At Shogun, we’re lucky to welcome many amazing artists onto the label who all bring individual flavours to our melting pot of talent. Koherent are no different. Now more than three years into their venture with us, Luke Nicholls and Josh Ackermann have flourished into an act pushing a very unique sound. The release of their Ripple Effect EP is testament to this.
Inspired by their love of rave culture (which we all sorely miss right now), the EP represents the pinnacle sound Koherent have been honing over recent years. It’s a style of liquid teeming with synthwave and new wave grime influences. One provoking a precious feeling of rave nostalgia, whilst still sounding fresher than the thought of the first post-lockdown haircut. Now that’s something we can all get behind, right?
Representing their third EP with the Shogun family since their 2017 SGN:LTD debut, the release of Ripple Effect is a Koherent milestone we want everyone to know about. That’s why we caught up with the guys to have a chat about the EP and learn more about Koherent‘s evolving sound.
Ripple Effect has made all of us at Shogun feel very nostalgic about the rave…
Josh: That was the idea!
Luke: With not being able to meet up and go to raves, we wanted to create a piece capturing what we miss. We call it our four-track love letter to the scene we want back. We want the culture back. We want raves back. Over the years we’ve written a range of drum and bass, so with this release we wanted to capture different aspects of raving within a modern D&B context.
Each track comes with its own sense of nostalgia then?
Luke: Definitely. Endless Haze was inspired by early Chase & Status and early dancefloor D&B in 2007/2008. Talk To Me with Riya a deep house influence with a more minimal, autonomic tip.
Josh: Then Rave Chatter is a proper rave tearout with in-your-face synths. It’s reminiscent of an older dancefloor tune, but more modern. If you were to put a timeline on the EP’s influences then Endless Haze would be late noughties and Rave Chatter would be 2010-14.
Luke: I see Rave Chatter as the flip side to Endless Haze. It feels like the heavier version.
So was the Ripple Effect title inspired by the way everyone is feeling the brunt caused by the lack of raves?
Josh: Definitely. It’s a bit of that alongside our wider Shogun journey in terms of the music we‘ve produced. When we’ve been experimenting with our style over the years it has led to new ideas, or ripples.
Luke: Also, we realised throughout our last three EPs we’d been using water samples – from storms to droplets – so we wanted to keep the theme going.
Josh: I remember when we came up with the name last year. We met up in Devon where Luke is, but we didn’t have an EP name. We were thinking for ages. But we had a pint by a river and the water clearly subliminally factored into it…
Are you guys just unknowingly inspired by water?
Josh: It’s interesting with the ripples. You throw a stone in the water and anything can happen. But if you don’t throw the stone then you’ll never know. You’ve got to take a chance.
That’s some the deep thinking…
Luke: Josh and I were clearly sat there philosophising over a candlelit dinner, asking each other how we feel about the name.
Josh: As a Northerner I can only speak in simple language, but hopefully I can still convey my deeper meanings…
Brilliant. So this is your third Shogun EP, but it feels like the one where you’ve fully honed the Koherent sound.
Luke: For sure. We definitely feel like our liquid has been doing well at Shogun as we’ve been able to find our sound alongside them.
Josh: We’ve been trying to follow a culmination of sounds leading up to this EP. Ripple Effect feels like the fruition of this vision.
What vision is that?
Luke: We’ve been chasing this synthwave-inspired sound where we detune synths and make use of classic rave sounds – but with modern mixdowns. A lot of liquid is piano-led, but with Ripple Effect we wanted to hammer the synths.
Josh: We wanted to create a thread throughout our releases drawing on this style of music fusing bright synths into deeper liquid. We feel our liquid has developed greatly over the years, but the heavier side of things isn’t as far forward as we’d like. We’re on the right path though. We’re still experimenting with a broad set of sounds as there are many around. It’s all about honing them into something that defines Koherent.
The release of Bliss last year seemed like a pivotal one in terms of defining the Koherent sound.
Josh: Definitely. It was originally written with the intention of being included on Ripple Effect.
Luke: It gives you a similar sense of nostalgia. If you dig back further we’ve always experimented with that. On our debut release with SGN:LTD there’s a tune called Night Cycles. It has a lot in common with Endless Haze. We’ve been trying to develop this sound for a while, but it really took centre stage with Bliss and Ripple Effect.
Clearly people are taking note. Annie Mac supporting Bliss on Radio One was a big moment!
