A collection of recent remixes I have done for others artists including David Starfire, Natacha Atlas, Desert Dwellers, Akara and more as well as remixes other artists have done for my work. Many of these tracks are unpublished and “white label” only. Streaming only on Soundcloud.
My desert dubstep album on Six Degrees Records
JEF STOTT’S DESERT ROMANCE
Bay Area producer returns with evolutionary Arabic-tinged beats on Arcana
By Derek Beres
There’s a luminescent, nearly indescribable feeling you get when walking through the Playa, Burning Man’s center, after sundown. In this empty desert 50,000 people have joined forces with too much diesel and an endless supply of imagination to, as San Francisco-based artist Jef Stott says, share in this “container for radical self-expression.” The sentiment is so powerful that Stott devoted the opening song (and many of the following tracks) to it on his forthcoming record, Arcana (Six Degrees Records).
“Deep Playa” is a reconnection in many ways. The proverbially upbeat Stott suffered a series of recent setbacks: the end of a long-term relationship, losing a career job and having his apartment broken into. The stolen objects included all of his computer equipment, including the hard drive in which the two-month old Arcana lived.
“I just went back into the studio and made this album,” he says, while on tour in Hawaii. “It’s about reclaiming my place in the world, and bringing really powerful female energy back into my life.” Stott knew that life is circular. His upswing awaited. This was confirmed after running into old friend and collaborator Sonja Drakulich, which resulted in her ethereal vocal contributions on “Deep Playa.” Stott’s first serious ensemble as producer was Stellamara, Drakulich’s Eastern/Medieval European and Arabic project. Reunited these two are as powerful as ever.
After working with Stellamara in the mid-90s, Stott co-produced three albums alongside Michael Emenau & Irina Mikhailova as Lumin, then adding serious beats behind Tunisian-born singer MC Rai. Turning in a number of gorgeous, beat-heavy remixes for Six Degrees Records, he eventually released a digital-only EP, Souksonik, with the label in 2007, followed by the Arabic-drenched album Saracen the following year. Arcana is his second full-length record for the label and tenth overall.
The circular circumstances of his life also helped in the titling of the album. “Arcana refers to the major arcana of the Tarot,” he says. “I’ve been using a lot of Tarot this winter, mostly relying on intuition. Arcane also means ‘that which is old.’ It’s a nod to the whole idea that things come back around.”
A new collaboration ensued when Stott met local indie singer Sophia Mae Lin, who adds a unique, hearty edge to the slithery “Pulling of the Tide.” “I started the tune and it had this mysterious underwater quality, and we decided to go with the narrative about a mermaid,” Stott says. “It’s an entirely new direction, very gothic and Celtic.” With its tension-building strings, the track still connects with the more Middle Eastern sound that dominates Stott’s catalog while remaining utterly fresh.
The search for the feminine, not to mention visions of Burning Man, continues on Arcana’s most downtempo numbers, “Desert Dub (Nomadica Remix)” and “White Tara.” With its cutting synth bass leveled above the punchy, seduced percussion and trance-inducing melodic line, “Desert” is the soundtrack to the first moment of morning when pink breaks through the skyline’s grey. An accomplished oud player (having studied under the legendary Hamza El Din), Stott’s dubby echo on his stringed muse makes drowning seem pleasurable.
“White Tara” is another goddess reference, this time a dakini. Dakinis are powerful and compassionated Tantric deities in Tibetan Buddhism, the Eastern spiritual system in which Tara is a major meditation figure. The White Tara specifically refers to a healing goddess known as the Wish Fulfilling Wheel. The symbolism of Stott’s mythological references is translated gorgeously into sound: the dripping roll of the tabla, the wise clarion call of the flute, the gentle guitar strums, and finally Mae Lin returning with heartfelt, Sade-esque coos.
This imagined white light of healing energy is a theme that Stott believes has recently taken root at Burning Man. Having DJ’d at the famed Hookahdome for four years straight, he has watched a considerable transformation occur at this “field of ideas.” “I appreciate the humor of people’s characters and costumes, and the spirituality. The energy has gotten lighter, with more yogis and people wearing white, whereas it used to be more Mad Max, darker, with people wearing leather and blasting dark trance. The energy is becoming lighter and lighter. Not lightweight, but brighter.”
