Creative Review New Music
Following a five-year hiatus from putting out his own music, British electronic producer and visionary Niven is set to release his highly anticipated EP ‘Van’ on 10th March 2023 through Blank Dust.
This offering is the epitome of a DIY project, with the four tracks within being composed with little more than a small modular synth in the back of a van as the artist traversed Europe in recent years.
‘Van’ is a reflection of Niven’s surroundings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak was a sign to step back from his role as a director for London promoter Soundcrash, opting to dive back into producing and embark on a solo excursion all at once. The artist touched down in Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Bulgaria over the course of his travels, and each piece of the EP’s tracklist either paints a canvas of uncharted territory or captures his headspace amid such a domain.
Niven had this to say about the trek surrounding the EP: “Recorded on a modular synth when I travelled through Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Greece & Bulgaria. Most of the tracks were recorded in my self converted ford transit van … The first 2 tracks were recorded in a brief break from travelling at a friend’s house in Vodoley, a small Romani village in Bulgaria. I was still very limited setup wise as I had only what I’d bought with me but at least could leave the synth set-up for a few days at a time.”
All four songs on the ‘Van’ were recorded in one take, this being both a challenge that Niven set out to undertake and a circumstantial by-product of having nothing more than a car battery to rely on for power. The result is a mesmerising project that sounds appropriately raw, as the producer only had moments to capture scenic grandeur and translate it through his interface.
The EP opens with ‘Snow’, an infectious opener that was recorded just outside of the Bulgarian city of Veliko Tarnovo. The effort calls upon thick, oscillating synths, drumline percussion and an irresistibly chopped vocal sample to create the sense of stillness that stems from bunkering down after months of being on the road, complimenting a stark transition into club cut ‘Rositsa Walks’ where Niven begins to beckon for his place on stage back home. The latter half of the project sees the producer working in the back of his van with the doors open, with ‘Woods’ mirroring the untamed expansiveness of the west coast of Ireland and closer ‘Château Gaillard’ sounding like it could be synced to a timelapse of the castle’s rise and fall.
Niven touched on the EP’s inspiration in greater detail: “The locations I was in influenced the music as well as the limitations of the setup. Everything had to be recorded from start to finish in one take, I had limited time to create most of the tracks as the van batteries would run down and when the synth was unpatched the piece I’d created on it was gone forever. I wanted the roughness and imperfection to remain in the music to create something that sounded wild and imperfect.”
Hailing from London, Niven spent much of his time in Bristol against the backdrop of the tail end of the UK dubstep scene before moving back to his home city in 2014, where he began to work on what would become his critically acclaimed ‘Manta Ray’ EP in 2016 and subsequent project ‘Dragonfly’ in the year to follow. He worked with household names such as Pantha Du Prince and GusGus over this period whilst selling out headline dates in London before briefly retreating from production, only gearing himself to return with a bang in coming months.
Niven’s ‘Van’ EP will be released across all streaming platforms on 10th March 2023 through Blank Dust.