Just like the inspiration behind their name, Kiara Scuro are drawn to the spaces between dark and light. For the London-based duo, made up of Rosie Ama and Nadia, this approach manifests in many different musical forms.
Whether it’s new wave and psychedelic slow burners or abstract techno and progressive trance, the pair find joy in the element of surprise, something that comes naturally when passing the mantle back and forth, track for track. This free-form approach to curation extends to their radio shows on Balamii Radio too, the Peckham-based community station where they’ve been residents for almost five years.
Lockdown saw them dipping their toes into production for the first time. Driven by a love of raw, progressive trance, the fruits of these early sessions together have led to track releases on compilations for Accidental Meetings and Limit UK over the last six months, and now they’re working towards their first full body of work.
For their (Extended Mix) they take us through the gears, giving a glimpse into how they’d approach the warm up and the peak time. Over the course of four hours, they journey through everything from chugging electro, rhythmic UK techno and driving synths to hypnotic acid, euphoric trance and weighty bass cuts.
First off, how’s lockdown been for both of you? What have been the biggest challenges and more positive outcomes you’ve experienced through extended time at home?
Nadia: The most challenging part of lockdown was definitely the lack of connection with friends and family. But mostly I was grateful for the opportunity to reflect on what actually what makes me happy and how I want to contribute. Music-wise, it allowed us to dip our toes into the production pool. Growing up I used to sing, so coming back to the idea of creating music feels exciting.
Rosie: Lockdown was a bit of a mixed bag – there were ups and downs. Luckily I managed to keep my jobs throughout so it was easier to pass the time, I’m not share if I’d have been able to stay sane if I’d been on furlough. On a personal note, like Nadia there was a lot of self-reflection and I found more time to put effort into things that made a difference, like charity compilations and initiatives. Of course being away from loved ones was a big challenge, Nadia and I didn’t see each other for months too!
Again, as Nads mentioned, a huge positive was having that time to get stuck into production, and also to figure out where we’re heading with everything music-wise.
Thanks for recording an extended mix for us. Where was it recorded?
Thanks for having us, it was a lot of fun to put together. We recorded it in one evening in Rosie’s bedroom in two hour parts – with a quick snack break in the middle.
How do you approach your B2B sets? Did you have an idea in mind for the mix beforehand?
Though we’ve planned sets in the past, for several years now we’ve found that we have more fun and our sets tend to go better if we haven’t got a plan. We usually have an idea of the first couple of tunes, then the rest tends to flow – the majority of the time. It’s been almost six years since we started playing together so it’s become a bit like second nature now. We’ve always played one for one and we think that adds a lot to our dynamic as a duo, it keeps the energy going and lets us challenge one another when the time’s right. We love a good twist or turn, our attention spans are all too short these days haha.
For the mix we knew we wanted to start very slow and build the mood. The mix goes from 85bpm all the way up to 140 and shows a wide spectrum of what we play – a taste of the warm up and the peak time, because we love to do both. We organised music into first half and second half folders, planned the first few tracks to get things going, and the rest seemed to follow.
Could you talk us through a couple standouts from the set?
The Front Cadeaux track called ‘Sad Is Fashion’ is a semi-recent favourite – everything they put out is great. Of course, we had to throw some trance bangers and a couple of curve balls in there for good measure: Mahkina’s ‘Eyes On You’ and Guhlee’s flip of ‘Hung Up’ being a couple.
Where’s been your favourite place to play an all-night set, and why?
We’ve actually never done an all-night set before but it’s something we’d love to do. We usually play at least three hours these days but there’s nothing like opening the club to an empty dance floor and watching it fill up, and ebb and flow, throughout the night. Being able to build that relationship with the crowd and take them through the gears over the course of the night would be a special experience. If we had to choose somewhere to do it, Opium Club in Vilnius would win over and over. Playing there hits different.
Who are some of your favourite all-night specialists, and why?
It’s got to be Ivan Smagghe and Manfredas. They’d laugh at these buzz words, but there really is this palpable synergy between them when they play together – it feels effortless. We love their individual sounds but there’s something magical that happens when they’re doing their 7/8 hour stints as Dresden. In fact, you can check their recent (Extended Mix) to hear for yourself 😉
By celebrating DJs with a penchant for all-night sets, the (Extended Mix) series hopes to encourage a more stripped back, carbon-friendly approach to lineup curation. Reducing our footprint as a globalised underground community is a massive challenge as we try to rebuild the scene after Covid-19 lockdown, and we hope progression can be forged through sharing our challenges and experiences. Are there any thoughts you’d like to add to the discussion?
Nadia: It’s a tricky one. Unless you’re a very well known DJ it’s hard to even get the opportunity to play an all night set, and I think it would be going a step backwards if we cut down on booking smaller DJs for warm ups right now it actually seems possible to have local success. I think extended sets where you book a local DJ and just one bigger act that you might have to fly in is definitely a start. Then you can give them both longer set times, not just the bigger act.
Rosie: Yeah I agree with Nadia on the latter. I’ve already seen more UK artists being booked closer to home post-pandemic. Corsica have got the right idea by launching Small Talk; bringing bookings in-house, working with residents and only one or two bigger names, rather than flying in loads of people from overseas. There is this catch 22 situation with continuously playing local though. Sometimes DJs are bound by exclusivity deals, especially in London, plus playing regularly around places like London isn’t always a good look for smaller DJs. That said I think it could help smaller scenes across the UK to thrive and focus on nurturing local talent.
Tell us a bit more about your chosen charity – what work do they do and why is it so important to you?
We’ve decided to go with a charity we’re sure many are familiar with in the music industry, thanks to their TRTD project. War Child are working to provide aid to children in conflicts around the world, from Yemen to Ukraine. We think it’s important that, while the war in Ukraine may be topping the headlines, there’s still ongoing conflicts and humanitarian crises that we shouldn’t forget about.