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Navigating the Waters of Change: An Intimate Dive into Strange Tides’ EP ‘Differentiation

In an evocative conversation with Strange Tides, the artist delves into the profound themes encapsulated in their latest EP, ‘Differentiation’. This collection of songs emerges from a decade of transformative experiences, reflecting on personal growth, familial roles, and spiritual introspection. With a candid exploration of breaking away from past influences to forge a unique identity, Strange Tides discusses the intricate process of songwriting that mirrors their journey towards self-definition. This interview not only reveals the artist’s struggle with faith and identity but also showcases their commitment to authentic expression through genre-fluid music.

Strange Tides, thank you for the opportunity to sit down with you and discuss your recent EP, Differentiation; the thematic undercurrents in the lyrical poetry are beyond compelling; can you tell us a little bit about the concept of the release and what inspired its creation?

Thank you so much for the opportunity to talk with you! I’m so grateful to have the chance to dig a little deeper into this little packet of songs.

“Differentiation” came out of a process of perpetual disorientation and reorientation that unfolded through my twenties. At the surface, this included a lot of adulthood firsts: first bereavement (Ides of March) and first experience of doubt as a person of faith (Out of Deep Waters, Father of my Father) being the clearest. More abstractly, I also found myself reassessing a lot of assumptions for the first time. In particular, this stage of life saw me examining my role in my family as an adult, my role as a person of faith, and God’s own attitude towards me and humanity at large. While examining these ideas, I spent a lot of time contrasting myself against those around me, or against my past self…. But I continually bumped up against the wonderful reality that, despite all our differences, we are unavoidably shaped by others. These tensions: connectedness in the presence of difference, and the new and old self, were soil from which this record grew.

There’s a strong lyrical emphasis on autonomously determining your own values and goals; how hard do you think it is to separate yourself from social and familial conditioning to know what you truly want and need? 

I suspect the answer to that is some combination of a person’s personality and the dynamic of their family or community of origin. I must admit, with some embarrassment, that I am easily influenced by others, so it is fortunate for me that my parents encouraged me to move away so that I could gain some autonomy and perspective. If not given that freedom externally, I think I would have found it exceptionally difficult to grasp. Even so, the experience of thinking differently from people I love or admire was still painful. There is a core group of people with whom I will always belong, even as my convictions and outlooks shift, but these changes still upset the existing balance of relationships. As I change, there’s a bit of effort required of my loved ones to stay curious about me, and also to stay rooted in their own values, while still being willing to be shaken up every now and again. And I owe them that same effort in return. Indeed, in Father of my Father, you see me in the midst of a battle between my own disappointment with other people’s changes in belief, and my desire to keep my mind and heart wholly open to those people.

Your advocacy for authenticity is made all the more convincing through your distinctive songwriting and genre-fluidity, was this intentional, or did it just happen naturally? 

Thank you! I pride myself on my intentionality in stepping out of my usual habits and matching musical to emotional tone, but there are certainly genres I gravitate to. Breaking out of those requires some effort. I’m not sure I can quite assert that I’ve succeeded in doing this, but I’m certainly taking steps in that direction in songs like “Out of Deep Waters”. This is an example of a song for which I put a great deal of thought into breaking my usual patterns: the verses and bridge employ different chord progressions than I usually go for, and I had to push myself toward a higher tempo than I ever naturally land on. However, the choruses in that song include a major key walk-down that is very instinctive for me (and which shows up again in full force in “Lighthouse”).

We love how your releases can meld grandiosity and intimacy simultaneously, how was this achieved with singles such as Out of Deep Waters? 

I think the answer here is simple: I have a lot of feelings. Conveying these many feelings in the context of a single song creates a lot of drama!

