Few genres have experienced such a unique development as wave music. Is it trap? Is it dubstep? While it draws heavily from such styles, wave has formed its own identity, becoming a separate entity entirely. Birthed in the interconnectivity of the ether world of artists and producers working collaboratively via the internet – predominantly on Tumblr and Soundcloud – the style has experienced somewhat of an explosion in popularity of late. Leading the metamorphosis from the anonymous realms of the online data-driven landscape into the physical equivalent is pioneering artist and poster child of the wave movement, Kareful.
It was in late 2015 when Kareful joined popular wave collective Wavemob, a loosely affiliated group of producers which was started by Klimeks – widely recognised as the ‘O.G. of wave’. It was Klimeks who began to tag his Soundcloud uploads with “#wave”, coining a name for the genre way before it transcended its online existence. Kareful had three releases with Wavemob, Calling – a collaboration with rare – on ‘Wave001’, a various artists compilation released on February 9, 2016. This was followed by Lotus, a collaboration with Skit and As She Cried, a solo track. Both were released on the second Wavemob compilation, ‘Wave002’ on July 28, 2016.
At just 23, Kareful (real name Jude Leigh-Kaufman) already wears many hats aside from producer/DJ, he’s also a radio host and director of the newly launched Liquid Ritual label – an imprint specifically focused on bringing newly discovered wave music to light. His most recent release H2o dropped via Trapdoor Records on August 4th, the lead single taken from his upcoming second full-length body of work on the label. The ‘Alchemy’ EP is set for release on September 15th. H2o is considered perhaps the most definitive wave music track to date, intertwining deliciously driving beats with soft and soaring vocal samples dripping in a reverb that stretches for miles.
I managed to catch up with Kareful at ALL in Shanghai during his Asian tour – a pretty relentless schedule, he’d flown in from Seoul that day and was jetting off to Tokyo the next. Joined by local producer/DJ Downstate (Tom Oliver) in the back office of the club, Kareful lit up a cigarette before taking me through the progression of wave music from his perspective and how he’s become a key influencer of the sound. “When I first got into the sound, in like 2012, it pretty much didn’t have a name, people called it ‘cloud trap’ or whatever. The sound started developing and getting more of a UK influence, it started sounding like its own genre now.” The London-based producer went on, “I remember in the early days, the really early days, I was getting on Skype with a lot of people and being like, ‘yo, we need to start pushing this as something man, because if we don’t give it a name, no one’s going to give a fuck about it.’ We started taking it more seriously and the sound started developing.”
“It’s now moved like, away from trap and now it’s kind of got its own sort of sound. It’s still really cool because it’s still kept a lot of the elements that I’ve always thought were interesting. For example, the fact there’s like no real tempo, you know what I’m saying? I mean, you’re [Tom] a DJ of it as well, I think that gives you so much freedom. You can play it all the time.” Tom interjects, “Yeah, you can start at 115bpm and finish at like 140bpm.”
Kareful’s set at ALL was nigh-impeccable, giving an unremittingly energetic performance. Diving straight in taking over from Downstate, the venue was given a run through of wave music’s best offerings; a noticeable piece and a personal favourite of mine was his own Ultra Violet – a track released with the lead single H2o. The set was also peppered with trap, grime and bass works along with some pieces influential to Kareful’s artistic background. Night by Benga & Coki was lapped up by the crowd, who had filled the floor to capacity.
Describing how he went about building momentum for the movement, the producer explained, “What I wanted to do with my friends, our strategy was like, ‘let’s just develop the sound, but make it more UK friendly’. Like the dubstep boys did, like the grime boys did, like the drum n bass, the jungle boys did, whatever, you know.” Kareful’s commitment to the movement is clear, he’s been very deliberate and methodical in spearheading the rise of the sound. “I spent a lot of time researching how these scenes started and how to build a sound.” Jude’s extraverted nature has been a key factor in his early prominence on the scene, allowing him to curate and nurture the sound by encouraging other producers to get involved and helping them find exposure with the right fanbase. “I’ve always been a very social person, so I really helped bring people together and like, get these amazing producers heard by a lot of people. I’ve always been in the scene for the scene, not for myself as well.”
It’s not just the growing fanbase of the sound that’s allowed its rapid success, there’s a legion of active supporters getting involved in whatever capacity they can. “There’s a real sense of community, there’s loads of people involved in the scene that don’t have fucking anything to do with producing or DJing. There’s people that are dedicated to the scene and they just wanna run a forum and they’re like, having the time of their life coordinating a reddit server or whatever, you know? They’re just so involved, there’s so many people just dedicated to pushing the sound and not trying to make money off it – that it just has to work.” The shared commitment to a common goal is a testament to the popularity of the genre and sheds light on the purity of the movement since its inception. What’s further illustrative of that strong sense of community and network stemming from the online wave universe is the relationship between Kareful and Downstate, “Tom’s been pushing it [wave] in Shanghai. He’s been my friend for three years and I met him today for the first time, through wave. It’s kind of crazy.”
So what’s next for Kareful and the rising tide of wave music? The movement shows no signs of slowing down and is being increasingly championed by prolific artists and taste makers alike, Plastician, for example, being a key driving force. “The evolution of it has just been amazing. Recently things have gotten a lot bigger. Like this is the first time I’ve played outside Europe and then after this I’m playing fucking America for like two months and then Australia. So it’s happened overnight pretty much.”
For a comprehensive experience of the Wave sound, take a bite of Kareful’s mix for Mixmag below.
Kareful will be hitting up the USA next on his tour for the first time in October and November, with dates in California, Minneapolis, Iowa, Kansas City, Seattle and more…