Rhyw wants to surprise you. In his catalogue of warped, oddball techno, linear beats are twisted into unpredictable shapes. The Welsh-Greek DJ and producer – whose artist name is pronounced ‘Roo’ – weaves alien zaps and wobbly bass through clusters of scattershot percussion, flitting between minimal, broken and electro-tuned styles as he goes. In his tracks, vocal samples are frequently stretched and chopped into flurries of abstract sound – glitches in the system harnessed in service of trippy, mind-melting bangers.
His recent EP, ‘The Devil's in the Dlzlzlz’, released via Fever AM, the label he co-runs with Mor Elian, is alive with playful, hyper-detailed sounds: drums buzz and puncture like a swarm in the opening stepper, ‘Bee Stings’, while synthesised cymbals slice and parry like swords in the acrobatic closer, ‘Itso’. ‘Strange Now’ puts a sci-fi twist on South African gqom, its syncopated beat and industrial hum underscoring the sound of a cyborg voice in overdrive, building to a peak as it repeats the track's title – “strange strange strange strange, now now now now” – as if it could explode at any moment. It's a dizzying centrepiece for the release; when paired with a decent soundsystem and a hefty dose of strobe, it's genuinely hallucinatory.
This animated, ever-mutating style is one Rhyw has nurtured gradually over the past 10 years. As a solo artist, his music has been released on labels such as Avian and Modeselektor’s Seilscheibenpfeiler, as well as Fever AM. Each release has shown an increasing taste for twitching, offbeat rhythms, slippery basslines and acrobatic synthesis. His knack for sonic trickery is bolstered by his background in raw, rolling techno and electro, which he developed through years of playing live alongside Hüseyin Evirgen as part of the duo Cassegrain. The pair’s impressive hardware-centred sets took them to clubs around the world, and became a semi-regular fixture in Berghain before the project was put on pause a couple of years ago.
A producer’s producer, Rhyw’s flair for high-def, head-fuck sound design never loses sight of the dancefloor. With his steady return to the DJ booth in action, he’s primed to release some of his most exhilarating club music to date this year. It points to an artist for whom play, as well as intricacy, is key to making a unique, personal sound.
“I’d say the main desire I’ve felt from a young age is to try to sound different,” he says. “Especially nowadays, with so much music being released, I think it’s crucial. Ideas and identity over everything. An interesting idea can always be developed further and mixed well; a perfectly mixed track that is bland from the get-go is pretty much a dead end.”
Like well made video games, Rhyw’s tracks have the ability to make otherworldly textures feel utterly tactile, so perhaps it’s no coincidence that his first forays in electronic music production were on a Playstation. After stumbling upon a music-making game, simply titled “Music”, on a free demo CD, he gave up on Tekken and was immediately hooked. “It was pretty much just adding blocks, a piano stab, a drum roll, small loops and riffs to build tracks,” he remembers. From there, he rifled through Music 2000, Fruity Loops and Reason, before eventually landing on his current set-up of Ableton and various bits of hardware.
“I never studied anything related to music or had any training, so I’ve always just been learning as I go,” he says. “Obviously there can be challenges, but I like the way it’s worked out. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but that can lead to particular ways of doing stuff. Most likely not ‘properly’, but it seems to be working.”
Rhyw grew up between Thessaloniki, Greece and the UK. He first heard electronic music at the age of seven or eight through some rave tapes that belonged to a friend’s dad. Soon, he was obsessing over the music video for The Prodigy’s ‘Poison’. “I was this annoying child going into the local CD store, asking when ‘The Fat of the Land’ was coming out,” he remembers.
By the age of 10, he was already building a small collection of his own, angled toward audacious club anthems like Josh Wink’s ‘Higher State Of Consciousness’, Apollo 440’s ‘Ain't Talkin' 'bout Dub’, Da Hool’s ‘Meet Her at the Love Parade’ and Aphex Twin’s ‘Come To Daddy’. While generally more subtle, the gnarly peaks and weird, stuttering signatures that make so many of Rhyw’s own tracks stand out feel traceable to those early musical discoveries, whose “wow” factors – be they shameless trance hooks, Van Halen samples or screeching acid leads – make them endure to this day.