Still, in no way does the man eschew the wobble bass and hard beats. People may like to reflect, but sometimes they just need to get it out on the dance floor. “Le Club Lebanon” is tailor made for such a moment. Describing the track with a chuckle as “Rachid Taha meets the Clash meets electro,” the driving pulse batters head-on into a thick wall of bass, while his longtime friend MC Rai plays the part of Taha with a stellar vocal contribution.
No song is ever convoluted, however; this thoughtful DJ always considers his dancers. “The beats are not overly intellectual. As a DJ, you don’t want to make music too complicated. The dancer has to have a place to fill in the blanks. If you saturate the sound, there’s no room to play with it.”
And play he does: the progressive build and demanding darbukas of “Semma,” the tabla headwhirl of “Promise” and the sheer brute force of “Gnawa Jam,” which pays homage to the energized Moroccan soothsayers, stockpile DJs with plenty of sonic ammo. Coming from the multicultural Bay area, a place where Stott says “everything is densely packed and people are into sharing ideas,” played a strong supporter in the producer’s quest for musical diversity.
“I wanted to have a narrative but also deliver on another level,” he concludes. “The album is meant to be an imaginary soundtrack to an epic adventure film set far in the distant future. Behind it all is a really strong athletic female goddess with a huge sword in her hand. She’s a warrior of light. She’s always strong and compassionate, but she knows how to use her sword.”
ARCANA Jef Stott Six Degrees Records 2012
1. Deep Playa w/ Sonja Drakulich ~ Guest Vocalist
2. The Promise w/ Jason McKenzie ~ Tabla
3. Le Club Lebanon w/ MC Rai ~ Guest Vocalist and Fasial Zedan ~ Darbuka
4. Semma w/ Eliyahu Sills ~ Ney Flute and Fasial Zedan ~ Darbuka
5. Desert Dub (Jef Stott Nomadica RMX) with Adham Shaikh
6. Hero’s Return w/ Jason McKenzie ~ Tabla and Eliyahu Sills ~ Bansuri Flute
7. Pulling of The Tide w/ Sophia Mae Lin ~ Guest Vocalist Diana Rowan ~ Harp
8. Gnawa Jam w/ MC Rai ~ Guest Vocalist and Reda Darwish ~ Darbuka
9. Sayat Nova (Sendai Tsunami Dub) w/ Scott Sterling (Drumspyder) ~ Riqq
10. White Tara (Anusara Mix) w/ Eliyahu Sills ~ Bansuri Flute, Sophia Mae Lin ~ Guest Vocalist, Jason McKenzie ~ Tabla
Jef Stott performed oud, electric oud, darbuka, daff, riqq, bendir, qarqarba, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, hammered dulcimer, electric bass, keyboards, live dub fx and a bit of circuit bending
Recorded by Jef Stott at Embarka Studios San Francisco in March-December 2011
Produced by Jef Stott
Mixed by Gregory Gordon and Jef Stott at Pyramind Studios San Francisco December 2011
All songs written and arranged by Jef Stott, except for Desert Dub (Jef Stott Nomadica RMX) written by Jef Stott and Adham Shaikh and The Pulling of the Tide written by Jef Stott and Sophia Mae Lin
Published by Jef Stott/Embarka Records and Six Degrees Records 2012
Jef Stott would like to thank the following:
Sophia, Sonja, MC Rai, Jason, Eliyahu, Faisal, Reda and Scott and Diana for inspired performances, Greg Gordon for amazing ears, Bob Duskis and Pat Berry from Six Degrees for believing in me again, Julz and the amazing Hookahdome krue, Martin Tickle, BurningMan.org, Heidi Holmes, Kush Arora, Rania Kandil, , Bon Singer, Kennedy Carr, Opulent Temple, 1015 Folsom, Burners without Borders, The Source (Maui), David Starfire, Cheb I Sabbah, Radiohiro, Adham Shaikh, Makyo and Dakini Records (Japan), Gaudi, Fabian Alsultany, Miriam Abu Sharkh, Adrian Blackhurst, DJ Dakini, Temple Step Project, Club Exotica, Origins Music Agency
SARACEN my debut full length album on Six Degrees Records
Saracen is the first full-length solo recording from Jef Stott, and it’s about time. Stott has been on the global music scene for over a decade, helping to found the bands Stellamara and Lumin and producing records by the Tunisian-born MC RAI and the Persian fusion group Somma, among others. He released last year’s SoukSonik, an EP, on Six Degrees’ digital-only Emerging Artists series, but with his convincing blend of Middle Eastern and North African instruments and rhythms with modern dance music, Stott “emerged” fairly quickly. The EP charted heavily on CMJ and Jazziz, and a busy live touring schedule in Japan, Canada, Los Angeles, and Miami helped set the stage, finally, for his solo debut.