“Out of Deep Waters” specifically took me a long time to get around to writing. I wrote “Lighthouse” in 2018, which I knew would serve as a resolution to some kind of tension; this meant I needed to write a song that would lead into Lighthouse, and which would put across some heavier emotions. I had in mind the idea of using gritty instrumentation and fast pacing, as heard in the verses. But it wasn’t until I was properly writing the song in the summer of 2023 that the lighter choruses bubbled out of me. I felt that the switches between the heavy verses and the lighter choruses could effectively capture that which I had been struggling to convey: joy and despair were both living in my chest, and the frequency with which I bounced between them was dizzying! Even as I was totally dismayed in the face of my own intellectual unbelief, a sense of kinship with the divine, and a connection which seemed to remain through no effort of my own, was a source of joy.

Can we delve deeper into the emotional themes of Out of Deep Waters and the final single on the EP, Lighthouse, and how the instrumentals visualise metaphors for disorientation and resolution? 

“Out of Deep Waters” feels increasingly like the manic creation of somebody who has given up on trying to make sense of things, and perhaps that’s what it is.

This song is first and foremost about the loss (and rediscovery) of my faith, which is why it employs so much resurrection imagery. The experience of letting go of faith is different for different people – towards the end of the song you hear me refer to a friend who was relieved to find herself in a place of unbelief. But for me, it was a profound loss, and you can see me processing that loss in the song’s verses.

The verses describe everything from those early, defensive emotions (e.g. disgruntlement, denial of the situation) to later, deeper ones (grief and loneliness). Musically, they hit hard and fast, because that is how unbelief came to me. Both verses also contain a church organ moment: an obvious nod to the theme at hand and intended to sound a little unnerving. Furthermore, The predictability of the three-beat shots we hear in verse one is broken in verse two, where one beat is missing from each set of shots, creating a sense of confusion.

And yet, hope lies beneath the chaos: the choruses come in with major chords, clean guitar tones, and some charming pizzicato work on the cello to give voice to the uplifting moments that were peppered through an otherwise dark season. In the second chorus, a background voice enters (“Yoohoo! Where are you?”) with an absurd playfulness, as though all I am doing is playing “Hide and Seek” with the divine. Godself echoes this sentiment in the bridge, where a couple of phrases of steady but light baroque piano provides the backbone for a message of assurance in God’s voice.

However, the tension which characterises this song is not yet resolved. Instead, it reaches its apex during the transition into “Lighthouse”, where ever-changing chord progressions, an increasing tempo, and increasingly crowded instrumentation bring about a sense of urgency reflective of my own deepening desperation and confusion. In the climactic moment, a variety of loved ones pull me from the body of water in which I did not realise I was drowning. The baptism metaphor, which was opened with the line “[I] was laid in the sea as they lifted him up” is brought to a close with, “this baptism isn’t quite what I’d imagined \ I break through the surface, and see I’ve been drowning”, leaving the song to resolve with a peaceful bass melody, before flowing into “Lighthouse”.

Where “Out of Deep Waters” is jam-packed with different instrumentation, chord progressions, and emotional tone; “Lighthouse” is a picture of musical predictability, with warm, major chords carrying the listener gently to the end of the album. The voice of God shows up one last time, in the form of a call to rely on loved ones for wisdom and strength (and to provide the same in return, when the time comes). The steady rhythm thumped out on the floor tom and bass guitar during this section provides a sense of confidence and assurance that was conspicuously absent through most of “Out of Deep Waters”. The piano, cello, and lead guitar team up to build to an ending which I hope evokes similar emotions to the experience of receiving kindness from someone during a moment of need.

How did your artistic journey start, and where has it taken you so far? 

My musical journey started at the age of six, in the basement of my first piano teacher’s house. I began learning songs using the Suzuki Method (by ear), before learning to read music and moving through Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music for piano and theory. I expanded to other instruments around the age of ten when I first began to play the guitar and write songs. From there, I was lucky to be a part of a church where my musical gifts were intentionally fostered by leaders and fellow congregants; this is the context in which I first learned to drum and play the bass. I’ve since developed these skills further through lessons and by playing in bands in which I’m held to a high standard!

As I honed more instruments, my at-home recordings of the songs I was writing became more sophisticated, and I began to develop an instinct for production. To this day, creating a dialogue between many musical voices is my favourite part of songwriting.

