In addition to work with acts such as @Peace, Avantdale Bowling Club and Julien Dyne, Christoph James has an extensive solo catalogue under his belt. The Auckland producer, who goes by the name Christoph El Truento, is currently in what he describes as his collaborative era, with his most recent single, a dreamy, uplifting piece of RnB-jazz fusion titled Drip, featuring Ladi6 on vocals. Nur Lajunen-Tal finds out more. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.
“It started out as just a hip hop instrumental song,” Christoph El Truento explains of Drip’s genesis. “It had about seven different incarnations of what it was going to be. I eventually approached Ladi6 to do a vocal demo over it, which she recorded fairly quickly and ended up being the final version of the song.
The song includes a few of those different incarnations. It starts off as a straight jazz piece of music, and eventually finds its way into a chord progression which continues on throughout the song, which then evolves into more of an RnB kind of focus. About halfway through, Ladi6’s vocals come in and it kind of takes shape from there.”
Drip closes out his recently released nine song album titled ‘Circle of Friends’. The tracks range from sub 3-minute numbers to the mid-point 7min 15 sec FX-infused jazz exploration Hedkey.
“Most of my new album is either straight jazz music, with musicians riffing and trading solos and things like that, or straight RnB soul singing, a bit more conventional. This song is a cross between the two. It’s a fusion of the two things, which I feel like wrapped up the whole project as one. I think it’s my first time finding that synergy between the two, and I feel like they lend themselves well to each other. They don’t necessarily overlap in this song, but I feel like maybe to people who don’t think about walls of genres and things like that, maybe it can be seen as one whole thing that flowed smoothly.”
Christoph’s connection with Ladi6 goes way back.
“I’ve known Ladi, and Parks her partner, since I was 13, so about 20 years or so! My brother had a shop in Kingsland, in Auckland, and they lived in the flat above that, so it was just that and the common thread of music that made us friends. We’ve done tours together and various other things like that. They’ve just always been there since then.”
The uplifting vibe of Drip‘s instrumental backing was a major reason for asking her to provide vocals on this particular track.
“It’s the last song on the album, and I wanted it to be an empowering, positive wrap-up. I think that one thing that Ladi6 is really good at, amongst many things, is making music that is empowering and positive – which can be quite a difficult thing to achieve without coming off sounding a little bit cheesy or cliché. She’s really good at making good music out of positive messages, and just making people feel good about themselves. That was the initial reason why I went straight to Ladi to do some words for this song.
“What I gather from Ladi’s lyrics is that she starts off questioning what she’s doing in life, or where her life is going, and then having a feeling that her ancestors are then proud of her and that she’s on the right path. And if the people that came before her knew what she was doing, they would be very impressed and happy that things have come this far.”
The song’s release as a single is backed by a quirky and colourful music video hand animated by Asher McShane. The artist/animator is also responsible for the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s crossed with Patumayo world music collection cover art of Christoph’s new collaborative album.
“He’s just got a really whimsical cartoonish style and aesthetic to how he works. The album’s called ‘Circle of Friends,’ and the cover is just a bunch of characters that he’s imagined just through hearing the album. The listener can kind of assign any particular character to any particular band member or feature on the album. There’s some interesting looking characters on the artwork.
“When we got NZ On Air funding for Drip my idea was that the cover comes to life for the video. He made the whole animation frame by frame, hand drawn and coloured, which was basically just a reimagining of the album cover coming to life. I kind of let him take the reins as far as storyline and direction, and I think he did a really good job of taking Ladi’s words and interpreting the music into a visual form.”