There’s a fine line between imitation and pastiche in art, either expediting a movement forward or muddying its quality, depending on how you look at it. But today, the edges between the two are arguably more blurred than ever. Take Beyoncé’s latest album, Renaissance, for instance. Credited by mainstream media with bringing house music to the masses, there’s no denying it’s a culturally diverse piece of work that draws on historical influences to create dancefloor-ready tunes. But is it groundbreaking, innovative or even original? That’s up for debate.
Today’s artistic landscape has a tendency to lean heavily on nostalgia, preferring to delve into the trend vaults before they’ve had time to actually gather any dust and, in the process, co-opting a particular style or approach in place of inventing something totally fresh.
What that means for the future of how we absorb culture remains to be seen, but for West London producer Flaurese, authenticity is key. Drawing from a kaleidoscopic bank of influences that range from late-night recorded voice notes and overheard conversations to decades-old riffs and his parents’ heritage, he takes a more deferential approach to creating music, echoing the mindset of famed French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, who once proclaimed, “It’s not where you take things from. It’s where you take them to.”
This is precisely why Flaurese is fastidious in borrowing material. “Poor sample use jars me slightly,” he explains on a call from his home. “I know it’s subjective but it’s a really intimate thing to reconstitute someone’s work into a different form, and a lot of the time, if there’s not much of a bridge between genres, it can feel almost transactional, instead of a melting of two worlds together.”
He avoids this pitfall by coming to the sample last, only if he feels it can add something to an already existing composition. “I never start with a sample,” he confirms. “I write and produce a track before I look for one, and then I sit there religiously with it for quite some time before I feel like it’s part of the track.”
Venerating material is integral to Flaurese’s productions, regardless of where it’s sourced. It could be a snatched snippet of an overheard conversation or a tune that’s been burrowed away on a lost folder on his laptop. What lies at the heart of each track, though, is a commitment to truthful storytelling.
It was audible on his 2020 debut EP, Sake of Lust, on which productions like ‘I Want You’ mimic the feelings of the first flushes of love, and ‘Silk Robe’, which shimmers with the unmatched joy of a lush summer day. It’s just as prevalent on his latest current release, Over My Shoulder, too, which makes space for euphonius vocals alongside bubbling basslines and flurrying melodies.
“Storytelling is important for me,” he says earnestly. “Looking back at people like Groove Armada and Basement Jaxx, they were trying to get something across, however small or obscure. They were trying to set a mood, to build something that felt like people could almost jump into it, and that gave people a sense of belonging. Storytelling for me is the benchmark for music, so I’d love for someone to look back and use my stuff as a similar kind of reference point.”
Spinning a good yarn and translating that into sound requires a kind of intuitiveness that’s always been innate to Flaurese, perhaps because of an upbringing that drenched him in sonic diversity. He explains it with typical vividness.
“If you were to think of me in the centre of a square, there’d be my mum and sisters in one corner listening to dub and disco; my grandparents with blues, and old country and western; my dad in another corner listening to Soca, dancehall and a lot of RnB; and then my brother with all things Rinse FM and pirate radio stations.That combination just opened me up to everything really.”
A stint at his local youth club, where he was exposed to garage and DnB, was also formative. “I think we paid like £2,” he laughs. “I used to love it. They just wanted to give us tutelage and show us stuff we’d never listened to before. There were decks and CDJs and a little production booth, and they really showed us what was possible. It was pretty neat!”
These days, he’s well-versed in the art of production, as witnessed in the accomplished outcome of Over My Shoulder, which deserves to be saluted. What form that comes in doesn’t bother Flaurese, as long as it’s made a personal impact on some level.
“Memories are encapsulated into certain musical periods of your life,” he muses. “And for whatever reason, sometimes they just stick, and really bring you back to the moment when you hear it. It’s like looking at pictures from a disposable camera. I think music just has a weird kind of timestamp.” Which is true, of course — entire chapters of our lives can be categorised by a particular sound that evokes hazy, sometime long-lost feelings.
