In the past, the Berlin based designer, promoter, DJ and producer Irakli Kiziria has mostly been showcasing his take on electronic music – which spans from beatless and abstract soundscapes to high energy techno grooves – through single tracks and EPs on both his own label, Intergalactic Research Institute for Sound, as well as through his former collaboration with Yacoub Chakarji as I/Y, amongst others. His debut LP, which landed 19 March 2021, found a home on a label that has deeply influenced the Georgian artist over the years: Lawrence’s and Carsten Jost’s Dial. To find out more about the overarching concept of the album, how the pandemic influenced it, and Irakli’s view on the creative process, we caught up with him just ahead of release day.
How did the process behind the album begin?
It started a few years back when I made some tracks that I felt wouldn’t become part of an EP or Various Artists compilation, but rather inspired me to try out the album format. It went on like this, there kept on coming up tracks that I put aside. I work a lot with private Soundcloud playlists, where I assemble productions I’m happy with, and then slowly develop a concept. After some time – a couple of months or sometimes a year – I go through the projects, similar to a painter juxtaposing and grouping individual pieces of work, conceptually or thematically. For the album, this was the major part of the work: putting the pieces together, finding the right order and carving out the overall concept.
I make a lot of music. Some things I save, some things I don’t. For the album I wanted something mature, like a good wine, which also needs time. If you listen to a production after three years and it still feels right, then it has a place on the album. It happens only very occasionally that I want to release something I just recently made. I’m more of a long-distance runner. And during these long-distance projects you have to be very sure that you’re on the right track and that the individual elements are right. For these kinds of judgments I need distance.
Was the phase of working out the final concept during 2020?
I already had a quite clear idea about it in 2019, but the corona situation obviously gave me the time and quietness to do it really thoroughly. I’m sure I would’ve managed without a pandemic, but it gave me some extra time to reflect and critically question everything.
Did you take out or add some tracks because of the additional time?
Yes. I also thought a lot about the order, and what kind of mood I wanted to convey. If you take out one track it can change the mood of the entire album. So that was the most important part of the process, listening to mastered versions of the tracks over a number of weeks, at different times of the day, on different days of the week.
And of course the collaboration with the label was unbelievably exciting, as Lawrence and Carsten Jost, who run Dial, are two of the DJs I count as the very best. Their selections always have something very special, sexy and stylistically confident to them. So it was a lot of fun asking them about their perspectives and suggestions. I’m very happy being able to release the album on a label that has influenced me so much over the years.
The album description [added below] is a conversation between two artificial intelligences. How would you sum up the world you’re inviting the listener into?
I don’t want to predefine how the listeners interpret it, but regarding the description or press release , we wanted to stay abstract while at the same time saying something. The dialogue is about the poetry between machines. Through the advancement of artificial intelligence, today we experience a similar societal shift as industrialization once brought. Maybe we don’t realize yet to what extent it will change our lives, but I think as a phenomenon it’s just as influential. I’m not interested in the technical side of this development, but rather how we as humans experience it and what will change for us. How far can it go? Can machines create poetry or music? And how does that sound? Maybe in the end humans will only be mere curators, selecting works made by robots?
At the same time I believe “Major Signals” has something rather cosmic to it. I’ve always been fascinated by the cosmic aspect music can have. I remember parties where the music was so otherworldly that I asked myself: Where does this come from? What kind of machines can do this? Or are these signals from other planets? I like to approach music making through abstract thoughts like these. So “Major Signals” can be seen as a collection of the important signals that came to me in the past years, without really knowing from where.
I don’t want to get too sentimental here, but since you mentioned intense musical experiences – without a pandemic, listening and dancing to music together on a good sound system and getting lost in the crowd has the potential of being a healing experience. Have you found other strategies to create breathing spaces like these?
