Hailing from New York, Dusk Notes was founded four years ago by Cory James and Soramimi, who individually are both established producers but together they are a power house pushing tasteful, experimental music. The pair met by chance at a venue that Soramimi was working at and soon connected over their musical tastes and New Yorker experiences. With the need to have creative control over their music, Cory and Soramimi decided they would be stronger working together on an imprint that would soon become Dusk Notes than going at the industry alone.
Over the last four years, there has only been a handful of releases but each one has been carefully considered with the focus on purpose rather than quantity. Focusing on both club-orientated records and more introspective listening with peak-time rollers from Cory James on ‘The Narrows’ EP whilst Soramimi’s contribution to their joint ‘Jettatura’ EP showcases galactic-inspired ambient.
Ahead of the release of Cory’s ‘Extension Of Life’ EP – which includes a remix from Soramimi – we spoke to the pair to find out more about Dusk Notes, how the label came to be, how they make sure they stand out in a saturated market and what the future holds for them.
You founded Dusk Notes four years ago, what made you guys decide to create this platform?
We simply needed a platform for our own music. We were writing so much of it and didn’t have a home for it. Creating a label would allow for us to share our creations and visions with the world, on our own authentic terms where we’d have complete creative control, and create our own value.
How did you guys meet? What inspired you to start working creatively together?
We met in 2012 at an interactive music, food and art gallery show in Brooklyn. I (Soramimi) was the creative director of the space at the time, and Cory was one of the DJs booked for the musical part of the event. We spent much of the night in deep conversation, quickly discovering we were kindred spirits. We were already connected in that we were both music producers, shared similar musical tastes and past experiences as native New Yorkers, and found out we were even at the same raves when we were younger. The idea to collaborate for Dusk Notes came organically in 2014 when we decided to manifest our own direction together as recording artists and curators. We knew we’d be stronger as a team, as we admired in each other the same drive, diligence, passion for honing our musical craft, artistic integrity and work ethic.
Why the name Dusk Notes?
Cory James: We discussed label names for months! I think there’s something unique about dawn and dusk – the sun setting, rising, and the dynamic of change. These are my favorite things about music as well. The name I feel represents the soundtrack to these moments that are special to me – the sounds of changes. Like musical time stamps in a sense.
Soramimi: Dusk is my favorite time of day/night – a transitory limbo between time and space where light hovers and moments stand still. This twilight represents to me a time when things get more eerie, moody, sensual, heady, poetic and escapist, in a space beneath the surface that is hard to grasp and hard to define. It symbolizes to me the subconscious, a confrontation with our shadows, a slower and contemplative sensibility, an exploration of our hidden depths and emotions, and a focus on our surrounding environments and ambience.
What is your aim for Dusk Notes? What do you hope to achieve?
Soramimi: We really care about the music’s vision, so firstly we hope to keep showcasing and sharing music we truly believe in. Our aim is to keep striving for sounds that are expansive, sublime, futuristic, and surreal; and to create well-rounded multimedia art objects by intertwining visuals with the aural. We love the idea of being able to hold a tangible piece of music in your hands, to feel the materiality and evident authorship of the record. We carry over this love for the “artist’s hand” by also spotlighting hand-painted album covers and collaborating with video and graphic artists.
Cory James: Our aim is to keep building a discography that we feel we can stand behind – a timeless catalog we can look back on and feel amped about years later. I want to have a feeling of connection with and involve other artists and friends whose work we feel strongly about.
Why have you guys decided to release music that caters to both the dance floor and home listening?
Cory James: This was a decision made for creativity and attention span reasons. I want the freedom that allows me as an artist to grow, to have room to allow for changes in the sound direction along the way, and for that to be ok. I want there to be some range in the releases over time. It’s really ridiculous to me when I hear people criticizing artists for going in another direction, or changing their sound from what they are known for. People should be encouraged to experiment and not worry about making changes sonically, despite there being a certain expectation of what they will deliver due to the success of a couple of EPs. We both listen to so much music and greatly enjoy taking in an abundance of art outside of techno, and this I feel is naturally carried over onto our label.
Soramimi: It’s the kind of music that I most love and enjoy, both as a creator and listener. Immersive, deep, hypnotic, emotive, psychedelic sounds are what stir me. I love dance music’s spatial aspect, collective experience, and feeling connected and grounded with my body and with others’ energy within that shared pulsating space. But I also crave abstract music that doesn’t just serve as a utilitarian tool for the dance floor. The expansive, simmering sounds straddling the border between the dance floor and home listening interests me the most. This label is a cool way for us to reconcile wanting to evoke the more inward, cerebral experience of attentive deep listening, with being appreciative of its sensory rhythmic effect on the collective body.
Based in New York, how do you feel the city has influenced the music you produce and release?
Soramimi: Growing up with adversity in my youth, I spent much of that time finding solace in underground raves here in NY. I found community, collective belonging and a passion for electronic and dance music through these events. This part of my life became very important to me, shaping my musical tastes, psyche, values and dreams. There would be raves under the bridge, in South Bronx roller rinks, in Deep Queens ballrooms, Tompkins Square park, in Sunset Park and Dumbo factories – so I was influenced by many different neighborhoods, subcultures and walks of life. We loved more than just techno – downtempo, hardcore, drum and bass, jungle, psytrance, IDM. It was wasn’t until years later that I started creating my own music, but I found it was organically and inherently informed by my formative years of listening to tons of it. I was also fortunate enough to be immersed in much of the other fertile, creative wealth that can only be New York – going to hardcore shows, to open mics, to museums and galleries, studying instruments, befriending musicians of other genres and artists of other mediums, consuming literature and films.