But that doesn’t mean you can rely on past sounds, and so he’s sceptical of the current trend to spotlight old pop tunes on the dancefloor, even if they do guarantee hands-in-the-air glee or fodder for social media. “I’ve heard some crazy trance edits with like a Sean Paul vocal over the top,” he regales with a hint of amused confusion. “And it just feels a little bit distant, a little bit false, like it’s been made for an eight-second clip on your Instagram reel.
“Sure, it makes people go hard because they’ve never heard those two things together before but there’s an element of me thinking, ‘Is this necessary?’ Maybe people don’t need to hear this, ever. It feels like they’re clutching at straws for new developments and ideas.”
It’s a standpoint that lots of purists agree with, and it’s rooted in the desire for longer, deeper engagement with a particular flash in time, one that in years to come we can pluck from our brains and suddenly find ourselves awash with all kinds of forgotten emotions. With Flaurese, at least, you feel like those moments are in safe hands.
ON THE PLAYLIST
Jessy Lanza – ‘Strange Emotion’
The title feels perfectly fitting for this production. The textures are so rich throughout and I feel Jessy Lanza pulls off this perfect compound of ethereal, theatrical RnB ballad.
Maze – ‘Twilight’
The intro feels like the perfect gateway to mix in from any genre. It really reminds me of playing GTA and cruising anywhere; this continuous journey into bliss, I love that it’s so uncomplicated.
Egyptrixx – ‘Liberation Front’
I tried to slip this in any early DJ sets I could and I still think it was ahead of its time. It’s like grime meets techno in the most beautiful way. Everything [record label] Night Slugs put out around the period was so refreshing.
SBTRKT, Sampha – ‘Living Like I Do’
The perfect middle ground between several genres whilst feeling entirely new. I think this massively contributed to the opening up of DJ set ideas on what was considered dancefloor-worthy. It inspired me to start writing over traditional, non-pop material.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – ‘Closer’
I’ll always be wowed by how Orlando managed to wed garage, techno and pop together on ‘Trouble’ as a whole but the vocal effects and melodic subtle chords are something to be marvelled at and observed by producers, in my humble opinion. It’s emotional without being try-hard.
Flaurese – ‘Sake of Lust’
This track will always remind me of lockdown and the strange emptiness of my environment at the time. I went into a cocoon and felt a surge to really invest in my productions but the feeling of joy at the end to know that Thibaud saw a future in this was a real emotional moment.
Sampha – ‘Happens’
Probably my favourite song from Sampha, it felt like he really came out of his shell on this record. It was raw and seeing him perform this on YouTube really sold me. The pure, rough emotions in his face made me grin a little. Listen to that keyboard, it’s singing!
Pinky Perzelle, Eda Eren – ‘No Games’
It’s like a James Bond theme song or a glass of OJ on a beach. Everything about the composition is incredible. You know when you just take a bow for the sake of it? A blinder.
Fatima, Floating Points – ‘Innervisions’
It’s one of those gems I wish was released now and had been thrown upon one of those huge music boards in Times Square. You know when you want to annoyingly introduce a track to everyone? It’s such a calming feeling and Fatima’s voice is just so gorgeous. Incroyable!
Terence Parker – ‘Love’s Got Me High’
One of the best sampling examples I’ve ever witnessed. I won’t say who but it’s mad how well-fitted it is. The keys are the real winner, bringing everything together – a proper singalong. You don’t have to know the lyrics, but you’ll remember them in an instant.
Kerri Chandler – ‘Rain’
This doesn’t need much of an explanation; one of the finest house records of all time. The swing on the drums and the fact Kerri performs is just so sick. It feels like the UKG bubbler anthem of the house world. Proper percy.
Factory Floor – ‘Two Different Ways’
The video of a young slick guy dancing under projected lights will always stay in my head. Me and my best pal used to listen to this track over and over to try and understand how they made the drums punch so much. The Blondie-like vocals that come in complement everything so well. It just keeps growing and growing.