An embrace of improvised electronics fuels Innerspace Halflife.
by Joshua P. Ferguson
Originally published in Time Out Chicago Magazine | 12.13.12
“Classic principles, contemporary techniques.” This is how Chicago producer Hakim Murphy describes the music he makes with studio partner Ike “Release” Velez. While it may seem more befitting the way a chef would describe his approach to cuisine, or an architect his constructions, it’s also the way a number of reviews of their work have come to characterize their sound, and it sums up their work as Innerspace Halflife perfectly.
Sparse, full of vintage handclaps and often given over to the fluid modulation of an acid line, the Innerspace Halflife style of house music could easily be mistaken for that of the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. “I think drums make how it’s perceived,” Murphy, 35, says over coffee with the duo at Filter recently. “606 or 707, that’s Chicago or Detroit.” Referring to vintage Roland brand drum machines from the ‘80s that were an integral component in early house and techno productions—and now in Innerspace Halflife productions—it’s a big factor in their retro sound.
Their improvised recording style and small number of moving parts is another. “There’s not much going on. Most of the tracks we’ve done together are no more than two or three components,” Velez, 32, says. “That’s where the classicist techniques come from,” Murphy adds, “one synthesizer, one drum machine and maybe an effects unit.” On “Wind,” a well-received recent release for Dutch imprint MOS Deep, teeth chattering hi-hit and a low-slung padded thump are joined by little more than the careening stutter of an acid bass line and a wispy sci-fi synth melody. Each of these components evolves over the course of “Wind,” but nothing more is added to the mix.
It’s cerebral stuff and yet, it still jacks hard enough for an underground dance floor. And though it recalls the stripped-back nature of an earlier era of dance music, much of it is done with computers; hence the contemporary techniques (although both Murphy and Velez are slowly amassing a large collection of analog gear). This creation process, both say, has been a learning experience.
Innerspace Halflife began as a pen pal relationship of sorts, with Murphy and Velez e-mailing tracks back and forth for feedback between 2008 and 2011, while Velez was living in Berlin. Returning home to Chicago last year, the two teamed up and the studio time they’ve carved out since has been an improvised navigation through each of their areas of expertise. “Coming from drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep, sound design was always the emphasis,” Velez says. “I was definitely more uptight in the studio. Now, for this particular project, the way we work is more just letting things happen.”
Innerspace Halflife recently dropped its Post Industrial EP for the newly-minted Latency Records, and is currently making its live PA debut across the UK and Europe.