isolatedmix 50 – bvdub (Sleep Tight, Ono)


So here we are. Half-a-century of isolatedmixes. Each, a window into the world behind ASIP; an insight into the inspirations and passion behind the site and label over the past six years, and beyond.

I always set out to keep the series exclusively for artists who’ve had a profound impact on ASIP and I’m glad I’t’s stayed that way. We’ve been lucky enough to host heroes of the genre, legends, new-comers, friends and innovators over the years, and each one is special in its own right.

Ulrich Schnauss provided the very first isolatedmix (fittingly so) but as soon as I realized the series, I started making lists of artists I dreamt would contribute, and bvdub was up top. Brock’s music is unique, and as close to perfection in my world, striking a balance of euphoria, emotion and musical progression in every production.

Many of you would have heard Brock’s music if you follow this site in any shape or form, but I’m pretty sure there’s lots of who you haven’t heard a mix from Brock – they’re as rare as they come.

Brock turned me down a few times before agreeing to do this mix. Mainly because a mix to him, isn’t about sitting down for hours, maybe days and carefully crafting an hour-long journey (like it is for most of us). For Brock, he needs to be in the right state of mind; the right period in his life. Mixes zap him of energy, and if the inspiration isn’t there he wont force it.

Let’s just say the stars aligned on this one. Some true inspiration that led to the mix; an emotional moment that unfurled; and a unique and original approach, led to Brock pouring his energy into a personal journey in the most unforgettable and special way possible.

Thanks to Brock for this rare opportunity and insight into his world and to everyone who has contributed, listened, commented and downloaded the series so far. Here’s to the next 50.

Introduction to the mix by bvdub:

This mix intertwines two meanings: sleep and death (I know, so surprising, me and death). It was originally to embody the former, but ended up also taking on the latter, due to the time it was made. Plus I guess in the end, are the two really so different?

I’ve suffered from insomnia my whole life – and when I say my whole life, I mean it. I was diagnosed and began (attempting to get) treatment for it literally from kindergarten. So sleep has always been a strange, beautiful, frightening, monster that I’ve both feared and hunted my whole life. It’s often an underlying (or sometimes prevailing) theme in much of the music I make as well, as it is, unfortunately, a big part of my life and greatly influences who I am and how I see the world, for better or worse. Mostly worse I guess, depending on when you ask me.

So I set about making a mix to tell the story of sleep – yeah I know, wow, what a fucking landmark moment – an ambient mix about sleep. But it’s not just ‘music to sleep to.’ It’s more my personal account of the massive undertaking that is sleep – with all its fears, anxieties, concessions, and mostly elusive but occasional pleasures. It’s the story of an entire night’s sleep – from lengthy preparations, to failed attempts, to small victories, and the heavens that they hold, as well as the often painful but inevitable memories of the night gone by as I sit and examine it the following morning. It’s as much about the concept of sleep itself as it is a kind of diary of a night’s sleep in my world – not that I would wish my world on anyone.

But as it so happened, literally as I sat down to begin making the mix, I had a super small kitten, Ono, die on my watch. No I’m not trying to make everything I do about cats, don’t worry, but they are a massive part of my existence and everything I do, and anything I do musically is a direct reflection of my own life as it’s been, as it comes, or as I wish it would be… none of which I can control. Besides music, my other reason for living is rescuing homeless and dying cats, and my house serves as a sort of makeshift shelter (well I guess it’s more of a shelter for me, as they pretty much run it), and I often take in cats that are as near death as any living being can get. So for some unbeknownst reason I surround myself with intense suffering and sadness, or the intense risk thereof, on a daily basis. Well actually the reason isn’t unbeknownst, but I won’t bore you with it.

Ono was already nearly gone from starvation when I found him. I never really knew him, as he spent more time unconscious than conscious, but I named him in the hopes that establishing some sense of permanence would give him the spirit he needed to survive. After nearly a week of hospitalization and constant attempts to bring him back from the brink, I was unsuccessful, and he passed away. Strangely enough, it was as I sat down and was literally about to start the mix, I had a sudden feeling of panic and went to check on him in the other room, where I found that he had already begun his journey out of this life.

When I knew he wasn’t going to make it, it was too late at night. I couldn’t get anyone to take him out of his pain, and so I had no choice but to let him go through hours of anguish. I never went back to turn my equipment off, and instead just sat with him, petting him, attempting to be a loving voice, and tried to let him know someone was there, even though at that point I don’t think he knew anything anymore. It got me thinking, as I sat with him till sunrise, as I often do by myself, the parallel between the two. For years I sought ways to put myself down every night at any cost, both to my wallet and my health. How many times had I felt the night would never end… or honestly been willing to trade in the torture for a final end to it all? We all just want an escape, and for our pain to end… whether some of us choose or are chosen by death, or choose or are chosen by sleep.

I sat with him until he was gone, took him downstairs and buried him under a shady, quiet tree, and came back upstairs, sitting in silence. By that time it was already around 9 in the morning, and at that point I hadn’t slept in two days. As much as I wanted to attempt to do so, it wasn’t going to happen for a myriad of reasons. So I went back into my studio, where I found all my equipment on and ready, as I had left it nearly 12 hours before, and I proceeded to tell the story I needed to tell… both for myself, and for Ono, to wish him peace. I was tired beyond comprehension… but I guess that was fitting in a lot of ways. I made the mix in one take, turned everything off, and collapsed into my bed, where I managed only a few hours of sleep, but which strangely enough nearly exactly mirrored the contents of the mix, as it echoed its soundtrack in my subconscious.

This mix was made 100% live in one take on 2 Discmans and 2 computers (yes Discmans, not iPods), in a conscious melding of my old-school ways with the new, doing all the selecting and mixing live on Discmans (as I did for years with my ambient mixes, on the radio, and in chill rooms), while looping and editing live on the two computers simultaneously. I employed a weird, traditional (for me) method that I used for years – choosing at random hundreds of tracks and burning them to CDs – with no tags, names, or order. This way I myself have no idea what I want to do, where I want it to go, or ‘who’ I want to have on it. I just take the music as it comes, and let it take me where it may, searching blindly, only by feeling, basically like walking in the dark, rather than knowing where I am or where I’m going, instead finding my way with each step.

As with every mix I have ever made in my life from my first ever over 20 years ago (which, incidentally, was also ambient), there is no tracklist. Anyone who has heard the once-every-million-years mixes I’ve done before should be used to that, though, and should know why. It’s not because I think I’m too cool, or that I think I have something others don’t. In fact, I’d be willing to bet the exact opposite is true. I just don’t believe in people looking at a tracklist before they listen to a mix. You shouldn’t have pre-conceived notions going into it, be mentally already mapping it out, or have any judgments of any kind. A mix is its own entity… not countless small ones that need to, or should be broken apart… and it should be preserved in that way. You should just listen and experience, and go where it takes you. Simple as that. Just listen, just feel, and revel in the fact that not everything in life needs to be figured out – but instead just experienced, and to later echo in your memory in whatever forms it decides to take.

It’s not a mix for the casual ambient listener. It requires patience and perseverance, but hopefully it’s worth it in the end – just like sleep… and life I guess. I hope it can give you some peace, and also maybe help those who, like me, are Sisyphus at the base of the mountain every night when others have been at the top for ages, sound asleep. Thanks and I hope you like it.