Song-by-Song: Glenn Astro – ‘Throwback’

Resident of Berlin, Germany – Glenn Astro is no stranger to the art of making music. A DJ and Producer for over half his life, the Tartelet Records family member has been a firm favourite of ours in recent years, having delivered a stellar Hyp mix in 2014 that harked back to the golden days of 90s Hip-Hop, classic Disco and off-kilter House. He regularly collaborates with close friends Max Graef, IMYRMIND, Frits Wentink and Wayne Snow, a crew that centres around the famed OYE record store in Berlin alongside Delfonic, who we visited on a recent trip to Berlin. 

Having championed the sounds of classic sample-based Hip-Hop in the earlier stages of his career, with acclaimed EPs for Big Bait Records and Odd Socks, last year saw Astro take on more club-friendly stylings of gritty soulful House with his ‘Chemistry’ EP for Tartelet, amongst many other quality records. While the newer offerings may take on different structural forms and listening contexts, the woozy soul sound he has developed remains throughout.

This month sees the return of Glenn Astro to Tartelet for his debut full-length ‘Throwback’, an exploration of vintage production tropes that retains a resolutely contemporary sound. Jazz drum samples, warm Rhodes, fuzzy analog synths and the familiar crackle of vinyl all feature on the double LP – a measured balance of live instrumentation and sampling. As the accompanying press release states, “a record for hazy mornings-after, vibey nights in and endless summer afternoons.” 

We caught up with Astro for a run through the creative process and deeper meanings behind all 14 tracks on his versatile new album. Stream a preview of the album below or head here to listen to the album in full.

1. Gonville (w/ Max Graef)
This was one of the last tracks I finished for the album. Max sent me a twelve minute recording of him jamming on his newly bought Fender Rhodes and trying out effects. I took my favourite parts and cut it into three and a half minutes and then added all the rest around it; the bassline, drums, those weird heavily pitched saxophones and effects at the beginning. It was supposed to be the first of a two part track but we decided to use it as the intro track, the title was actually an auto-correct typo while I was writing Max a message on my phone.

2. Computerkiller
The title is another auto-correct typo but I don’t remember who I was writing to. It took the most time to finish, I think I was working on it for 2 or 3 weeks, not continually, but all in all. Originally there was a 2 minute long break down in the middle of the song, with different live drums coming in and completely different chords and all, but at the end it didn’t feel right so I just left it as it is now.

3. Throwback
This is actually a remake of a track I released a couple of years ago on my EP for Ritmo Sportivo from Russia. I don’t know why I decided to rework it, but there was always something about this track that I liked. I felt it didn’t get the attention it deserved – I didn’t know I would end up calling the whole album ‘Throwback’ at that point.

4. Shit Iz Real
This was one of the first drafts I was working on for this record and it started with the drums and scratches I recorded, as I didn’t know what to do instead. After fiddling around with the microKORG I came up with some simple chords. There’s also an interview excerpt from a 90s House documentary in the beginning which I thought would be a cool thing to put on what is basically a Hip-Hop beat.

5. Forgotten Intro (4 My Peeps)
As the name might suggest, this was supposed to be the intro and was the first track I started to work on for the album. I had this weird idea that I’d produce the whole album in the same order as the track listing. I scrapped this idea pretty quickly as I got into a bad writers block after the third track! The track was made mostly with an MPC, at first it was just the simple beat you hear in the beginning but I thought it could work up-tempo as well. This is where it got tricky, as I had to programme this little break on the MPC using just one chord sample, then increase the tempo in Ableton step by step so the change wasn’t too obvious.

6. Bochum (w/ IMYRMIND)
This was already released on a Tartelet compilation a couple of months before the album but I originally intended using the track for the album. ‘Bochum’ is the name of mine and IMYRMIND’s home town – making it a very personal track. Off topic, but IMYRMIND is pronounced “I am your mind” – we’ve had the weirdest pronunciations so maybe it’s time to set it straight!

Glenn AStro

7. You Can’t Groove
This one was a quickie – I made it in an afternoon. I started to fiddle around on the MPC and came up with that drumloop you hear at the start. Then I eventually found the main sample and already had the basis. It also was around that time when Joe Sample passed away and I remembered watching an interview with him talking about the neccessity of having a certain groove to your music and that you either have it or don’t. This actually was really appealing to me as well so I sampled this short monologue of his. This track is completely sample-based with the exception of the microKORG arpeggio and chords.

8. To The Beat Interloot
I barely used any outboard equipment for this, favouring Ableton. I recorded the individual tracks through a cheap Phonic compressor to make it grittier and dirtier, then recorded the cuts on top using that Quasimoto phrase. This track is a homage to Madlib, the drum hits right at the beginning are recreated from the Quasimoto tune I used for the cuts, which itself samples a drum break from Audio Two’s ‘Top Billin”. ‘Interloot’ is actually a nod to Madlib’s crew ‘Lootpack’.

9. Still Shining
After finishing this piece I was actually having doubts about continuing with the album. To me it’s the stand-out track on the album, I feel it totally differs from all the others, after I sent  it to Max Graef, he added a couple of effects. I like that I can’t even remember what has been sampled on this track, this is the same with much of the album.

10. Kilometer Disco (w/ Max Graef)
Part 2 to ‘Gonville’, you can actually hear the Disco hint of ‘Gonville’, when that sample is fading in right at the end of the track saying “disco lights… disco lights”. At the end it didn’t feel right to put both tracks right at the beginning of the album so we decided to put this one on the C side. Max came up with the chords and bass, I added drums and percussions to it and actually programmed the vibraphone and sax solos, which were a pain in the ass and took me a whole day.

11. Ödland
Another one of those simpler Hip-Hop/Beats type of tracks. Drums are done on the MPC and then sent through my SP 404 to give it an extra punch. The main chords are from my Roland JX-8P. Strings and bassline are played with a Crumar Performer. This actually was supposed to be a vocal track and although I’ve been in contact with a few singers, I decided to leave it as an instrumental.

12. One For Viktor
‘One For Viktor’ is probably my favourite track of the album. It’s dedicated to my brother who has passed away a couple of years ago. The weird thing is that I started this track already thinking it was going to be dedicated to him. I did this in a day, mainly using the MPC for sampling and some extra percussion programmed on my computer.

13. Long Live Human (One For Sveta)
The track title might not make any sense because it’s an inside joke that’s been going on for some years now. The track itself is kinda split in two as you might hear. After finishing the first part of the track I had the feeling it was missing something so I decided to bring it to a little break down and add some synth work on there.

14. A Bit Warmer
Probably the most dance-friendly track on the whole album, which was my intention. A day before making it I got the Korg MS2000 – the chords, bassline and those little “pling” sounds are made completely with this synth.

15. Brother T (Greeting To Rasho)
Another dedication, this time to a very good friend of mine. I was making music with Rasho T for a few years, we were even room mates at one point, but for some reason we didn’t manage to make a track for the album so I thought it was just only right to give him a shout out. The title refers to a Pharoah Sanders piece called ‘Greeting To Saud (Brother McCoy Tyner)’. We are both big Sanders fans and Rasho was actually the one that put me onto him a few years ago. I think the track itself is very fitting as it has this very weird free Jazz/spacey vibe going on.

Throwback is out now on Tartelet. You can buy it here.