Since he first surfaced in 2010, Harry Agius has been a chameleonic talent, a producer of surreal club cuts as well as modern pop songs, a house DJ always flirting with techno, disco and the sounds of his native UK. He presents himself with understated flair: his name, Midland, is a dry nod to his time living on Midland road as a student in Leeds (though he grew up in Tanzania and now resides in London), and his MySpace once said his goal was to “create a homogeneous sound that people from different musical persuasions can appreciate.” What he actually does, though, is far more radical than that. In his productions, his DJ sets and his record labels, Midland’s sound is as unassuming as it is surprising, at once subtle, refined and totally raucous.
Midland’s production style has nimbly evolved from one record to the next. “Your Words Matter,” his early collaboration with Pearson Sound (then Ramadanman), set the tone for his long-lasting friendship with Aus Music: slick, stripped-back, garage-flavored house, something that also characterised the excellent Bring Joy on More Music. Soon, though, Agius flipped the script, joining forces with Pariah for a scuffed-up techno EP that formed part of the Sheworks series on Work The Long Nights. This dark turn continued with what may have been his breakthrough track: 2013’s “Trace,” a warped after-hours tune that seemed to emanate from the deepest corners of the subconscious. Soon after Agius launched his own label, Graded, with the double A side of “Archive 01” and “Realtime”, two tracks that soundtracked numerous dance floors that year, this was soon followed by “Drumtrak,” a wonderfully delirious creeper of a DJ tool. In 2015, he wove bongos and soaring strings into his palette with the Double Feature EP, a pair of warm and disco-flavoured house bombs on his newly launched ReGraded imprint, also home to one of the stealthiest hits of the year, Hubie Davison’s “Sanctified”. Meanwhile, he debuted AKASE, an electronic pop project with Robert Redway, engineered by Ewan Pearson and signed to Berlin institution !K7.
There were plenty of one-offs along the way, including remixes for artists from Mano Le Tough to Darkstar on Warp Records as well as “Before We Leave” for Phonica’s white label series and contributions to JD Twitch of Optimo’s Autonomous Africa label (the proceeds from which to go Mtandika Mission, a charity that Agius parents run in Tanzania).
For all of these efforts, Agius has received a steady stream of accolades, but it’s possible he’s made his biggest impact with the other side of his craft: DJing. Delivering his kaleidoscopic taste with mixing technique that nods as much to his UK lineage as it does a smoother European style, Midland has set himself apart with sets as classy as they are utterly party rocking. Late at night and early in the morning, aboard boat parties on the Adriatic or on the carpeted dance floor at Freerotation, via regular slots at clubs like Berlin’s Panorama Bar, Amsterdam’s now legendary Trouw and London’s Fabric, he’s given countless unforgettable moments to innumerable people around the world. His entries in to mix series’ from Resident Advisor to Beats in Space and Dekmantel have become slow burning classics, and in 2015, he took it up a notch with his All Night Long parties, a series of events where he manned the decks from open to close, charting a vast course from ambient, soul and world music through to storming (but always elegant) club music. It’s the fullest demonstration yet of his wide ranging talents, and a tantalising sign of what’s still to come.