Recent full-length album Shift marks a new chapter for Australian producer Fractures.
Grouped in with ambient and liminal genres, Shift highlights a harder, more energized, and technical direction after the producer born Mark Zito took a break. Dropping in June, the release was preceded by tracks “Burnt,” “Medium,” and “Last,” which were added to Spotify’s Global Fresh Finds and received support from BBC Radio 1, triple j, The Guardian, and The Fader.
Time off wasn’t just a break for Fractures. Rather, after a career during which he has amassed over 40 million global streams, he opted to continue refining his craft – production and songwriting – through sessions and writing camps. This included Sultan & Shepard, Will Clarke, Joe Hertz, Emmeline, Julia Church, ATRIP, il:lo, Frameworks, Jon Calver, and other artists in the U.K.
In addition to Shift, the Vanda & Young Global Songwriting Competition recently selected Fractures as a finalist.
What concept or vision did you have for Shift?
Like most releases I’ve had, I don’t really start with an end goal in mind. The songs just kind of amass until I realize that I’m working towards something unconsciously, and then I follow that path wholeheartedly.
Shift was probably the most aware I’ve been of the overarching continuity of a release. The idea that the songs should all work together and complement one another has been secondary sometimes for me, so this was new territory.
Ultimately I knew I wanted it to be electronic music throughout, and basically whatever that came out after running through the old Fractures’ Filter (patent pending) would be the proof of concept, I guess.
You decided to experiment with new sounds on this release. How does Shift represent your evolution as an artist?
I put the guitars away is probably the biggest shift. I’ve always found a way to sneak them in, but I didn’t feel the pull this time. So we can call that evolution.
Lockdowns afforded me much time to figure out how to make this kind of music. So, within that, there was always going to be a change of musical scenery, but I think I’ve always had all these elements floating around in my music, synths, beats, etc. – it’s just the first time I’ve truly honed in them, so from the outside looking in, it might seem like I’ve pivoted, but I’ve been hinting at it for a while now. Leaving breadcrumbs and little clues.
I’m still learning, though, so the evolution might seem that much more pronounced with what follows now that I’ve kind of found the pocket I want to live in for a while stylistically.
What influenced you to start producing?
I’d seen my older brother do it for a long while, so there’s got to be something in that, and I wasn’t particularly hands-on, but I came to understand what it meant to produce and that stuck with me, but recording was just always a way to put ideas down for me – making guitar noodles here and there, and then the production side of things emerged when I decided to actually see these noodles through ‘til the end.
Trying to make a song flow in a pleasing way and figuring out which puzzle piece fits where, or doesn’t fit, is a fulfilling challenge.
Maybe not always during the process but definitely after when you “crack” the code, so I’m drawn to that.
Every new song offers a new opportunity to unlock something or walk a path you hadn’t before, whether or not that’s intentional, so it keeps me going back to the well, and when I was first starting, every discovery seemed that much more immense, so it was like sweet, sweet nectar for this little songbird/song boy.
In terms of producing for Shift, what did you do differently here, in terms of gear or collaborations, than you’ve done on past releases?
Things like Splice came into my life in the early days of the album, which was a game-changer at the time.
Up until then, I’d been reliant on my own collections of samples, constructing my own loops from scratch, which is its own reward, but being able to cut a few steps to get to the destination you can hear in your head is pretty nice.
If anything, I lent on it too much, but we live, we learn, or something like that.
Distorting the tone of my vocals was a new thing – it started with formant shifting my leads on “Medium,” and then I enjoyed that experience so much, I tried it out again on “Secret” and “Maybe Later On.” It’s almost like playing another character or something.
It kind of opens up a different door for the feel of the song overall that I’m not sure I could achieve using my natural voice. It’s left me feeling more comfortable that not every vocal I put down has to be a pristine piece of art, tweaked endlessly until it sounds like it’s shiny – there’s value in going the other direction.
Your sound gets classified as ambient. How would you describe your sound?
My older stuff I can see myself falling into that category more than the new stuff, but I guess I like for things to be lush and have depth without being abrasive, so maybe that’s the same thing. This album in particular is a mixed bag, I jump around the genres like a jolly jester, so I’m not sure where I land exactly which I kind of like. I enjoy being a musical utility.
It’s very melodic. I like a melody in everything – in the way keys move, in the bass, and vocal melodies are something that I think comes naturally to me. So let’s go with that. It’s “melodic electronic” or something. Quite honestly, all the sub-genres of electronic music make my brain tired, so I’d never be able to say where I fit in that world with any confidence. Hopefully, someone can tell me, so I finally sleep at night.
You’ve recently been participating in multiple sessions and writing camps. What might be the outcomes of these sessions?
With luck, superstardom, and a big bag full of money in whichever currency is most convenient. A great many things hopefully – I went in with an open mind and came back with a whole lot of songs and new pals from that U.K. trip. So, with luck, I can find a way to get the music we made out into the world with those lovely people.
That might mean a co-release here or there, or slot something into my album. Admittedly I’m still mentally and digitally unpacking a lot of it, so it’ll take some time to figure out where it all fits, but I’d love to see the work make it out into the world because it was a lovely time. It’ll all lead somewhere, which is the most exciting part.
How does it feel to have been selected as a finalist for the Vanda & Young Global Songwriting Competition?
It was a bit of a thrill, especially after having entered it so many times over the years. Short of losing hope, but it became a routine of entering the songs and getting the “sorry, you haven’t made the cut” email, so it was a nice change. The prize money went to the right people, but of course, I wouldn’t have begrudged them if they wanted to also give me the same amount. I’m very reasonable that way, always have been.
Just nice to know it connected with a whole bunch of people, enough of them that it stood out from the crowd of however many others it was put up against, was a nice little fix of validation before the wallowing self-doubt crept back in. Such is life.
With the summer festival season already here, what are your plans, and what can audiences expect from you?
I’ll start dipping my toe back in the waters of live performance in the back half of the year, but I see myself connecting more and more with people that way. I think this music in particular lends itself to festivals, so with luck, you’ll be seeing me pop up at more and more of them. I think I’d fit right in there.
So keep an eye out for me, and in between all of that, I’ll be making more sad electronica for people to dance and cry to, you can always rely on that.