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EDM music

Luigi Sambuy, Recall’s photography


Words By José M. Sainz-Maza

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A creative mind from Italy

The connection is not the best, but Luigi Sambuy greets me warmly from the speaker in perfect English. The characteristic sound of the interior of a car can be heard in the background, and he immediately says that he is driving along the Italian coast. His voice is pleasant and calm, with a slow pace and the touch of self-confidence of a young talent who knows himself and likes to be in control of his life. Luigi tells me that, due to the lack of effective measures to treat the pandemic in the USA, he decided a few months ago to return to Italy for the summer. “I’m soon leaving San Francisco and moving to New York, so the timing was just perfect to spend some weeks with my family and my friends here,” he adds, then immediately changes the tone. “I am very sorry for everything that is happening there lately, and I hope that soon it will improve.”

I ask Luigi if he has any projects in hand that have kept his creative mind buzzing through the Coronavirus crisis. “August is arriving full of news and loaded with work,” he confesses with pride. “I was lucky enough to win a contest for young electronic music talents organized by Berlin-based DJ and producer Hannes Bieger, and it will become my fastest launch ever. On August 14th I will have an opportunity to release a new record that I’ve already been working on. Also, Paper EP will arrive only 7 days later.” Asked about this song, the young artist explains that it is a project he has focused on these past few months, incorporating sounds from the title track ‘Paper’ which appeared earlier this year in the album Anjunadeep 11, mixed by James Grant and Jody Wisternoff.

Music for brain yoga 

This sound experimenter -as he regards himself- never rests when it comes to investing time and energy on his passion. “While I am in Italy I have taken the opportunity to mix some of the music of my friends here,” Luigi exclaims as he drives into a tunnel. “Sorry for the signal.” It is not hard to picture him cruising along the luminous Italian coastline as we chat.

A few years ago, his music was defined by BBC Radio 1 as “brain yoga”, and Luigi proudly embodies the label on his social media (for example, in his very personal Instagram account @luigisambuy). When asked about it, he laughs and nods. “I think it is a very accurate term. The way I see it, people should be able to feel music at a deeper level, and I like to make myself think that they can meditate with my work and feel calm and inner peace, not just dance. Electronic music can also be an instrument for reflection and well-being, that was in part my reasoning behind Jakarta,” he says, referring to his celebrated 2019 track available on Soundcloud.

Luigi Sambuy

I want to know more about how he got to such a high-quality product, and Luigi tells all as I hear the wind bustle in the background. “Jakarta is a very idiosyncratic work and one to which I dedicated a lot of time and love. I had in mind this idea of ​​achieving a dreamy sound, something that would make the listener vibrate and bring peace and relief to them. At the same time, I wanted to test my skills, and it is for all this that I purposely limit myself using very few samples as a base. Normally I don’t work like this, but reducing the number of elements forces you to stay creative, and I believe that is very positive. Besides, it can be achieved in many ways, from only including music produced with a single instrument to using software you are not used to,” he says, concluding that self-learning is completely necessary.

“I try to learn something new every day.”

It is no coincidence that his songs are linked to such profound thinking; Luigi came into music as a teenager through his interest in recording technology and the underlying creative processes. Since then, he has followed his own path, one that runs between art and science. At the age of 16, he moved from his native Turin to Hawaii to complete his high school studies, and his years of college at Stanford brought him to the San Francisco Bay Area. He explains to me how he quickly realized that he wanted to know more about the possibilities offered by modern modular synthesizers, and he felt the need to explore with different instruments and software. At this point in the interview, I have no doubt that he loves what he does.

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A methodical design process

Regarding the way he understands his own creative process, Luigi shows again his perfectionist and meticulous character: “If I have to choose, the truth is that I prefer to work alone in my studio to be able to focus completely on the rhythm and the technical aspects. For me, the way I create music is a methodical design process, in which I carry out iterations and tests until I find the result I am looking for. I could almost say that it is practically about coding, about programming something until you get to the final product. This does not mean that there are not feelings involved, everything flows in a very natural way, but I still like to be in control at all times,” he states.

“When I play live on synthesizers, however, I don’t like using my pre-recorded tracks, so I tend to go for improvisation. I think it is more fun for the public when I create new rhythms at the moment for them to dance. Of course, they are not as good as what I make in my studio, but they bring up all the essence of my music. It is completely different,” Luigi laughs. But this year has brought huge challenges. “My last DJ-set performance for Recall, just a few weeks ago in the vineyards of Langhe, Piedmont, was a mix of improvisation and a play of some of my tracks with a hybrid modular synthesizer, but it couldn’t be as special as I would have liked due to the pandemic. At the moment it is difficult to bring my work to people and see how they react, and this is a shame since music is a shared thing and its magic only happens when someone listens to it.”

It seems impossible to escape the continuous elephant in the room, as the conversation brings us back to it. “As far as it goes, I want to see the positive side of the COVID-19 crisis. It is true that this has substantially affected festivals and large clubs, and makes things very difficult for many people who make a living across this sector and depend on large physical events. However, streaming festivals like Tomorrowland this year can make electronic music more accessible to fans who could never afford all the travel costs of dancing to famous DJs live,” he reflects after considering the question for a few moments. “Artists should also think more about how to involve fans behind the scenes, show what happens in their lives, how they record their music in the studio… The storytelling part must go on evolving and growing, and this is something that you cannot prioritize when you are busy touring.”

Luigi knows a lot about storytelling. The stage name ATMO is already in the past, and now a more mature DJ, he signs his tracks with his name and has a touch of the best of Jan Blomqvist and Klangkarussell. He is about to change the scene, taking the leap from the West Coast to NYC, and when I ask him about the reason behind, he immediately answers me honestly. As a solutions engineer for Plaid, an API for financial developers with an office located in the Big Apple, it is just the next logical step for his professional career to move to the East Coast. “Also, I really want to explore the startup and music scene there,” he admits. “Electronic music has been growing a lot in the USA in recent years. The genres are not yet as defined as in Europe and very interesting mixes are produced, different styles meet and there is plenty of room to grow for mid-level DJs.”

When we are about to say goodbye, the car stops and Luigi announces that he has just arrived at his destination. “Today I am going to spend the rest of the day on the beach, I need to reconnect with the Mediterranean.” The sound of our conversation is interrupted for a few seconds as he moves from the interior of the vehicle to the sandy ground. “NYC can wait a little longer.”

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