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PHOTO CREDIT @IRATE.PROFESSIONAL

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4 August 2023

Sounds Undefined: An Afternoon with SMIFF

DOMINIC DAVIES

22-year-old DJ and Producer SMIFF has been making serious waves in the Scottish dance music scene, stamping his unique sound on the Bass music style. Labelled one of Time Out's top six emerging UK DJs, this Edinburgh based artist, and host of the ‘Red Room Sound,’ has airwaves locked down, whilst also steering the groove of the city’s intimate but thriving club scene. Dominic Davies sat down with him to decipher the creative forces driving this rapidly rising young DJ. 

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The last time I saw Peter was on my high school leavers day; both of us naïve and spot ridden, spat out of secondary school with no sense of direction. Nonetheless, there I was, being greeted at the door of a George Street flat by a collected and confident young man, sure of himself and his passion. A brief reminisce over school days seemed to suddenly dissipate as the conversation naturally meandered to music, at which point his eyes lit up and a wide smile appeared. As he spoke with such energy and passion about what is possibly one of life’s only true constantsI couldn’t help but become transfixed. 

As I settled into the sofa in his living room, overlooking the bustling city centre below, he handed me an LP. A quick glance of the album cover gave no clue as to what lay hidden inside. After proudly hailing it as one of his greatest finds yet, he remarked, to my surprise, that he’d dug it out from the dusty corner of a rather uninspiring charity shop in Stockbridge. Before I could ask why he held it in such high regard, he was on the other side of the room, record in hand, fumbling with the turntable. As the needle dropped, a look of sheer, unmistakable bliss appeared as the first notes of a vicious, yet catchy, break-like mix of Annie Lennox’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ burst through the speakers, followed immediately by the sudden roar of his contagious laughter. His joy was so infectious that I couldn’t help myself and, before I knew it, cacophonic sounds of our combined glee echoed over the music erupting from his speakers. From that first exchange, it was clear that SMIFF possesses a simple desire:to share the joy and elation that music brings. And yes, as a DJ that’s an essential skill, but for SMIFF it goes beyond the decks. It’s about his love of music and his mission to share such rich emotion and feeling with those who care to listen. 

As we sit, the origins of his infatuation slowly reveal themselves; tales of hazy nights spent in rural New Zealand immersing himself in its rich but largely unknown sound system culture. 

 

The sheer chaos of it all was insane he insists as he recounts his first rural outdoor rave scene experience. Like so many others, SMIFF’s gap year produced a life altering awakening, but rather than coming home with a predilection for patterned trousers, he returned determined to establish his own place in the world of dance music. 

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Photography - Hope Holmes , @hopehphoto

And I think it is safe to say he’s done exactly that. In the space of two years, SMIFF has surpassed the days of acoustic SoundCloud samples and iPad mixing, rapidly rising to the upper echelons of the Edinburgh scene. Yet here he perches on the edge of a coffee table, arms folded, humbly attributing his growing list of career achievements to mere luck, yet the more he talks, with more strength I beg to differ. Holding down residencies across the city, presenting on multiple radio shows in conjunction with great praise from notable global publications is by no means simply luck, and is most definitely proven when listening to one of his self-produced tracks. SMIFF’s unique fusion of dubstep and breakbeat, paired with subtle builds and synthy melodies form a welcomed take on the Bass music sound. His methods of production carve out a sound that is instinctive, impulsive and unpredictable; I gotta stick to my guns he tells me; I can’t disagree. SMIFF’s music is impetuous and uncut – so far from the ‘ear candy’ of overused samples and dragged-out builds, delivering a stripped back raw sound that is both refreshing and compelling.

In production, a lot of people get caught up on all sorts of specific parameters they feel they have to stick to, he says. After nodding in agreement and completely burying the fact that I’d just spent the past five minutes guiltily, and somewhat aimlessly, doing exactly what he accuses and trying to define his sound, I harbour my inner, overly pretentious, music-geek persona privately, impressed by the integrity he maintains in his authentic creation processes. Whether a listener or an artist, it seems we all obsess over the grouping and categorising of any track that we come across. We argue over the specifics of its categorisation with likeminded musical geeks, who will then proceed to delve into the deepest darkest corner of their playlist to stump you with a psych-trance jazz fusion track, that has under a thousand streams, not because it’s bad, no, God no, but because its underground man…

What I’m trying to say is that the essence and soul of music is so easily lost in the fray of its analysis.

 

Yes, it makes for stimulating conversation and inspires the odd poorly written article, but sitting down with SMIFF, I was reminded of the fact that the timeless evolution of music, more often than not, relies upon sounds undefined. And I think the key to it all, and certainly in SMIFF’s eyes, isn’t the uniqueness or peculiarity of such a sound, but the simple, undisturbed and infectious joy that ensues when the blurs and distractions of musical definitions are removed.

Video of SMIFF's Red Room Sounds at Sneaky Pete's Club, Edinburgh. Artist is DJ ADHD, Music is Four Tet's Remix. Shot on Sony Hi8 Camcorder. Videography by Neil Kidd , @neilkidd.visuals. 

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