Independent artist of the week: Obelisk
March 21st 2023
Obelisk is the alias of Ryan O’Rourke, our Independent Artist of the Week. He’s a music producer, DJ and event coordinator, his new EP Meta Bliss has been getting plenty of love on-air. Obelisk also stopped by the studio a few weeks back to have a long Krishtie Mofazzal and Chuyi Wang on Deep Web. The three of them rolled through topics like League of Legends, niche experimental musicians, and the pros and cons of using mannequin stand-ins for international artists at Zoom/DIY hybrid outdoor raves (seriously).
Obelisk speaks about it all with a slow, considered metre – until he gets excited. Then, his voice brightens a few notches and you can tell he wants to tell you about three things at once, all tumbling out at a swift, jagged clip. There’s a frenetic blend of cheeky gamer references, encyclopaedic knowledge of Bandcamp netlabels , and sincere joy for the wonky and euphoric corners of the club world. It shines through in his music in a blindingly obvious way. Speak to Obelisk about his music for a few minutes, and you’ll get the impression that he really, really cares about what he does, not whether it’s cool or not – which makes it all the more cool, really.
“I really like euphoric music, but without necessarily that music being boring or repetitive or just a four-four kick or something like that. But still with that euphoria to it. But it was pretty chin-strokey music at the same time, so I was like, ‘Damn, what’s like chin strokey euphoria?’ I was like, ‘Meta bliss.'”
While he’s quite new to music production and DJing, Obelisk’s DJ sets and original productions are tinged by a deep enthusiasm for silly and sincere experiments – a real “let’s see what happens” approach. That attitude has been around for him since the early days:
Obelisk: I’m currently 27, and I started when I was 23 or so. Initially, me and my friend Max, who produces as Maxius, we were really into DJing just for fun, for each other. We just had super cheap decks. We really liked at the time, you know, just like random techno and hardcore and, and stuff like that. But we didn’t really play out at all. And we didn’t really know too many music people. We were just random gamers that liked music. So yeah, my friend Max, was sort of like the ignition for it. He started this rave series called Transport, which was really fun. Just outdoor DIY stuff. Just silly, fun parties. So I helped him out with that. We ended up booking some pretty fun people.
Krishtie: I remember the last Transport. It was one of my favourite raves, especially right before COVID hit. And it was Female Wizard with D-Grade, Jesse Mullins and yourself?
Obelisk: Yeah, it was fun.
Obelisk then spent COVID lockdowns playing League of Legends, trawling through Bandcamp netlabels and poking around with Slikback sample packs. With his recent debut EP Meta Bliss, it’s obvious that he’s been deep in Ableton, refining his sound to a bizzaro-world palette with an experimental sheen.
I feel like I just like really big sounds. You know, melodically just distorted, grand, almost like high fantasy sounding melodics, like really sharp pads and tricky quick melodies and stuff like that, with just really scattered arhythmic hard percussion. When I hear those things in tracks, I’m like, ‘Let’s go, this is awesome!’ And maybe like a bit of fun as well like sprinkled in.
It’s a musical aesthetic that feels particularly online. Obelisk’s DJ sets skirt genres and tempos with a deft cheekiness that belies deep internet digging. Ever a Bandcamp acolyte, he has an impressive knowledge of the various netlabels on the platform. It’s fitting that that was the place Meta Bliss was launched, cementing his place in the experimental rave corner of the internet amongst his favourites.
Because of the timezone, it being an Italian label and everything, the release came out while I was asleep and I woke up and checked the Bandcamp and it was like, ‘All these people already bought it!’ Yeah, and it was literally the A team of Bandcamp fans. I was like, whoa, these are the guys [whose DJ sets] I steal tracks from.
Want to hear more from Obelisk? We’ve combined his interviews with Lill Scott and Krishtie Mofazzal and Chuyi Wang up top. You can also stream Meta Bliss below.