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  • Zilka Grogan

A chat with Ario

Followers of ambient music will no doubt know Ario as the man behind Astral Industries, the revered label that fuses reissued work with new releases from some of the most exciting artists in the genre. Despite the challenges thrown up by 2020, this year alone has seen AI releases from Multicast Dynamics, The Chi Factory and Waveform Transmission, among others, and 2021 already promises to be even more prolific for both the label and its boss.

Yet London-based Ario is just as much a DJ in his own right, with a sound that evades neat categorisation: drawn to the “deeply ritualistic and primal” side of drone, and still partial to the occasional dance floor set, he is reluctant to get too concrete when discussing his own music. His Patterns of Perception 77 is designed to challenge the listener – built on the belief that, contrary to what many may think, an ambient set is not necessarily designed to soothe and subdue.

Following on from his mix, we spoke to Ario about his own approach to DJing, the concept behind the label and plans for the new year.


Hey Ario! How have things been going for you this year?

Hi Zilka! It’s been a tough year but I’m certainly not alone in feeling that way. Perspective is important – I have my health, my friends and loved ones, and a relatively stable income stream, which I think all together constitute a successful 2020 given the circumstances!

Astral Industries has been quite prolific in a very tough year – both in terms of the label and engagement through other platforms like streaming & mixes. What have been some highlights of this past year for you?

Aside from the releases, I think without a doubt it had to be the takeover we did back in April. The level of love and support I felt that weekend from everyone who tuned in and took part was very humbling and hugely inspiring. Thanks again to Ryan at A Strangely Isolated Place for his help and to everyone who donated, which helped the label come through a rather tough time financially.

We’d love to hear about the concept behind the label from your perspective. What’s the philosophy behind the platform?

It is quite hard to express the philosophy in words. It is more of a feeling. When I hear an AI release I just know, and once an artist is on board they have my full faith. The visual aesthetic has evidently been critical also – I couldn’t imagine doing this without Theo Ellsworth’s magical artwork.

As well as giving a platform to new music, how do you decide if a release deserves a reissue?

The reissues are just releases I’ve known and loved that I never had a chance to play on vinyl, which I felt was a shame. Whilst Astral Industries will always engage in reissues (there will be a couple next year), as the label has grown new music has increasingly become the primary focus. I’m getting sent too much good new material to keep me busy enough!

How did you first discover ambient music, and what drew you to the genre?

Through a long and winding road with various milestones that include the discovery of downtempo music at school in the mid-2000s, exposure to dance music and the club scene at university around 2010 and being introduced to Rod Modell’s music not long thereafter. Ambient (and I define that not in the way that Brian Eno originally termed it) may not even be the final stop on this journey, but it certainly encapsulates diverse influences and allows me a freedom that I feel no other genre can.

How would you describe your own sound as a DJ?

I’m definitely drawn to the various forms of drone music – there is something deeply ritualistic and primal about it. I’ve given a lot of consideration to the function of a DJ and to developing ‘my sound’ over the years, but the more I consider, the more I think it is best not to overthink these things.

Ultimately, I feel the best approach to DJing is just to play what you love. The rest will fall into place if and when it is meant to.

For the last few months, many people have been listening to more ambient and downtempo music than ever before. Do you see this having any lasting impact?

Ambient and downtempo are still just tiny drops in a huge ocean. The only meaningful impact on the electronic music industry will come from the corrected balancing of income streams from the various new forms of media consumption (plus the ending of piracy). This will ease the pressure on and allow more freedom on the live side, and ensure the ‘industry’ as a whole remains healthy and viable for all participants in the long term.

How have your own listening habits changed during this time, if at all?

To be honest they haven’t changed much. If anything I’ve been listening to more techno, clearly longing for the return of the magic that comes with being in the club/festival environment!

Tell us a bit about your mix for Patterns of Perception. How and where was it recorded? Is there a particular concept behind this mix?

This one came together in a very strange way. I originally did a mix on 3xCDJs which went off in a very different direction in the second half. After listening a few times I decided to change the second half, fusing the original half with the new half in Ableton. Whilst in Ableton I added some atmospheres and spoken word effects. I wanted to do something a bit more challenging, as the function of an ‘ambient DJ’ isn’t necessarily just to soothe.

What is the ideal environment for listening to this mix?

Late at night, a darkly lit space with carpets, beanbags, cushions, high-quality projection mapping, immersed in a good (loud) sound system, a faint smell of incense in the air, surrounded by like-minded people, preferably in an altered state of consciousness, however that may be personally achieved. Actually, that just sounds like an Experiment Intrinsic event haha – they have been really supportive of me and it is one of the few places I feel comfortable to play whatever I want. Whatever kind of DJ you are, it is a rare blessing to have total freedom and an open-minded, engaged audience, two things which Experiment Intrinsic has consistently given me.

Do you have any upcoming projects for 2021 that you’d like to share with us?

You mentioned the label being prolific in 2020… actually, there has been quite a sizable backlog of releases building up (namely due to pressing delays) that we need to get through next year. I think 2021 will be the busiest year yet, starting off with a Wolfgang Voigt LP in February. I’m very grateful to have had his support with the label from the start, he is a class act and a true visionary. It’s a fantastic way to start off a new year if I may say so myself.

Lastly, which artists or labels have you had your eye on lately?

I don’t want to comment individually on any artists or labels as there are many, but I would like to take this opportunity to extend a special thanks to Rod Modell whom I mentioned briefly earlier – a prolific talent and a real gentleman without whom I absolutely, categorically wouldn’t be doing this. I’d also like to give a shout out to my friends: o.utlier, hems, Eight Fold Way, Nathalia and Lynne in particular. They are some of the most immensely talented ambient and experimental DJs I’ve known. Whenever I think I’ve made progress as a DJ, I hear them playing and am totally blown away and inspired to do more. They have consistently pushed me to improve over the years and I couldn’t think of a better lineup for a night of deep, sonic experimentations.


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