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In 1998 Aril Brikha reacquainted the world with deep techno soul, as his record Groove La Chord crossed generic boundaries. Is it techno? Is it house? Is it deep house? It’s everything and nothing. Groove La Chord is simply timeless. No one was more surprised about the success of Groove La Chord than Brikha himself – after all, he’d originally presented it on his demo as a potential B-side. Two years after he recorded Groove La Chord, Brikha heard it in a club for the first time – Derrick May pulled it out in Chicago. Aril then realised it was a good track. The renegade always walks alone. As a cultural exile in Sweden, Aril Brikha has never been one to conform. Born in Iran with Assyrian ancestry, Brikha emigrated to the Scandinavian country at three. He grew up in the small town of Jonkoping. “My mum, she’s from Iran, my dad is actually from Iraq,” he says. “At that time, 1980, there was this revolution happening in Iran and, we as Christians and my father as a politically active person, it wasn’t that safe in Iran. He was actually working for a Swedish company, and so that’s how we ended up here.”
Brikha demonstrated his musicality early – with his parents nurturing his talent. At seven, Aril was given a keyboard and his father, a pianist, taught him to play. Before long, Aril was picking up notes by ear. In his early teens he developed an interest in electronic music acts – such as Depeche Mode, Front 242 and Jean Michel Jarre. Brikha obtained an Atari sequencer and, after initially emulating the music of others, he began composing his own at 16. Friends who heard his material told him it was ‘Detroit techno’. Brikha had no idea what that was – and so they played him records by Robert Hood and Berlin’s Basic Channel. “I’m just growing up in a real small city in Sweden, it’s four or five hours from Stockholm, and you don’t get into techno music or certain labels, it just happens – and that’s what happened there, I guess.”
At a time when the Swedish techno sound was starting to be identified with minimal, loop-based ‘DJ tools’, Brikha was creating cerebral, emotional and spiritual electronic music. No one wanted to listen. Brikha disseminated his earliest material on Swedish imprints – Dunkla, Plump, and Placktown – but realizing that his music wasn’t what the local labels were seeking, he looked for fresh outlets. Aril, now residing in Stockholm, obtained the addresses of three independent companies – among them Derrick May’s Transmat Records – and posted out demos. “I’m not a DJ, so I had no records,” he recalls. “I went to my friend’s place and I just wrote down a couple of addresses of labels that I know that I like.” As it happened, Transmat contacted Brikha and, as a consequence, his Art Of Vengeance EP (with Groove La Chord) was issued on its sister label, Fragile, in 1998. A year on, Aril followed it up with the LP Deeparture In Time, a collection of evocative grooves – like the intricate Embrace, transcendent Otill and the electro-funk Setting Sun – gathered over a six year period and laid down with just one keyboard, a drum machine and an Atari. It drew exultant reviews. The album has lately been re-issued in Europe with two new tracks. As Brikha himself muses, “It’s still evolving.”
Since forging an alliance with Transmat, Brikha, celebrated as the new star of deep techno, has toured solidly with his live show, playing everywhere from the inaugural DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival) to in-vogue clubs like London’s Fabric. In 1999 Brikha embarked on a North American tour under the Transmat banner with a full band, Time:Space. The current members are comprised of Aril, Jeremy “Ayro” Ellis who will record under the name L.S. for Transmat, Tony Drake who produced the album “Texture” and Gabe Gonzales who also plays drums for George Clinton’s P-Funk crew. Aril recollects, “I’ve just been used to working all by myself ever since I was seven-years-old, I’ve never played in a band, nothing like that, and all of a sudden I end up in this basement with three strangers to me, and I was supposed to do something with a live band – which was different!” As always…