Album Walkthrough: Set Mo chat their debut album, Surrender
Featuring Woodes, Thandi Phoenix, Asta and more, the duo's debut album may be the year's most sun-soaked release.
When it comes to sun-soaked house bangers, there's no-one in Australia that does quite like Set Mo. Ever since their 2014 debut EP The Crush, the production duo have continually proved their place in our house market, offering something a touch lighter than the thick deep-house of the Medium Rare Recordings crew or the minimalist lo-fi of Mall Grab, bringing a unique, vocal-driven summer-house sound forward and continually building on it for much of the last five years. The Deutsch Duke-featuring White Dress and Woodes-featuring I Belong Here are perhaps the two best examples - both different and unique, but alike in their sun-soaked, flavoursome production that sits more in-line with enjoying cocktails by the pool rather than sweating them out in a club.
Their debut album Suddender, out today, is an extension of this sound, drawing influence from their time London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Australia for a versatile and dynamic long-form release that swerves and twists between styles and sub-genres, from the old-school Chemical Brothers-esque warp of See The Light to the more tender and vocal-driven collaborations with Asta, Woodes and more. "It was a wild ride travelling around the world and working with so many amazing people on writing this music," says the pair on the album, which caps off a mammoth 2018 for Set Mo who, across the year, released a single a month. "From London, Berlin and Amsterdam to country NSW and the Adelaide Hills. These destinations really influenced the sounds on our album. We grew musically, as producers and as people during this journey."
They're one of the hardest-working electronic acts on the market at the moment - from their rigorous touring schedule to their constant releases - and Surrender is evidence of this. It's a damn good listen, so take a peek of it below, along with a track-by-track from the duo about the album's creation and many themes. Grab the record HERE.
This one was an obvious choice for us as the album opener as it sets the tone perfectly for the musical journey that you’re about to embark on. The spoken word is actually from a musical hero of ours, Brian Eno. We got the sample cleared and had some feedback from the man himself - getting his tick of approval was pretty special for us.
Near feat. Asta
The backing for this song is actually the oldest piece of music on the album as we wrote the initial idea about four years ago. We had always liked it and just knew we need to find the right voice for it. We had worked with Asta previously as she sung some backing vocals for I Belong Here, so we suggested getting in the studio with her and we all wrote the topline for Near together.
Down The Line feat. AJ Wright
A couple of years ago we had a studio right near central station in Sydney. There were a bunch of other musicians in there and just down the hall from us was Cloud Control who were finishing their second album. We became really good friends with them over that period and had always said we’d right a track together. Then halfway through last year when we both had some time off touring, we got in the studio and wrote this track with Al. He has a very different and unique way of writing songs that we really enjoyed as it was something completely new for us. As a result, the track turned out a bit different from our other stuff, but it’s something we love.
Counter Human Emotion feat. Woodes
This track was started in Berlin at the end of 2017. It was written in this amazing studio that had all this gear set up and we recorded so many different textures through a combination of live instruments and synthesisers. When we got back to Australia, we spent some time thinking about who would be the right voice on it and after going around in circles, we realised that Woodes (who we’ve worked with before) would be perfect. So we jumped in the studio in Sydney and then finished it off.
Afterglow feat. Thandi Phoenix
Thandi is another person on the album we’d know for a while and always wanted to write a song with. Last year we finally got in the studio and made it happen. The original backing for this was called Crystal Palace named after an old pub near our studio, but when we got in the studio, we explored the lyrical idea of meeting someone new and exciting and the feeling it can give you. We also co-wrote this one with someone near and dear to us, KLP.
The first proper writing trip we did a couple of years ago was in country NSW in a place called Merriwa. We went out there for ten days and were completely off the grid, no internet and no mobile reception. We had such a great time out there making music, cooking feasts and exploring the countryside – we even got rained in and couldn’t leave for a few days after the nearby river flooded. It sounds kinda hippy but each day we burnt a new essential oil and the working demos were named after each one. This was Bergamot 2 and when we finished the album, we felt the name was still quite fitting so decided to leave the working title as the official track name.
At the end of our writing trip in Europe, we had a few days in Amsterdam and so finished off the last few writing sessions of the trip. By this stage, we were well and truly warmed up and in the flow of writing music and ideas came easily. This track was actually the quickest one to come together and was pretty much entirely written in a few hours. We love how the verses are nice and sparse with just vocals and the piano and then the contrast with the chorus being quite driving and housey.
This is definitely one of the clubbier moments on the album. As much as we love ‘songs’ with stories and lyrics, we really wanted to have some tracks on the album that didn’t rely on vocals to give you the emotion. We’ve been playing this one in our DJ sets for quite a few months now and it’s awesome to see people getting right into on the dance floor.
We wrote Stuck in London at the end of 2017 in the same studio complex where we’d written White Dress a few years prior, Tileyards. Being London, we were hearing house music everywhere, from the shops to the clubs and the ubers in between so we didn’t really have a choice but to write a piano house banger.
I’ll Be There
We spent a week writing up in the Adelaide Hills early 2017 and this was one of the tracks to come from that trip. Written with another good friend of ours, Surahn, we took a different approach on this one. We got quite experimental with the sounds and drums and were just vibing off one another and the result was this melancholic number.
See The Light
We wrote this track the day we landed in Berlin for our five weeks of writing in Europe in 2017. We were sleep deprived, had no idea what the actual time and was our very first session of the trip but couldn’t be happier with the song that came out of it. Looking back it was indicative of the varied styles and tempos of music we would be making over the course of that writing trip.
Nightmares feat. Scott Quinn
We also wrote Nightmares at Tileyards while in London. We hadn’t met Scott before the session but clicked instantly and had a great time recording his excellent voice over this track. We went a little darker and more breakbeat than our usual style and kicked off our Track a Month series last year with this one.
You Don’t Know Why
We listen to such a wide range of music but while finishing the tracks for the album we were really feeling artists like Bonobo and George Fitzgerald and I guess this is our interpretation of that kind of organic sounding electronica those producers create.
Unity was the least planned track of all of those from the album. It was Unity Day in Berlin, a public holiday celebrating the wall coming down, and as a result, nothing was open. It was pouring rain so there wasn’t much for us to do besides set up the laptop and little Bluetooth speakers in the hotel room and bang out this song. The working title was Unity day but with old rave throwback vibe of the track it made us think of the early days of dance music and how much it brought people of all walks of life together and with this in mind decided to call it Unity.
Wish You Were Here
We were fortunate enough to work with Julian Hamilton from The Presets last year and wrote this song with him. It’s about our lives as travelling performers who are fortunate enough to visit some amazing parts of the world as part of our job. As amazing as this is sometimes you wish those nearest and dearest to you could join you on the adventure. We then recorded our friend Jay Blynn in LA and finished the track back in Sydney.
We actually wrote this shortly before finishing the album. It was an old demo that was only a 30-second loop, but when we stumbled across it, we felt we had to finish it and put it on the album. It’s definitely the most epic and cinematic thing we’ve ever written and felt it was a great way to wrap our debut body of work.
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