Adult Bodies is the solo project of LA-based singer, songwriter, and producer Steven Wilkin. His music is an intersection of dissimilar genres that somehow blend together seamlessly into a cinematic, hypnotic trance soundscape. We asked Steven to dive deeper into the world of electronic music with us to dissect the artists that make the genre so captivating.
What was your approach to this song selection?
My approach was more about creating a listening experience for people that may not normally listen to this kind of music. There was a lot of thought that went into the order of how I put the songs and how they flow into each other.
What is it about these songs that draws you in?
I think that as a music listener, the way that music affects people has a lot to do with the vibration and energy of their make-up. There are certain sounds and certain artists that really appeal to people based on like what vibrates with who they are as a person. For me, this style of music really has a real high level of connection on just a physical level; the way my body feels, the way my body reacts, and the way my ears have an experience.
“The way my body feels, the way my body reacts, and the way my ears have an experience.”
To put that into a deeper perspective, the first experience I ever really had with this kind of listening was with Radiohead’s album Kid A. I’ll never forget the first time I heard that album, it just blew me away. I thought, “how did I never know that there was music like this out there in the world?” So it’s been my mission as a music listener to find songs that make me feel that same feeling that I felt that day when I listened to that album for the first time. It sets a really high bar for what I think is great music. So I look for that particular type of experience. I look for something that affects me in a total complete physical way, where the music almost reaches in and becomes a part of my DNA.
How would you describe this type of music?
I would call it intelligent electronic music. It appeals to a high intelligence of people who are audiophiles that really want to dig in deep. Where you’re trying to figure out, how did they create that snare sound? How did they get those synths to sit in such a world? And if I only wanna focus only on those synths, I can get lost in that world. Or if I want to focus on the vocal. It creates all these different levels of listening where you can go back and listen to the song over and over and over and every time is a new and different listening experience.
What’s so unique about this genre?
There’s a lot of freedom in this music and you can hear it when it goes off in different directions — it will turn a corner and take you off into another part of the world. That’s what I really love about this music, you can’t really anticipate what’s going happen where as most music is written to a very basic formula.
Starting off with a band called Klangstof which are out of Amsterdam. And I would say that some of the best style of this highly produced, high-level listening music is coming out of right now is Amsterdam.
This is a duo also out of Amsterdam. These guys really blow my mind with the intricacies that they focus in on with sound design. I love the bass arpeggiator that’s running through in triplets. It just this pulsing movement that keeps you engaged the whole time.
So there’s a theme of some European artists already. How’d you discover them?
I came across these guys I think two years ago through one of their first EPs. There was a song originally I heard from them called Something. I was just blown away by the creative way they used vocals. I always loved that when people do things with a vocal hat are not normal. This is a deep psychedelic electronic music listening experience.
What is it about this song that draws you in?
This track is off their new record called The Weight which came out not too long ago. Highly anticipated. This record really connected with me when I pulled them up on YouTube and watched a live performance of them at the Lowlands Festival. To see the recorded music be translated into a live experience, almost even in a deeper way because the visuals were that much more exciting. It was that same listening experience, where even though their music is not anything like listening to Radiohead, it gave me that same emotional experience. Watching it, just mind blown, oh my gosh. What am I experiencing right now and how can I even begin to describe this?
This is one of the first bands that when I hang out with my friends I ask them, “Do you know Weval?” And 9 times out of 10, they’ve never heard of them before. Then I pull up that YouTube video of the Lowlands Festival and I put it on and let the whole thing run. Every single time, they’re glued to their chair and barely even speaking. It’s just that experience. Wevel is going to be one of the biggest bands in the world, guaranteed. They’re going to be headlining festivals in two years.
This song for me is just an epic journey. I love the crispness of this guy’s vocal. He has a very sensitive, emotional way of delivering his vocal. And the way that the bass just feels like humming electricity, it’s almost like you’re walking under power lines in the night city soundscape and you can just hear that buzz of the power lines. It’s the attention to detail like that.
When the song gets to the centre point at about 2:20, when it really breaks down with the arpeggiator, is when it really takes off for me. This is when the hairs on my arms start to lift up. It’s like, “Where am I being transported to?”
“This is when the hairs on my arms start to lift up. It’s like, ‘Where am I being transported to?‘”
This guy is a genius. He’s probably one of the highest level producers that I’m aware of. He’s been doing it forever. He actually created a super group with Modeselektor, and they created a super group called Moderat, and they had some fantastic records. This is off his newest record he released a couple months ago called LP5. He’s actually nominated for a Grammy. For someone who is as underground as him, to be given the opportunity was huge. You guys ever see that Netflix TV show called Dark? He did the opening track for it.
When this song gets to about 3:35, there’s this incredible organic instrumentation that takes over. It just teleports you to a fictitious world within your mind. Like this made up dream.
You know this guy, Collin Desha. He’s a Hawaiian native.
I do! Can you share your back story?
We worked at the same restaurant in Beverley Hills way back in the day. A mutual friend of ours introduced us and said “You guys both do music, you should do something together.” So we started a band, Vanaprasta, and we probably have one of the tightest closest working musical relationships, more than anyone I work with. We do a lot of writing together. Im actually co-writing some of his new music for his new record that he’s working on right now.
