Daria Lourd is nothing if not prolific. If you happened across her work as Bored Lord any time in the past five years you’d be confronted with an avalanche of releases scattered across her Bandcamp page, cassettes of live acid sets, one-off collaborations and swathes of edits. The first ripples of her wider recognition came in 2019 with the release of her album Transexual Rave Hymns, which introduced her as an evangelist for the resurgent presence of trans and queer-rooted club music. Her pointedly titled In Case We Never Get To Rave Again drop two years later captured the lockdown zeitgeist with a 13-strong rip through crowd pleasing flips of monster hits from ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ to ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’. The release might not be available any more, but it helped push her further onto the radar as someone gifted in the art of balancing mischievous fun with serious chops — a true devotee of the energetic release of raving.
The risk with putting out stacks of grin-inducing edits is that people can be quick to typecast you, and it’s immediately apparent Lourd isn’t interested in anyone telling her who she should be. On the occasion of recording an album for kindred trans-rave spirits T4T LUV NRG (helmed by Eris Drew and Octa Octa), she saw the opportunity to sharpen up listeners’ perception of her as an artist.
“This was the first time I wrote a release I knew was going to have more eyes on it,” she tells me from her home in Los Angeles. “I could have easily leaned into the ‘girl who does sample flips’ shit, and I could have just done banger, banger, banger, but when someone gets it and presses play, I really want them to feel like, ‘Oh, what is this thing?’”
The thing in question is called Name It, eight tracks of joyous rave that strike a sweet spot between the nostalgic hit of breakbeat hardcore and a misfit sensibility which is closer to the genre’s roots in the early 90s before a formula was established. This chaotic, idiosyncratic approach to the craft also brings out a unique emotional impact often lacking from modern breakbeat revivalism. It’s no surprise to learn Lourd’s inspiration looked beyond the easy wins of a rave-by-numbers double pack.
“I've been making music for a long time and I’m a big fan of the idea of albums,” she explains. “I think it's important if you're making an album to know what the universe is that you’re creating. I had albums I was specifically referencing like 4Hero’s Parallel Universe and A Guy Called Gerald’s Black Secret Technology, not to sound like them but to use them as reference points of albums that had their own creative universe.”
Name It is still dance music first and foremost, propelled by electronic rhythms, peppered with samples and synths and loaded with bass, but like those pioneering anti-totems of rave LPs there’s also plenty of space for ideas that aren’t always catering to the DJ.
“I wanted people to still be able to DJ these tracks,” she says, “but I specifically made decisions I knew were antithetical to the idea of a club track, like much longer bridges without huge risers or build-up gimmicks, and intros that are probably way too fucking long for a 16-bar mix. If you want to mix this in the club you need to be very intentional about how you're going to do it."
Lourd was equally intentional about the time she spent on the tracks, without losing her instinct for finishing music rather than perfecting it. She’s a product of having grown up in Memphis, a city steeped in blues, country and RnB, and she cut her teeth in bands and producing tracks for hip-hop artists while gradually amassing bits and pieces of studio equipment. It was only when her 8-track recorder broke down that she looked into computer-based production, and that sense of resourcefulness and the immediacy of the band dynamic comes through in her production.
Slide guitar inspired synth lines adorn “Believe”
Another persistent quality which elevates Name It is the way in which Lourd works with emotional hooks. The lingering monosynth which hovers over the extended intro on ‘Believe’ has a warbling vulnerability which contrasts with the rugged march of the drums and nimble acid lines beneath. It’s not one-dimensionally happy or sad, striking that curious melancholic spot which can have the power to move a dancer in subtler, more profound ways than the over-wrought symphony of a big room drop.
“I very intentionally used a vibrato VST on a lot of the monosynth sounds,” she explains. “Even back to when I first started using gear, I used to use a guitar pedal a lot and I really love broad, very low-depth vibrato on stuff. The most obvious overuse of it is probably Boards of Canada, or anything Boards of Canada-inspired.”
“It's trying to emulate what a guitar tone would be, and specifically slide guitar, I think. At the end of the day, I'm from Memphis, born of country and the blues, and if you think about the context of where those lead sounds come in, it’s like the point in a country or blues song where the slide would come in for a solo. Especially in slide guitar, it takes a while to get to the note and it just feels like crying — it’s a trick that plays with your feelings in a weird way.”
