001: Alex Saad
Alex Saad is a producer, DJ and performer based in Oxford. Recent outings include a collaboration with Jonathan Packham on Carti, performed at Modern Art Oxford in May 2019, and an ongoing project involving the live realisation of Hiroshi Yoshimura’s ambient works under the moniker Alex Saad Ensemble. Aside from his musical activities, Alex is a researcher in Mathematics; his PhD explores aspects of "motivic" fundamental groups and their uses for studying problems in number theory.
Alex chatted to EXPO about his debut mix for the series. Listen to his mix above, and scroll down to the bottom of the page for the full tracklist.
EXPO: Firstly, Alex, thanks for contributing. It’s the first one we’ve done, and it’s great to have such a good opening mix for the series. Can you talk about where you were coming from with the mix, and what you were trying to achieve?
AS: Yeah for sure. I was trying to create a very textural and quite dynamic ambient mix. I think a lot of ambient is quite focused on, like, nice pads—and I wanted to do something that was a bit more focused on percussion or drums—they can be a very dynamic thing that can give you an ASMR-type vibe. A lot of the tracks are quite in your face and that’s one idea behind it, looking at that side of ambient.
EXPO: That sounds really interesting. So talk us through your approach to putting it together—do you start with tracks, structure, a drawing? Where are you coming from, and how does it grow?
AS: I think I start with similar sounds that I hear across different tracks. For example, in the second half of the mix there’s quite a lot of bell-like sounds—like rattly metallic sounds. I find I get led along by sounds which have similar sounds, and I want to mix them—pairing timbres across different tracks. So there’s some elements of the mix where it’s quite distorted and harsh, and I tried to see how those sounds could be mixed across different types of tracks. I think the mix is focused on timbres rather than themes.
EXPO: I love this idea of pairing timbres across tracks, finding small points of interaction in seemingly disparate sonic worlds. Talk us through your setting: where were you when you put this together?
AS: I made it at home; I worked it all out and recorded it there.
EXPO: Can you draw out a couple of the tracks in particular that are important to the way the mix came together?
AS: Yeah—so I think maybe the thing that started it off was the track off the new Objekt album, Rest Ur Troubles Over Me. It’s this really in your face—I don’t know if you could call it ambient, but like beatless—soundscape which has all these really nice ways of playing with sound in it—so that definitely had to be in the mix at some point. I also wanted to put in a track from Ishome. She’s a Russian producer who made this weird track with almost like Gregorian chanting in it, which is a really strange thing to have in electronic music. I think it works really well with the ambient stuff, though. I got really into the Biosphere album Substrata recently, and there’s one track that has these Himalayan bells in it throughout the track and that works with a couple of other really bell-focused tracks in the mix. There’s also a track by my brother Dom Saad off his album from last year; I wanted to put it in because it’s a great track—it’s not so much ambient but it is kind of in your face.
EXPO: We know you write and produce a lot of music too—are there any of your own tunes in the mix?
AS: There are two tracks by me: one (Algae) is an ambient track that’s been out for a while that was made with a feedback loop, and the other (Looking Out from the Tower) is an unreleased ambient track which is coming out via EXPO some time soon.
EXPO: We’re so excited to get it out there independently of this mix! Finally, what are you making at the moment—what’s up next?
AS: At the moment I’m making a couple more techno tracks, and working on a live set based on my own more beat-driven work; something like a selection of modular beats that I can put together on the fly.
EXPO: We can’t wait to hear it. Thanks very much, Alex!
Lechuga Zafiro - Ita
Dedekind Cut - Fear In Reverse
Monolake - Mass Transit Railway
Alex Saad - Algae
Hiro Kone - Poortgebouw
Ishome - It Exists
Bee Mask - Pink Drinq
Ueno Masaaki - Supersolid State
Alex Saad - Looking Out from the Tower
Dom Saad - Mystic Orchard
Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto - Logic Moon
Grouper - Moon is Sharp
Actress - Uriel’s Black Harp
Flying Lotus - Clock Catcher (Harp Arrangement)
Biosphere - Chukhung
Objekt - Rest Ur Troubles Over Me
Yamaneko - Oslo House Sunrise 4K