Talking Genre, Tech and Concept With Airmow: a Multi-Genre EP to Represent ‘Broken Memories’

In recent years and with the pandemic giving them ample time to contemplate their creativity, artists of the bass music world have broken out of their respective boxes in a way that’s not been seen since rave’s inception. Whilst there was originally good reason for the divisions in the 90s and 00s, in the last decade and a half, typecasting has seemed a bit puerile and could lead to stagnation. Artists like Noisia, Chase & Status and Alix Perez as Shades began to ramp up efforts to stretch into other genres in 2016-17, but the recent rash of crossovers, collabs and whole entire genre switches really portends well for the scene uniting more than ever before. Beyond just Vision and 1985, labels are also producing more crossover and 4×4 in the last year. You know when Flexout produces entire albums of UKG, there’s a change on the wind.

Since crossover in the bass world has been going on for a while now, it stands to reason that it would give way for some crossover natives to come through. These artists are blissfully unaware or possibly don’t care about the genre wars. Since they came on the scene, artists like Mandidexterous and Nia Archives or Hamdi and Hol! on the dubstep side make exactly what they want with nary a care for the carefully curated genre lines drawn not by artists but by fans with samey taste (we’re looking at you, Eatbrian horde).

Parisian artist Airmow is one of these crossover natives whose production quality and conceptual ethos truly transcend genre. Literally popping onto the scene in 2017 with two tracks that immediately showed his diversity, the pop-bass house ‘Miss You’ and the halftime D&B/future bass ‘Nothing to Lose’ showed his technical aptitude and contemplative, concept-developing potential early on. Given his recent work, he’s more than lived up to it, making more and more interesting and nearing avant-garde tracks for a growing audience that appreciates a groove as much as a deep meaning.

Airmow’s latest project, the forthcoming EP Broken Memories sees him vacillating between bass house and halftime just as he always has, but there’s a deeper current to the seven-track maxi EP. We’re not just looking at pop-styled future bass anymore; Airmow uses vapor wave synths and Moog graininess to create texture and tension for a wide variety of beat patterns ranging from D&B-styled breakbeat to heavy, angry halftime and everything in between. Keeping up the quality between all the different genres seems to come second nature to the Frenchman, and that’s likely because there’s an existential reason for all the variations in production here. Broken Memories is a concept and a symbol and is meant to reflect its title on every level.

For me, the creation of ‘Broken Memories’ was an intimate dive into the heart of my experiences, an introspection born at a pivotal moment in my life. This project embodies the delicate passage from youth to adulthood, a moment when we find ourselves at a crossroads, with a past to contemplate and a future to build. I felt a compelling need to redefine myself and to confront my doubts and overcome my failures. ‘Broken Memories’ is the fruit of this transition, an exploration of the ambition to leave a timeless imprint.

With a plan to release the EP in singles until its final drop in September, it’s clear Armow has thought about Broken Memories from every angle, and he’s created an intricate story around the concept piece, so he explains it best in the Q&A below. His ideas are a watchword both for other crossover natives and seasoned artists just starting to move into other tempos. This is how you make a multi-genre multi-track, according to Airmow.

For fans who are just learning about your music, how did you get into making beats?

It all started about 9 years ago, back when I was still in high school and stumbled upon this YouTube video by Madeon called ‘Pop Culture’. Madeon performs a live mashup using a launchpad. I was completely fascinated by this and immediately asked my parents to buy me one.

Initially, I would download existing performance sets and play them live, but I quickly felt the urge to understand the creative process behind these performances. I started composing my own beats and instrumentals, mainly for rappers, about eight years ago. Over time, I expanded my musical horizons and started sharing my compositions on my YouTube channel. My tracks became increasingly complex and technical.

I felt like I was seeking approval from my beatmaker friends than creating compositions that truly fit rappers. So, I decided to turn to electronic music, where I could fully express my creativity without relying on vocals to complete my tracks. Under the alias Airmow, I began producing remixes and quickly gained support from YouTube channels specializing in future bass and trap, such as Trap Nation, Trap City, or Cloudkid. This allowed me to hone my music production skills and progress quickly. However, the music I was creating at the time was really trying to fit in the style of a particular label. I hadn’t really found my sound yet.

Later on, I took a step back and focused on creating more authentic tracks that reflected my personal artistic vision, away from the constraints imposed by labels and these highly branded YouTube channels. Thus, the Airmow project truly came to life at that moment, along with my desire to create sincere and authentic music, and that’s the direction I continue to evolve in today.

You’re a true genre-hopper with your work, incorporating different tempos and vibes. What inspires you to create in so many directions?

I find it hard to concentrate on one particular genre. Every time I create something, I feel compelled to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone to explore. Otherwise, I’m not satisfied with the result, and I don’t feel inspired. To create, I need to play and have fun during the process. I compose based on my moods, current references, encounters, etc., rather than aiming to confine myself to a particular style of music.

To me, a unique artist is not one who is inspired by nothing, but one who is inspired by everything. The broader the spectrum of references an artist has, the more unique their style will be. I also try to draw inspiration from different art forms like cinema, architecture and graphics, and to create connections between these diverse art forms to inspire myself and discover new references and inspirations.