An early Bored Lord production – made entirely on a friend’s laptop
Living the hand-to-mouth existence familiar to a lot of artists in their early days, Lourd connected with DAW-based production through any means possible, even recording some of her breakthrough edits and Transexual Rave Hymns on a friend’s laptop while living on the breadline after moving to LA. After 10 years purely working in the box she started to pine for the “raw energy” of her formative years working with Zoom drum machines and the like, and started to gather a few outboard tools which fed into the process on Name It.
“It's interesting to use Live in this way that made me realize what it could do that gear couldn't do and vice versa,” she says. “I don't need it to do everything for me, but the speed in which you can sample stuff and warp it and chop it up is just insane. I'm referencing a lot of older processes by trying to use hardware — using romplers and drum machines trying to emulate this old hardcore breakbeat sound, but giving it a new spin by easily manipulating it inside of Live in a way they probably never could have on an Emu sampler.”
Where she did turn to well-worn or classic sounds, a big focus for Lourd was in layering to add her own unique twists to familiar tropes.
“I didn't sit there and go, ‘how long is this song going to be?’ I just let the loop play and built it.”
“There's a lot of stuff on the album where I would sample something melodic and then layer synths on top of it just to boost it, and also make it maybe a little less recognisable,” she reveals. “Sometimes I’d be using an Arturia Keystep to sequence a line and then running it through my romplers, my Erica Bassline module and the Behringer TD-3, all hooked up to a mixer. I would make the lead line for one of the romper’s stock sounds, and then I would just start unmuting the other sounds and see if I could layer them to make it sound more unique.”
The vibrant elements which inhabit Lourd’s tracks shine thanks to the way they arrive and depart from the mix with a live immediacy. On this album, her approach to the arrangement helped form the structure in a more intuitive way that speaks to her seasoned DJing style. You only need to catch one of her many live videos to catch how much she thrives on sharply executed cuts to maintain the desired energy level. In the studio, this was helped by MIDI mapping the track mutes and volume faders so she could bring elements in and out of the mix on the fly.
“When I used to have my 8-track, we would just record loops and jam, loop things on top of each other, and then the way we would arrange it was by muting and unmuting tracks, or taking the fader out every 16 bars or whatever. I started doing that with Live, letting the loop go and building it up one by one, maybe taking two or three out at the same time and bringing two or three different ones back in, which is also what gives hardcore its sound. I didn't sit there and go, ‘how long is this song going to be?’ I just let the loop play and built it.”
“Feel It” showcases Bored Lord’s strident use of a Rhodes sample
While the hardware offers its typically maverick energy to Name It, the heart and soul of the album lies in sampling. It’s been a fundamental aspect of Lourd’s music from the get-go, spurred on by her ever-growing record collection. She’s been prone at times to picking up chunks of dollar-bin fodder sold in bulk for $5, and she set herself the challenge to wade through these records to find sampling material.
“What has drawn me to this style of dance music in general is that it’s kind of a grab-bag ideology,” she points out. “It's the records you have sitting around. It allows more experimentation when you're forcing yourself to find something out of a limited resource.”
Lourd is all too aware of the pitfalls of over-used samples which permeate rave music, and this spirit of hunting down source material in less obvious places helps give Name It its distinct flair. Canonical breaks like the Apache were off limits, but she was happy to comb through old hip-hop scratch records to pull some less obvious loops or reach for a strident Rhodes lick on ‘Feel It’. It’s safe to say there aren’t many people sampling smokey electric piano for their breakbeat rollers at present. It’s also noticeable how contrasting elements dance around each other on the record, so the Rhodes spars with sustained organ chords chopped in at their own acute angle, teetering on the edge of going out of key. Similarly, the swirling synth pads on ‘Luv’ hit a feverish peak thanks to the dissonance they wreak as they harmonically drift away from the rest of the track.
