"Cinematic" is a term long associated with acclaimed dance-music innovators Hybrid-and that widescreen emphasis comes even more into focus on Hybrid's ground-breaking new double-disc mix collection,Soundsystem 01 (Hope Recordings). "We're on the opposite end of minimal-more maximal really," explains Mike Truman, who with Chris Healings forms Hybrid's creative core. "It's ingrained in us. We've always wanted these expansive sounds behind everything, which makes our songs so cinematic." "Making big noises is what we do," adds Healings. "It's our calling card. But whether we use electronics, string orchestras, or brass, our songs always take the listener somewhere, which is where the cinematic tag comes from."
Hybrid's filmic quality was evident from their genre-defining 1999 debut Wide Angle-from the very title down to the duo's propensity for blending epic symphonic soundscapes with massive beats, as well as the prominent use of singer Julee Cruise (best known for her eerie vocals on Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks soundtrack). Since then, in addition to crafting dancefloor hits of their own and remixes for everyone from Radiohead to Moby, Hybrid has become known for their work scoring films, as well as sound design and arranging. Truman and Healings can be heard on the soundtracks of Kingdom of Heaven, Déjà Vu, Man On Fire, and Domino, and "Chronicles of Narnia" entry, Prince Caspian (all projects with renowned composer and frequent collaborator Harry Gregson-Williams, who also appeared on the group's 2006 album I Choose Noise). 2007, meanwhile, saw Hybrid complete its first full score for the horror film Catacombs. Soundsystem 01 takes Hybrid's movie obsession to a new level, however, fully merging it with their DJ/production roots.
On CD 1 of Soundsystem, Truman and Healings fuse actual film scores and ambient electronica together for the first time, making for an unforgettable downtempo odyssey: here, glitchy, atmospheric tracks from Trentemoller, Spooky, Andy Page, and new Hybrid vocalist Charlotte James (who contributes a haunting new chill-out classic, "Shadows of the City") blend seamlessly with edgy score selections from films like Babel and 28 Days Later. "It gives a good insight into glorious bits of music we thought should see light of day," Truman says. "It's a bit out of the norm-a more beatless, more abstract vein than we're known for-yet it also reflects the kind of soundtrack work we do for something like a Tony Scott film." The idea for the mix came about when the combination of this great Ryuichi Sakamoto track featuring David Sylvian, with a remix of Harry Gregson-Williams' score for Man On Fire just jelled. We wanted to mix it up so that other people's tracks become a bit of our own."
The more upfront, club-oriented disc of Soundsystem 01 also features some surprises for Hybrid fans. For one, while big-room icons like Sasha, Quivver and Elite Force are represented, Soundsystem shifts the duo's trademark progressive/breaks sound into a predominantly techier, 4/4-driven groove. "We've never actually played just one style, so this is a real reflection of our DJ sets-of what's actually in our record box," Healings explains. "This mix isn't so much banging as it is a refined journey through today's clubbing experience: a little bit progressive, a little bit chunky and tech-housey, with some techno and breakbeat in the middle. Basically, when we DJ, we go everywhere: we'll throw on whatever works to both get people moving and create a real listening experience at the same time."
Soundsystem's DJ-mix disc also features a stripped-down club mix of Hybrid's latest single "Formula of Fear," which reflects of how the band's famous live show-hailed everywhere from festivals spanning Coachella to Glastonbury-has evolved a new creative direction. "It's the first step to what our next artist album will sound like," Truman explains. In addition to Charlotte James, Hybrid's touring lineup includes guitarist Peter DiStefano (of Porno For Pyros fame); bassist Tim Hutton (also known for his work with Ian Brown, Prodigy, and Groove Armada); and programmer/producer John Graham (also famed for his studio aliases Quivver and Tilt). "The next album is really drawing on the strengths on the band members," Healings explains. "Playing live, we've got up to eight people improvising and playing lines on our tracks, and we wanted to continue that vibe. Therefore, we're recording the new album first as a band, then we'll electronically destroy it and make it our own-'Hybrid' it, if you know what I mean."
Hybrid are no strangers to working with notable musicians. In addition to Julee Cruise, Wide Angle featured collaborations with the likes of Chrissie Hynde; Hybrid's second album, 2003's Morning Sci-Fi, was energized by two tracks featuring legendary New Order bassist Peter Hook; as well, their last full-length, 2006's I Choose Noise, was spotlit by an appearance by alt-rock guru Perry Farrell. Such high-profile alliances highlight Hybrid's devotion to real songwriting as the ultimate goal, setting them apart from the majority of electronic/dance producers. "Even if we do a club record, it has to have a song-based chorus," Healings clarifies. "It has to do something-it can't just be beat programming." Then again, defying expectations has been what Hybrid has all about since the beginning: true to its name, the band functions as an umbrella under which Healings and Truman can fuse their different interests. "I think you have to go beyond being just a club act," Healings says. "We think of ourselves as producers, film scorers, sound designers, songwriters, and a real live band. If we were just DJs, we'd get bored very quickly." Indeed, both Soundsystem's mixes and Hybrid's new material reflect just how diverse and vital the sphere of electronic music has become. "Music is so clashing right now, and it's glorious," Truman concludes. "It's an exciting time for music-everything's wide open."