Nothing can replace the experience in a club. The sound system, the people, the energy – all of this can’t be translated through a live-stream or other formats. But this doesn’t mean you can’t do anything interesting using other formats. I’m currently working on an audio-visual project with the video artist Orkhan Mammadov from Azerbaijan, and a few other concepts. And honestly I think no matter what – you could lock me up in a room – I would always find something that interests me, something I could get lost in. Admittedly it would be a shame not being able to hear some of the tracks on the album through a proper sound system in a club, as the listening experience of course is something totally different.
That’s very understandable. I didn’t get the experience that the album was put together, predominantly, with a dance floor in mind though.
No, for me the overall concept was more important than putting out “killer dancefloor tracks”. In my opinion those track types fit better on an EP. In electronic music, especially in the techno field, I often miss the overarching concept when it comes to LPs. While there might be many interesting tracks, maybe they’re not right for an album format? The techno albums which became most important for me were also the ones I could listen to in a continuous loop, like reading a book or something. I don’t care how that emerges, the most important part is that you dive really deep into the music – be it through repetition, certain sound effects or something else. I hope I managed to bring this quality to the album.
Is there something in particular that helps you get into a state of flow when making music?
I’m not a producer who goes to the studio every day. It happens that I don’t make anything for several months, followed by a period where I do something every day. I don’t know what inspires that, but then it can happen that I wake up at 3 am, sit down and make music until maybe 9 am. It’s an intuitive process, and I don’t want to influence it. I don’t feel pressured to release something regularly, so when nothing comes out for a year that’s also fine. That doesn’t mean I just sit back and wait for things to pop up, of course there are underlying thought processes happening all the time. But it can’t be planned. Either it happens, or it doesn’t. And I’m happy with that.
Which holds true for many artists I suppose.
I start out with certain ideas and might end up somewhere totally different. It’s a process I can’t steer. Every sound, every line and every form has its own dynamics, rules or logic. You can either choose to follow this logic or break with it, and the sum of these decisions result in something special.
Does it happen that you find yourself in a dead end?
It happens very often. When I don’t know where to go next, I stop. Then I save the project to my hard disk, for a future “digital archaeologist” to perhaps excavate it. But I don’t have a problem with letting go of unfinished work. While studying architecture and design, I learned that about 60 to 70% of your work will never see the light of day. But the sketches on the way help finding a finished form. I think this applies to the process of creating music too. In general I have a very relaxed approach to music. Some people see it as their job, but for me that feels wrong. I don’t want to subordinate my passion for music to the logic of labour, a pressure to perform or a perceived need to be financially successful. As soon as this comes into play – in my opinion – it loses some of the magic. No job could give me the satisfaction I feel when composing music, finding an amazing record or surprising myself while DJing. If that magic would be lost, I wouldn’t want to do it at all.
Get the release here.
Photo: George Nebieridze
Artwork: Annette Kelm
Once upon a time, two operators stared at their screens. They sat silently for hours, their whole being dedicated to the task they had been assigned to. Days and nights passed in the same monotonous manner.
Suddenly signals showed up on their monitors. Alarms started to ring.
Both reacted at the same speed and did what they were supposed to do. Controls and commands were entered, as was protocol. After observing these waves for 61:01 minutes, everything became quiet again.
What they had just witnessed made them wonder. For the first time they addressed each other. “The data is transferring through our system,” announced the first. “Let us both check how this can be interpreted.” The second validated the response. Together, they looked at what had been recorded. Ideas raced through their complicated minds until they realized simultaneously: sounds! They listened.
“Is this an unknown language?” one asked “This is the first time this has been heard throughout our history,” the other answered. They listened again and again. “This electricity has been arranged to form a cohesive entity,” the first said. “Why would machines be used to create that?” the second mused. Something had awakened inside of them, an obsessive curiosity they had never experienced before. They did not understand and were blown away by the beauty of it. “Do you think it could have been left by humans before us?” one whispered. “If it was, these would be Major Signals,” the other concluded. As they processed these thoughts, the two artificial intelligences sat still.