Bored Lord demonstrates an impactful use of dissonances in the breakdown section of the track “Luv”
“I think I was trying to reach a feeling that early Moving Shadow or Shut Up And Dance touches on, where things are not in key but have a lot of feeling,” she says. “They were just throwing an insane sample that's not in the right key on top of something really pretty and soulful. I made a sample pack for myself from a handful of records I wanted to use, so there were a lot of times where I’d be working on a track and I’d want it to change so I’d go to the pack and find a random keyboard part or whatever. I was doing the old-school sample style of putting the sound in a Sampler and playing it like it was a note, so if I played it lower some of the samples shift in time as they slow down, and I think that added to the dissonance.”
It’s worth pointing out Lourd isn’t beholden to a purist retro way of achieving her sound, as if only the crunch of an MPC will suffice to make authentic-sounding breaks. She’s as ready to embrace the more recent quirks of Warp Algorithms which have, by this point, left their own mark on electronic music culture. She nods to late 00s production by the likes of Arca, Evian Christ and Flying Lotus as capitalizing on the strange digital artifacts which come from time-stretching samples in Live with Texture enabled. Elsewhere, she turned to the Beat algorithm for some distinctive gating on the scuffed drums that form the intro to ‘In My Soul’.
The drums of “In My Soul” use warping as a creative tool to vary the beat
“If you set the Warping to Beat and change the transients it removes some of the sound in between, which sounds absolutely insane with breaks because they're so busy,” she explains. “If the break on ‘In My Soul’ was cleaner, it would make more sense, but I ended up layering a drum sample from the intro of a Shabba Ranks dub, and a lot of the processing was also just from the fact I was using my shitty record player and I was messing around with the record as I recorded it.”
Standout sounds and loaded lyrical meanings are deployed all over Name It to lodge the tracks in your memory, and a prime example is the stark, overdriven diva sample which forms the center of ‘Close My Eyes’. It’s nudged up the frequency range in a style Lourd admits has shades of the 2010s trend towards emotive, high-pitched vocals, but it wound up a necessary approach to help the track hit home.
“Close My Eyes” features vocal sample manipulations and judicious use of distortion
“The vocal needed to cut through a lot more and distortion is a really good tool for cutting through some of the muddiness,” she says. “The rest of the song is just choral synth, and I couldn't leave the sample dry — that felt weird. Reverb washed it out, delay washed it out. The moment I distorted it, it added this weird punk element to it I think people really grasp.”
Past the striking intensity of its processing, samples like the vocal on ‘Close My Eyes’ convey the same nuanced emotional weight also found in the synth parts. For all the techniques and considered nods to former dance music tropes, Name It is an album to be felt first and foremost.
“I love making people cry on a dancefloor,” Lourd admits. “A dancefloor is supposed to be a cathartic space and my intention is usually to get people into a position where they're comfortable enough to be emotive. A lot of the album is thematically inspired more so by house music than it is by hardcore. A lot of hardcore and breakbeat music can be emotional, but the more dance music is over-saturated and over-commercialised, it gets further and further away from that.”
Lourd and T4T LUV NRG have been specific about Name It's over-arching theme of love in the accompanying release text, but it shouldn’t be considered through the endearingly optimistic lens of the early 90s rave optimism.
“Trying to reference the ‘Summer of Love’ idea of dance music as this thing that's all about love and unity doesn’t really work anymore — the tonality of the world is so different,” she points out. “Those feelings don't really make sense. The album’s not about love like, ‘love everyone, love is cool and we're all free to love.’ It’s like, we have to love because, god damn, we're not allowed a fucking inch. Love is almost not allowed in this way. It's like there's no room for it and you really have to struggle to get there.”
This spiritual philosophy makes for a natural fit on T4T LUV NRG, which preaches an urgent emotionality and connection that binds together the artists and their audience, whether it’s Eris Drew’s Midwest-styled “raving disco breaks” or Sage Introspekt’s re-queered garage revivalism providing the soundtrack. Lourd happily takes inspiration from the camaraderie of her peers in the scene, and Name It can be considered a product of that community spirit as much as it is an individual expression.
“We're not a genre-based group,” she says of the T4T LUV NRG crew. “We're maybe a philosophy-based group, or somewhat identity-based, but I'd say more than anything, it's an energetic approach to the art form I think we all have in common. I definitely tried to take that approach onto the album in a way that I probably hadn't done with anything beforehand.”
Text and Interview: Oli Warwick