His music fills the space so fully, you feel like you’re gazing upon some far-flung steppes in a far-off land. His vibes produce groundswells, make you wave your knees and tilt your head back to the sky, moonstruck. The quality of a fading daydream, the sense of time slipping away, and the joy that’s here this moment, but gone the next. Add to the mix angst-ridden voices and haunting rhythms. His electronic music has the power to bring very different sounds together and give them new meaning. Here is the story of the man behind the music: Bagdat Baimagambetov, aka Exempt, spoke to Sensa Nostra.
Producing electronic music brings peace to me. Of course, a lot of people feel this way, and the old saying, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast” is no stranger to me. But, I mean, there is something more to it than just relaxation. It wasn’t just about unwinding. If that were the case, I would have made future garage like my good friend Whattsun. When I produce music, I indulge in daydreaming. It has become a chance to get into my own rhythms and go with the flow for hours on end. It helps me to escape reality and become immersed in myself. I lie on the floor for hours, eyes closed. And then comes the music. The sounds, the beats, the loops. Making a soundtrack on their own. My ideas come from that kind of meditation. Then, I play the keyboard for hours to find the sounds I am looking for. I like to give authenticity to my songs, so I love to work with samples. It can be any kind of sound, so long as I think it’s nice to listen to over and over. It can be rain drops, something I heard in a store, whatever. At some point, the magic dissipates and turns into hard work. But anyway, composing music is about finding a balance in mood. I want it to be chill. But sometimes, there is little difference between chill and sad.
When I get into this process of daydreaming, I have all these images coming back to my mind. Images of my childhood in Kazakhstan, running around with all the other kids. I can remember that feeling, that incredible freedom. One of the older ones used to tell tales, usually horror stories. Oh, I can remember the thrill of playing and running around. But I have forgotten parts of this childhood. There were some beautiful moments, and others that weren’t… Anyways, that isn’t the point here, I don’t feel like talking about it. I left when I was still a child. My mother wanted to start afresh and study accounting in the UK. She asked me if I wanted to follow her. I was excited about discovering new places, so I went. I was twelve. I have only been back once since then. It is a shame that the beauty of Kazakhstan remains hidden from the world. The far-flung steppes, those incredible landscapes…
So, I landed in the UK, in Cardiff. I had a tough childhood, I suppose, so I was kind of an angry teenager. My high school was kind of rough, too. My friends and I would mess around together. Some stole cars, for example. It was a kind of game. This was when I met Whattsun and started playing music. At first, it was rap, because we would watch TV and think that rappers were cool. It has to begin somewhere! So, we made some rap of our own. We had lot of fun, but it gradually became more serious. We wanted to make real music. So, as I said earlier, Whattsun went for future garage, and I, chillwave. As its name suggests, it is relaxed, quiet music. I have drifted away from angry expressionism.
We chose electronic music because at that time we found it much more interesting than playing pop songs. Lots of people were producing music to be ‘popular’. They were biased by the media at the time, when Britpop was reaching a climax. I actually like pop music, but electronic music seemed to be more about the evolution of music production. It takes pop one step forward, because you are making a song from already-existing sounds. The thrill is in bringing things together which at first have nothing to do with one another. And you manage to make it melodious, structured, consistent. You have played with the sounds so much that it turns into something else. And it’s in this process that I find my own touch, that which defines the music I produce.
It is on purpose that I chose the name Exempt. Since leaving Kazakhstan, I feel in between two different cultures. I belong to both Kazakhstan and the UK, so, really, I belong nowhere. Until I was twelve, I spoke Kazakh. Then I went to Cardiff, learned English, and forgot my mother tongue. I can’t understand a word of it now.
Maybe this is something you can feel in the music. I love to distort sounds to the point where you can’t even recognize the original instrument. I have grown to love ghostly-sounding instruments and twisting voices beyond recognition. I think it gives more depth to the song. And then there’s that nostalgic, wistful feeling in my music. Perhaps it’s all related.
Since moving from Kazakhstan, I always get carried away. I like to float, to meet new people, to press the reset button over and over. It is the same with my music—I really enjoy collaboration. People want to be influenced by each other. When you play music with different people, it makes you do different things, some of which you would not have thought about otherwise. It is inspiring. I have met some people on the Net with whom I have shared samples, beats, and so on. It is really rewarding. You get to know about new producers, and they get to know you. It is a virtuous circle. I am in the process of getting samples from a girl who has a kind of lyrical voice. I think her samples will really fit my sound. I am planning to release an EP soon. I was thinking of calling it the name of that Greek philosopher, you know, the one who said, “One never bathes twice in the same river.” Everything is constantly changing. Landmarks are nowhere to be found.
Listen to Exempt on Soundcloud :