Borders between electronic music genres are gradually disappearing as more producers diversify their sound. Donato Dozzy, the Italian maestro known for his lush brand of minimalist techno, surprised fans last year when he went drum and bass on a remix project. Hip hop legend J Rocc did a similar about-face when he unveiled his electronic alter-ego Flaunt Edwards back in 2013.
For the French producer Flore, stylistic fluidity is a crucial element of her work. After nearly two decades in music production and DJing, the Lyon-based artist has crafted a rhythmically diverse palette that floats across dubstep, ambient and slow-burning techno.
“People into bass music tell me that I make techno and vice-versa,” she said with a laugh over the phone.
Following the 2010 release of her debut album RAW under UK label Botchit & Scarper, Flore was initially synonymous with party-starting breaks. But judging by her latest projects – three EPs and a new album called Rituals – it’s clear that her taste has turned darker and more experimental.
Rituals, released in April under her own label POLAAR, is the culmination of that sonic journey. The ten-track work delivers atmospheric club music with elements of half-time and mid-90s intelligent jungle. ‘Coded Language’ and ‘Numen’ play with elements of skittery bass and futuristic synths whilst the tribal-laced beats in ‘Evidence’ lock listeners into a deep hypnosis. In between, the mellow soundscapes and gentle chords in ‘Rituals’ and ‘Psykhe Part 3’ help balance out the album’s intensity.
“Personally, I don't get it when artists stick to one BPM,” Flore said. “You have to be curious in music-making, otherwise you’re at risk of becoming a cliche. It's nice to have a wide range of tools to explore tension and happiness.”
‘Always stay true to yourself’
The early stage of Flore’s career was focused on developing a UK sound that she said she eventually grew out of. “Sometimes as an artist, you lose direction but it’s always about finding the right balance between making crowds dance and representing your sound. I realized, at one point, that I needed to take some distance and think about what kind of dimension I wanted to be in and not hide myself.”
That turning point fully materialized in 2015, when she launched a live show with visual collective WSK that went on to inspire the new album. That fateful gig got Flore into Ableton Live and motivated her to start POLAAR a few months later. Flore is now an Ableton Certified Trainer and recently debuted a new live performance for Rituals.
“I took an introspective approach to that first live show,” she described. “My wish was to re-examine my musical roots so that’s why all the Rituals projects are very personal, I sound more like myself in them.”
With Björk and Goldie amongst her first introductions to electronic music, it’s no surprise that her productions have an ethereal quality shared by those heavyweights.
“One of my older brothers used to work at Lyon’s first record store, which introduced me to trip-hop. Another big moment was when I discovered Björk’s ‘Human Behaviour.’ She played in Lyon in 1996 and the supporting act was Goldie. I remember when he performed ‘Timeless’ with Diane Charlemagne, it felt like a signal that I was waiting for my entire life.”
For Flore, composition is centred on elements that respond to each other, rather than melodies. She usually begins the process with samples derived from various sources, including her own record collection.
“On the track ‘Congos,’ everything started from this weird dissonant flute sample, which I discovered on a French radio program called L’Afrique Enchantee,” she described. “I love using random samples and seeing how it sounds when you pitch it very low or when you pass it through a combination of effects.”
If she doesn’t start with a melodic sample in mind, Flore begins her process with 808 drums. In parallel, she usually creates a MIDI sequence whilst trying to update each sound in the Drum Rack with her own drum samples. Later, she incorporates audio effects – one of her favorite plug-ins is Guitar Rig.
“What really helps me when I make music is to find some combo of effects that can interact with the volume and sound. You can have a good idea for a melodic or drum sequence but after listening to it eight times, you may find it quite boring. The trick is to find a way, using effects, to create subtle changes so when the beat repeats itself, it’s less boring.”
Describing a set of Effect Racks that she has kindly created for the Ableton community, Flore notes that they add small movements to a sound rather than huge changes. She’s included a Frequency Shifter modulation Rack – “very good for adding some little twist,” especially for short notes – as well as a Wavetable bass sound, “on which a frequency modifier Rack adds some rumble to the sound to make it darker.” Her collection of Racks also features an FX pad, which has another frequency modifier to create movement and mystery, she explains.
Note: Ableton Live 10 Suite is required. In the Live Set, you’ll find the different Racks on each track, play one clip at a time to hear the Racks.
Flore’s primary set-up consists of Live, Soma Laboratory’s Lyra-8 analogue synthesizer and external software like Universal Audio for mixdowns. For the new live show, she’s been adding modular toys like the Quad Drum Voice from German company vpme.de.
“When I use tools outside of Live, it's for the purpose of adding surprise and unpredictability in my workflow,” Flore explained. “I know Live very well so it's easy to get stuck in my own habits.”
So, what’s next for a veteran artist who’s always looking for new challenges?
“Well, I recently did a crazy house track called ‘Myself with Pico’ that was made in three takes with only modular gear. It’s very different from my Rituals projects, this is simple and minimalistic whereas Rituals has lots of layers. It was so fun to produce so why not, maybe one day I’ll make more house!”
Text and interview: Nyshka Chandran