He’s like the most gentle loving calm soul in the world, just a really nice guy. His family invented the slack-key guitar in Hawaii; that traditional Hawaiian guitar sound. So he has a really smooth confidence on the guitar like riding a wave everything for him is like surfing in the ocean.
When you see him on stage, he has this little bounce, this rhythm.
Yeah, it’s almost like watching him ride the most epic wave. His music is the wave and he’s just riding it the whole way. His music has that California-sunshine-beating-down-on-your-face-just-driving-with-the-wind-in-your-hair-down-the-pacific-coast-highway-vibe. And the music video is like that too, it’s this weird robot that ventures on the cost.
What’s your take on the song?
I Don’t Know Me Like You Do I think is a fantastic title to this song, admitting to his loved one that she knows him better than he does. He talks a lot about personal struggle, and conquering that through togetherness. It’s a great song.
We’re like brothers. I married him and his wife, I was the officiator. He gave the most beautiful speech and I feel like this song is like that speech. He said something like “All my life, the only thing I ever wanted to do was leave this island. I finally made it to LA, met all my new friends, met my wife, made great music.” And then he said, “Today, as I was on the island in Hawaii with all my friends, I swam out into the ocean. I was out in the water and I turned around and I looked back and all my friends where on the beach just sitting there, having fun.” He realized he had worked so hard to leave somewhere, that he wanted everyone to be at in one place at one time. And he realized that the desire to leave was never real. I feel like that’s what this song is about; finding your way back to home. I Don’t Know Me Like You Do. You could say that about the island that he came from. He doesn’t know him like the island knows him.
I love this track. I think Caribou has this real sincerity about the way he’s communicating what he’s going through. A real sincerity in his delivery, vocally. He’s obviously gone through a lot of heartache. I think he went through a divorce 5 or 6 years ago and he’s still singing about it on this record. So he obviously relishes and creates his best artwork out of heartache, which I can identify with.
I just like him, he’s smart and intelligent; I think he does everything by himself. I think he’s always on the tip of what’s happening, modern-wise in music, and I think he’s always pushing that on a heavy level.
Ben Khan, this guy is interesting. Really unique voice. I really love the sound of the drums in this in combination with his vocal. And then the guitar is just rippin’.
This song made me feel like this very retro ’80s dance electronic rave happening in Manchester, England. The music production on his vocal and the way he just spits out, “You’re like a tidal wave.” I actually never knew what he was saying until I read the name of the song.
For me I just think the beat is super heavy, and it’s a pumping fun song. A lot of his music you can just put on in the background at a party and people will have a serious vibe going. Even just sitting with friends having a glass of wine and out of the conversation someone will be like, “Hey what is this that we’re listening to?” The whole time they’ve been focused on it. Even though they’ve been present, the whole time their ears are just going, “What am I listening to?”
Okay, so Jean Dawson. This kid is a legend. He’s African-American/Mexican. Grew up in Compton. This kid is going to be a superstar. I know him pretty well, and he’s actually had a lot of recording sessions in my studio.
How’d you meet him?
My neighbour, Christian Lennon. He’s a big streetwear kid — he has his own streetwear line called Brotherhood — very connected deep into that world. He also dabbles in music management. He found this kid and started working with him. I remember he first showed me this guy’s music and he had 600 plays on one of his songs and he was getting all this mad love. And I was like, “How does this happen?” It’s just because his music’s dope. He’s a fresh voice. I think he speaks for a generation of kids that sometimes I might have a hard time understanding because I’m a little older. But he’s very unique.
How would you describe his music?
His music is kinda like a Garage, Hip-Hop, Rap. I mean, it’s like if Morrissey was a black kid from Compton, is basically how I imagine it. He has this retro way with everything he does visually.
What is it about his music that’s so unique?
I love the abrupt shifts of tempo. You’ll be into one groove. It’ll calm you down, bring you into this focus. Then it’s almost like the record needle scratches and someone puts on a new record, brings you into a new journey. That’s what I love about this listening experience. He’s going to be a superstar, no doubt about it.
This guy’s really interesting. He actually has a disease that makes his hearing operate at a higher level of focus. He had to get help for it, and he was able to deal with it. I think he just hears music in a completely different way, and he’s given us the gift of this song. Every time I play this song and I put it on in my car, right as it hits the centre part of the song when the synths come in, everybody always goes, “Hey who is this!?”
It’s a super unique sound.
His voice sounds like breath coming through the speakers. And then just the high fidelity of the clicks and snaps. I feel like I’m in the room watching him record it. You feel this tension. The tension is so key. You want to drive people crazy. And then when they don’t think they’re going to get it, give it to them. Like waiting for the perfect orgasm. At 3:16, it’s epic. I think it’s the most beautiful thing. The hair on my arms, do you see it?
“You feel this tension. The tension is so key.”
For me, it’s all about climax. That’s why I finished this playlist with this song. I wanted to have a moment that really wrapped up this whole listening experience in the two minute ending of a song.
What’s next for Adult Bodies?
I’m currently working in the studio and planning to release a track called Forever Young in the near future.