Itamae: Application

Martin and Richard Dust, embody two thirds of The Black Dog. Together they’ve embarked on an exciting and imaginative new side project based around the Japanese concept of Itamae. The result of said project is Application, stream their debut mix under this guise below.

The prestigious title of Itamae is generally given to junior chefs, who study patiently under a Sushi Master for five years before being allocated their first assignment. The consideration and discipline of such practices came to fruition musically through prudently produced manifestos and custom built drum racks. It is evident throughout their ten-track debut ‘System Fork’, that great care was applied to create such coherent soundscapes. Martin and Richard seem suitably adept to embark on such a challenging and inventive project. We caught up with the producers to find out more about the project…

What appealed to you most about the concept of Itamae?

It was a different way of thinking and something we’d never done as part of the creative process, so it really appealed. What we started asking was “Can we do the same thing? Can we use this process to make new music?”

Our usual method would be to build as we go and then use images, text and film to illustrate the ideas behind the tracks. We had to abandon all that and just build everything in our heads first so that we both understood the concept and knew exactly what we were aiming to achieve. The thinking behind Itamae makes perfect sense to us now.

It states in the press release that the process took two years to realise. Could you tell us what those two years consisted of?

Talking and learning to describe things that just didn’t exist. We travel a lot so there is always time to discuss what the elements would be and how they would sound. This went on for such a long time it just became normal, as if it already existed. The look is this, the drums sound like this, so the bass has to be this. I can’t think of anything we’d discussed and finalised that didn’t work but two years is a long time to talk about something!

It also states that every detail in ‘System Fork’ was described and thought out before any studio work was done. Did you ever come across any issues trying to realise your designated vision?

No it was really easy, surprisingly easy actually. It was so easy to stop making the wrong things sound wise because we’d already decided what the sound was without even hearing it. We’d be working away and one of us would just say yes or no within seconds of hearing it. If you get a no, you had to delete the work and move on. It can be brutal but it is rewarding and it kept us on the correct creative path.

How did you find working to the rules and manifesto? A lot of artists would claim self-imposed limitations result in creativity blossoming.

It worked well and it was interesting because we’ve never worked like this before. Even working with Human and Shaun Bloodworth, it was clear that they understood because we could explain it so well. There wasn’t any “let’s try this” because they already knew what Application was and sounded like. Human did all the design work and created the code that generates the graphics. Those visuals are all created in response to the audio signal, so it’s been a really interesting process to experiment with the music, design and code. Even at the Mastering stage we talked to Simon Francis about the project and explained the sound. He went away and came up with a different way of mastering this project and then explained why. This has now become part of the Manifesto and working method.

Application Window


Did the custom built drums racks and bass sounds act as your ‘secret recipe’ for the project?

We spent two weeks working on just racks of drum sounds, building and treating each sound on it’s own and then as a rack of sounds. We started testing different patterns until we arrived at the sound that we’d talked about. If it wasn’t there we’d start again. The secret is the whole process, not an individual part. This is the key difference between Application and The Black Dog. With tBd we’ll create lots of things that don’t seem to have a place, but they are kept, passed around and worked on over time. Those parts evolve and grow allowing the album to form around itself. Most of those parts and tracks will never be used or heard but they are a necessary part that creative process. With Application, parts that weren’t working or didn’t fit were instantly removed. There was no room for compromise or saving it for another day.

Throughout the release there seems to be a a lot of attention to detail and emphasis on sound design. Was this stated specifically in the manifesto?

Our background in the studio is to always pay close attention to the detail, but with Application we zoned in to this further, closely checking the frequencies and levels at each stage of the process. We’ve been working on a lot of film soundtracks, mixing recorded audio with additional sound design and music. We’re always aware of what each element does and it was just a question of getting beyond our perception to create something that matched the manifesto.

Could you tell us more about the mix you put together for us?

It’s our way of explaining where we think we fit, giving ourselves some context and selecting tracks we love. It was pretty easy to select these tracks, we hope people enjoy it.

‘System Fork’ is released on Dust Science on June 30th. Stream clips ahead of the release here.

Interview by Manveer Roda

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