Cory James: Going out to a lot of different parties in New York from when I was 17 to about 25 had a huge impact on me. Wandering around clubs like the Limelight, Centro Fly and the Roxy, and feeling the energy in clubs like these really affected the way I listen to music. What really effected the way I play and produce music was when I started going out to hear more techno in my early 20’s. I started going out to parties like the Bunker at Public Assembly to hear DJs play techno for 5-8 hrs. This was the first time I heard the kind of tracks that create the infinity loop, like those 12”s that play for 12 minutes where everything lies in the subtleties. Hearing those early Hardwax records being played with Mills and Surgeon records gave me an out-of-body experience.
How do you ensure that it stands out from the saturated market we have today?
Cory James: It’s a crapshoot, and I don’t want people to feel that our label is one of those that is going push out too many releases far too quickly. We release so infrequently that this wouldn’t even be an issue. It’s strange because often these releases are by the same 5-8 artists who are pumping out handfuls of releases on all of the top labels, and it doesn’t offer much variety. I think avoiding these two things and letting our label progress organically, along with the changes in our lives will take us where we want to go.
Soramimi: You can’t ensure it. But I believe if you’re guided by your intrinsic motivations (passion for the music, need for authentic artistic expression, evolving your craft) rather than pandering to extrinsic motivations (status, clout, fame), then I know you will find your audience. When you strive for purpose over popularity, when you create first for an audience of one, you will find your audience. If you create work that is honest, personal, meaningful and true to yourself, without fulfilling others’ expectations, you will find the right audience.
Sound design is something that is very important for both of you, why is this? What draws you to this side of music?
Soramimi: I’m very much of the belief that there is music in everyday sounds, in all the daily environments around us, and in the seemingly commonplace. Like David Lynch, John Cage and Ryuichi Sakamoto, perceiving the mundane as alive and cinematic is endlessly fascinating to me, and I have a childlike curiosity and appreciation for “non-musical” sounds and environments. Sound design is a way of connecting with and building upon that world, where one can hear and recognize a sound and manipulate it to create a whole new meaning to the sound – whether it is to simulate an already existing environment in nature, or synthesizing an entirely new world of fantasy. It forces you to be resourceful and experimental. It allows you to be mischievous and playful when creating sounds from utterly unrelated and unexpected sources. I also love cinema and evocative sound scoring, especially intense psychodramas and sci-fi where the aural world and atmosphere is incredibly vital and instrumental to the vision of the film.
Cory James: It is important to me because it illustrates the artist’s sense of space, sonically conveys an idea and paints the picture. Sonically evoking emotions or curiosity is really significant to me. Panning, widened sounds and that sense of a 3D auditory experience is what draws me in – textures and reverbs, so sounds are not so squeaky clean. I want to hear that these sounds have been touched by someone, sculpted. There are a lot of classic synths and drum machines that play a huge part in making this music sound so futuristic, but if the thought stops there, then the music sounds lazy to me. Once you start digging into techno and ambient music production, you learn that there are a lot of common tools that created the backbones for these genres, so I’m drawn to sounds that are less identifiable.
There is often discussions about how we as listeners try to consume so much music and in consequence of that, it’s hard for releases to have long-standing success – the release just comes and goes. How do you think we could combat this issue? Is this something labels could tackle, or do you think this is a wider problem?
Cory James: This is definitely a bigger issue than a label could tackle alone. I don’t think the value in music is the money, but honestly if you had to pay for the entire EP to get “that track”, maybe it would nudge people to slow down their lives and take in more music. People are extremely frugal about music now – they don’t want to pay to go out and listen to it, they just grab it from torrents etc, and they barely want to pay for it as it is now. It’s bizarre and sad. What if the cost of tracks on Bandcamp and digital outlets just all went up at the same time? Would people still feel the same way about it if it costs say $3-5 more for them to get these releases and play them on their podcasts to promo themselves? Would they be cool with paying more for music that they use to get gigs? I would hope so. Maybe this would help people digest it differently, like the way vinyl is tangible and there is this idea that it makes you listen to it slightly differently, slower with more focus. Who am I to say this would do anything to the situation though! I still buy a lot of vinyl.
Soramimi: It really is a wider and complex problem that’s rooted in the digitized music streaming economy, commercialization and commodification of dance music and counterculture, the rise of the platform economy, and the DJ culture and economy bubble pushing producers and labels out to the margins. Independent artists continue to be their own entrepreneurial advocates and platform laborers, now having to create their own pipelines in already saturated markets, or relying on centralized resources to be heard. Also the transition to more accessible digital listening has its benefits, but it’s cultivated fragmented and inattentive listening habits. We all have access to way more music than we’ll ever have the time to listen to and yes, sadly this has made releases disposable content. However this isn’t an issue that simply falls on the listener’s responsibility, but on that of the larger systemic institution and ouroboros we’re all participants in. As listeners and label owners, what we can do is be more mindful and deliberate in listening with more attention and space, supporting smaller independent outlets, and be discerning and persistent in digging for music with quality and less fanfare. Savor the sounds you listen to and give a song its proper respect. Also everyone should have the right to release and be prolific and express themselves, but maybe labels can have more restraint – by not feeling pressured to keep a nonsensically overloaded release schedule. I have no answers, only more questions.
Are there any artists that you have your eye on at the moment that you’d like to release?
Our next release will be a various artists compilation, including tracks from ASC and Imugem Orihasam – two talents we’ve admired and respected for a long time now. We’re really excited for this one.
Is there anything planned for Dusk Notes for the near future?
After the V/A, we’re working on releasing debut LPs from each of us, slowly showcasing other artists we love, and just continuing to pour our own productions and energy into the label.
‘Extension Of Life’ by Cory James is out on the 12th November – buy here.