Heels and Souls are London DJ duo Ben Croft and Patrick Forrester. Making their names with a not-for-profit party, they have expanded into festival curation, a much-loved radio show, and a reissue record label. Heels and Souls Recordings is now three records deep, but we are getting release number five before four due to heinous and long-running pressing plant issues. And what a release it is. Taking us to Canada twenty-five years ago for the previously CD-only 'What's Your Shrine?' LP from Stephane Novak, AKA Pilgrims of the Mind.

Pilgrims of the Mind was born out of the 90s Vancouver electronica scene. There was something of a movement in Canada at that time, and recently there has been a resurgence of interest in the music it produced. While directly informed by the IDM and rave sounds that migrated from the USA and UK, the sounds that emanated from Canada also seemed to have a direct connection with their own place. By turns, pastoral, glacial, or psychedelic, and often community-spirited, there is a direct line of communication between that era and contemporary Canadian artists.

That being said, Stephane Novak's work stands alone in its breadth. While his contemporaries might have focused more on mood, his productions were also profoundly musical. Moreover, they have a soulful warmth regardless of genre. Everything had a human touch, from downtempo to techno, and it's this that makes 'What's Your Shrine?' such an expansive and satisfying long player.

Opener 'Smell Zee Flower' is fluttering, trippy house music with a memorable synth refrain, big on emotion and melody, that takes flight in its second half. 'Nothing Can Pull us Apart' rides a loose, baggy breakbeat with swirling, reversing hooks. 'My Baby Likes Rum' is exuberant progressive house, zipping along at a fair clip. 'L'Amour? Encore?!' takes a more introspective route, with deep beats, moody pipes, and a heavy bassline. 'La Belle Du Jardin' is progressive house that neatly dovetails into dubwise, half-tempo runnings.

With 'Loosejaw,' we're deep into the dance. Pounding, rolling drums, and a druggy spoken word sample. 'Following The Sofuto Kuriimo' returns to the downtempo before the bandstand ambient cut 'Sandcastle,' ten minutes of spiraling, shimmering bliss, dub bass, and heavily reverbed mute horn. Album closer, 'Something's Pulling Me Under,' revisits a familiar break with evocative electronica.

The album has been lovingly restored and remastered from Stephane's original DAT tapes by Justin Drake at the Bakehouse Studios and is accompanied by liner notes by Ciel. With 20% of profits going to Saffron, a non-profit organisation that aims to advance gender equality in the music tech sector, this is an essential release.

We had a quick chat with Stephane over email...

TP: Did you grow up in Vancouver?

SN: I was born and raised in Montreal, moved to Edmonton during high school, and then to the West Coast (Vancouver) at the age of 20 to pursue music.

Can you tell us a little about the 'scene' in Vancouver around the time you wrote the LP? Were there any hubs around which you and musicians of a like mind gravitated? Clubs, records shops, studios, etc.?

Halcyon days (and nights!). While there were barely any techno/house club nights in the early 90s, by the mid 90s, Vancouver had killer underground nights every day of the week, no lie. It was an explosion of enthusiasm and adventurism. From the live techno PAs every Wednesday at Mars (every night packed with heads there to watch and hear local producers play live sets), Thursday's at the Lotus, the weekends at Sonar with its renowned sound system, and the multitude of amazing one-offs on the beaches, in the warehouses, and around the mountain forests surrounding Vancouver, it's hard to put into words... It was so inspiring, and I think myself and other producers and DJs knew we were in the right place at the right time. All the right forces of good music, supportive people and great venues converged to make the scene pulsate and feed a pretty special underground paradise, in my opinion.

What were you listening to then? What were your key inspirations?

I was mining used record shops for obscure, tripped-out 70s ambient stuff and getting into music like Cluster, Moebius and Plank, Manuel Göttsching, Steve Hillage, etc. I was interested in who the pioneers were that had inspired life-changing albums for me, albums like The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld and the KLF's Chill Out.

I was also really interested in 70s Jamaican dub from people like Scientist, Mad Professor, Prince Far I, etc. It was also around this time that I was starting to dig for dusty, obscure, underground disco. I was wanting to hear what my counterparts from decades earlier would have been tripping out to on the dance floor.

I was also influenced and inspired by what was going on right around me, in particular, pretty much all the stuff that Dan Handrabur and his wife, Cristina, were doing. As far as I was concerned, his 1993 compilation/collaboration album Outersanctum: Frequencies from the Edge of the Tectonic Plate was/is one the standout techno/tripped out albums produced in the early/mid 90s. Seek it out, listen to it. You'll thank me.

While your earlier work touched on downtempo, techno, and IDM, you predominantly produced house music later. Was that always your main interest or a progression/evolution?

That wasn’t a conscious thing, but more of a gradual change that coincided with a growing interest in 70s jazz/funk, trippy Brazilian beats, underground disco, and all the other stuff that I saw as influential to dance music at the time.

Although this is the first reissue of 'What's Your Shrine?', a lot of your music has been reissued and repressed over the years (including a MoS chill-out compilation). Always tough to analyse one's own stuff, but what do you think about your music resonated strongly with so many people?

It may be because they appreciate some of what could be distinctive elements and combinations. Many of the tracks have a strong (if simple) melodic theme/component, call and answer rhythmic and tonal elements, trippy dub echoes, and an overall carefree feel. I took getting lost in music seriously, but never took myself too seriously. I always wanted to have fun and explore. I think that comes across and is appealing.

Did you ever perform live as Pilgrims of the Mind or under another name?

Sure thing. I did several live PAs in the 90s under Pilgrims of the Mind and DJ’d under my personal name.

What about now - are you still involved with music?

I still produce, though haven’t released new material for a while. Check out my YouTube channel if you’d like to hear what I’ve been up to in the last few years musically.

Finally, please tell us 5 tracks that are evocative of the time the LP was released. Inspirations, stuff by other producers that you were close to, 'big' records, etc.

Ooooh I like this! Just five is tough, let’s see, how about:

Tranquility Bass - Cantamilla

Mere Mortals - Reef

Motorbass - Fabulous

Nuages - Sfumato

Chez N Trent - Morning Factory

Exist Dance - Champion Sound (okay, I’m cheating with a 6th track AND it’s from ‘91, but it was such an influential West Coast choon - masssssive!)

'What's Your Shrine?' is released on the 9th of December on Heels and Souls recordings.