I do a lot of image composition for luxury brands, enabling me to explore and create new sounds in a specific format, different from what we expect for a single. The fact that I have to compose for video adds a very interesting constraint that forces me to explore different genres.

Despite using so many genres and techniques, you have a very clean, distinctive style. For the tech heads, what sort of software and equipment do you use? Any tips on how to create a high-quality sound?

I use my Mac with Ableton Live 12. I also have a controller called Push 2, it enables me to manipulate the sound of my synthesizers without latency so I can experiment with various effects and parameters. I also use analog synthesizers such as the Prophet 6 or the Subsequent 37 from Moog.

I do a lot of sound design sessions where I play with textures and sounds that I reuse later in my compositions. I create matter and sound like a chef who meticulously selects the finest ingredients before commencing the cooking and assembly process. A good dish is crafted with the right ingredients, blended in the proper manner.

What was the inspiration for the first single, ‘Not too Late’?

For this single, I was looking to create a more mainstream track while playing with more unique synthesizer sounds and cool chords. I was pretty much inspired by Radiohead’s chords in ‘Take off Everything’ and also Playboi Carti’s chords.

As for the vocals, I really liked the slightly pitched and ‘digital’ voices that we can hear on AlunaGeorge, DJ SNAKE, Skrillex, Kito or Empress Of’s tracks. Emily was the perfect fit for this single, she brought a fresh and modern pop vibe on it. We played a lot with the vocal process, like vocal mix and production, to make sure it perfectly matched and mixed into the track.

This track is one of the most commercial songs for the EP but it definitely has a vibe that I really liked.

Talk a bit about the decision to release the EP via its singles over time EP. How do you want it to introduce the EP?

I will release four singles prior to the EP launch in September: ‘Not too Late’ with Emily J, ‘Fall Apart’ with Frizzy the Streetz, ‘All Over’ with Reiyo the Giant and ‘Trust Nobody’ with The Venice. I aim to introduce the vision and artistic direction of the project gradually. With each single, I musically created a ring representing fragments of memories in my mind. Each ring symbolises a memory and each song addresses a distinct theme related to memories and self-development. The project’s vision and artistic direction will unfold progressively for the audience. We start with the most ‘good vibes’ track, and the different singles will become gradually darker and deeper.

How do you think the different tracks express your core concept of memories changing and fading over time through the timeline of the EP itself?

In this project, I aimed to blend dreamlike, modern, and enigmatic sounds that complement the concept of broken memory and memory reconstruction. It’s a metaphor for the fragility of our memories and our identity. The concept is inspired by a person with amnesia, symbolising loss and the quest to rediscover oneself. This person, deprived of his or her memories, embarks on a journey to rediscover their roots while forging new ones. This quest parallels my own experience, marking a period of doubt and profound questioning, but also of growth and evolution. The timeline of the project is intentionally blurry, just as memories are. Each track tackles a different theme.

‘NEIGE’, for example, means ‘snow’ in English and initially started as a piano composition. It featured a dreamy, altered piano sound. I added effects to make the piano sound real, incorporating sounds of pianists and creaking noises. These additions gave the piano an atmospheric quality, reminiscent of falling snow. The title ‘NEIGE’ was chosen because each piano note descends gently, much like snowflakes falling softly.

Snow serves as a metaphor for memories being buried over time and that’s reflected in the song’s contemplative atmosphere. Reiyo’s vocals singing ‘do you remember’ in the final section further emphasise the theme of fading memories. I decided to finish the EP with this track which is intentionally symbolic and really sounds like a cool outro.

‘Trust Nobody’ is a heavier theme, exploring trust and betrayal. It’s meant to evoke powerful emotions. The creative process for this track differed from the others as I received The Venice’s vocals before composing the music. The lyrics resonated with the EP’s theme, inspiring me to create a strong, intense instrumentation to convey the feeling of betrayal. Sharp percussion and saturated basslines in the drop intensify the sense of rage and betrayal portrayed in the song.

‘All Over’ took shape differently as I began with a synth melody. I collaborated with Reiyo The Giant, who provided vocal ideas based on the chords and melodies I created. The song delves into the end of a relationship, balancing that grief and melancholy with hope for the future. The chorus features shimmering, dreamy synths, which create an ethereal atmosphere. Organic percussion sounds were introduced to enhance the grandiose feel of the song, complementing Reiyo’s powerful vocals.

These three tracks I think make up the central concept whilst exploring diverse themes and emotions. They each contribute to the cohesive narrative of Broken Memories while offering unique perspectives and sonic landscapes.

What are you most excited about for when the EP finally releases?

When the final product will be out, all the efforts invested in the artistic and visual direction of the project will become clear. I can’t wait to share it with everyone! Stay connected!

Broken Memories releases in full on 27th September. ‘Not too Late’ is currently available on Spotify and Beatport, with more teaser singles dropping in May, June and early September. Follow him on Spotify to keep up with all the drops