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Begin Again: Cyril Hahn And Music As Meditation

Thursday, 06 August 2015 Written by Milly McMahon

Photo: Evaan Kheraj

After tentatively opening a sleepy eye, Cyril Hahn’s mind immediately switches to coffee and breakfast. Pulling on his standard day to day uniform- black t-shirt, jeans and white socks - he peers out of the window at the concrete Berlin landscape beyond.

Hahn emerged with a near iconic reworking of Mariah Carey’s Touch My Body in 2012, infusing an already sensual song with a unique, heartbreaking sadness and finding a whole new feel for something the world had already come to love in upside down, back to front fashion. Having signed to PMR Records, also home to Disclosure, Jessie Ware, Julio Bashmore and Dornik, a couple of years back, he welcomed his second EP - ‘Begin’ - via the label in late July. 

Composing music best experienced on a rainy day, as droplets track down a window, Hahn writes with calming sincerity. “I guess there is a meditative aspect about producing music,” he says. “I can immerse myself when I'm working on a new track and forget about everything around me. Maybe that's what translates into the familiar and soothing feeling my music can promote.”

Inspired by new wave, ‘90s rap, Bonnie Prince Billy and the post-rock of Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai, Hahn first discovered how to weave his own woozy, glitchy edge into music when he was studying at university. “With the first couple of remixes I ever released I had no idea people would respond to them with such enthusiasm,” he says. “The idea of being a professional musician always seemed like an unattainable dream to me, which I didn't dare dream of. All I did was upload my remixes to Soundcloud, the rest was the internet working its magic.”

Mixes for Annie Mac, Rinse, Triple J and Diplo then followed, along with burgeoning radio support, touring fun with Ryan Hemsworth and frequent appearances on Majestic Casual. Packing a bag and stepping out from his Vancouver bedroom, a creeping sense of underground fame spread ahead of him.

Working to manipulate vocal samples, as opposed to focusing on lyrics, Hahn’s music has progressed to include thoughtful, solitary mini symphonies, removed from his remix work. He stamps his sound with signature synths, layering the understated, graceful atmosphere that underpins his music. A deep sense of peace and understanding emanates as the beats progress. Like spaghetti junction in the midnight hour, rhythms build in anticipation of finally crossing. It’s a complex but simple sound.

“I'm more of an introvert, so working on music on my own has always made the most sense to me,” he says. “I don't think it was an active decision but just something that happened naturally. I have always been drawn to melancholic rather than cheerful music. However, that doesn't really reflect my personality. I've always been a pretty happy person. Maybe the loneliness and isolation you hear in my music are underlying qualities of my character that I am not aware of but able to process through music. In that sense, producing music would definitely have a liberating effect on me.”

Hahn is also affiliated with the independent Vancouver imprint 1080p, a tape-based community under the stewardship of Richard MacFarlane. “Richard has definitely done an amazing job in curating new electronic acts,” he says. “It's such a young label yet it's getting attention from all around the world. I don't think there are any main players which makes the label so attractive, but if I had to pick favourites, it would be my two buddies Project Pablo and Khotin.”

Hahn’s appeal to house and hip hop heads alike is equally powerful. ‘Begin’ showcases new collaborations with Joel Ford, Say Lou Lou, Yumi Zouma and Kotomi, with the creative process for the release as organic as possible.

“I gave all vocalists complete freedom over the lyrics,” he says. “I find this approach more interesting. It always started by me sending over an instrumental and them sending vocals back to me. I would then wrap it all up. The only exception is the song Last with Joel Ford, where we collaborated on the instrumental as well.”

Rendering and releasing the record just in sweet time to pack up and head off to Bali to play a show, the Balearic tones that ‘Voices’ channelled have culminated in him setting sail to the most exotic regions worldwide. Go there with him, click play and work your easy way through some dreamy listens. Paradise.

'Begin' is out now on PMR.

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