“We were doing a lot of jump rope during the lockdown,” Sarayu laughs, telling the story about how he came up with the name for his forthcoming EP, Intelligent Jump Rope Music. He’d been hanging out at the More Rice Record Store, and since it was appointment only, they had a lot of spare time on their hands. “We had some strange activities in the shop.” He was working from home, wrapping up most of the work for his day job by noon, and the downtime paid off. “The pandemic did wonders for my production, I spent a lot more time in the studio.” Most of the EP, which drops on Boiled Wonderland Records February 16, was written during the height of pandemic. “A lot of people were making music over the pandemic and it’s really nice to see the results of all that, now that we’re back into full swing,” adds Frank Nankivell, founder of the label.
Jump Rope is a functional record that keeps the dancefloor in mind. It’s a suave, bouncy house project unafraid to try new things; as likely to appeal to the rooftop hotel crowds as much as the deep listeners. The first half of the title track is leisurely paced, full of crunchy ambience and lofty reverb floating among muscular bass and stomping halftime kicks. It cycles through a series of different sections until the midpoint, when slow-growing acid squelches and glittering synths signal a natural drop, finding a full stride with a brisk rhythm and steady syncopation. “E30” is full of skittering hi hats and low-end wobbles, stargazing synths and prolific percussive flourishes. “The Bag” is a slow roller with bleeping loops, hyperactive snares, and the occasional growling bass.
The EP is full of British dance music references, with breaksy rhythms, garage shuffles, and wobbling bass—all of which are a result of Sarayu’s time spent there. When he was nine years old, he was sent from Bangkok to a boarding school in Surrey, just southeast of London. He grew up listening to indy rock and electro, and transitioned into house and techno starting about 19 when he began DJing. He would visit Bangkok every year and DJ whenever he could, but says things are better now: “The scene was a lot different back then, it was more fragmented. There’s much more of a sense of community now.” When he finished his masters in business, he finally returned to the city of his youth permanently.
Sarayu’s first music job after returning was at an agency doing Asian bookings for European artists. “It gave me a better understanding of what was going on, and I started focusing on Asian music.” In 2017, he launched More Rice Records label alongside Pakarapol Anantakritayathorn, better known as DOTT, and Mikhail Schemm, a Filipino-Swiss DJ and organizer who was co-owner of the sorely-missed XX XX in Manila. “There weren’t as many Asian labels pressing vinyl back then,” Sarayu says. “We wanted to create an outlet to release our own music, but also wanted to find other artists from Asia. We wanted to give them a platform too.” The label only signs Asian artists and they press vinyl for every release.
Vinyl is central to their record store as well. They opened the shop about 18 months ago, and it’s providing a much-needed service to electronic music fans here in Bangkok. “Focusing on dance music is niche, not many people are into it here in Thailand,” he says. “But it’s growing. Vinyl is growing too. And we’re the only ones focused on it.” (Although Sarayu loves vinyl, he’s not a purist: “It’s nice to have something physical, I feel like things get lost when they’re digital only. But I usually DJ with a USB!”) The shop carries new and secondhand records, featuring lots of house and techno, some disco and drum and bass, and a tiny bit of hip hop. Thai-Persian DJ Elaheh curates the selection. Whatever labels from Asia they’re aware of, they’ll carry them. “If I was traveling, one of the first things I’d look for is local electronic record shops, and luckily there are a lot of tourists coming through here. That’s why we always try to have select records from Asia. They can get all the other stuff from their home countries.” But they have a core group of local customers as well, who are drawn to the sense of community as much as the convenience. “We have people hanging out there all the time. Even if they don’t buy anything, we’re always exchanging ideas and stuff.” Their in-house Void sound system can’t hurt either.
The shop is also temporary home for Bangkok Community Radio, which Sarayu founded alongside Nankivell, the British expat from Boiled Wonderland who met Sarayu on the Never Normal dancefloor three years ago. They were surprised they didn’t need to ask anyone to start a local community radio, they just scooped up the URL and set to work. They envision the station as a non-profit-minded facet of the local scene that artists and DJs can easily tie into for support, exposure, and, well, community. “It’s something for the new local artists to look for,” Nankivell says. “There’s a lot of new artists and they might not all be the best next thing, but at least we have a platform for them when they come.” Over the next year they hope to get a dedicated space for guests and residents to record and practice at and expand into video streaming as well. “Getting it off he ground is the worst part but we feel like it’ll be fully up and running in the next year,” Sarayu says.