During my undergraduate years, I picked up the occasional coffee house gig, but it wasn’t until I met my former bandmate, Victoria, that I began gigging on a regular basis. It was at a pub gig together that we met Sound Engineer and Producer, Dan Ponich, who has recorded all of Strange Tides’ songs but one. With Dan’s help, I was able to grow into a co-producer role for this most recent EP: an experience that has shaped my vision for future projects.

How has your songwriting style evolved for this EP? 

This EP marked quite a few shifts for Strange Tides. This is the first Strange Tides record since Victoria’s departure, and for me, it was a return to the practice of writing on my own. I took the opportunity to re-examine some old songs that I had written, but not recorded, and saw the “differentiation” theme tying them together. This motivated me to create a record whose sole purpose was to examine this theme and helped me to crystalise my vision for future EPs. Furthermore, having made a couple of meaningful connections in the music world over the last few years, I had access to musicians capable of doing things I could only dream of doing, so I was able to write with other people’s skill sets in mind. The presence of cello and upright bass on this record is a real treat!

Is it hard to find the balance between following your experimental muse and releasing music that will resonate with your new and existing fans? 

I think this is probably a problem that most musicians grapple with. I profess that the best art comes from whatever is truly within (cheesy, I know), but then I find myself wondering where I should bend to the tastes of the masses so that perhaps reveals a paradox within me. That being said, there is a Venn diagram of that which is marketable, and that in which I find joy and meaning in creating. So perhaps my goal is to find the area of overlap when that which naturally pours out of me can connect well with the listeners.

What’s next for Strange Tides? 

If only I had endless time and money to devote to this project; I have so many ideas I’d like to execute. For the foreseeable future, I plan to continue releasing 4-6 song EPs that each explore a single theme, and I have themes in mind for the next two or three of those EPs, with the themes informing their musical shape. My plan for the remainder of 2024 is to play some gigs (likely more intimate ones), write lots, and create a few demos so that I can record the next record in 2025.

Listen to Strange Tides’ EP Differentiation on Spotify.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

Brian Berggoetz gave hopeless romantics hope in his pop-rock serenade, More Than You’ll Ever Know

Sweet enough to give hopeless romantics hope, the standout single, More Than You’ll Ever Know, from singer-songwriter Brian Berggoetz is a melodious ode to a true love that can be alluded to in words but never fully captured.

Springsteen may have been born to run, but Berggoetz was born to bring warmth and depth to the pop-rock scene; More Than You’ll Ever Know is the ultimate attestation to his legacy. With vocals that caress as tenderly as the simple yet profoundly affecting instrumental arrangement, the single unravels as the dreamiest earworm you’ll hear this year.

With the stunning serenade, Brian Berggoetz emanated the aura that resounds through the soul in inexplicable throws of unflinching affection and passion. Lock into the blissful-bordering-on-arcane melodies, and tune into the affirmation that Berggoetz is a superlatively eloquent conduit of soul.

Between the folk strings, the twang of alt-country, the rugged roots of rock and the hallmarks of singer-songwriter pop lies a synergy which has become synonymous with the Tuscon, Arizona-hailing artist who finds influence in a diverse confluence of styles and genres.

More Than You’ll Ever Know is available to stream on Spotify with the latest LP from Brian Berggoetz, Magical Times.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Spiralling into Success: A Candid Encounter with Dream State Empire

This week, we sat with the members of Dream State Empire, a band that’s been carving a unique path through New Zealand’s underground and surfacing with their award-winning live performances and air-played hits. As they gear up for the release of their latest single, “Spirals,” on April 12th, our conversation took us through the labyrinth of their recent successes, the creative fervour behind their upcoming track, and the ambitious horizons they aim to reach.

Dream State Empire, thank you for the opportunity to sit down with you and discuss your upcoming single, Spirals which will reach the airwaves on April 12th. Which lyrical themes does this single explore and what inspired its creation?

The lyrics were written to be an abstract depiction of a panic attack. It’s chaotic, introspective and a little nonsensical. The ambiguity is on purpose, to reflect the warped perception that comes with them.

