We talk to mind-expanding multi-instrumentalist Prash Mistry about the evolution of his sound
Interview Hannah Kane
Some experiments take time. The new Engine-Earz Experiment album Symbol is the one we’ve been waiting for all year, and a two-track EP just dropped online as a teaser ahead of its release on the 20th October.
‘Secrets’, featuring soul singer Aloe Blacc, is an audaciously stripped-back production: only lyrically unsettling vocals, piano, and the emotive sound of rising star Ayanna Witter-Johnson playing cello.
Track two, ‘Blackbird Down’, is a deliciously down-tempo song with Hanna Jade Brown’s hypnotic voice floating over melancholic keys. It’s music for the end of the world. Crowning the duo is new single ‘Light of One’, its languid, dreamy production laced with Norwegian talent Ane Brun’s ethereal tones.
It’s a distillation of the sound journey of Prash Mistry, the Londoner behind the Engine-Earz collective. In 2009, when he started Engine-Earz Experiment, they were a heavy dubstep outfit known for their mesmerising live shows and lashings of wobble bass. “We started off when dubstep was kind of blowing up, we were one of the first live acts, ” Prash recalls.
What set them apart was the tapestry of instruments used: a variety of live drums, keys, programmed sounds, guitars, vocals, and more surprising additions such as sitar and flute. A spell of live sessions for BBC’s Maida Vale sessions went viral and propelled them into the limelight. They played sell-out clubs alongside big-name DJs such as Chase and Status, Skream, Diplo, Breakage, Sub Focus, Shy FX and Rodigan, and toured the world with acts such as Enter Shikari, DJ Shadow, Tricky, Dreadzone. They also joined The Streets on their farewell tour.
They’re equally at home in the studio though, recording with artists such as the Grammy award-winning jazz bassist John Benitez, Roots Manuva, and Foreign Beggars; while working on tight remixes for Basement Jaxx, Sean Paul and Busta Rhymes to name a few. You’ll recognise Prash’s mixing and mastering work on the records of several sound-of-the-moment Brit artists such as Ray BLK, Akala, and PHOENIX Spring / Summer 17 cover star Jorja Smith on her critically acclaimed Project II EP Blue Lights and A Prince featuring Maverick Sabre.
I’ve always been a classical character, and drum and bass and the nudge of dance music has always been a big part of my life
Symbol is less about speaker-rattling bass and more about the message. Prash explains, “it’s very context heavy. We’ve really pushed towards having more vocals. It’s very honest, if I could say that? It also has more featured artists, a great collaborated album really with a great future.”
It joins a growing body of social commentary albums of the last two years.
Prash believes the artistic output of creative industries is a faint silver lining to the dark cloud of uncertain times. “You become a historian in the sense, the moment your music is released the moment it becomes a time capsule of a period,” he explains. “Especially if you really talk about your surroundings and experiences. I think it’s more important now how we have the responsibility to talk about it.”
The result is an experiment in humanity. “We collaborated with people that have similar quests to find where our roots are originally. Especially now it’s so divided, that’s really been the core of the project.” Prash’s musical roots are diverse. “I’ve always been a classical character, and drum and bass and the nudge of dance music has always been a big part of my life, as well as more political rock music.”
Expect the unexpected on 20th October, as Prash continues his “cinematic search for patterns in the noise.”
Symbol is released on the 20th October on Circus Records.