“Conveying emotion is always the priority,” says Aleksandir, the Turkish-British DJ and producer who has spent the past few years building a catalogue of club-tuned tearjerkers. Combining gently skipping house grooves and nimble breaks with sweet melodies and vocals, his music has appeared on labels including Seb Wildblood’s Church, Omena and his own Artesian Sounds (co-run with Emre Can Swim). With an intuitive technique, through which he explores his own feelings and experiences, his goal is to produce art that can tug on your heartstrings as quickly it can get you onto the dancefloor.
“I don’t really understand the process at all,” he admits. “That lack of understanding is part of what I love about it. In a world where we’ve been trained to be cynical and analytical, music and art are still almost completely enigmatic in their workings. I think that’s beautiful. I just make music and hopefully it makes people feel things. I like not knowing the how or the why.”
Growing up in Istanbul, Aleksandir’s earliest encounters with music came through his older brother’s collection of ‘90s and 00’s rock, grunge and metal CDs. Even then, he recalls being most drawn to songs that had an overtly emotional edge – the “teen angst of Linkin Park or the operatic melodies of System of a Down”. Soon, he took up piano, and was taken by the works of romantic and impressionist composers like Chopin and Erik Satie, as well as jazz pianists Esbjorn Svensson and Avishai Cohen. He then discovered “the two pillars of my high school years” – The Strokes and Nicolas Jaar.
“The Strokes’ chords, harmonies and melodies showed me some of the emotions I crave most in music, and Nicolas Jaar’s ‘Space Is Only Noise’ was my first true experience of electronic music and how the genre could elevate music to something so fresh and unheard of,” he says.
That ear for melody has been present in his music since day one. The title track from his 2018 debut release, ‘Yamaha’, for the Tesselate label immediately struck a chord with heavy hitters including Dixon, Tycho and Kiasmos. The track bounces on a simple house beat and bubbling bassline, with ample room left for its soft-focus synths to stretch out into gorgeous, neon-hued arpeggios. At the time of writing, it has amassed almost seven million plays on YouTube.
For a city of its size, Istanbul’s underground electronic music scene is an intimate one, Aleksandir says, but is no less diverse or exciting for that. New collectives are popping up all the time and pushing new sounds more than ever. “Despite a lot of political pressure and consequent hurdles, it still feels like it’s growing and flourishing,” he says, pointing to venues such as arkaoda and Gizli Bahçe, the latter of which he credits as the place he really learnt how to DJ.
It was there that Aleksandir launched the Miks party with his friend Supu. “In retrospect Istanbul feels like such a great place to learn how to promote,” he says. “There wasn’t much competition stopping us... It was super DIY and we felt like we made up the rules as we went along. There’s something so special about putting on a night, watching it all come alive, and watching the joy in people’s faces.”
Early in 2022, Aleksandir and Supu both relocated to East London, where Miks has not only continued but thrived, with guests including Tom VR, anu, Linkwood, Ikonika and Joe. “We’re really excited to grow further this coming year and start working with some larger venues and extended line-ups,” he says. This Friday, 2nd December, they return to The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington. Get your tickets for that here.
Moving to London has also been great for Aleksandir’s own music. Having experienced a period of writer's block after the release of his 2020 debut album, ‘Skin’, the change of scenery and pace has helped him get his creativity back on track. He’s recently released some of his most dynamic music to date: August’s ‘Sacro / Momus’ and November’s ‘String Game’, a euphoric house roller that will delight fans of Bicep and George Fitzgerald, and which features a tender vocal refrain from Leyla.
Speaking about ‘String Game’, he says. “I wrote the song in a strange time of my life, when there was a recurring theme of acquaintance and loss. [I was] simultaneously losing people who I’d known for a long time, while finding refuge in brief, newly found experiences. And though that may sound like a sad thing, the track celebrates the beauty in that and refutes the idea that loss is always a negative thing. I think some of the best memories are of moments that could only last so long – little capsules in time that can only exist the one time. ‘String Game’ is about the pain and simultaneous joy in being in the middle of a moment that you know will only last so long.”
Both of his 2022 singles have been self-released, a conscious move that he has found immediately rewarding. “[It] has really reinvigorated my passion for the craft,” he says. “Building the vision around a release, finding the right artwork, managing the artistic direction and press kits, building websites, wheat-pasting posters with QR codes etc. It’s all been super fun. And in return it makes me feel like I can tell a story and not just release a bunch of random tunes.”
“I think building a visual language and lore has become critical for me,” he adds, pointing to the artist Sarah Lim, who produced the cover images for this year’s releases. “I fell in love with her art the moment I saw it, and she almost seems to read my mind.”
With a reinvigorated sense of purpose and trust in himself as an artist, Aleksandir is feeling ready for what the next year will bring for him and his music. “I’m moving past some of the existential crises that I think I was dealing with throughout Covid,” he says. “It’s good to feel like a musician again!”
Aleksandir’s Fresh Kicks mix distils the energy of his all-night DJ sets into a neat hour, moving from emotive electronica into bouncing house, tough techno and agile footwork, all peppered with unreleased tracks from himself and some friends. Dive in below.
Jorja Smith ‘Lost (Yuna Lesca Edit)’
Babyxsosa ‘Don’t Listen (Tom VR Edit)’
Ola Szmidt ‘Rooted (Louf Remix)’
Tonya Renée ‘About You (ft Tonya Renee)’
Konrad Ritter ‘You Are Doing Well (Robag's Tassilaq Morbus Rehand)’
Daphni ‘Cloudy (Kelbin Remix)’
Imogen Heap ‘Headlock (Aleksandir’s Unofficial Remix)’
Jasper Tygner ‘Deny It’
Chloé Robinson + DJ ADHD ‘Pax (Four Tet Remix)’
Cameo Blush ‘Silkworm’
Leon Vynehall ‘Sugar Slip (The Lick) (Shed SugarDUB Remix)’
FKA Twigs ‘Pamplemousse (Sputnik One Edit)’
Itoa ‘Fonda U’
Caroline Polacheck ‘The Gate (Nthng's Safe Haven)’