Bass explorations from Madrid to London, via dank swamps in the far-flung corners of the cosmos...
To the naked eye, Vromm is a relatively new name in the world of drum & bass. And with only a handful of EPs on Critical Music and Doc Scott’s 31 label since he emerged in 2014, that naked eye would be right. But then his sound hits you, and you know there’s more to this Spanish artist than meets your naked ears.
Proffering dense weaves of alien textures that are so tubular, metallic and sci-fi they could make Philip K Dick blush, Vromm (real name Alvaro Martinez) clearly ain’t no freshman. The gurgling, husky breaths of last year’s Lake Monsters, for example, were so cinematic and freaky it felt like you were lying in bed next to the Predator himself. This year’s Level Up, meanwhile, creates the sonic sensation of being shot through a space cannon to stars unknown.
Part jungle, part techno, part abstract art, all unique: Vromm’s is a sound that could be played at any tempo and still be recognised as his own. In his capacity as a commercial sound designer - a job which pays the bills and allows him time to make weirded-out futurist sounds - his signature can be, and has been, used to help sell cars, perfume and many other luxury products. In fact, Alvaro has a rich history across numerous musical fields, ranging from breaks in the early 2000s to more technoid collaborations with the one and only Craig Richards that are due later this year.
Right now though, our focus is on his latest EP for Critical Music, Systems 088. Landing precisely a year after his last EP, it’s another singular affair that reveals yet more richness beneath his murky surface. His first work to feature vocalists, he’s been strategically sitting on one particular track since the Vromm project began three years ago. Here’s why...
I found your commercial showreel. You’ve given some sci-fi soul to some high end products...
"That’s kind of my day job, as composer and sound designer. Or one of my day jobs. Sometimes I write songs for singers, other days I master tracks. A bit of everything, you know? I guess you’d say I’m versatile in the world of music."
You can hear the Vromm sound even in those adverts - there’s a signature.
"You’re not the first person to say that. The jobs are so different from the tracks I want to write as Vromm that I can’t hear the same similarities you do, but it’s all coming from me so I guess there’s a natural signature. Some jobs are fun, others can be challenging, but the main thing is I’m always learning from them. That’s why I continue to do it. It was more or less my only job for a long time when I was in Spain - I had very little time to write artist material. That’s why we moved to London, to make a real move to develop myself as an artist."
Is the move working for you?
"Yes, definitely. I don’t think I would be releasing music on Critical, for example, if I hadn’t moved here. But my problem is I need to get out more. I spend too much time in the studio. I’m working on a lot of different sounds and tempos, and have so many ideas that it all takes time. Sometimes I think I need to go out and make more friends in the scene and network more, but I’m very happy with the people I work with. I’m glad I’ve moved here."
Speaking of people you work with, am I right in thinking Ashes Of Shame and Level Up are the first Vromm vocal tunes?
"Yes they are, and I’m very excited about this. Before Vromm I worked a lot with singers and musicians, but have never released any vocal music. I always knew I would have vocal music under the name Vromm, but I needed to build up to it. I actually wrote Ashes Of Shame with Agama three years ago."
Wow, and you’ve been sitting on it all this time?
"All this time, man! It’s been ready and waiting but I’ve saved it for the right time. There are other vocal things ready to follow it but they’re quite different from the Vromm material I’ve released before, so I feel it needs to be timed right."
The timing’s perfect with Rider Shafique. His voice fits your sound so well!
"I love his style too. It was [Critical boss] Kasra’s idea. He came to the studio and checked some of my music, heard this instrumental and immediately suggested Rider. I went for it and luckily Rider did too. He smashed it. The day he sent over his parts was a very, very good day. I knew we had something really cool."
You’re working with Craig Richards too, right?
"Yes. It’s hard to find time to get in the studio together because our schedules don’t match up, but we’ll be starting to release stuff in the near future. We’ve got a few collaborations we need to finished and then there might be some of my own stuff on his label The Nothing Special."
There’s a bit of drum & bass pedigree there - dBridge and Calibre have both appeared on The Nothing Special, too.
"Craig is a really inspiring guy, and great to work with. He understands the connections between things and encourages that type of experimentation. There’s some cool stuff happening there."
Going right back to your earliest adventures as an artist, your first experiments were in breaks, as Deckage, right?
"Yes, they were my very first artist productions. The slower strand of breakbeats. I released a few records on that nickname back in the day. They were very crude productions but it was the early 2000s, I was just happy to be making and releasing music."
Spain’s breaks scene is a world of its own. Were you part of that?
"Not really. That was more along the south of Spain and it became a very different sound to what I wanted to make. I was pulling in a completely different direction and didn’t get invited to play at those big festivals or anything. I was busy in Madrid, just doing my own thing, never really following what else is going on and trying to work things out for myself and learn. I think this is still the same thing that drives me today, too."
Words: Dave Jenkins
Vromm's Systems 088 EP is out now on Critical Music. Buy it here