As his music has veered further into warped, psychedelic territory, Rhyw’s production techniques have become more surgical, with a lot more time being spent dissecting and editing the tiny details of tracks that might not be audible to the naked ear, but make the world of difference when cooking a Rhyw brew. The devil’s in dlzlzlz, after all. “It really keeps me engaged and pushes me further towards finishing something, or at least having the feeling that it’s complete,” he says. “This slight obsession with wanting everything to sound a bit different means a lot of processing goes on, but I really like sticking in a clean, retro sounding tom from the Roland R8, for example, to create some contrast.”
“I think that’s a key part of my production nowadays,” he continues. “That kind of connects to the guiding principle of creating surprises. I realised that recently, it’s a big motivation for me in the studio, trying to create ‘WTF’ moments for people.”
Rhyw’s next EP will arrive on Blawan and Pariah’s Voam label in September, and is full of these moments. You may have heard ‘Honey Badger’ already; it’s been inducing hysteria in clubs for a little while now thanks to its ridiculous, oscillating snare rolls and the tensest build-up since Barnt’s 2014 slammer ‘Chappell’. The pay-off when its thunderous techno beat kicks back in is, simply, huge.
It’s a perfect match for Voam, which also released Pariah’s own jawdropper, ‘Caterpillar’, earlier this summer. It sets the pace for the rest of the EP, in which swooping plumes of sub bass and circuitry spark off some of the beefiest beats Rhyw has ever released. It’s fast, freaky dance music at its very best; it fizzes, wriggles and kicks its way into your brain, through your chest and down to your feet. “I love Voam, every release is this kind of twisted mutant techno I wish there was more of,” he says. “They have a very clear vision for the label and what they want and it really helped form this complete EP... Once the A-side was done, it gave me an opportunity to go a bit crazier and faster than usual. I just wanted to make something weird with lots of edits and sections but keep the intensity and flow for the club.”
Rhyw’s evolution as a producer has been mirrored in his DJing, which has moved from a more “linear” approach into something more colourful, full of twists and turns to keep dancer’s hyped and guessing. “I really enjoy mixing things up a lot more now – different genres, unexpected combinations. It’s a bit more fun really. Again, I think it comes down to surprises. I’m feeling a lot more confident than I used to.”
He describes his Recognise mix as being like a “compressed club night”, shifting quickly through the ebbs and flows of a party with a high-energy selection of new favourites and forthcoming material. “I also wanted to include some references to DJ Mag from the period when I first became aware of the magazine,” he says. “Evil Nine, Sasha, a Deep Dish remix – shouts to Ed Inland for putting me on to that one. I’m glad I did that actually. It made me remember a few great tunes that you’d never really hear out, but would totally work today.”
2022 marks the fifth anniversary of Fever AM, whose modest but mighty catalogue includes releases from Mor Elian, Gacha Bakradze and Xen Chron, as well as a string of compilations featuring the likes of Ayesha, CCL x Flora FM, 96 Back and Giulia Tess. With another comp on the horizon, as well as some parties to celebrate the anniversary, Rhyw reckons its proudest moments are still to come. “It’s been great to see the label develop and the little community that’s forming around it,” he says.
In the meantime, he’s continually working on new music, with a couple of solo works and collaborations in the works for some time in the future. He went to see Everything Everywhere All at Once recently, an awe-inspiring multiverse film that turns the dial way up on absurdity, humour and emotion while telling a story that is, ultimately, about family. “I guess it’s quite a simple story at its core, just really well done and beautifully told,” he says. It’s a sentiment that’s echoed in his own music, which succeeds again and again in taking the core principles of club music and guiding them into new, unimaginable dimensions. Who knows what srprzrz he’ll pull from his sleeve next?
Listen to Rhyw’s Recognise mix, and find the tracklist, below.
Sasha ‘Wavy Gravy (Strings)’
Conrad Pack ‘Turbine’
Oliver Twist ‘Kick Punch (Funky VIP)’
DJ Double Oh! ‘Burst’
Element ‘Rum Song Riddim’
Whatever Girl ‘Activator (You Need Some) [Deep Dish Edit]’
Ploy ‘Ninety One’
Nicholas G. Padilla ‘Slash and Burn’
22.214.171.124.5 ‘Snakes Cave’
Henzo ‘Be That As It May (Unhinged Mix)’
Batu ‘Spectral Hearts’
Evil Nine ‘Crooked (Instrumental)’
Ctrls ‘Your Data’
Pariah ‘One on One’
Sobolik ‘Ski Tool’
Color Plus ‘Glint’