By Arne Sjostedt
Bringing beats from the beach direct to the feet of Canberra punters, the upcoming Castaway festival has Sydney groove masters The Presets at the head of its bill.
After heating up Adelaide’s Glenelg beach on 3 January, the festival will visit our own Stage 88 on 1 February for some Canberra-oriented, coastal tinged hedonism.
On the bill alongside the Preset’s Kim Moyes and Julian Hamilton are What So Not, Slumberhack, Motez, Touch Sensitive and Banoffee.
With the set following their recent release of RAKA, an EP collaboration with wunderkind DJ and producer Golden Features, “We love traveling, and we love playing to every kind of audience,” Moyes says. “When the music comes to life on stage, it’s the best part of what we do.”
It is also something that The Presets put a lot of preparation into getting right.
“At times it can be like almost doing another record when you put the live show together,” says Moyes.
“The set is highly energetic and fun. And there is a really nice visual component to it. We have custom-designed live visuals from an array of different visual artists for every song. Which is always a really fun thing.”
Discussing RAKA, a word which has a number of meanings, one of which is ‘full moon’, or ’the moon at full glory’, Moyes says the EP was a way to bring in some new possibilities into band’s creative world.
“Over the years and years of working together and refining and implementing things that work and getting rid of things that don’t work, we reached a point where we thought ‘Geez, it would be nice to open up the world to some other possibilities.’”
As good on headphones as it is through some speakers, the EP is a master work of experience and expression.
Letting forth rich tracks that are tailor-made for the festival stage, RAKA generates atmosphere and emotion that smells like art that lives between artists and audience. Mixing Golden Features’ tasty deep house grooves with that special Presets flavour, the release sees Hamilton’s touching and provocative lyricism finding opportunity to wax from the hip with some awakened awareness.
Following Hi Viz, which feels like an expression of everything The Presets have promised to do with their music, interlaced with a focus on how they want to present themselves rather than a reflection of what the industry may expect, RAKA was created in a space of artistic freedom that invited the musicians to take leaps of faith and explore each other’s musical instincts.
“It’s really healthy to stay fresh and see how other people work and let it keep you on your toes and get out of the comfort zone,” Moyes says of the process, that saw the musician’s enter the studio and set up a bunch of synthesisers and drum machines, and just jam for days.
“It was a really fun way to start the process, you know, and by the end of it you’ve got hours and hours of recordings and all these little snippets.”
Discussing who the band are writing for, after more than a decade in the upper echelon of Australian electronic music production, for Moyes, there is no real straight forward answer.
“All the music that we release as The Presets, we are making for ourselves, but obviously that is really linked to an experience of what The Presets is. So it certainly has to be interesting for us to stick with it. And it has to make sense in the context of the band for it to kind of make it through that gate. But both Julian and I work as producers and song writers, and have been working with other people all the time and collaborating. So if you want to say to me, ‘Am I making music for myself?” I don’t really know what that is anymore. It’s like one week I might be completely obsessed with ambient music, thinking how can I get this into my own craft, you know. And I might spend a couple of days making drones and things like that, ” he says.
“I think when you get this far down into your career, and especially when you’ve got something like The Presets that people are still interested in, I guess you just try and make that work as best you can. I think it gets a little bit difficult for artists when they get into these parts of their career because when you start off there are no expectations, you don’t really know what you are yet, you just kind of building it, and it's more of a guttural experience, it’s less thought about, it’s less cerebral, it’s got less concern.”
Appropriate then that adding the extra energy of Golden Features to their process was creative catalyst to change things up.
“As far as things evolving, when I look back on The Presets career, I sort feel like we’ve been doing the same thing for 16 years, and it’s just been getting a little bit better sometimes, and maybe not as good sometimes,” says Moyes.
“We weren’t specifically looking to collaborate, it just really happened naturally. [Golden Features] and I became friends, we started working in the studio, we had a really good chemistry. Then we just thought, why don’t we see what happens, to hell with it. Let’s make a body of work with another producer, and just see what happens. And we were really happy with the result.”
The Presets will play the Castaway Festival Saturday 1 February 2020. Details at castawayfestival.com.au