Tangerine dream: Shanti Celeste
The Chilean-born DJ chats debut album inspiration, production ventures and her love of the colour orange.
“It’s a pensive tangerine. It’s having a good think, and it’s radiating.”
On the phone from Tokyo, Shanti Celeste chats about the art for her debut album Tangerine, due mid-November on Peach Discs, the label she runs with Berlin-based DJ/producer Gramrcy. On the cover, a tangerine – its face like that relieved emoji with smiling eyes – is about to land in a bright blue sea. The sky is a warm pink, and the tangerine leaves in his wake a streak of yellow light. The image has a melon-coloured border because, as you’ve probably gathered, Shanti Celeste really has a thing for orange. “I just love it!” she says with a big, hearty laugh.
A former illustration student, you only have to glance at the artwork for past singles (besides Peach Discs, Celeste has released music on the likes of Idle Hands, Steven Julien’s Apron records and Secretsundaze), the artwork for her NTS show, and her Instagram, to know that her palette is playful and bright. The same can be said for her production, which oozes warmth and melody, and of her energetic DJ sets, which run the gamut across house, techno, electro and garage.
Born in Chile and then raised in the Lake District before moving to Bristol after college, Shanti cut her teeth playing in-store events whilst working at the Idle Hands shop, an essential stop off point for any DJ visiting the city. In 2010, Celeste launched Bristol party Housework alongside Golesworthy, and from there she moved swiftly up the ranks, cementing herself a position as a mainstay on the international club and festival circuits.
“I never, ever thought I would end up here,” Celeste says gratefully, “every single thing that’s happened, in terms of music, has just happened.” Shanti never set out to “be a DJ”; she learnt in her bedroom for fun. She wanted to make her friends dance, DJ out a little and “maybe have some nice dancing experiences” herself. As she found her stride, her friends encouraged her to have a go at production too, which led to a first 12” — Need Your Lovin’ (Baby) /Result, released in August 2013 via Brstl.
“I restrict myself by imagining moments on the dance floor,” she says, after years releasing 12” singles with a heady peak time dance floor in mind, “moments of euphoria, people hugging, feeling happy.” It’s also those moments of euphoria that have stopped Celeste from playing out records in a minor key, “I don’t want people to be sad on the dance floor!” she laughs, “minor chords can kill the energy, because, well, they’re really sad.” But away from the dance floor, Tangerine isn’t built for euphoria alone; it’s Shanti digging deep into her feelings, and playing around with track times too (Natura clocks in at just 92 seconds), as these album cuts aren’t built to work well in the mix. “I’ve been able to experiment with different emotions and arrangements,” she explains, “it’s helped my creative flow.”
That’s not to say that Tangerine is lacking club-friendly material; tracks like Infinitas, Sesame and Want are informed by Celeste having fun in the booth, DJing alongside her pals, namely Moxie, Peach and Saoirse (or SASS, as they call themselves), and Call Super. Elsewhere, watery textures and breathy atmospheric interludes are inspired by ambient music, particularly from Japan. Sun Notification uses a NASA sample, Natura features a Chilean kalimba recorded at her family home, Slow Wave is named after our deepest phase of sleep, and otherworldly closer Moons is affectionately named after two of Shanti’s friends, both with the surname Moon. Threaded throughout Tangerine are Celeste’s distinctively warm synths and melodies, tying together a record that feels natural and organic; an expression of self, and a reflection of where she’s at musically.
With the exception of this year’s excellent Soba Dance EP with Hodge, Celeste’s last release was the Make Time 12” in May 2017. As Tangerine’s release date looms, she’s aware that there’s a heightened sense of expectation when it comes to an album-length release. “It’s nerve wracking,” she says, “you have to be prepared for some criticism.” But over and above any nerves, she’s excited to unveil the warm orange glow of her album. “I really enjoyed making the album,” she says happily. “And I really like it. That’s the most important thing.”