Stott began as an experimental guitarist in Los Angeles, but his work with Stellamara, a group that blended Balkan and Middle Eastern music with Dead Can Dance-style rock, inspired him to take up a serious study of the Arab lute, or oud. Moving to San Francisco in the mid-90s, Stott sold his guitar and spent several years studying with internationally known masters like the late Hamza El Din, and the Turkish virtuoso Omar Faruk Tekbilek among others. “Eventually,” he recalls, “the electronics started creeping back in, and I became a bit more of who I was before. But I was still listening to a lot of Arab and Middle Eastern music all the time.” The result was Stott’s now-signature mix of electronica and Middle Eastern music; he became a sought after producer and remixer, and eventually founded his own label, Embarka Records.
All of which had him more than ready to do something solo. “I’d been producing bands for over 10 years,” Stott explains, “and I just really wanted to do something on my own. I’m really enjoying the freedom and the mobility of a solo project.” Of course, “solo” doesn’t mean “unaided” – one of the most striking features of Saracen is the appearance of some swirling vocals, in Arabic and Persian, by MC RAI, Reda Darwish, and Hooman Fazly. But Stott himself plays most of the instruments: the oud, of course, but also the Turkish lutes known as saz and cumbus, the Persian santur (a hammered dulcimer), the electric bass, and lots of hand percussion.
Stott’s approach to world music actually comes from an academic background. Stott received a degree in Anthropology, and wrote ethnographies about the cultures of Turkey and Morocco. “It really affected the way I think about music,” he says. “Not just the usual questions of the West ‘borrowing’ from the East, but influences going the other way too. I got to thinking about what a truly global music would sound like.” That would explain the sound of the track “Sono,” where Stott immediately announces his musical intentions: the funky groove is comprised of a whomping synth bass, near Eastern dumbek (a clay drum), and drum programming. But there are some telling moments of Latin timbale effects, and the melody spins out on both the oud and Turkish clarinet. Samples of the piercing, nasal reed instruments of North Africa and the Near East add a distinctive touch, both here and elsewhere on the record.
Four of the songs on Saracen originally appeared on Stott’s Emerging Artist digital-only EP. But Jef re- recorded and reworked them, adding new performances and programming to each. On the title track, the Persian vocals and the ney flute soar over dubbed out electronic programming. The percussion programming is heavy on the dumbek at first, giving it a timeless quality despite the obvious Western production; then it becomes increasingly electronic until the oud enters, playing the melody, and once again throwing into question what tradition this music comes from.
Indian percussion, especially the hand drums known as tabla, has become a familiar sound in modern dance music; but Stott suggests that other parts of the world have as much to offer. “I definitely think Middle Eastern percussion is right up there with the Indian, West African and Brazilian traditions,” he says. “It can be really virtuosic and fantastically musical.” “Faqir,” for example, is based on an ancient Egyptian rhythm called zaar, which is meant to ward off evil. “The zaar is there at the very end,”Stott reveals; “it’s a trancy Sufi rhythm that’s the basis of the whole song, but after I built the piece on top of it, I removed most of the original rhythm.” What’s left is a wash of electronic sounds and a mix of implacable drums and skirling reeds that brings to mind Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” or one of Peter Gabriel’s albums from the 1980s.
Lumin's final album released on Dakini Records out of Tokyo Japan.
Jef Stott, Michael Emenau and Irina Mikhailova
LUMIN Ketri (Dakini Records, Japan)
This album, although long in coming, is the group at its best. Again featuring a great collection of vocal tracks from Irina, the production values have really come up to a high level. We played a lot of really great events in between Hadra and this album and the material was developed over that period. The songs are more uplifting and in some way more open than the previous album. I was sitting with Irina on the beach on the Napali Coast of Kauai and we were talking about the role of the artist in the post 911 era. I felt that it was important as an artist to present a sense of hope, trust and openness. I feel this is especially true of people working with musicians from the Middle East, as that region of the world is often not represented well, which is very unfortunate. I feel this album contains that sentiment, that we can have hope and light in this world.
I have also felt that my album projects are in some way rising up through the energy centers of the body with each release. I feel this one is at the level of the throat chakra and has a lot to say about communication and expression.
Produced by Jef Stott and Michael Emenau