Reduced by cktrl

The soundtrack to a reduced frame of mind and an expanding resource to encourage better self-care. Explore the archive.

Students of early hip-hop may be aware of the small print on the back sleeve of LL Cool K’s 1985 album Radio: “Reduced by Rick Rubin”, in homage to his pioneering minimalist arrangement. It’s with Rick’s same approach to musical minimalism that this series emerges: stripping sound back to its most transcendental, restorative and atmospheric textures to block out the noise and aid focus, attunement and relaxation.

Discussions have come a long way in recent years, but there still remains a taboo around not being okay. To accompany each audio presentation, we’ll speak to the creator about their experiences with self-care and, if they’re comfortable sharing, mental health. We’ll unpack personal processes, explore the nuances of self-care across cultures and raise awareness of charities with a personal connection. We hope this will grow into an evolving resource of knowledge and experience to provide solace, inspiration, reassurance and company in difficult times. 

For the fourth episode, we welcome Lewisham based producer, DJ and multi-instrumentalist cktrl.  Admired on the alternative London club scene and one of the few original DJs still broadcasting on NTS, Bradley is blossoming as a musician and composer, both collaboratively with artists like Sampha, Sango, Kelela and Dean Blunt, but also as a solo artist. His recent signing to Touching Bass with his Robyn EP is bold testament to the latter. An exploration of contemporary classical from the Black perspective, it featured contributions from Duval Timothy, Shirely Tetteh and Coby Sey and is described by Bradley as offering “resolution from those darker times with hope as the strongest form of love.”

cktrl describes his Reduced mix as “spiritual substance music that offers peace”, accompanied by a candid interview about his own self-care and mental health. The mix is paired with Imkaan, a UK-based, organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls. To donate or find out more about their work, head to their website.

cktrl – Robyn EP is released 27th November on Touching Bass – buy from Bandcamp.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

First off, what does self-care mean to you?

Taking the time to be gentle with yourself while also amending the cracks rather than smoothing them over. Self care to me is the real work for what it takes to survive as well as feel good.

What does your daily or weekly self-care routine look like?

I practice my clarinet for mediational purposes. It really offers clarity and moments to just reflect and feel something new about things that have bothered me. On a surface level, weekly I’ll do an oil cleanse and face masks.

Can you tell us about the self-care spot you’ve been using recently?

It’s really quiet atm as it’s rainy season in Jamaica no one likes to seat out in the back of the house because of the mosquitoes after it rains. But I love the sounds of nature out there.

Are there any outdoor locations you visit to find tranquility.

Devon House has a lot of childhood memories for me, as Covid has hit it’s never busy and you just sit and have a ice cream at peace.

What benefits has self-care brought you over the years?

It has offered me a greater sense of mindfulness. I was forever just existing without taking time for myself so when things didn’t go to plan I was often stuck on how to move forward because I wasn’t aware of what I needed to be doing for myself, that would help overcome barriers.

Are there any specific techniques you favour or come back to more frequently?

I meditate often with my crystals, while playing old soundscapes I’ve made over the years.  Music has always been that therapy for me too, as cliché as that sounds. As mentioned earlier I’ll improvise feelings on my instruments (clarinet or saxophone) or build a beat. There is something about building on a loop, from the chord progression to the drums that just brings calm to me. DJing does this in a different way, just mixing instrumentals is often spiritual. Especially roots music.

What advice would you have for anyone who is either sceptical about the benefits of self-care, or is new to it and feels intimated by the wealth of options available. 

Like with anything, go at your pace and in your own time. I’d advise that nothing should ever be by force. And always ask yourself questions. Self care is the honesty that comes from self study so you know what you need for you to be patterned.

What was the idea behind your Reduced set?

Firstly to follow the rules lol. Never made anything with such a brief bmt. But on a serious note I was going for feeling, spiritual substance music that offers peace, an is full of expression from myself, friends and the greats.

How would you advise listening to your set?

It can be background or you fully engage and just relax and collect your thoughts. Its super chilled.

What does good mental health mean to you?

I’m definitely still figuring that one out.

Are there any experiences with mental health that you’d like to share to provide comforts or connections with others who are/have suffered? Dark times you’ve left behind you, or difficult moments you still struggle to overcome?

Depression for me was heightened when multiple things were happening at the same time or it just felt like they were. It’s nearly always a battle of making a relationship work (hoping that what you’ve found is real and reciprocated), finances and creative freedoms. Financial stability is something I’m still struggling with as I’ve decided to do music full-time. That being said somedays are definitely better than others. With relationships it’s hard also as we’ve been socialied with our ideas on what a relationship should look like. So guards are up to avoid being hurt, which often stop genuine connection and inadvertently promotes just the physical. A lot of the time both sides want more than just that, but trust isn’t there.

What advice would you give to people who are suffering from poor mental health and either can’t understand why or don’t know where to turn?

I’m really big on self study, being aware of yourself and things that provoke good feelings for you is key. I feel like it starts with talking, and if you’re not a talker, journaling helps write your thoughts down. Come back to them in a week and see if you still see things the same way. If you feel like you’re not making any improvement then I’d say talk to your GP and see if you can get a referral and seek professional help from a person who likes you, so they’re able to understand your experience navigating life.

Based on experiences where others have helped you, what advice would you give to those who are close to someone who’s suffering but doesn’t know how best to support them.

Just showing up and checking in is love. Even if you can’t come up with solutions just being there making sure they’ve eaten that they are clean is progressive and loving. 

How is mental health viewed in your own culture or immediate surroundings? Have you faced challenges getting support if/when you needed it from your community?

Some things are shunned by toxic masculinity but as you move through life a lot of the time you afford yourself a greater understanding of the things formed against you expressing yourself and find comfort elsewhere. Although that’s not always possible. 

Do you think being part of the music industries has had any implications for your mental health? If so, what have you done to cope with it?

A lot of times in the past I’ve questioned my talent  and abilities due to depression from how I was made to feel by the industry. To combat that I went back to basics and removed myself from any spaces that made me uncomfortable. I made genuine friends in the scene so I’d link up with them outside of the industry events. I kept myself local and carried on creating but socially I’d be with friends I grew up with and go to functions in my area (Lewisham). 

Are there any initiatives or sources of knowledge doing important work in mental health that have benefited you, that others should check out?

I follow the work of nayyirah waheed and yrsa daley-ward, their words are my foundation for how I see myself, love and creativity. 

Can you tell us more about your selected charity, the work it does and why it holds a personal significance?

Imkaan I’ve always supported this charity throughout the years, their doing the real work to end VAWG and stop misogynoir. 

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