A track-by-track guide to Shlømo’s new album, Mercurial Skin

In just a few years, Shaun Baron-Carvais, better known as French producer Shlømo, has become a standout figure of Paris’ underground techno scene.

Debuting back in 2013 with an EP via his own Taapion Records, the label for the most part has remained the base for Shaun to craft the distinct emotive club sound of his Shlømo alias, however over the past 5 years he’s  built strong ties with influential imprints like Delsin, Singular records and Arts Collective.

His latest release marks his most ambitious project to date, with debut album Mercurial Skin signalling a return to Shaun’s roots, and taking in elements of techno, IDM, ambient and experimental music across its 14 tracks whilst paying homage to his early electronic discoveries via labels like Warp.

Catching up with Shaun, we asked for a further insight into the making of the album, where he breaks down the LP track by track and talks inspirations, realisations, thought processes and techniques.

1. Hadal Zone

I wanted to start this album with an ambient production, one that sounds like a wake up after a long and heavy sleep. This is the mood of that track. I was thinking about adding drums during the months that I was working on the LP but I thought the texture and the different frequencies were enough to make this track complete. The title is in reference to the deepest part on earth in the ocean.

2. Mercurial Skin

My favourite track from the album, and the one that defines this release the most. It’s a tribute to Aphex Twin and Autechre. I really enjoyed producing this track, and it took me maybe two weeks to finish it entirely, especially concerning the IDM drums and all of the variations within the track – I actually added 808 drums to the core drums during some parts of the production. Ever since the start I wanted to have it as the second track, I really like the link between Hadal Zone and this one. Concerning the production, I started with the drums then added all the melodies and pads, that’s how I usually work. The title is in reference to the heat released from the skin when we make love.

3. Maara

One of the oldest tracks within this album. I was in an Alessandro Cortini period and I was listening to all of his Forse LP’s when I recorded this track. All the melodies are on a different scale (sequence), which makes the sound evolve throughout the track. I used the MS20, Nord1, Microkorg and Blofeld – nothing else. I actually played this track for the first time during my live closing set at Freerotation 2017, and I think that I’ll work more on these kind of tracks in the future.

4. Napalm

As with Maara, this track is one of the oldest featured on this project. I wanted to experiment with some other types of drums compared to what I usually use within my work, and let the lead of the track guide it to the epic melody. It reminds me of some of the old Telefon Tel Aviv tracks.

5. Ivory

This one is a typical soft Shlomo track, with breakbeat drums and delicate melodies. I used both 808’s & 606’s for the drums and I played about a lot with the beat repeat. The bass was made with the Omega 8, it sounds really subby which I like. The title came from the last part of the track, which made me think about elephants – don’t ask me why!

6. Low Key Love

A pure IDM track on an Aphex Twin tip, really complex drums with variations within each sequence. The melodic detuned pad is used here to balance the track amongst the futuristic drums.

7. Suicide Ghost

Here you’ve got the most club focused track of the LP. I spent a lot of time on the kick frequency to make them like a basketball sound. I actually used the same pads from ‘Jager Mod’, but I used a lot of effects on them. The melody isn’t actually well scaled because I did it in audio live with my Omega 8, but that actually adds a supplementary groove.

8. Maintain The Lie

This was the very last track made, it shouldn’t even be on the album. I was recording a sequence with my Nord 1 and I thought it would be a nice interlude that can fit easily on this LP. I visualise it as a sweet lie, it’s soft but not real – a lullaby from hell.

9. Jager Mod

This one is a track with a purely shamanic mood. Every sound in this track is de-pitched and detuned. I sampled my own voice and breath to use as a groove. I remember that I had a real difficulty mixing this track due to all the low frequencies bouncing amongst one another, but I’m really satisfied from the result.

10. Anastasia

This track is my description of a love quest. I visualise it as a desert journey, with the burning weather and sand, until finding an oasis that helps you to live. I made this track with the MS20, the Nord and a modular from Arturia. This track is dedicated to the love of my life.

11. Mouais

I recorded this track completely live without any arrangement sessions, that’s maybe why it seems a bit longer than the other tracks of the album. Production wise, I used a lot of different effects (guitar rig), synths (Microkorg, Blofeld, Nord 1, MS20) and plug ins (blue, predator, Reaktor,etc…) – it wasn’t easy to do it in one take but the final result convince me to keep it like it was.

12. Minotia

At the beginning, this track was planned as last track. The construction is a huge rise of cutoff, decay and gain until the final break. I see and visualise this track clearly as a movie soundtrack, and I imagined a runaway into woods to describe this atmosphere. The title ‘Minotia’ is the name of the little brother of Tapion in DBZ.

13. Brother

This track is dedicated to the two others founders of my label, Taapion, whom I consider as my brothers from another mother. The sample comes from our favourite animation Dragon Ball Z, when Tapion explained to Bulma how he is his brother and his sacrifice to save their planet. I guess it was a nice reference to them within the project.

Production wise, I used Reaktor for the drums, Nord 1 as bassline, and omega 8 for the lead and pads. I really love how the kick is placed on the pattern and how it gives an interesting groove to the rhythms.

14. Wish You Were Here

The most personal track of the album. If you listen closely you can actually hear a Jewish prayer for the dead called Kaddish next to the various pads within the track. I see this track as a message to all the people I’ve lost.

Mercurial Skin is out now on Taapion Records. 

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