Rui da Silva has a brand new record out — it's a collaboration with New York producer Duane Harden called "It's Your Love", and there are quite a few things about it that could end up getting it heard a lot. The classic arc of the songwriting, Joe Killington's full-gear vocal, and the carefully colored production from da Silva and Harden are just some of the things that could make it a stand-out moment in a career that's had quite a few of those already.
Rui da Silva is a House producer from London who has been releasing quality track after quality track for a while now. One of the scene's most respected voices, he's been finding new sounds, new ideas, and new ways to discover what House music can be ever since he traded in his bass guitar for an early generation of analog drum machines and samplers.
He discovered House music in the early nineties, when he was playing bass in a garage band in his native Lisbon. "It was pretty hard to keep everybody interested in the band," he remembers, "and I realized that with House music you could just do it all on your own. So I just jumped into that, and got a bit of equipment. I got a couple of magazines to figure out what people were using and just took it from there."
The rest of the world first heard what he was doing when he and DJ Vibe, calling themselves Underground Sound of Lisbon, recorded a track called "So Get Up". They sent a promo copy to New York — just one — with no contact info on the label except a phone number and part of a map of Lisbon. Night after night for six months, Junior Vasquez banged it in his legendary Sound Factory sets, until finally TRIBAL America's Rob di Stefano got the phone number off the record and tracked da Silva and DJ Vibe down in Lisbon.
With the TRIBAL America release, "So Get Up" became a world-wide House phenomenon. "It created a new sound that didn't exist," da Silva says, "because our influences were quite unique. We were consuming techno from Detroit, house records from New York, and some sounds from the UK, and we were just trying to figure out our own dance music." That's something da Silva has never stopped doing — figuring out his own dance music. As a musician, he's exceptional in more than a few ways, but one of the most striking is the way that he always seems to be just beginning his journey. What makes that even more unusual is that it's already been quite a ride.
After a few more years in the Lisbon scene that he had helped to create, da Silva decided to move to London. "It was a risk, but I felt that I was at a place that I could not move further," he recalls, "so it was either just settle for where I was, or take a chance and move further. I decided to move further." Much further, as it turned out, topping the UK charts with a record he did with Cassandra Fox called "Touch Me", co-founding Kismet Records, and releasing a mesmerizing sequence of widely admired tracks. In 2015 alone, he has more than a dozen new releases as an artist (and several more as a remixer) that cover a multi-chromatic spectrum of style, texture and sound. "I'll always expect to find new sounds," he says.
It's one of his defining skills, that art of learning what new choices a changing musical landscape has to offer. Finding that balance — between individual voice and inspiration from others — is one of the most complex parts of the creative process, but da Silva brings a lot of experience to it. "As music progresses and new genres appear — which usually means new techniques are used — I'm always very keen on exploiting those," he says. One of his secrets is not to worry too much about what everybody expects. Another, more important, is to care very much about the quality of his releases. "I always try to do the best and put the same amount of attention and detail into every single one of them."
Even though his work can explore many of club music's sub-genres, there's real consistency in his sound, and part of the reason for that is his appreciation for sonic detail. "I definitely pay a lot of attention to finding the right sounds, to sculpting and designing the right sounds," he says of how he builds his tracks. What's he looking for? Whatever will work best, wherever he can find it. "I won't exclude it being a preset, or being a sound that I've sculpted from zero, or being something that I've adapted by morphing from a sound I already had. That's where a lot of the time is spent in terms of production, to get the right sounds in the right places."
That's certainly one of the things you notice about the new release — in "It's Your Love", the right sounds are in all the right places. Even though it's a track that's full of heart, there's nonetheless a real technical refinement in its sonic detail. The song actually started as a beat that da Silva had written with Andrei Basirov, which he played for Joe Killington while they were working together on a different project. "He liked the beat," da Silva says, "so we got Duane on Skype, and from there we just developed a concept of the song, and worked on a melody and on the lyric."
"It's Your Love" has an old-school power to it. Behind the up-to-date production, the song itself is actually built like a classic soul record, and Joe Killington's vocal sounds like it could have been tracked in Detroit, way back in the day, by a singer Berry Gordy discovered in the Jeffries Projects. "I think it came naturally," da Silva says of how they put it all together. "I don't think it would be something that you would find in most of the songs that are being written now, which usually are much more streamlined."
In a lot of ways, "It's Your Love" highlights what Rui da Silva has always brought to his music, and to his many audiences. His understanding of collaboration, as much as his intricate appreciation of what's possible in a song, have always been key elements of his relentless musical discovery, and one of his most enduring trademarks is the way he keeps making something brand new. Such nonstop originality doesn't often span decades, yet somehow, Rui da Silva keeps finding new ways to make a great Rui da Silva record.