The five facets of Martyn, according to Shy One

Photo: Josh Sisk

Through a 13 year career of making music, Martyn has shape-shifted like few others. These constant evolutions aren’t born out of a lack of identity, more from a curious and open-mind, swept along by the new and unfamiliar. As he recalls on his recent RA Origins film, when DnB first started rumbling in London and he caught wind of the Metalheadz parties at Blue Note, he regularly made the pilgrimage from Eindhoven just to immerse himself in the movement. High tempos, broken beats and weighty basslines feature through much of his work, but are always contextualised inside different sounds. Only a producer of his dexterity could release on Ninja Tune, Brainfeeder, Ostgut Ton and Tectonic – some of the 21st Century’s greatest electronic labels, yet each with hugely different sounds – without being accused of losing direction. Quite the contrary, his sound is more clearly defined than producers sticking to one form their whole career.

Shy One appreciates this no end. There aren’t many London DJs who can condense the synthesise the music heritage of their hometown as well as she can; jazz, soul and hip-hop on one end and broken beat, garage and DnB on the other. Little surprise then, that she picked Martyn to warm-up for her as part of Red Bull Music and Dimensions’ new event series Get Down Early. We discuss how his music has impacted her journey and unpack the five facets of his sound.

Martyn warms up for Shy One at La Cheetah, Glasgow on 7th December. Tickets and info at Red Bull Music.

What was the first Martyn record you bought and what impression did it leave?

I only realised today while going through my records, that I don’t own a single original Martyn vinyl! I discovered his music in the middle of my five-year record-buying hiatus so my first tune was a digi copy of All I Have Is Memories / Surburbia. I was instantly blown away and drawn in at the same time.

What would you say is the most distinguishing feature about his music?

The bassline!

How has his work shaped the music you make and the way you make it?

Along with jungle, UKG and broken beat, I’d say he’s also influenced the bass in my tunes.

Could you take us through five pivotal Martyn track in his discography, each showing a different side to his sound and explain a bit about why you find it special.

‘Vancouver’, taken from Natural Selection / Vancouver [3024, 2008]

I love the grit of this. Straight to business, drums, bass and that repetitive filtered synth almost putting you into a trance. It set the expectation. I knew he could command a dancefloor.

‘All I Have Is Memories’, taken from All I Have Is Memories / Suburbia [Apple Pips, 2008]

This really alerted me to how he was combining sounds that I always perceived as very London so perfectly. There’s this UKG bounce, dub vibes from the bassline but it’s neither.

‘Drones’, taken from The Air Between Worlds LP [Ninja Tune, 2014]

The elements of jazz and broken beat in this one make it a really special track for me. It shows that he’s a producer who can draw from many different genres, including ones that aren’t club-oriented, whilst weaving them into tracks perfect for the dancefloor.

‘Viper’, taken from Ghost People LP [Braindfeeder, 2011]

This one almost throws you off. Until the robotic voice comes in, I may not have recognised it as one of his productions. It’s mad a tune can go so hard without having a kick!? Really showed his diversity.

‘Ghost People’ taken from Ghost People LP [Braindfeeder, 2011]

The most playful of my favourite Martyn tracks. Again showing that you can’t really predict where his sound will go, how it’ll evolve.

This weekend, Martyn will be warming up for you as part of Red Bull’s Get Down Early series. Of all the DJs you could’ve picked, why him?

He’s one of my favourite producers; I love how his tunes seem to combine elements from different underground genres I grew up with. His approach really resonates with me because I suppose I sort of do the same kind of thing with my own sets and productions (to an extent!)

You described this set as up there with “the most amazing things you’ve done in your career”. Given everything you’ve said about Martyn above, how are you feeling about the fact he’s constructing a warm-up to prep a club for your set?

I’m strangely not as nervous as you’d think I’d be. I’m really excited and confident that we’ll compliment each others sets very well, more than anything i’m just curious and excited to catch him live in the mix.

Martyn warms up for Shy One at La Cheetah, Glasgow on 7th December. Tickets and info at Red Bull Music. On the same day, Shy One & Kwam release Spoons EP on Astral Black.

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