It’s not a story-based song, it’s an attempt to describe the mindset of someone experiencing a panic attack. The focus isn’t so much on the ‘fear’ aspect, but the sense of disorganized thought and inability to interpret reality clearly – this is what is intended by the word spiral.

The song is basically a frenzied attempt to regain mental control during a panic attack. The ending is defeat, the acceptance of madness – something while not true of a panic attack, certainly feels like it during the experience if not contained.

Has your songwriting style and your sound evolved for this single?

Our band started with the intention to jam around some blues but has warped into an entirely different beast over time that is much heavier and peppered with funk. This single has arisen from this formula and features some verse grooves, big choruses, and a hectic breakdown.

During the songwriting process, we consciously tried to create a song with enough energy to wake bar punters up and get them to the stage as a set opener. Spirals fits that criteria, and dislodged one of our long-time favorites it is set to become the tune we love to blast open shows with.

What does your collective creative process look like?

We have a pretty open/collaborative approach to writing. Usually, someone brings a tasty riff or two to share at Sunday practice, or sometimes the bones of a complete song. From there, we bounce around ideas until we’re all happy with how the different sections and instruments mesh together.

This system works great when everything gels, but we also have a whole stable of cool riffs that we haven’t managed to quite find the right puzzle pieces to yet. Hopefully, one day soon they’ll blossom into proper songs.

You’ve had your fair share of successes in recent years, including playing at RnV, and winning BOTB, has this added more fuel to the DSE fire?

We’ve been blazing through the Wellington circuit of four or five bars for several years now, so hitting big milestones like winning BOTB has definitely added fuel to our fire! Mainly it’s been a great way to network with other bands and score some invites to play outside of the local scene and see what the rest of the country has to offer.

Getting to record this single at the legendary Lab Studios in Auckland was also a big highlight. Olly is a production wizard and has recorded a huge number of Kiwi heavyweights, ranging from Blindspott to Dave Dobbyn.

How did you secure the win at the Battle of the Bands competition?

It was actually our third year entering BOTB, so part of the win may have come down to dogged persistence. By the finals, we were feeling pretty comfy on that stage and also got to play to a home crowd of rowdy mates in Wellington, rather than making the punishing drive up to Auckland.

We also noticed energy waning in the crowd during a few of our slower songs during the earlier rounds, so ended up axing those tunes in favor of putting our foot down for 25 minutes and blasting out what was probably our highest tempo set to date.

How did it feel to make your national radio debut?

It was exciting and a bit surreal to hear our tune on the airways for the first time on The Rock. It was a big surprise, considering we hadn’t even debuted on student radio before that point. We were pretty chuffed by their enthusiasm and had a few phone calls from relatives working in Australia letting us know they were digging it too.

We’d love to hear your take on the New Zealand music scene and your experiences with it.

The New Zealand music scene is bursting with talent. We’re mates with a ton of multi-instrumentalist maestros who can play just about anything and play in 5 plus bands each, looking to crack into the scene.

We have friends who have transitioned to roots/reggae style bands who have rapidly gained a big following and hit the festival circuit. These bands have been king in NZ for a long time but there are also healthy underground scenes for just about every genre from metal to industrial techno.

While you don’t get to play the big stages too often (think sticky-floored dive bars over open-air stages), the rock scene is super friendly and supportive and manages to sustain itself by putting on multi-band gigs. Hire/ soundy costs are usually covered by 15 bucks on the door, so it’s definitely a passion project, rather than a money maker. Most bars at least treat the thirsty band members to a free jug of skippers.

What’s next for Dream State Empire?

Our first goal is to get this single released, then with a bit of luck, ride the momentum to open some venue doors in other parts of the country. We’re also super hyped for our next gig, Porirua Rocks! This will feature some crushing bands including Shepherds Reign and All I Seek, with a backdrop of pro wrestling and a huge selection of the regions’ best craft breweries. We’re always down for a big gig, so feel free to hit us up if you like what you hear.

Stream Spirals on all major platforms, including Spotify, from April 12th.

Stay up to date with all new releases from Dream State Empire on Facebook.

