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Posted on June 20, 2023

In Depth with SPHERES

Words by Oisín Campbell/ Design by Michael Savage

SPHERES continues its atmospheric onslaught of jungle and bass-driven sounds with latest release ‘Io’ coming from London producer, Prayer. We spoke to Rob Rua from the label about the foundations, process and the challenges in bringing this new series to life.

SPHERES banner

A sub-label of the evocative Rua Sound, SPHERES has crafted a whole new world of noise for the Galway based imprint since its inception back in March. Founded on the premise of providing a home for darker music across a range of styles within the hardcore continuum; be it dub-techno, atmospheric jungle, or shady 2-step, it’s first 3 releases from Noroi, Gilles Renneson, and Prayer respectively, have triumphantly turned this prospective into a reality.

Rua Sound’s foundations trace back to 2016 when it emerged as a high velocity jungle label with a debut 12” from no less than Sully & Sam Binga. 20 releases on and the launch of two commanding sub-series’ in Foxy Jangle and now SPHERES, the label continues to throw its weight in 2023 and in that time has gone on to showcase acts like FFF, Tim Reaper & TMSV.

After the launch of the imprint’s 20th release back in January with Sans’ ‘Under The Scope’, the year since has seen Rua Sound shift their focus primarily to the SPHERES project. Initiating in March with Italian artist Noroi producing one of the EP’s of the year to date on the high soaring breakbeat energy of ‘Adrastea’, SPHERES has already cemented a concrete foundation for itself with the succeeding releases from Gilles Renneson and Prayer affirming the series' ability to provide hardcore related music with a stripped back, delicate mind of its own.

Moving into leftfield bass and these deeper meaning breakbeat & jungle releases was not something originally on the agenda for label runners Rob Rua and Welfare. With the stop/start nature of life during lockdown, a slower and more atmospheric club approach began to feel a lot more appropriate. Suddenly a lot of the music that the duo had received did not fit onto either Rua Sound or Foxy Jangle, which Rob and team felt was due a platform of its own.

‘In 2021 when lockdown was really dragging on and there’d be no parties for the longest time, these darker, moodier tracks were resonating a lot more, and then came the fruition of SPHERES as a home for many of these. Then with vinyl plant queues being so long, we’re only now seeing these releases in the flesh’.

rob rua cover pic

(Pictured: Rob Rua)

A slight drift away from Rua’s initial classic jungle sounds to more melodic bass music at shifting tempos, SPHERES has struck a fine balance between making the music both earphone & club friendly. Although the pedestal of Rua may have allowed the birth of SPHERES to gain a head start in terms of credibility and exposure, Rob disclosed how the path isn’t so straight forward for a sub-label.

‘After a while you get good at this, you understand everything better. But SPHERES is a new platform, so we can’t just assume our original fanbase will be into this. We have to find an audience from scratch again. It can’t be for everyone, but when you find the people who fancy it, it makes it all worthwhile’.

After spending time living in the UK, Rob and Welfare began to familiarize themselves with the ascension of hard dance talent residing there & further afield and have become a welcoming home to many of the scene’s present key players. Their clear ear for talent has led to them coming into contact with a whole host of genres & styles. Like nailing a set or curating an adaptable club night, labels require a similar strategic approach when categorising the plethora of artists and variant sounds they may become acquainted with.

‘Originally you think when you start a label that it will be as simple as people just sending you demos and picking out what you fancy from that. It's a lot more in depth than that. Noroi is someone we’ve worked with before under different aliases, and then Gilles for instance was recommended to us. There’s always different links, different variants and reasons for putting out certain artists. We get sent so much music which we really love, but not everything can fit onto Rua or Foxy Jangle. The same goes for SPHERES now’.

Noroi cover pic

(Pictured: Noroi)

Most recently on SPHERES, we were presented with the sounds of Prayer’s ‘Io’, marking the third release on the series and closing out on what Rob describes as the ‘first trilogy’. When you break it down into that format you can see what he means. Inaugurating with Noroi’s joyfully delicate riproar of breakbeat tracks which embodied an energy of hope and desire, Renneson’s follow up ‘Callisto’ then introduced a steadied darker influence with it’s moody transcending dub techno cuts, and now, Prayer’s effort has brought the series into full bloom with its colossal jungle & techno energies.

In its entirety to date, Rob and Welfare have constructed something that's as grounding & spiritual as it is fun & club-worthy with SPHERES. Each EP is named after one of Jupiter’s moons and is accompanied by original artwork from Dutch artist Josje Bijl (aka Yorobi), inspired by the sketches of these moons by Galileo in 1610. According to NASA, Jupiter maintains between 85 and 90 moons, so it would appear that the series has some legs in it yet.

This is a seriously exciting project being backed by the Rua Sound family. Fittingly alongside this we are seeing Rob’s growingly reputable Ar Ais Arís parties in Galway’s Áras na nGael pushing a whole new club surge on Ireland’s West coast. After some bleak years during and after Covid with the closure of some key venues like Electric, there is much reason to be optimistic around electronic arts in the city once again with Rob and co playing a fundamental part in it all.

Discover the entire Rua Sound discography here including SPHERES and Foxy Jangle releases: https://ruasound.bandcamp.com/