Meet Agustín Mena: the creative driving force behind Archivesdubs & Faint. These two record labels have long been favorites of ours. As someone with quite the ear for talent, Agus is responsible for many musical discoveries within the past few years. Examples may be any artist in the showcased array of talent: Alex Bober, Robert Farrugia, Luis Miehlich, SineRider (Devin Powers)… the list really goes on for miles and we’re consistently dazzled by the quality creative musical talent output that passes through Agus.
I usually buy CDs, cassettes and I love vinyl, but listening to them in a house with cats is a bit of a risky sport.— Agustín Mena in a prime, yet slightly whimsical moment.
Agus produces music quite regularly under a fitting alias: Warmth…
For us, this name as an audio production engineer describes his music perfectly, and, to that extent explains the style of gentle hazy pads inside ambient music.
Easily one of our favorites of the extensive back catalogue of Agus’ work: ‘Drawing Circles‘ with Kris Dubinsky on Shimmering Moods Records.
Teleporting back to the magical times of 2016, Agus put out Essay, a bed of haunting ambient pads of a hazy adventures in the ice-fields.
Featured Excerpts :: ‘Essay‘ & ‘Decade‘
The Spain-based virtuoso’s latest work includes “Parallel“, where we experience “A tribute to the minimalist ambient of the nineties.“
Taking it one step further, Agus developed a side project, entitled SVLBRD not too long ago.
A deeper, more in-depth exploration into the wondrous journey of nature…
We recently collaborated with Agus to find out a little more about his perplexing nature: running two labels which continually inspire and sincerely touch many people… contained below are a set of interview questions.
AG: What came first for Agus — hazy inspired ambient music production or a vision to start your Archives, and later Faint music labels to release high quality, inspiring emotive ambient music?
Agus: I started producing a few years before starting the labels, although it was something I had always in mind and is now very close. Being able to work with people from different countries & cultures with a different background is a huge source of personal inspiration. It keeps me awake, open, and encourages me to experiment with my own music.
AG: Can you talk a bit about how you came to know cinematic mood capturer and prodigious photographer go70north AKA Alexander Kopatz? The collaboration work the two of you continue to do is very special to us — the first immediate prevalent example being the most recent Faint release: SVLBRD’s Stratus (Remodel).
Agus: The first time I learned about his work was through the blog of Scott Hansen (Tycho). I was fascinated by the color of his photographs, you can almost feel the warmth in them. There is something special in his work, I can’t tell if it is the light, the noise, or the color…
Alexander Kopatz is also a charming person. I asked him to use his photographs for the second CD release on Archives, almost three years ago, and since then we have collaborated on another 16 releases. 4 or 5 forthcoming releases are also in the making. It is the perfect visual aspect for the music of the label, as was the work of our sadly passed away Brian Young, with which there were many projects in mind.
AG: Regarding the Various Artists Compilations that you have released on Archives — from the spectra “Ambient Archives Vol. 1” spanning all the way to the most recent — Solstice, including inspiring visionary artists: Hotel Neon, Robert Farrugia, Steve Pacheco, Hirotaka Shirotsubaki, r beny, Mikael Lind, Pechblende, and yourself (Warmth): How long does it generally take to curate vibrant artist compilations? Do you find yourself sticking to a certain “theme,” if you will, or would you generally say they are a preview of forthcoming works?
Agus: Usually, the tracks are exclusive for the compilations and it’s difficult to organize everything, it happens with any release that involves more than 3 or 4 artists, but it also does not take so much time. In the case of ‘Solstice‘, there was a specific theme, although something very vague I suppose. I’m not usually very fussy about these things, if I’m honest. If a track makes me feel something and I think it fits with the general idea and the rest of the pieces, it’s perfect for me. I usually ask people that I know will do something great, so there’s not much margin for error and most times I’m even surprised about the tone that the project takes at the end…
AG: If you had to pick out a few stand-out inspirations from the electronic music community — who would they be and why?
Agus: My earliest influences are the “usual ones” of the genre, but as I said before, managing the labels has made me rediscover ambient music in general. When you mainly produce, you can’t listen to as much music as you would like. But when you manage a label, you deal with different people, you listen to their music in depth. You get to understand the way they produce… Although they are framed in the same style, a work by Hotel Neon has nothing to do with a work by Purl, Pepo Galán, or Robert Farrugia. Each one has a peculiar sound, some work with many track sounds, others with just a few. You listen to certain patterns that repeat themselves, which make each artist’s music recognizable and special. That’s what I find most interesting right now. It is not such a large community and obviously it is not a genre that has a great exposure. Here in Spain, for example, there are very, very few projects of this type, so, anyone who dedicates themselves to making ambient music out of passion and interest is infinitely inspiring.
AG: What is your view on music streaming as an alternative to supporting artists & music labels directly?
Agus: A few years ago I would have told you something different, but nowadays the only thing that can make you recover a small part of the investment on a release is Spotify. Physical releases can draw attention to a label, because they are always a nice thing, but, at least in my case, it’s pretty hard to make them to work well. People increasingly consume music in digital and it is true that there is some movement around the vinyl medium, but the shipping costs are a huge and insurmountable scourge.
AG: How did your second high quality imprint, Faint, come to be? Are there any specific factors that determine which of the two labels music is released on?
Agus: I used to receive music that was interesting to me, but that did not fit in the aesthetics of Archives at all. When I started with SVLBRD’s side-project, I thought it was an opportunity to start something new with a relatively different direction. In general Faint’s music is darker, some of the works are directly oriented towards techno or sounds a bit more experimental, while Archives can be framed in a more traditional and bright ambient, so to speak.
AG: Preferred music discovery platform?
Agus: My main source is Bandcamp and also Soundcloud.
AG: Vinyl, digital, cassette, compact disc, or 8-Track?
Agus: I’m not a purist in that sense, if I’m honest. I like the music to be accompanied by a physical format. I usually buy CDs, cassettes and I love vinyl, but listening to them in a house with cats is a bit of a risky sport. I also listen to a lot of digital music, since normally when I can listen to music is while doing other things, like driving or being in the gym.
AG: We need to talk about the breathtaking collaboration work you did with Kris Dubinsky — “Nature In Its Forms” on Shimmering Moods Records in 2015. Being that both of you are from different environments — [Warmth’s] “subtropic coastlines” and [Dubinsky’s] “mystical pineforest”…
How did this unique, collaboration come to life on Shimmering Moods?
Agus: Kris and I started talking about the possibility of doing something together, after I did a remix for him. At the beginning it was not easy, we moved in opposite directions and did not advance too much. I guess it’s the usual thing when two people accustomed to working alone try to do something together, even if their work has points in common. At the end, we decided to simplify everything a bit and started to feel much better. We decided to move the project a bit more into pure ambient and there was a nice workflow from there.
AG: Can you talk a little bit about your unique experiences working with ambient artists around the world everyday? As Archives and Faint are known for producing quality soundscapes and beautiful physical releases alongside digital releases, I’m sure I can speak for many others in the ambient community when I say that your work is inspiring daily…
Agus: Well, it’s funny, because really, I don’t personally know any of the artists of the label, but for years I have spoken regularly with many of them. I feel very close to them; even though we speak from afar, the passion we share constructs and connects friendship. I don’t know if it shows in the final result, but I feel that each release is made with great enthusiasm and love for all of us.
Thanks for your time, running music labels, and being an inspiration to all of us, Agus!
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