Artist Feature 012: Naibu

Oct. 18. 2015

Photo: Luc Bonnici

Photo: Luc Bonnici

French electronic producer Robin Leclar, aka Naibu, drops into the blog for this weeks music monday.  And he’s certainly not come empty handed, blessing us with not only one but two gifts!  The first, a brand new album from the man himself entitled Case Study.  Nine beautiful tracks of ambient, liquid, and break filled goodness.  The second, an inspirations mix from Robin containing nearly an hour of musical influences and selections. We speak with Robin about Case Study and his creative process below so be sure to have a read.

Hey Naibu, fill us in whats happening with you at the moment?
It’s sunday and I’ve just had a release party for the album in Paris with my friends from Exploration, which was a blast. Now taking some time to relax listening to music and doing the interview.

Let’s talk a bit more about the album: Case Study.  How did the album come about and what is the significance of the name?
In the beginning there was a strong intention to make a drum n bass album that doesn’t sound like drum n bass, in response to the last project I did, the Fall EP, which was very structured and more club oriented. I wanted to go in the opposite direction and not worry about the form so much. The only limit I set on myself was to work at 170bpm, which is drum n bass tempo. It took me about 2 years to make it happen and a little bit more to find the sound I was looking for. 
I didn’t have a name for it until near the end of the production process, but one day I was reading this book about designers Charles and Ray Eames, and got inspired by their Case Study houses. In short, the Case Study houses were built as part of an architectural experiment where architects would come up with new cost effective solutions to build homes. The houses are amazing and I thought the concept was a good analogy to what I’d been trying to do with this album.  To come up with a new sound, and a new personal way of making music, experimenting with that tempo we all love and see if I could come up with something radically different but still relevant, in a “less is more” kind of way.

You mentioned to us before listening: “this is a bit of a departure and is probably not what you expect a dnb album to be.”  Do you feel this album is truly a departure or perhaps just an evolution of your sound?
It’s a departure from my previous output because it’s a bit more free in terms of structure and the range of feelings and emotions is a bit wider. The approach was different indeed and yes it’s definitely an evolution of my sound, a natural one I think. I really can’t stand to repeat myself and always need something new to explore. This time I wanted to make electronic music that was not dependent on the engineering, and to forget all about the technical side of it. I wanted to put some life back into it with warm colours and dynamics, relying a lot on live recordings. It was also time for me to try something a bit more intimate and not to be afraid to express something personal.

The album plays very well start to finish, and this is not something we have seen from too many recent “dnb” albums.  How important is it to change up the bpm, vibes, and styles throughout the album?
I think making an album should be like writing a book or directing a film. You’re telling a story and it should take you places, with ups and downs, moments of tension, relief. You have to let your feelings influence the music, and the music influence the way the tracks are gonna sound. Drum n bass nowadays is very much limited to a club market, and that usually limits the emotional palette you can work with. You can get away with using just any sounds but only certain kinds of mood will work on a dancefloor, which is quite limiting in terms of expression and makes it difficult to keep things interesting throughout an album. I still love good drum n bass on a heavy sound system but I firmly believe the genre, in the greater scheme of things, deserves a bit more than what it’s getting and should be taken out of its club context a bit more. Respected electronic artists tend to prefer to make music around 120bpm / 130bpm or just whatever tempo fits the song they’re writing, but very rarely in the 170 / 160bpm range and I think that’s a real shame. There are some people using 170bpm in a very experimental and artistic way and I have a lot of respect for them and what they do.  But that’s not what I wanted to do with the music on this album, I really wanted to go for a more accessible and lively sound, 170bpm music that’s a bit unusual but not so difficult to grasp.

Case Study by Naibu

Case Study is also full of collaborations, Key and Makoto just to name a couple.  Are these long time friends or people you reached out to for the album?  How important was this collaborative effort to the end result?
I’ve been working with Key for a while now, I think the first track we did together came out 5 years ago and we’ve been collaborating on a bunch of projects since, like the Fall EP. She usually MCs during my DJ sets when I’m playing in Tokyo as well, which is always a lot of fun. For the music, we’ve always worked over the internet and It’s actually become more and more difficult for me as I really need to interact with people. That’s the reason why Key is featured on one track only, her being in Japan and me being in France. I love collaborations and they’re always very important to bring new flavors and richness to music, but I feel that live interaction is needed for the magic to happen.