Interview by Amelia Vandergast

Synthetix – Ominous Data: Meet the Master of Electronica Futurology

Synthetix looked far beyond the binary with the cybernetically harbingering title single from his latest bass-heavy electro LP, Ominous Data. The San Francisco-residing breakbeat producer and live artist Shea Steinbacher founded Synthetix and started cutting his teeth in the rave and nightclub scene in 1999, the same year The Matrix hit the big screen, which may or may not be coincidental, but one thing is for sure, Synthetix has become a moniker synonymous with the futurology of electronica.

As dark, heavy, and brooding as Ominous Data may be, nothing about the polished mix feels oppressive. The reverberating glitchy waves wash over you, allowing your rhythmic pulses to ebb and flow with the syncopated momentum that speaks volumes of the producer’s experience and expertise which has lent itself to 13 LPs and EPs on labels including Anti-Matter Records and Black Magic Records.

Currently operating under his own independent label, ZerosAndOnes Records, the innovative originator is ensuring that if we do have a future to look forward to where our autonomy doesn’t atrophy, he’s going to hold dominion over the breakbeat scene with his kinetic rhythms and synths that carve through the atmosphere with the reverberations of a full-scale invasion.

Ominous Data was inputted into the airwaves on April 5th; stream the track on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Mystic Rhythms and Folklore Fusions: Musa Stone’s ‘Woman Please Is a Journey Through Sonic Serenity

Musa Stone added an ethereally mystic edge to the airwaves with the unveiling of his folklore-instilled standout single, Woman Please, taken from his debut LP, Fugue.

By painting from a scintillating colour palette and synthesising swathes of sonic cultures, the level of intrigue which oscillates through the artfully arcane production is off the scale. The celestial timbre of the sermonic layered harmonies feeds effortlessly into the otherworldly atmosphere of Woman Please, which is constructed through Latin rhythms and electronic aesthetics that register as organic as any classic folk instrumentation.

As a truly global artist, Musa Stone allows his sonic signature to span the landscapes that have shaped his material reality. While many artists solely use music as a means of expression or to feed their ego, music gave Musa Stone a home that no other phenomena or place could offer, while acting as a gateway to an emotional world. Hit play on Woman Please, which delivers deliciously imploring soul with a touch of desert folk, and you’ll instantly get a sense of the singer-songwriter’s ability to act as a conduit of the unfiltered essence of the human experience.

Stream Woman Please with the full Fugue LP on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Alley of the Dolls earned a place in the pantheon of post-grunge with ‘Broken Skies’

Alley of the Dolls, Yorkshire’s alt-rock revelation, delivered a thunderous wake-up call with their single ‘Broken Skies’. The standout from their EP ‘Urethane‘, is a movement scribed through Jacob Stephenson’s and Adam Pickering’s shared passion for the gritty, grungy, and raw energy of 90s rock.

‘Broken Skies’ lyrically tackles a subject as delicate as it is devastating – the rising phenomenon of school shootings. Few artists have dared to go beyond lyrically mourning the tragedy, but Alley of the Dolls does so with a boldness that is both haunting and necessary. Their words don’t just skim the surface; they eviscerate the protagonists of these tragedies, demanding accountability for the senseless destruction born from unprocessed emotions.

The duo’s fearless approach to songwriting is matched by the sonic ingenuity within the bruising riffs and intense instrumental thematic textures in ‘Broken Skies’. Their determination to become architects of a new sound influenced by iconic Seattle post-grunge bands and legends like Guns ‘N’ Roses and the Foo Fighters is palpable in every viscerally affecting note of ‘Broken Skies’.

By using their music to punch upward against tyranny and stand for those struggling to survive and thrive, Alley of the Dolls’ discography is as essential as it is vindicating.

Broken Skies will drop on April 12th; stream the single on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Louvie exhibited his unflinching hip-hop narrative of tenacity and providence, Pray for Me

Louvie’s standout release, Pray for Me, is a striking embodiment of hip-hop’s power, deeply rooted in the artist’s personal journey. Hailing from Washington D.C., Louvie, born Ricardo Carter, has been crafting his musical identity since the age of 16, drawing inspiration from a spectrum of genres, with artists such as T.I. acting as his foundational influence.

