El_Txef_A (pronounced elchefa) is quite the odd moniker. But it turns out to be a play on words based on the last name of its owner, Aitor Etxebarria, which means "new house" in his native Basque -- rather fitting, considering this celebrated young producer's decidedly new house music sound.
Of course, though, We Walked Home Together, El_Txef_A's latest critically acclaimed long player, transcends house altogether, picking up where the genre left off with stark vocal soul and setting out to explore uncharted electronica territory. The album's deep shades of moodiness draw less from the jazz-inflected Chicago house brand of "deep" than from a personal old-world Basque melancholy.
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"Growing up in the Basque country influenced me in all possible ways," Etxebarria tells Crossfade. "Basque music is characterized by very sad harmonies, because of the few turbulent years here. [But] it has also always been a very thrilling kind of music. Artists like Benito Lertxundi or Mikel Laboa definitely have influenced my career."
The legacy of classic British prog-rockers channeling world-music influences is also a reference point for Etxebarria. "These last three years, I have been researching the careers of David Sylvian and Peter Gabriel, and I think that is reflected in the album," he explains.
But for all its genre-defying experimentation, Etxebarria's sound never strays too far from his original electronic influences.
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"I started listening to electronic dance music when I was 16 or 17," he says. "Here in the Basque Country, they used to listen more to trance and high-BPM stuff. But there was a record store called Cybertech that had a good connection with Kompakt from Germany, and they used to bring some good stuff.
"I started to listen to labels like Kompakt, Dial, etc., and it was at that time I told myself that this was what I really liked -- more serious and cult electronic music. Of course, I also used to go out here and there, and traveling to Berlin. It all slowly but surely contributed to it."
Consisting of nine densely melodic yet hauntingly atmospheric tracks, We Walked Home Together features guest contributions by local Basque singers and musicians like Biskonti, Hannot, and Napoka Iria. Meanwhile, international disco house and techno exponents Woolfy and Meggy also appear on more club-oriented numbers. However, the album is mostly meant for meditative listening, not the dance floor.
"From the beginning. I knew that the album would be called We Walked Home Together," says Etxebarria. "Two years ago, I started thinking about the concept, and I thought about a slow and beautiful walk back home along the countryside with someone you love. Sometimes I think that watching The Bridges of Madison County influenced me on this concept."
If the new album is anything to go by, Miami is in for a singular mind-expanding listening journey when El_Txef_A performs at the Electric Pickle on June 28. Just don't expect cookie-cutter dance beats.
"Nowadays I'm playing more mystic and dark stuff," he says. "More acid, but still slow."
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El_Txef_A. With Surreal Flight and LoudSilence. Presented by Electric Pickle and Sub-Motus. Saturday, June 28. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $10 to $15 plus fees via residentadvisor.net. Call 305-456-5613, or visit electricpicklemiami.com.