iZem

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It’s out now! I And here’s what the press release said:

"Often writing music whilst crossing continents, French producer, musician and DJ iZem found a new home in Lisbon, Portugal. After moving to the Portuguese capital five years ago, a period during which he released his 2016 album ‘Hafa’ on Soundway, the nomadic artist dove headfirst into the city’s exciting global club scene and started working on bringing his signature soulful and vocal vibe to the club dance floor, and the result is his Enchufada debut release ‘Beni Lane EP’.

Expertly introducing afro-house and heavier percussive elements to his jazzy and hip-hop inflected approach to global sounds, ‘Beni Lane EP’ opens up a new chapter in iZem’s prolific music output with its upbeat and dance floor-focused vibe, while still maintaining his organic and melodic approach to music firmly intact. This is the direct by-product of iZem’s deep dive into the Lisbon music scene, as the syncopated beats that blast loudly from the city’s clubs and streets further contribute to shaping his unique musical personality. From Major Stef’s collage of jazz drum solos to vocal-lead Frikii (feat. Fehdah), where he reworks a vocal from his debut album to fit big room dance floors at 3am, Shebeen Chic’s bass music and dub influenced breaks, to the titular Beni Lane’s colourful celebration of Lisbon’s pulsating and syncopated beats, iZem has established himself as a unique and vital voice in the global club music scene.

‘Beni Lane EP’ follows the release of a single to become his first proper release on Enchufada, as iZem continues his ongoing exploration of the global club sounds of his new home."

Artwork by Aimée

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I had been mainly playing DJ sets on stage for the last 10 years but lately I decided i wanted to try and perform my own beats. I started with a 4-piece band first and then on my own with a more compact ableton set up. I first reworked the songs of my album “Hafa” to adapt them to a live set. As I started adding new elements, loops and samples in the mix, some new compositions took shape. Those were much more electronic and club-oriented than my previous releases as they were created to be played out at festivals and late-night gigs.

Some of those club gigs have been shared with the Lisbon-based Enchufada crew (Branko, Rastronaut, Dotorado Pro, PEDRO…) and they mentioned early on that they would be interested in releasing some of my new beats. I was really flattered by this offer as I had been following and playing out music from their label for the last 10 years. This was the final boost I needed to finish a brand new EP: “Beni Lane”. It is out at the end of june and the first single is out now on Enchufada!

Artwork by Aimée

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This month I’m sharing my own remixed version of a Brazilian 70's classic : Claudia's "Deixa Eu Dizer”. This Brazilian song is one of the most catchy samba jazz hooks of history and it was already sampled by rapper Marcelo D2 and producer Nave‚Äč on their classic 2008 hit "Desabafo”. I remember playing this tune in my sets very often when it was released and this chorus stayed stuck in my mind. Thanks again to Aimée for providing the artwork! Watch a short live improv’ on some of the samples of this song on my Instagram.

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Solange’s 2016 album has been on heavy rotation in the last couple of years and those songs will for ever remind me of the good and bad times of that period of my life. Solange’s words “Drink it away / Dance it away / Work it away / Sexed it away / Read it away” on that minimal groove still resonate deep in my chest. So when I heard some individual tracks of “Cranes in the Sky” being broadcast in an episode of the song exploder podcast, I sampled the acapella bits and the synth harp to play them in my live set. The result got such a positive crowd reaction that it finally convinced me to finish this remix and share it with the world. The remix was premiered on Gilles Peterson’s BBC radio show last week-end and got positive reviews from all around the world. It is now available as a free download. Enjoy and share!

Artwork by Aimée // Cello by Yu Linn Humm

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I first heard Alsarah (originally from Sudan) through the album she did with Débruit, one of my all-time favourite artists. I remember thinking how lucky Débruit was to have met this incredibly skilled singer who wasn't afraid to collaborate with such an unconventional electronic music producer. I kept following her work and enjoyed a lot both studio albums as well as her first remix album project and its impressive producer roster. I first remixed a Nickodemus track that featured Alsarah back in 2016. Shortly after, Nickodemus - also her label boss - asked me to work on a track of the new remix album. And here it is! If you like this tune, you should also check the bootleg remix I did of Haja El Hamdaouia (Morocco) a few years ago.

link to the original song

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Sara Tavares is one of the Lisbon-based artists I had been following way before moving here. "Balancê" was one of my shower hits and I had dreamt of working with her for quite some time. Her vocal and guitar style is the perfect crossover between American soul and Afro-lusophone grooves. So when Kalaf from Buraka Som Sistema got in touch to offer me to work on some additional production on her new single "Coisas Bunitas", I was thrilled. I tried to add to the stems he had sent me but I couldn't find space to develop the kind of groove I had in mind so I basically re-wrote most of the instrumental, which wasn't exactly what they were expecting from me. 

This first try was rejected but I didn't give up, and when I met French-Carribean pianist Karlos Rotsen (who had just moved to Lisbon) I suggested we try and write a new arrangement for this song together. We tried to blend d'Angelo-esque keys with zouk-like drums to support her soulful vocal line. The result was kind of interesting so we sent it back to Sara via Kalaf. We didn't get much feedback for a while but a few months later I got this phone call from Sara saying she wanted to include this version in her album and that we had to complete it within the next 5 days. 

We spent the following 5 days in the studio, first with Karlos then with Sara, who gave us directions and provided some input. Working with her was a delight! She is funny, clear-minded and very focused. This version of "Coisas Bunitas" was included as a bonus track on the CD version of the album.

link to the original song

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