UK electronic artist Paul Davis reflects on his record shop days, the story behind his cult vinyl series, and unique E.P titles.
With 2024 well underway Voodoo and Prayers are celebrating an impressive start to the year. Our E.P release 'Reindeers and Beer' (out now on all platforms) from re-emerging underground pioneer Paul Davis, better known as 'Circulation' is making waves across the electronic sphere.
But prior to the EP release, Paul Davis had well established himself as somewhat of an unsung hero of the underground scene, masterminding his namesake 'Circulation' following his cult colour vinyl series. Created in the late 90's with his then partner Matt Jackson, the series had an impact on the rapidly evolving tech house sound, garnering support by big hitters of the scene like Steve Lawler, Peace Division, Four Tet and Sasha to name a few.
More recently however he has been having somewhat of a personal resurgence in regards to his music career. After an extended hiatus, his return to form comes some time after his late 90's and early noughties zenith. He attributes this to the pandemic's lockdown period where he revisited and honed his production skills. Subsequent new releases emerged to please his fans; initially with 2021’s ‘Recirculate’ succession.
However, we wanted to hear a bit more of the history behind Circulation, and what led to his current release. Now a solo artist, Paul documents Circulation’s roots to the leafy London suburb of Kingston-upon-Thames. Back in the late 90's and early noughties, the town centre was an unlikely hotbed for music lovers, with vinyl stalwarts such as Beggars Banquet and Strictly Vinyl joining the mix of record vendors. Paul's own shop 'Creation Sound' was born in 1995, specialising in techno and house. It was here he met his erstwhile Circulation partner Matt Jackson.
"I met Matt in around '97, he came in the shop and got introduced through a friend of a friend. He had a studio in Ashford where he was engineering for people… We got together and made a label called Resolve which didn't do too much, but eventually in the late 90's we created Circulation with a sound based around funk loops and that kind of stuff initially..."
At its burgeoning stage, the vinyl series which was influenced by the likes of Detroit veteran Carl Craig, eventually evolved into a series of tech-house marvels for the next nine years. Each vinyl release was named after a colour with a matching cover, each with a quality B side and a sound that’s retained its freshness and relevance still to this day. The series became highly collectable, with snowballing anticipation upon every release.
On this note, the subject of track names pops up when we chat, with Paul citing that it can be tricky to pick a name for an electronic or instrumental track. This naturally highlights the subject of his recent EP release for Voodoos and Prayers, with its somewhat mysterious 'Reindeers and beer' title.
"So that came about when I was having dinner in Alicante last year and overheard a conversation from someone who was Scandinavian. They said something like ‘it's all Reindeers and Beers over there.’ And I thought that would make a great little title for a track; ‘Reindeers and Beer.’ And when it actually came to making the track on Ableton, I took a bassline from an 80's track but it didn't quite work. So I ended up using a midi platter. . . The whole track is based around this midi pattern bass riff.'
The track itself falls somewhere between progressive and melodic house, perhaps even organic with some techno influences; or for Paul perhaps simply 'electronic'. Its atmospheric and chugging undulations are hypnotic. This is accompanied on its EP release with previous Voodoos and Prayers remixer ‘Luze’s’ take on the track, with a more up-tempo progressive 'thud'. Add to this the broken majestic electronica of South American duo Zstimer and Wru, and it’s not surprising its release has caused waves. Not only did the Zstimer and Wru remix climb to number 1 of the Beatport Hype 100 Electronica chart, but the EP has also found favour in the Beatport Progressive House dance floor essentials chart reaching number 2. If that’s not all, the original track has also been featured on electronic hero John Digweed’s legendary show ‘Transitions’
On the subject of the original track, it transpires that it wasn’t necessarily one that Paul perhaps considered as much as some of his other works at the time.
"I didn't necessarily think it was one of my stand out tracks at the time when I produced it. But people seemed to really like it; it's had a really great response"
We muse upon how some musicians’ top hits can be scribbled quickly on the back of a napkin, or a hit can sometimes be the gem that artists themselves don't acknowledge as much compared to their other more considered or laboured works. But perhaps herein lies the beauty of this particular track which has a sort of understated yet powerful presence.
"Now I want to make deeper music but similar melodic downtempo stuff. I used to use a lot of funk loops but now I'm using more bass now, with reverb from a kick..."
In terms of projects, I ask Paul if we can find him behind the decks any time soon considering that some years back he was DJing and touring the world in countries as far as Argentina and Singapore to name a few. But Paul remains relatively humble considering his great contribution to the scene
“DJing is not so much my priority at the moment but we’ll see. I used to do a lot back in the day. There were lots of festivals and events all over the world; Buenas Aires.. Zoo Club, Singapore, Fabric London I used to play out there .. But currently I’ve got a few releases coming out.. I’ve never been one to promote myself too much on socials and stuff like that to be honest. But I’m still working on a few projects”
One thing's for sure though, we’re delighted that Circulation is back.
To find out more about Circulation and stream and download to his work including ‘Reindeers and Beer’ click here