Pursuit Grooves

PURSUIT GROOVES with ELAQUENT and KAYTRADAMUS as part of X AVANT VII at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, October 18), 10 pm. $12-$25. RT, SS, TW. See listing.


As a female producer in the dude-centric electronic and hip-hop instrumental music worlds, Vanese Smith, aka Pursuit Grooves, is still something of a pioneer. But she’s pretty nonchalant about that.

“I think others pay more attention to it than I do!” she says.

Smith isn’t being dismissive – she’d just rather not feed into a misconception. There are others, after all. Laurel Halo, Fatima Al Qadiri, Grimes, Syd tha Kyd and upcoming Mississauga prodigy Wonda Gurl are all active producers who happen to be women.

Instead, the Washington, DC-raised producer – recently described as “eternally underrated” by taste-making electronic music website FACT – turns to what she knows: music. Last month she released 91 Fellows, an eight-track mini-album of rumbling, roving beats, a follow-up to 2011’s Frantically Hopeful and 2010’s Foxtrot Mannerisms.

There’s warmth to her music, possibly the lingering influence of her grandmother’s piano, which Smith played growing up. As a producer, her sonic touchstones include a trifecta of black pop innovators: the duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Teddy Riley and Timbaland.

“Just a really nice mix of groove, soul and synthesizer elements,” she says.

She attended a performing arts school from age eight through high school, and bought her first piece of production gear at 14. “I was into R&B and hip-hop, so naturally those were [the types of] instrumental tracks I made. Then I started recording on an analog four-track cassette deck.”

As a teen, she cultivated her esoteric side by collecting 12-inch vinyl hip-hop instrumentals, rhyming over her favourites, like DJ Shadow’s first album, Endtroducing. She notes that a lot has changed since then.

“Folks can grab a laptop and software now rather than the MPC and other heavy, expensive gear that was required before. There’s definitely more competition to get heard now.

“I’m always appreciative of anyone who listens to my music and understands it from the heart. What will be will be. Whether I’m creating tracks that are fast, slow, experimental, with or without vocals, I’m just a creator.”

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