Five months ago, Brendan Angelides spent ten days in silence. There was no talking, no Internet and no music, which was a decided change of pace for the DJ-producer, who records under the name Eskmo.
"It's all about equilibrium," Angelides says of this Vipassana meditation retreat in Joshua Tree. "The clearer I can get with myself all relates back to how I approach my work and my art and what I try to bring out to the world."
For Angelides, a typical day starts with waking up, collecting his thoughts and meditating. Then he might go grab a juice from Naturewell near his house in Silver Lake before settling in to make music while consciously trying to stay present and avoid dipping into "frantic work mode."
Still, nothing about him comes off as frantic. He speaks eloquently and chooses his words carefully while making plenty of direct eye contact as we share spring rolls at a Vietnamese spot on Sunset. He talks a lot with his hands. When our entrees arrive, Angelides bows his head and spends ten seconds in silence before eating.
The new Eskmo EP Language is out today via Angelides' own label Ancestor. The five tracks are lush beats of sophisticated computer music with soul, a clear evolution from previous work that was sonically crunchier and more apt for categorization in the glitch hop/dub realms.
"With a couple of the tracks, people will be like, 'What are you doing?'" he says. "People that have been listening a bit longer or don't associate me with crazy bass sounds might be a bit more open to it. I stepped away from that a bit and consolidated my tools while trying to keep a really distinct vision, without being too up my own ass about it."
Angelides' interest in music was kick-started when he was 15 and first heard Prodigy and Primus, two acts he promptly became obsessed with. "Admittedly," he says, "in that same month I was introduced to smoking herb too. It was like my whole musical landscape blew up."
Angelides played in bands in the small Connecticut town ("it smelled like cows") where he spent most of his high school years. Interested in more than casually getting together with friends to play bass and get high, he began making his own stuff on a four track and the "cheap keyboard" his parents bought him. By the end of high school, he had a glut of material. Taking his name from Inuit mythology, he assembled this music on a CD and submitted it as the final project required to graduate from high school. He passed.
After working food-service jobs and making music on the side during a stint in New Haven, Angelides moved to San Francisco in 2006. "The west coast felt like a big opening," he says. He was soon playing shows throughout town, and with this, the notion of making music an actual career became realistic. "Seeing the reactions from the live stuff, I knew there was something happening."
He was right. Within a few years, Angelides had compositions featured on labels including Warp Records and Planet Mu and had made friends with the likes of Bassnectar, The Glitch Mob and Amon Tobin. His eponymous debut album was released via Ninja Tune in 2010. Feeling confined in San Francisco and attracted to Los Angeles' "thriving culture of people going for the sun," he moved south last September.
See also: *Bassnectar: The DJ as Guidance Counselor
Despite, or more likely because of, the influence of expanded consciousness on his new work, Angelides is careful to avoid the spiritual elitism or new age-hooey that can cause audience recoil. "There's always a fine line of it becoming this holier than thou thing. The music can get really lost in cheesiness or a certain level of hippie-dom. I thought a lot about even putting out a track called "Oh in this World of Dread, Carry On." Ultimately, it just has to feel good instead of just being some cerebral ego thing."
He's serious about this. When I pay him a compliment regarding Language, he looks at me rather seriously from across the table. "I will observe you saying that," he replies. "That's another practice. Not to take it personally when people don't like your shit and not to take it personally when they do. It's not an easy one at all."
Because people do like his shit, Angelides will round out 2012 with a three week tour in Australia and then travel to Egypt and take part in the winter solstice festival The Great Convergence. At the base of the pyramids, he will play a set accompanied by visuals featuring the spinning image of Earth with a human torso and heart projected over it while he samples himself singing "in this world of dread, carry on" on a day many suspect might be the end of the world.
"I feel like that's an extension of where I'm at right now," Angelides says of the unabashed positivity of this combined imagery and message, "There's always this idea in my mind about music's power to heal people. It's cliché, but I don't think it's cliché at all, either."
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