PODCAST: Jayeson Andel Illuminates the World of his Debut Album, Urban Monks

Jayeson Andel has visions. A path lit by artificial fireflies. Oil slurping through veins of a human-machine hybrid. A colossal mech blazing a trail through a forest. A man walking the snowy streets of a moonlit metropolis, solitary as a monk.

Jayeson Andel lives in Edmonton.

Mastering engineer-turned-producer Jayeson Andel

These are vignettes from the world of Urban Monks, Jayeson’s debut album, released on Silk Music’s Arrival division in 2015. Urban Monks proved to be one of the best (and most overlooked) EDM albums of last year. It is a work of diverse genres, drawing from trance, chillout, dubstep, and glitch hop. In fact, Urban Monks reached the top 10 charts on Beatport in no less than five genres, according to bptoptracker.com. And yet in spite of their diversity, the songs feel cohesive and purposeful, grounded by powerful grooves, electrifying melodies, and exquisite sound design. Together, the songs provide glimpses into an unnamed world where humans, machines, and nature blend together.

Until now, we haven’t known much about that world beyond the tantalizing clues provided by the track titles, such as “We’ll Build It Here,” “Oil in the Veins,” and “Laughing Buddha.” That’s because this concept album doesn’t feature a single lyric.

So on Episode 4 of The EDMist Podcast, I ask Jayeson to let us in to the world behind the music. Over our 46-minute conversation, he reveals the concepts behind several tracks, the subtle sound design choices he made to bring his ideas to life, and the artists and films he drew on for inspiration.

About the eclectic sounds of Urban Monks Jayeson says, “The way I kind of describe it as a theme for everything is organic-infused cyberpunk.” (Don’t worry, I had to take a second to parse that too.) He explains: “I like the futuristic, high-tech, augmented reality world of cyberpunk, but it’s a little bit too noir for me. Like, you look, at say, Blade Runner, and it’s very dark and has that edge to it – which I like. But [Urban Monks] is this very organic, life-based world with trees and stones and everything there mixed with this futuristic tech side of things.”

Jayeson cites the films Elysium and Oblivion as specific points of inspiration, both of which explore worlds of marvelous technology and organic life through stunning imagery. While his medium is different, Jayeson clearly thinks of his music in cinematic terms, describing how he uses recurring themes in “We’ll Build It Here,” and “Awe” Parts I and II to recontextualize familiar motifs and “infuse the listener with this album.”

One of the aspects that sets Jayeson’s album apart is his incredible attention to detail in service of the greater narrative – for example, in the way he plants clues to his ideas deep in the sound design of each track. “I can’t even tell you how much I’ve actually sampled of different leaves and twigs and used that as part of my percussion layers,” Jayeson says. “I spent an entire session with a friend cutting up apples and just breaking them and twisting them and used that as a percussion element.”

In one fascinating moment, Jayeson reveals that he conceives of his tracks as three dimensional journeys. This is most apparent in the tracks whose titles suggest movement,  “Follow the Firefly Lanterns” and “Walking with a Colossus.” After hearing the ideas behind these tracks, I asked Jayeson whether he sees his songs not only as progressions through time, but progressions through space. “Yes,” he answers, “Absolutely. And that goes right down to the sound design of everything. … ‘Walking With a Colossus,’ the intro of that track … I wanted to have these footsteps, but it had to feel like it was percussion as well. So there’s these big orchestral bass drum sounds that I put an incredible amount of reverb on and put them lower in the mix so that it felt like these giant steps were being taken.”

By now you may have guessed that Jayeson is not your stereotypical DJ-producer of the sort that cobbles together a career with one-off hits and passable production skills. This Edmonton-based artist has had turns as a classical violinist, mastering engineer, and record label A&R person. And while he no longer DJ’s live, he does produce a regular mix for Silk Music Showcase that he feels just as passionately about as his own album. Not a bad resume for a 25-year-old.

Jayeson’s broad background enabled him to take a vertical approach to producing Urban Monks. While most albums are a collaborative effort between many parties, including producers, engineers, designers, and more, Urban Monks was nearly a solo effort, in which Jayeson crafted everything from the samples to the album art. Even the label seems to have been happy to let Jayeson do most of the driving. I asked Jayeson how much the titular track “Urban Monks” changed since he submitted the first demo to Silk. “Not at all,” he says.

Jayeson’s influences in the music world are, unsurprisingly, varied. While he grew up on the sounds of trance and progressive house, these days he is drawn to visionary, genre-defying producers like Porter Robinson, whose album Worlds shares many thematic elements with Urban Monks. “For the album itself, I think the two people who really took hold were Andrew Bayer and Seven Lions.” Jayeson reveals that “Walking With a Colossus,” the only dubstep track on Urban Monks, was modeled on Seven Lions’ sound, while the downtempo beats of Andrew Bayer’s 2013 album If It Were You, We’d Never Leave served as inspiration for the grooves of many tracks.

