Enzo talks to PowerPCME about his new album, enduring love of classic jungle and Boards of Canada; and the pressure to stay ‘relevant’.
It feels like a significant moment for Ruben (aka PowerPCME); back with his first full length release since 2020’s ‘Numérique Growth’, and having been thought by many to have quit the scene for good.
His return was welcome but unexpected, to judge by the reaction on social media, and once again sees the Utica (NY) based artist showcasing the breadth of styles and influences for which he’s become known.
Having rediscovered the “itch to make music again”, PowerPCME sets out to subvert our expectations with a genre-fluid new set of DJ friendly tracks.
The new album – ‘Seeking Existence in the Auroral Chorus’ – is a change of pace, literally. Punctuated as it is with Breakbeats, and clearly inspired by the golden era of Jungle and Drum & Bass.
Those influences are clear throughout.
“The Prodigy, Orbital, LTJ Bukem… even Aphex Twin. Honestly, a lot of just classic stuff I used to listen to years ago has really come through in this”, he tells me.
“What really sparked the first track was The 1975 song ‘Frail State of Mind’. The drums were just so refreshing to hear at the time and I just started digging into UK Garage tracks so I had to do something with that idea.
“Also, listening to different Breakcore artists like Nedaj, bye2, DJ Kuroneko and ooxygen inspired a lot of the sounds on the album too, as well as the aesthetic I was going for. Everything else is just my own Vaporwave type of spin on the whole thing with really mellow pads and lofi-esque sounds.”
We’re talking the day after the album’s release, and it’s refreshing to hear his energy and honesty as he addresses the pressures that led him to take a break from producing.
“I originally stopped activities because I was focusing on a lot of other things, (and) at the same time I felt very under-appreciated by the community. I think I just needed a break from the constant feeling of having to always produce something new to stay relevant.
“Now I feel like I’m in a better place mentally and personally. With this new album just getting that feeling of motivation from having a fresh concept and sound to play off of really helped a tonne.”
With that in mind, it’s fascinating to hear the story-boarding behind ‘Seeking Existence…’
The overarching concept comes from Ruben’s love of Boards of Canada, and in particular a track from the album Geogaddi.
Its title, ‘Dawn Chorus’, is thought to be a reference to an unexplained phenomena which can occur during or just after sunrise, affecting radio equipment with a transmission not unlike a birds’ chorus at dawn…
“I decided I wanted to build the album around a character so I played around with the idea of it having a paranormal leaning.
“I love the anime ‘Steins;Gate’ and the idea of a group of off-beat researchers sounded like a good place to start.
“So, the main character Rin started her own research group trying to find proof of an afterlife using VLF in the Dawn Chorus. Her major driving force is trying to make contact with a loved one who has passed on as well.
“There’s a lot more to the story that I’m leaving out, but you can learn more auroralresearch.com!”
Channelling those ideas into the soundscape was a process that involved patience, experimentation, and a lot of trial and error.
“I had a lot of fun exploring the new sound. I love the sounds of sweeping pads and transposing/resampling them, so just exploring those sounds really inspired me.
“I get inspired a lot by different sounds while just skipping through presets a lot. I’d say that’s a major part of my process, Just scrolling through until something strikes me.
“Depending on the sound I’m going for, programming drums starts first or immediately after laying down some chords. From there on out I just zone out structuring and adding different bits here and there. I generally try to just have fun doing stuff and not take things too seriously and that’s kind of the secret to just having great tracks come out.”
Ruben name checks Donor Lens and Enraile, among the current crop of Vaporwave peers pushing new boundaries.
“I’m always looking forward to whatever Donor Lens are coming out with next; they always have fresh new ideas.
“Likewise, Enraile has really impressed me with what they’re working on and their other project eyeclick has got me really interested. I honestly feel like they’re going to really move the genre in a different direction. A lot like how DDS did, with a really fresh take on things.”
But, what next for PowerPCME?
Well, aside from hoping to play more IRL shows, he “really would like to collaborate with more people from the scene” – which is particularly exciting given that the new album features killer remixes by Fake Fever and The Wizard of Loneliness.
However, Ruben is vague when asked about future PowerPCME projects, though he expects the next album to be ready “sooner rather than later”.
“Let’s see where the future takes us” he offers, enigmatically…
‘Seeking Existence in the Auroral Chorus’ is out now on My Pet Flamingo and available on Cassette, MiniDisc, CD and Digital.
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*Feature image taken by @AugnosMusic