With Makoto things happened on an impulse, without any plan. One night at club Womb in Tokyo he suggested we should make an ambient track together, which I thought was an excellent idea. So I went to his studio and we had a great time making “5 Pieces”, revisiting vintage classics like the SH-101 or the JX-8P synthesizers.

What gear was integral to Case Study?  Any specific pieces of hardware that were used extensively?
I’d say the Korg MS-20 mini, I bought it real cheap in Japan, brought it back as a hand baggage on the plane, and used it extensively on the album. Most of the electronic sounds and a lot of the bass sounds come from it, it’s a classic synth and it’s been rinsed to death but you can still somehow come up with unique sounds, or at least unique ways of using these sounds. It’s a great instrument and I think it gave the album a certain flavour.

There truly is a wide variety of sounds throughout the album, for example the various textures on the track “Key to Change”.  Do you purposefully focus on certain elements in your productions: such as sound design, melody, percussion etc.
I wanted the music to be colourful and contrast the melancholic themes with sonic beauty. Technically speaking yes, I tend to separate each stage while producing. I spend a lot of time recording things and designing my own drum kits for example, and I’ll spend a different kind of time on the piano to come up with songs, or at least seeds of songs. Once I have something interesting enough on the piano and I can see it going somewhere, I’ll just put everything together in the computer and dress the song up.  I’ll do this instinctively, without rule, by recording and adding textures on the fly, experimenting and following my intuitions, that’s the stage where I bring the colours in. Separating each process is key to keeping things fresh in the studio. One of my favourite Oblique Strategy from Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt: “Not building a wall but making a brick”.

Fall EP by Naibu

Japan seems to be a major creative influence for you.  From cover art, to inserts, to your photography… there is a recurring theme of Tokyo and Japan's urban landscapes.  What is it about this country that inspires you?
I’m not quite sure where that obsession with Japan comes from, I tend to think it’s connected to the Japanese television shows we were fed back when I was 3 or 4 years old. It may have imprinted a certain atmosphere in my subconscious, and the young kid inside me wants to bring it back. I’m far from being the only person to be deeply inspired by Japan and its urban landscapes though, there’s a fascinating beauty in this overpopulated, well organized chaos. There’s also something about the culture which is very refined and if you go past the mainstream cultural craziness you find a world of finesse, attention to detail, quality and understatement, where every craft in every domain is an art form. I like the over the top side of it still, some of it. Japan’s very much about contrast and that’s also important in music, contrast and space.

Where are you heading creatively?  Any side projects going on?
More songwriting and more acoustic sounds, but I’m also back into making heavy drum n bass tracks at the moment which is a lot of fun, especially after a long break from it. It’s a very different process working on club oriented music, because you have to be very technically minded, whereas I try to forget all about the engineering when making music for an album like Case Study, or when I write any other kinds of music. It’s two different approaches to music and bringing them together in good balance is always a challenge.

What’s left in 2015?
The end of the year sees the release of my new album: Case Study on Scientific Records (16th of October), a remix 12" on Horizons Music with Ulrich Schnauss (19th of October) and then there’s my 12" release on Paradox Music (23rd of October). It’s all about October!   

Thanks again to Robin for stopping by, take it from us and grab yourself a copy of Case Study on limited edition coloured vinyl. 

Buy it here:
Redeye RecordsJuno Records, Scientific Records Bandcamp

Naibu Influences mix

01 - Air - “Redhead Girl”
02 - HASYMO - “Tokyo Town Pages”
03 - Akiko Yano - “Michi De Battari”
04 - Wings - “Love In Songs”
05 - William Sheller - “Symphoman”
06 - Ennio Morricone - “Il Grande Silenzio”
07 - Rhye - “Major Minor Love”
08 - Cibo Matto - “Check Out”
09 - Radiohead - “Pyramid Song”
10 - David Sylvian - “Preparations For A Journey”
11 - Cornelius - “Tone Twilight Zone”
12 - Connan Mockasin - “It’s Choade My Dear”
13 - Brian Reitzell, Nicolas Godin & Jean-Benoit Dunckel - “The Conversation” 
14 - Atoms For Peace - “Amok”
15 - Kenji Kawai - “Floating Museum”