eddie Harris and Les McCan, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the Beatles, and King Crimson. I remember that 21st Century Schizoid album cover bugged me the hell out. Later on in my youth, the pause tape loops were jumping off, then the Casio sk1, and then dj bug bit me and its been a wrap since then.
Sounds like a good introduction to music, did you take music lessons at somepoint in your life?
I took a few piano lessons as a child. Also I used to stick around the family church which had a piano there and I would spend hours just noodling. When I decided to pick up the bass, basically I was self-taught I Studied theory but for the most part I’ve been self taught.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Brooklyn, the Flatbush section to be exact, but then ended up moving down south to Alabama as a kid. I wound up going back and forth between the East and South throughout my childhood so it instilled in me what I like to call Roots (southern) and Culture( NYC).
What is your day job?
I’ve held down many jobs in my days, telephone man, cable guy, always something technical, right now music is my focus, day and night and raising my son, thats my full-time gig.
That’s cool I can respect the that, we all need a job to eat from time to time, really cool you are exploring your art and making a family. When did you first start using Ableton? Did you record any music before this, you have some old cds/dats/tunes laying around somewhere?
I started using Ableton early on around version 2 before they even implemented MIDI. And before that yeah there are tapes that go all the way back to 1989, there’s a trunk in storage somewhere
I have used Ableton with the APC-40 very sparsely but I think you have taking it to a new level. What is your mindset before starting a tune?
I try to approach music from an painters POV, here is my blank canvas ,will the colors insight movement? Will there be a sense of depth? What do the overlapping hues produce? Where is the focus? Calm or busy?
Nice very cool, I think it really shows in your work, the senses are really worked when I listen to your tunes. How you ever been interested in making more “traditional” tunes, like stuff with four on the floor kick drum?
I have some straight ahead stuff but more often than not, when I try to do that I wound up making a left somewhere. I do have some more dance floor friendly related stuff slated to come out this year under different aliases.
What do you hope to incorporate into your set up in the future?
I’d like bring in more hardware into my live rig, nothing over the top, I believe in getting more out of less, but there is certainly some gear out there that I lust over.
If money was not an object what gear would fulfill your gear lust?
A Moog System 55, would be the business, most of Dave Smiths stuff too like a prophet 12, a Korg Odyssey too, I can geek out all day about gear!
Would you be interested in working on developing some new controllers for Ableton?
No doubt, I think performing artist are in the perfect position to advise companies on what it is we feel would accommodate performances.
Do you think the album format is better for what you are presenting?
Tangible is always better in my opinion, it bonds the listener closer to the music.
Have you scored any film projects?
I haven’t done any features yet. Its on my bucket list. I’ve had a song or 2 featured in this or that but no scores yet.
When performing do you use different set ups?
I don’t perform with my full studio set up, i usually streamline it to Ableton Push, laptop , iOS devices, and a few other bells and whistles. I leave the Moog and bass at home.
What is the most minimal set up you could do a live set with and feel that you could express yourself?
I think its not far fetched these days to come off with an iPad and Korg Volca or 2, properly routed, you have all the necessary tools to rock.
Do you incorporate any hardware into your set up?
My Moog is indispensable, and Waldorf Streichfett, as I said earlier i got my eye on some other bits. What up Elektron?!? :-)
Yeah, the Elecktron stuff is super nice, I have my eye on that Octotrack. Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing more music from you in the future.
Afrikan Sciences in the Groove
Now that we know a little bit more about Afrikan Sciences, let’s get to some music:
Two in the Chamber///Vibes began as disjointed percussion comes in, meanwhile many sounds in the background. A bass line arrives to add some meter to the tune. Polyrhythmic as the tune moves through time, the percussion sounds and sounds the synths keep moving forward into a wash, a palette of many things, the arrangement movement is very surprising.
Reddin Off///The meter here is more pronounced as a breakbeat dominates at first, the sound, suddenly more percussion drops as the full avante-garde experimental beats hit. Chords ring out in the background as the closed hihat keeps the tempo steady. Several kick drums steadily move around in a 180 degrees motion ,like taking a walk in a park with heavy thoughts on your mind.
Transient Authority///Beginning reminds me of some downtempo joints from the late 2000’s, with voices and sprinkling keys in the background. The snare is the most pronounce instrument here, the sound at some points are very dissonant, making good use of the word transient as a metaphor. Meanwhile a bass line sneaks around in the background as a fm synth becomes harsher as time goes by.
Evolved Twists///Shuffling beats begin to disorientate a listener, then soft melodies and harmonies step up as the calm before the storm. Followed by a base line and more melodies in a very straight swing, which is like an oxymoron, but the tunes pulls you into different directions.
Circuitous///Rolling drums begin as the bass bins rock, melodies and bass hit hard. At this point the most palatable tune so far in the album and my personal favorite. The melodies really speak to me as everything rolls forward, sounding deep like riding on a boat for open water fishing. Triangles come to change up the timbre for a bit.
Kae///Industrial sounds as the kick drums hit, dramatic stings sparsely play a melody. Which turns into a full melody and harmony as an acid line rides out in the background, the sounds is like a film score that leads up to a final showdown. Tense as the textures keep moving throughout the piece.
Feel///Piano riffs are abundant as the melodies hit and the time signature seems to switch, many sounds arrive and cause confusion to the eardrums. Meanwhile the kick pulsates as the sounds continue to swish around. The tune continues to develop as the melody changes, causing a bouncing sensation.
Swash///Jazzy riffs begin as the syncopation grows into many sounds. Super feeling here, as the broken beat breaks through into slightly dissonant chord tones. Seems like the entire frequency spectrum and note possibilities are full as the tunes moves through space.
The Image///A running synth sequence begin, giving a dystopian feeling as melodies rain out. Car racing is the main feeling of this track as the toms hit, they blend into the background as the synth sequence continues to modulate causing tension. Later ‘The Music is the Image’ is spoken and the tune swells like thick split pea soup.
Group Home Reality///8 bit reality, the drums are crunchy and the pad behind it is very fuzzy, meanwhile the tones become very dissonant. Causing some uncomfortable feelings. Very emotive, ufo sounding synths wobble around and then change in tone, force feeding your eardrums with waveforms.
Alibi II///Retro sounding synths make a melody line meanwhile the beat is broken and a flurry of waveforms are sounded with Jazzy syncopated chords in the background that is promptly joined by bass line, the chords cause a floating feel as the arrangement subliminally changes.
DBC///Strings lead into pulsating synth sounds, the kick drum never sounds on the one. A lead comes in, very fuzzy and sounds some long notes as the percussion picks up speed. The feel is of straight syncopation.
I’m asking you KB///Very interesting drum loop going to begin this tune, long synth lines come out cause great emotion and take attention away from the the loop. Later the synths open up creating resolution, as the main loop goes, subtle sounds move in and out.
Tell Me Who Like That(Beside Manner)///The adventure ends with a tune that is full from the beginning and offers a nice compliment of horns, strings, and effects. The beat continues to break as the it moves through time. The melody lines switches between strings and horns and aliens voices are garbled in the background. Yet with so much going on, the tune can be describe as majestic.
Circuitous (Pan 54)
More info about Afrikan Sciences: