There are many avenues to approach Anthoney Hart’s work, each offering different view of the same whole, which might be why his work appeals, and often frustrates, so many. Seemingly always busy, you may have come across Hart’s hazy, abstracted Imaginary Forces project, his brilliant collection of pirate radio recordings, or 2015’s dancefloor-focused Basic Rhythm album on Type, all remarkably distinct projects that somehow speak to a cohesive, or at least coherent, whole. Originally rooted in hardcore/jungle/drum & bass culture, Hart maintained a show on Rude FM in the late 1990s into the early 2000s before becoming bored with the rigidity of the format and striking out into more experimental territory. Mostly known as Imaginary Forces until last year, Hart joined up with John Twells’ Type label for Raw Trax, his first official project as Basic Rhythm and an album that has shown off his abilities as a musical polymath.
Influenced by a huge range of material, from Coil and Kate to Bush to D’Angelo and Kendrick Lamar to contemporary producers like Gage, Rabit and the Her Records crew, Raw Trax is a hypnotizing listen, full of sparse, forceful percussion arrangements and vocal samples that rarely sit high in the mix, but create a mesh of rich, organic textures throughout. Hart’s roots in pirate radio are readily apparent from raw, often manic, energy of tracks like “Raw Basics”, “Break It Down (4 Da Kru)” and “Prototype”, but Raw Trax is not a jungle record and the hardcore continuum is one of many influences to be found across its eight hypnagogic bombs.
With discussions over nostalgia in rave music coming to a fore via the Bloc founder’s acerbic letter a few weeks ago, commentators are quick to lump acts into the heap of revivalists, but Basic Rhythm neither glorifies the sounds of yore, whether they be hardcore, jungle, garage or something else, nor does he rest his music output in those sounds, instead grafting a whole spectrum of influences into his own unique project. Raw Trax is inherently referential by nature of its sample choices, but you won’t catch Hart looking forlornly to the past and if you want to hear straight up drum & bass you can check out his third alias. Hit the jump to check out our interview with Hart. We talked Basic Rhythm, Type, moving back to London and more. Track list coming soon.
Hi Anthoney, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?
Same old, same old. Ha! I am currently living in the suburbs of Stockholm.
You’ve been living in Stockholm for a while now, but are moving back to London soon, yeah? What precipitated that decision and what are you looking forward to once you’re back in the UK?
I’m moving back within the next few months. Stockholm is pretty parochial and I feel there are more opportunities for my partner and I in London. I’m looking forward to seeing my family and friends, record shopping, getting back to radio, and cutting dubs at Music House.
At the beginning of the production process, do you have an idea of whether what you’re working on will end up as a Basic Rhythm song or an Imaginary Forces song? Do you draw strict stylistic and/or procedural boundaries between the two projects?
Yeah, Imaginary Forces has a harder sound, although still predominantly beat driven, whereas Basic Rhythm is aimed more directly at the dance floor and draws much more overtly upon my roots in London pirate radio.
How has your relationship with Type developed? At first glance, your Imaginary Forces material might seem more apt for the label, but Raw Trax’s dancefloor-focused abstractions also make sense in the greater context of the Type discography?
I chat to John quite a bit and then I sent him a few Basic Rhythm tracks and he asked if I was up for doing a full album. Obviously I was keen to do something for Type as it is a great label. I think Type would release anything if they are feeling it and the preconceptions that it is a purely experimental label might be a bit of a misnomer.
I have another Basic Rhythm LP due out on Type fairly soon, and am actually working on an Imaginary Forces LP for them too. The next Imaginary Forces LP is going to be something a bit different as I have been working with a bunch of MCs from London, but still with my style of beats. Actually, working with the MCs has really helped me fully realise the Imaginary Forces sound, to finally fuse the influences of Drum & Bass, Grime, Techno and Noise. I don’t want to give away much more than that at the moment, but you will get a taste of what I am talking about in the mix.
Raw Trax has received some flack, all fairly silly, from some of the more conservative elements of the contemporary Jungle/D&B community. How do you see your work relating to that world and is it important to you to engage with it at all?
Yeah, some people seemed to be upset that it wasn’t a Hardcore or a Jungle LP. Which is a weird position to take. Ha!
I think Basic Rhythm has a direct connection to my roots in Hardcore, Jungle and D&B, but I wanted to present those influences in a new context. There are a lot of new musical influences in the mix as well as those older references.
As for engaging with that world I still make Drum & Bass under another pseudonym and will be collaborating with Overlook at some point soon, once he has finished the album he is currently working on. Loxy has a couple of my D&B tracks, and both he and Doc Scott have been playing them. I also still do the odd show on Rude FM when I am in London.
Despite utilizing a fairly sparse/sharp/metallic sonic palette, Raw Trax maintains a huge amount of swing and funk. The machine-driven twang of Detroit techno and bounce Southern rap comes to mind as well as more obvious hardcore continuum elements. With so many lines of influence running through the project, do you have any trouble contextualizing it? Are there any DJs you think nail the style you aim for in your productions?
I have always known exactly what I want to play it alongside and where I am coming from with this project, and I think you will hear in the mix. Mickey Pearce has been playing some bits in his Rinse shows too, which I was really happy about. I really rate labels like Her and producers like Scratcha DVA, Rabit, Gage and so on. These contemporaries are as much an influence on the sound as old Detroit Techno, Hardcore and Jungle are.
You’ve spoken about some avant-pop artists like Kate Bush and Coil as having an influence on your production and DJing. How does more vocal-minded music like that metabolize in your instrumental output?
Yeah, I love both of them. Coil also did a lot of instrumental and experimental work. Both of them have been an influence on my work as Imaginary Forces and Basic Rhythm… by influence I don’t mean I try to sound like them though. Ha! Just that I find their sense of experimentation inspiring.
You can hear references to old and new stuff throughout Basic Rhythm though. From Mobb Deep, Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Boogie, RetcH, to Underground Resistance, Anthony Shake Shakir, RP Boo, DJ Rashad and so on.