Timeless breaks, techno, and electro from Scotland.
Growing up in Newcastle, England, Simon Bays’ (better known as Bays, and head of the Space Dust label) first experiences of dance music culture were at parties such as Shindig and venues like Cosmic Ballroom and World Headquarters, before he moved to Edinburgh for university aged 18. There, he discovered venues like Cabaret Voltaire, where he’s been a resident DJ for more than decade, and this has led to him playing other clubs, starting his own parties, and eventually forming Alien Communications with DJ Rise, a fellow DJ-producer based in Scotland, also known as Age of Hyperion, in 2019.
“The whole project came about very organically,” Rise says. “Bays and I were both living in the same city, DJing at the same club, and we shared strong views on the culture as a whole.”
At the root of those shared views, namely to create the best sets and parties, was an ambition to “push forward every aspect of electronic music,” Bays says, and they were inspired by artists like Drexciya and Gerald Donald. Though it began as a curated party series hosted in London and Edinburgh, where they would both DJ back-to-back, Alien Communications now encompasses a record label and a recording project, which have been inextricably linked since the first release, 2020’s Ozone 22.
Then, a year later, they jumped into writing Synthetic Memory Systems, their debut album comprising 16 tracks with their ‘90s-tinged, futurist aesthetic, all of which are sure to blast your mind into deep space. The label has since welcomed the work of Omega Men and Bolam, and they’ve released Goodbye Esmond. Hello Kevin, the debut album from Modus. More recently, they curated the 36th edition of XLR8R+, sharing a bundle of previously unheard tracks that define their signature electro sound.
As 2022 draws to a close, Alien Communications have pieced together an XLR8R podcast. Recorded in Edinburgh earlier this month, it follows on from a full summer where they’re been as busy as pretty much any artist we can think of, touring, promoting, and producing. You can consider this the full-stop of that period, with which they’ve selected their favorite tracks they’ve played out and mixed them together for us to enjoy. What you’re going to hear is just over an hour of weird breaks, techno, and electro from two of the UK’s finest electronic music curators of the moment.
01. What have you been up to recently?
It’s been a really busy summer, with Alien Communications being our DJ-production alias, record label and party.
As promoters, we’ve recently hosted some larger-scale shindigs at Village Underground, The Cause, and Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire. As always, we’ve booked a musically and socially diverse range of DJs, including Move D, DJ Masda, Vlada, OMAR, and Adam Pits, and live acts such as Schatrax, Sansibar, Dopplereffekt, and DMX Krew. At the same time, we’ve really enjoyed our ongoing monthly residency at The Lion & Lamb, where we’ve invited the likes of Ogazón, Innershades, and Andrew James Gustav to share the booth with us.
As DJs, we’ve played some great festival shows at Otherlands and Terminal V, as well as trips to Barcelona and Berlin alongside our regular bookings in London and Edinburgh. In between gigs, we’ve been working in the studio on new material to follow up on our debut album, as well as readying releases on the label from some amazing artists, such as Modus, Polytunnel, Koloah, and Domenic Cappello.
02. What have you been listening to?
There’s so much great new music being released from within the UK at the moment, with EYA Records, X-Kalay, and Craigie Knowes all putting out a constant stream of “buy on sight” material. We’re also loving the EPs on Hardacre’s self-titled imprint, which haven’t left our bag all summer!
Further afield, we’ve noticed a lot of amazing records coming out of Australia recently, with labels like Salt Mines and producers like Reptant being among our favorites. On top of this, Germany’s Die Orakel and Canada’s Planet Euphorique both always hit the spot.
03. The origins of Alien Communications are a little dusty. How did the project come about?
We started hanging around together about four years ago after noticing each other’s faces at the same parties around Edinburgh. After meeting up to have a mix, it soon transpired we had similar tastes in electronic music and similar ideals regarding club culture. From there, we started spending time together in the studio and making our debut EP, which was also the first release on the label!
This really gave us the Alien Communications bug, and soon we were producing merchandise, releasing music from other artists, and promoting parties. The summer of 2019 felt like a springboard: selling 500 copies of our first release and bringing artists like Nicolas Lutz, Binh, and Francesco Del Garda to Scotland for the first time. Everything else seemed to grow from there!
04. What’s the overarching aim of the project?
Without having a real “end goal,” we see the project as more of an outlet through which we channel our love for electronic music and club culture. We put our hearts into everything we do, whether it’s our productions, parties, releases on the label, merchandise, or DJ mixes. That’s something we hope you’ll be able to feel in this one for XLR8R.
05. Where and when did you record this mix?
Edinburgh, Scotland. September 2022.
06. What can the listener expect?
The mix is packed full of real ecstasy tracks, with weird breaks, techno, and electro. We’ve tried to include lots of our favorite records, most of which we’ve been playing out all summer, to give the listener a taste of what it’s like to hear us play in a club. There’s some old records and some new records, but we believe they all have a timeless sound.
07. How did you go about choosing the tracks you’ve included?
We both went through the bags we’ve been taking to our gigs over the past few months, picking out staples from our sets, and then merging our selections. It was difficult to whittle this down to just 18 tracks, but we’re really happy with the outcome. If you’ve seen us play out at any point throughout summer, you’ll definitely have heard some of these records. It’s a pretty accurate representation of what it’s like to hear Alien Communications in the flesh.
08. What setup did you use?
Two Technics 1210s, an Allen & Heath Xone:92 mixer, plus one CDJ, specifically so we could end the mix with that digital-only track under Aphex Twin’s AFX alias!
09. What’s next on your horizon?
As much as we love throwing parties and putting records out on the label, we’ll be putting more focus on ourselves as artists. Since the release of our debut album, we’ve been stacking up tracks and have another wave of Alien Communications music ready to be released. We’ll also be continuing our monthly residency at The Lion & Lamb, plus regular slots at The Cause, Village Underground, and Cabaret Voltaire.
XLR8R has now joined Mixcloud Select, meaning that to hear the podcast offline you will need to subscribe to our Select channel to listen offline, or subscribe to XLR8R+ to download the file. The move to Mixcloud Select will ensure that all the producers with music featured in our mixes get paid. You can read more about it here.
Full XLR8R+ Members can download the podcast below. If you’re not an XLR8R+ member, you can read more about it and subscribe here.
01. Lazer Worshippers “Lazer Worshippers Theme” (EXperimental)
02. Bigeneric “Electrophoria” (The Spacefrogs)
03. Technical Onslaught “Eyes of the Mind” (Allabi Records)
04. Groove Quantize “Mind Trax” (Synewave)
05. Scape One “Ectosphere” (Satamile Records NYC)
06. EON “Absorbed” (Longhaul)
07. Friedrich Ernst “Class Beat” (Self Learning System)
08. Hardacre “Control” (Hardacre)
09. PQ17 “Beyond the Horizon” (Electro Music Coalition)
10. Hardfloor “The Life We Choose (E.R.P. Remix) (Hardfloor)
11. Sedgwick “Metal Detector” (Potatoheadz)
12. No Moon “E Then Q” (Saltmines)
13. James Shinra “Automatic” (WIDE)
14. Neuro-D “Artificiality” (Poeta Negra)
16. T.E.W. “Superficiality” (Habitat)
17. Hoax Believers “Guerrero” (Distrito 91)
18. BufoBufo “Remote Viewing” (Emotec)
19. AFX “T16.5 MADMA” with nastya+5.2 (Warp Records)