2020 has been a bumpy year, but it’s also allowed for many creatives to sit down and create more than ever. Born out of quarantine, bass producer ENiGMA Dubz is debuting his new downtempo project Itona. I had a chance to ask James Vine aka ENiGMA Dubz aka Itona about this new project, the inspiration behind it, this new sound, and more in celebration of his new EP Reviere out now.
Selbe Dittman, Electric Hawk: The Itona project was born from the UK lockdown for COVID-19. How has creating Itona helped you through this difficult time?
Itona: The first full UK lockdown, which lasted around 7 weeks, was a very strange and challenging time in many ways. The prospect of losing work and elements of my music income was a serious concern. Also, not fully knowing the severity of COVID-19 was also a worry for my wife and I, in particular for our two kids – like it was for so many people, in and outside the music industry.
However, alongside these concerns, I felt many opposing emotions during lockdown too – which came from more family time and also, due to our living circumstances changing during this period, more time for my own personal musical projects.
Itona has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and that extra time during lockdown finally allowed me to pursue it. This project has allowed me to make music which brings me good vibes and a bit of an escape – and I hope for others too.
SD: What do you want the Itona project to represent to its listeners? What feelings do you want to invoke with this music?
To me, Itona represents a mixture of emotions paired with an energy that’s moving forwards. There will be a variety of electronic genres I wish to explore with this project, but the mixture of feel-good, warm, cozy, nostalgic, reflective, and sometimes melancholic vibes will hopefully reach out to people and give off what they need.
It’s all about taking a few minutes to escape and enjoy the moment. That’s the main driving force behind Itona, music to help you drift away. That’s the lane I want to operate in – but there’s no limit to the genres within that.
“Dusty City” was the first release off the EP, giving listeners a hint of what was to come. It combines downtempo electronica with chillhop, making it the perfect kick back track.
SD: Why the name Itona? What does it’s meaning represent to you?
So, broken down, ‘ito’ means love and ‘na’ – summer in Japanese. Here in the UK, we aren’t blessed with year-round sunshine (or much sunshine at all to be honest!), but every summer my family and I go on backpacking trips to different parts of the world, and I always come back from these amazing trips FULL of creative energy and ready to write music. It’s that feeling of adventure, warmth, and unity as a family that got me wanting to start this project.
SD: ENiGMA Dubz is a bass-heavy project while Itona is chill-hop/downtempo. Which genre do you like producing more?
I actually like them both equally as they both allow me to fully explore my ideas through music. On one hand, I’m a serious bass head and feel totally addicted to low-end frequency pressure, and music that will set a club off – yet on the other hand I love music that gives off deep, authentic emotions and has a real element of soul in there too. I do produce more vibey music under ENiGMA Dubz too, but with the amount of ideas I have and the mixture of genres I enjoy, the new Itona project allows me to fully explore all avenues of electronic music.
Inspired by his daughter’s love for dandelions, the track “Dandelion” captures the essence of childlike wonder perfectly. Layering a contagious bassline with pad synths, this track will sweep you away into the sweet breeze.
SD: What was the production process like for the Reverie EP? Do any of the tracks have any specific inspiration?
This first EP contains three of my earliest tracks and they were all written during the first few weeks of the UK Lockdown. “Dusty City” in particular, the first single, is all about capturing a city in lockdown, empty streets, dusty roads, the sun shining through with no obstructions.
As a family, we spent a lot of time in the garden during the lockdown and my daughter was obsessed with dandelions (until she’d blown them all away) so the second track “Dandelion” was all about being out in the sun and chasing dandelion seeds as they drift away – capturing that scene and the childish optimism.
“(Baby) Just Let Me Know” is a much more heartfelt emotional song in a different way, with a slight melancholic vibe – and Late June’s remix of it is a sick slice of synthwave inspired future bass.
SD: Do you think creating the Itona project has helped you grow as an artist? If so, how?
Definitely, it’s been a new process of producing in some aspects as I’ve been focusing on different sonic approaches. I’ve also been exploring and finding loads of new artists on a similar vibe, who give me lots of inspiration. There’s so much great music out there!
(Baby) Let Me Know
“(Baby) Let Me Know” is the epitome of the whole EP. It’s delicate and cumulous melody wraps you up while tender and ethereal vocals guide you through the clouds. It’s a subtle yet striking ending to the EP.
SD: What can we expect from Itona in the future?
LOTS more music! There are two more EP’s already finished and in the pipeline which will ultimately lead to a debut album next year. I’m constantly writing new material too and there’s a dropbox folder that is starting to burst at the seams!
SD: What’s the biggest blessing that’s been brought to you this year?
I’d say my biggest blessing this year has been the development of my children during lockdown, and the enormous gratitude towards my wife who did an amazing job homeschooling my daughter. I’d also say that I feel very blessed to be working full time in music through various projects and avenues. It’s taken a long time and a lot of work, but to be doing something I’m so passionate about day in, day out is a total blessing.
SD: Is there anything else we didn’t cover that you want to share or add?
I’d just like to say thank you to you guys, Electric Hawk, for chatting with me and supporting my various projects – and a shout out to anyone who listens and gets involved in my music in any way. It means a lot!
Listen to Reviere by Itona below:
And if you’re looking for a solid playlist to follow, keep up with our weekly Spotify playlist, Fresh Hunts. All the latest releases.
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