Like any good fantasy world, Urban Monks leaves you wanting to explore it further. But while Jayeson claims he’s “still figuring [the world] out” himself, future visits to this sonic landscape are uncertain. “I have some incredibly terrible news in that I lost all of the project files for this album,” Jayeson admits to me. “So this is one hundred percent standalone work. … And of course, I designed the album to be so unique with the sound design that no one could ever recreate it, and unfortunately that also includes me. So, this is a perfect, beautiful, piece of uniqueness that will never, ever be recreated or remixed.”

Listen to our full conversation for more insider info about Jayeson’s must-hear debut album – like which track was written in answer to the uplifting trance sound of Above & Beyond‘s “Blue Sky Action” – and subscribe to The EDMist Podcast on Soundcloud and iTunes for exclusive bonus content.

Episode 3 of the EDMist Podcast Now Available

In Episode 3 of the EDMist Podcast, I talk with music critic Matt Bessey about the big stories of 2015. We discuss how Jack Ü, aka Skrillex and Diplo, reshaped the musical scene this year, and tackle the controversy surrounding their mega successful collab with Justin BieberWhere are U Now?” I ask Matt about the breakout artists of 2015, which he says include Lane 8 and Madeon (but you already knew that) , and he names a drum and bass album of the year: City of Gold by the PrototypesTowards the end we tackle the question of what genres will blow up in 2016 and where we see the EDM scene headed (hint: more diversity, which is a good thing).

This episode includes seven featured songs. They are:

1. “Blue Sky Action (Logistics Remix)” – Above & Beyond
2. “Beats Knockin” (feat. Fly Boi Keno) – Jack Ü
3. “Get Free/Cinema VIP” – Skrillex & Diplo
4. “Ok” – Madeon
5. “Urban Monks” – Jayeson Andel
6. “Slip Away” – The Prototypes
7. “Do You?” – TroyBoi

We recorded over an hour and a half of audio for this episode, which I whittled down to 34 minutes in the final cut. That means that people who follow The EDMist on Soundcloud may find some exclusive bonus content from the episode over the coming days. 😉

Let me know what you think of the podcast! Give us a shoutout on Twitter at @theEDMist or Snapchat at “theEDMist.”

Happy 2016!

The EDMist Podcast 02: EDC Las Vegas 2015 in Review feat. Joe Deza

Special guest Joe Deza

Special guest Joe Deza

In the second episode of The EDMist Podcast, I talk with Joe Deza, a raver, music critic, and friend, about our experiences of EDC 2015. Joe shares an incredible story of his last few moments at the festival, getting up close with Galantis as the sun rose over the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We review our favorite sets and stages, and discuss our costume choices (and an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction!).

This episode is also a music special, featuring tracks from Seven Lions, Avicii, Galantis, Pretty Lights, GAIA, Adventure Club, and progressive house newcomer Alex Klingle.

Joe Deza

Joe Deza

Let me know your thoughts on the episode or your experience of EDC by hitting me up on Twitter or Snapchat @theEDMist.

J.T. and Joe recording episode 2

J.T. and Joe recording episode 2

The EDMist Podcast 01: EDC Prep and Meetups ft. Jon Guerrera

For the first episode of the EDMist Podcast, I invited my good friend Jon Guerrera onto the show. I met Jon through SF EDM, a meetup group of San Francisco-based dance music lovers that he founded. Jon has grown SF EDM from naught to 2,500 members. The group has been directly responsible for creating hundreds of friendships and countless priceless moments – which strikes me as a pretty good legacy no matter what organization you’re running. I ask Jon about how and why he started the group and where he thinks it’s going.

The EDMist Podcast LogoEDC is only a few weeks away, so we also talk about what to expect this year, how to prep for it, and who are the must-see acts. (Short answer: everyone.) Jon and I discuss the merits of daytime and nighttime festivals, whether trance is best enjoyed at a festival or at home, and the tradeoff of proper ear protection.

And the sounds of the M Machine show us the way out with the song “Pluck pluck.”

If you like the episode, follow the EDMist on SoundCloud. The podcast will also be available through iTunes soon.

Introducing the EDMist Podcast: An EDM Discussion Group

The EDMist Podcast LogoI like talking about EDM. Since you’re reading this blog, you probably do too.

The only thing is: there’s not a lot of places on the internet where you can actually talk about it.

There are a plethora of EDM-focused websites, blogs, and social media profiles you can visit/read/follow, but not so many forums for real, live conversation. Even where there are active forums, like on Reddit, you still don’t get the opportunity to hear people talk in real time.

That’s why I’m starting the EDMist Podcast: a monthly discussion group and conversation among fans about everything and anything related to the world of dance music.

I will be inviting guests on for every episode to discuss the most recent developments in dance culture. Many of the guests will be my own friends and acquaintances within the San Francisco music community, but diversity is important to me and I will be looking to highlight interesting and unique perspectives through the podcast.

Feel free to suggest topics (or guests) – email podcast@theEDMist.com or reach out on Twitter.

The first episode is live on Soundcloud and will soon be live on iTunes. Listen below.