Fresh grime styles.
On the cover for his new album, Safe, Louis Carnell looks like he's just awoken from a cryogenic freeze. It's an appropriate image. His tracks as Visionist sound as if they were made in an icy cave. Carnell uses wordless vocal samples and glassy synths to create an ethereal, almost choral take on grime. The South Londoner has been honing his style for the last few years, releasing on respected, boundary-pushing labels like Lit City Trax, Diskotopia, Leisure System and Left Blank. He's been a key name in the recent wave of creativity that's swept instrumental grime, but instead of focusing on rhythmic innovation or experimental sonics like many of his peers, Carnell's channelled emotions. On the two-part I'm Fine series he explored the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. "The sharply honed dance music motifs that swim in the vast space seem untethered from any club context, instead pointing in on themselves," said Maya Kalev in her review of Part II. Similarly, Safe, which is released this week through PAN, sees Carnell confronting his struggles with anxiety. "I needed to make it a challenging listen to reflect this," he says below. The album's 15 tracks push Carnell's template further than ever before—the beats are tougher, the vocals more dense, the atmospheres chillier.
Along with his own work, Carnell is doing plenty to keep grime and its offshoots moving forward. His Lost Codes label gave early releases to trailblazers like Filter Dread, Sd Laika, Bloom and Acre, and the imprint was recently reborn as CODES, with PAN's Bill Kouligas coming on board. On RA.488 Carnell showcases plenty of artists in this ilk alongside cuts from Safe, resulting in a 42-minute, 27-track sonic blast.
What have you been up to recently?
Since the album finished, I have been working hard on my upcoming live shows. The first one is premiering at Unsound festival next week. Also keeping it busy with a lot of upcoming releases and new artists we're working with for our new label CODES, which I co-run with Bill from PAN.
How and where was the mix recorded?
It was recorded live straight in Logic, on CDJs and Serato in my flatmate's room.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
When I create a mix I select tracks that can give an overall representation of the musical world that inspires me but also reflects my own artistic output. Nothing is constricted to a particular genre or style; there are many blurred lines.
Tell us about Safe. What was your vision for the record? How long did it take to write?
It's a musical expression of my personal struggle with anxiety. I needed to make it a challenging listen to reflect this, which also allowed for more experimentation within my own music. Furthermore it is a comment on a time in music where most people either return to nostalgia, or repack old ideas into new, more interesting ones. My sound is built up from my experiences of London and its many genres. As a Londoner, I feel a need to push this process and look into somehow creating the "next" and not the "now." The record took me around 4 to 5 months to finish.
Would you say that there's a scene surrounding what you do? If so, what are its characteristics?
Being part of a scene was never my main focus, but what is very important is to be on a label where I respect the owner and all the artists involved. Sharing common ground and understanding with likeminded creative people is definitely more vital than being packed in specific music scene.
What are you up to next?
I look forward my album to come out and let it breath before I start thinking about the next one. This also includes the live show I'm working towards and as well as various collaborations with people from different fields like fashion and art.