A track by track guide to DJ Khalab’s ‘Zaire’ EP.

Having carved out a career as an operative behind the scenes of the industry over the years, Raffaele Costantino’s latest venture sees him continue to channel his focus towards that of his own music as afro-futurist beat maker, DJ Khalab.

With past releases on Black Acre and Wonderwheel Recordings, the Italian producer’s latest offering, Zaire, acts as a debut for Worldwide Awards’ label of the year, On The Corner Records.

Further marrying African textures with electronic forms, Khalab’s productions travel across various tempos, with the melodic chants; gliding synths and infectious rhythms of Zaire offering an urgent style of dance music that draws from his past whilst looking firmly ahead.

Acting as a taste of what’s to come from his forthcoming solo album, and with remixers Will LV and Medlar on board for extra flavourings, we caught up with Khalab to discuss the makings and thought-processes behind the EP.

1. Night In The Jungle

There was a time when I would never go anywhere without my little roland sp 404 sampler (before that, it was a 303 and earlier still it was a 202).
It is still my best instrument to use in my live shows. I play with two of them in my live sets.

During a holiday in Costa Rica I was isolated in the jungle with my little sampler and headphones for an entire afternoon. I worked on this beat and hadn’t realised the day had gone and it was dark, real dark. It was just seven in the evening but seemed as if I were in the dead of the night.

The approach of this beat is in a classical beat maker style and I’m glad that it’s the start of this release. It shows I am still a kid making beats with a sampler.

2. Zaire

This track represents my path of personal evolution. It has a rhythmic percussive base and is driven by an obsessive, repetitive hysteria. Along with the main theme the concept moves with the dark bass and shamanic voices (of the Yaka – an ethnic group from the Congo).

Zaire ripples with a melodic line and subtle harmonic structure emphasizing the elements of this track. It was chosen by the label rather as the main track for theis first E.P. and I’m pleased with this choice. I think it is a good introduction to the forthcoming album Black Noise 2084.

The whole album is a collage of my beats, future jazz, and some field recordings made avail-able to me by the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium. Zaire was built from a base of folk percussions recorded in 1975 of the Tshoke People from Congo (that at the time was called Zaire).

3. Zaire (Will LV Remix)

I admire Will for the work he has delivers as the LV project that I’ve been following since its start. When my album featuring Baba Sissoko was released I asked him to remix one of our tracks and I’ve been very happy to collaborate with him again.

To be honest though, I was puzzled when I heard this for the first time because although it sounded beautiful, I was disoriented by changed accents of the voices. I soon realised that nobody else was taking any notice of it as no one knew the original version like I did. So I abandoned my perception and-started to listen to it outside of the context of my version, and more and more I got into it. I adore this remix, just like all of his remixes.

4. Aeh

I think this is a track that has nothing to do with where I’m at now. It connects the present to my work from over two years ago. I produced it whilst working on my first EP for Black Acre (Eunoto). It was then put aside until we reopened the session with Cristiano (Clap! Clap!) for the ‘four-handed project’ that Black Acre didn’t take forward in the end.

As I didn’t want to waste all of that work I went back to the tracks to finish them off on my own. After moving files around from one folder to another, I erroneously found that I’d sent to Pete (the head of the label) the tracks that were unreleased. Guess which one of these tracks Pete chose!? When he told me about it and how it makes a departure from the old work and can add context to my new style, I thought to myself “I think this track is determined to be released, it is doing its best to come out.”

5. Zaire (Medlar Remix)

If somebody had told me to remix a track like Zaire, I would have panicked. Medlar though, knows how to hold a hot potato and he has demonstrated it with this remix. He has emptied the chaos and made the most of it out of its simplicity. His electro version is a great expedi-ent, and what a bounce!

Out March 2 via On The Corner Records. 

Pre-order it here.

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