Luke: That was completely out the blue. I never imagined our music would get support in such a mainstream avenue. We felt humbled. Whenever we’re thinking about goals it’s usually in D&B. Reaching a mainstream audience with our music is something we’ve never fully considered. Bliss is representative of the sound we’ve been trying to capture, so it’s great to see it get recognition.
Luke: A lot. Artists like Mssingo, Deadcrow and Silk Road Assassins are big influences. They produce reece-driven music that’s around 140 with a trap beat. It has a similar theme to synthwave with the detuned sound giving it a throwback element. Drawing inspiration from new wave grime has given us the opportunity to expand our instrumentation, but within the same sound. Before discovering this style of music I’d never thought about using bells as the main hook in a D&B tune – which is what we did in Close To Me on our last EP. With the nostalgic rave vibe, synthwave and new wave grime, we feel we’ve found our sound.
Josh: It’s a new sound, but it’s also familiar. That’s important because it allows people to resonate with that familiar aspect of it. But then it also sounds fresh and representative of Koherent.
It’s important to look outside of D&B for influence like this.
Josh: Definitely. It’s important to have different influences feeding into your sound. But it’s also good to make some tracks that are more traditional D&B, as you can fuse the two together into something that’s familiar but fresh. Need U is a good example.
Luke: It’s a standard reece-driven roller, but some of those influences we’ve discussed bled through into the track with the more musical sections. It’s nice having the freedom to shift our tracks around and mix between the less and more familiar sounds.
Luke: It’s funny because Josh started off only making liquid, and I was only making the heavier, minimal style. We’ve now almost gone opposite ways in that I like experimenting with liquid, but Josh enjoys the darker end…
Josh: That’s why when we produce together it feels natural. A sound I think isn’t good is one Luke can transform into something I wouldn’t think of. It’s interesting to have different music mindsets because it promotes creativity. It’s crucial to give the other person freedom and not pressure them into writing certain styles.
Absolutely. Speaking of backgrounds, the initial Koherent link up is a unique story…
Luke: It’s a funny one! I was in Bristol and Josh was in Leeds. I was sorting out a work placement in Leeds at a sample pack company, and around the same time, I posted a couple of tracks on a D&B forum. Some guy from Leeds replied saying they were sick. I started chatting to him and said I was coming up to Leeds for a job placement. He asked – is it for Samplephonics? I think I spoke to you on the phone the other day… Turns out it was the same guy – Josh.
Josh: It was strange…
Luke: When I eventually moved up to Leeds we wrote some tracks together and Josh sent them to Shogun. All of a sudden we had Friction telling us we should become a duo… That was the shove we needed. That’s as certified as a blue tick on your socials.
Luke: Literally! Koherent birthed out of Friction getting in touch with us.
Josh: At the time we were producing as two separate aliases, but Shogun asked us to rename ourselves. We were playing with names and one of them was Jah.
Luke: We sent over multiple suggested names, which were all terrible, but Jah was particularly bad… They were in hysterics. Koherent was one of the first names we came up with, but we thought we could find a better name. We didn’t…
Josh: This led to our debut release on SGN. Shogun have always been influential in developing the Koherent project.
We’re glad you feel Shogun has given you a platform to grow together.
Luke: Definitely. Alongside our debut release, we’ve also had a couple of releases on Shogun’s Point of Origin compilations, so if you go back through our catalogue you’ll see how integral the label have been.
Josh: SGN will always be special as it was our first release. There are a few other producers who also had debuts on the label.
Luke: Spectrasoul, Alix Perez – Just some small names…
Just a bit! We know Koherent has always had a new wave D&B tag associated to it, but with your third Shogun EP down, do you now feel fully established?
Josh: Not really… We’re not newcomers anymore, but I feel there’s always something to learn. If you ever feel like you’ve made it then you risk slowing down your development.
Luke: There was one time when we did. When the initial newcomer stage wore off, that sense of excitement faded as we didn’t know where we stood. That knocked us. We realised it wasn’t healthy to think that way. It’s better to focus on your music.
Was that after a particular release?
Josh: After our SGN release we had the newcomer tag put on us, which came with pressure. If you don’t release regularly then you’ll find that tag can disappear quite quickly because people are always looking to find the newest producers.
Luke: That thinking quickly grapples onto your creativity because you’re constantly assessing where you are. When you start doing that, you may sit down to write and start questioning whether you’re good enough.
Josh: That’s the reason why Shogun have been so influential for Koherent. Sometimes as a producer you can second guess yourself, so for Friction and the team to put their faith in us means everything. We’re eager to keep pushing forward and developing our sound.