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Essential Listening: Midland

Essential Listening: Midland

Oscar Lister | Features & Interviews

Whether it’s techno, disco, house, or even 90s pop that’s to your taste, Midland is sure to bring the house down every time. Midland, aka Harry Aguis, began his career in Leeds, under the alias Apt Pupil, as a drum’n’bass and dubstep DJ for online radio station Frequency FM. As a student Harry described himself as simply “drum and bass obsessed”; he was super keen and threw himself at the scene with such an enthusiasm that promoters and DJs surrendered up sets to him, he claims, “just to make him shut up.” After completing a history degree, Harry stayed in Leeds to write music, whilst working by night at the infamous nightclub, Wire. It wasn’t until 2010, following a year’s industry hiatus in Spain, that Harry’s music slowed to sub 140 realms, and metamorphosed into Midland. Midland’s music continues to move through a rich array of musical worlds and takes on distinct trademark characteristics as it goes. What makes Midland’s sound so unique, particularly in his live DJ sets, is how coloured his knowledge, experience and taste is with such a broad selection of musical styles, most definitely enabled by his early willingness to freely explore and experiment with anything that takes his fancy. Midland is now a household name straddling an extraordinary assortment of genres, which makes picking just five career defining tracks quite some challenge.

Play The Game – 2010
“Play The Game” was Midland’s first solo release on Phonica Recordings, just one month after his debut release with old time pal Ramadanman, aka Pearson Sound, on Aus Music. This release very much marked the arrival of Midland on the industry dancefloor. Very reminiscent of the likes of Pinch and Burial, his dubstep and drum’nbass roots here are still clearly evident. Play the game is a dark and brooding track with a deep insistent bassline and a tripping drum’n’bass style breakbeat, carefully decorated with eerie and distant vocal and string lines. After a full bodied intro, the track pulls back and gives us that slow and tension building form, which has become something of a trademark for Midland. And with that final drop comes that sense of euphoria that Midland has consistently shown he can execute so well.

Trace – 2013
Whilst Midland was very much ‘on the scene’ prior to this release, it was “Trace”, released one month after a career changing set in Berghain’s Panorama Bar, which really brought him into the limelight. ‘Trace” sees Midland move away from his faster and bassier origins and find his feet on more minimal, techier ground. It’s still just as gritty and just as fierce but just a touch more refined than anything he’d done previous. Midland brings a sense of maturity to this release on Aus music, allowing himself the time and space to deliver a devastating masterpiece of slow build techno minimalism.

Archive 1 – 2013
“Archive 1” was the first release on Midland’s own label, Graded, along with the slightly more stripped back “Realtime”, both of which became overnight dancefloor favourites worldwide. ‘Archive 1’ is hard and funky with a fat and satisfyingly dirty bassline. The rhythms come with a genius touch of world-influenced sounds that bring something lighter and cheekier than we’ve seen from Midland previously. Midland holds on to those familiar ethereal vocal samples from his early music and applies his undisputed mastery of the slow build format. The energy of this track is utterly infectious and it is simply impossible not to bop along with this clubbing treasure.

Blush - 2016
2016 saw Midland bring two momentous releases to the dancefloor. The first was “Blush”. “Blush” is clean and ambient, not at all like the gritty sounds of his discography to date, but somehow still unmistakably Midland. The swooning synths absolutely compliment Midland’s skill at building tension, and this tune is sure to send a crowd into euphoria wherever and whenever it’s played. “Blush” is a fun and catchy masterclass in dancefloor anticipation, and a demonstration of how diverse Midland’s skillset really is.

Final Credits – 2016
Last but most certainly not least is Midland’s most commercially successful release to date, “Final Credits”. Midland released “Final Credits” on his newly formed disco-sampling house label, Regraded. The iconic vocal and synth is expertly sampled from Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Neither One Of Us” and from Lee Alfred’s 1980 “Rockin – Poppin Full Tilting”, pitched up and pumped with adrenaline. This naughty disco number’s soulful vocals and looped synth riff are impossible to get out of your head. Whether it’s at work, cooking dinner or in bed, you’ll find yourself humming and dancing along at the most unlikely times. This is musical teasing at its very finest; a simply beautiful exercise in anticipation. As a listener we can’t help but lose ourselves in that unfinished loop, waiting with uncontainable excitement for the sequence to come full circle. It is a tune that oozes floating summer vibes and gets better and better with every listen.

Midland has had a ridiculously busy 2017, playing in 38 countries to date. Finishing off the year in the UK, Midland is coming to Sheffield, Edinburgh, London, Nottingham, Manchester, and is finishing the year off in Leeds for the final leg of his UK and Ireland tour back where he began in the infamous Wire basement. He can also be caught at The Warehouse Project and Canal Mills on New Year’s Day, and then at Lost & Found Festival in Malta next May.

Photo courtesy of Riya Hollings

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Essential Listening: Midland

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