The single opens with a melancholic melody, its moody waves setting a contemplative tone; the vocals, distorted with saturation, draw listeners into Louvie’s world, until the beat drops and Louvie’s cadence kicks in, ensuring each lyric aches with impact and sincerity.

The track is an unflinching narrative of hardship, resilience, and faith, resonating with anyone who has faced life’s relentless challenges and pushed through adversity with no one to stand with them on the battleground as they fight their way up from a disadvantaged position.

The track is a testament to his skill as a lyricist and his capacity to weave complex emotions into universally compelling music. Pray for Me is not just a testament to Louvie’s talent but a reminder of the power of resilience and the importance of being the architect of your destiny.

Pray for Me hit all streaming platforms on March 23; stream the single on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Roubix & Ollie King painted the night in neon euphoria with their definitively 80s synthpop track, In Your Head

Roubix & Ollie King’s latest collaboration, ‘In Your Head’, is a vibrant homage to the golden era of 80s synthpop, masterfully blending our collective appetite for nostalgia with contemporary production. Following the viral success of ‘Atlantis‘, this dynamic duo continues to captivate the European disco scene, and ‘In Your Head’ is poised to be their next chart-topper.

The track is a kaleidoscope of upbeat, synth-carved rhythms that instantly transport listeners back to the neon-lit dancefloors of the 80s. Fans of Erasure, Gary Numan, and The Human League will find themselves in familiar territory, yet there’s a freshness to Roubix & Ollie King’s approach that prevents the song from being a mere pastiche.

The way the duo embrace their pop roots is completely unapologetic. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the single unadulteratedly nods to the 80s era of pop as it professes to be head over heels under the reflections of a disco ball. The harmonies are sticky-sweet, the lyricism impassioned, and the instrumentals perfectly calibrated to evoke both memory and emotion. This isn’t just an earworm; it’s a track that transcends time, offering an exhilarating escape into a world of neon euphoria.

With Spotify already confirming its inclusion in one of their official playlists and an impressive line-up of gigs across Europe, Roubix & Ollie King are poised to reign synthpop supreme throughout 2024.

In Your Head will be available to stream on all major platforms from April 11; stream it on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

An aura of introspection resounds through Alexander Grenville’s neo-classic piano score, Fragile

Alexander Grenville echoed the beauty of fragility through his standout neo-classical composition, Fragile, which carries a touch of the introspective flair of Nils Frahm and the cinematic scope of Ramin Djawdi’s Westworld scores.

Known for the contemplative character of his evocative work, the English musician excels in allowing technically explorative pieces to resound as fragments of deeply personal reflections. In Fragile, the open space between the piano keys becomes an ethereal terrain as the brief quiescent interludes become as integral to the piece as the piano keys he strikes with gentle intuitive tenacity.

The synthesis of mournful repose and lively exploration culminates in a deeply profound aural experience which speaks of the composer’s close relationship with his muse. Drawing inspiration from Ludovico Einaudi, Ola Gjeilo, Erik Satie, and folk artists in the vein of Karine Polwart, Alexander Grenville’s sonic signature is more akin to an eloquent calligraphy; one that distinctively scribes through the mind delivering cathartic solace and inviting you to look at the world through a more introspective lens.

Fragile is available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Spotlight Feature: Reverberations of Longing Linger in the Affecting Agony of Pinwheel Valley’s Single Reverie

Pinwheel Valley’s latest eclectically alt-indie single, Reverie, echoes a poignant symphony of emotional turmoil and tender confession. The bittersweet draught of love is the lead single from their eagerly anticipated Reverie EP, which heralds a significant evolution for the Canadian artist, formerly known as KAIS, now steering the ship of Pinwheel Valley through the waters of the indie music scene from their Mediterranean home base.

The melancholic mosaic of poetry, agony and rhythmic intuition is the first signal to be distributed via Levantine Music, it stands as a testament to how honed the artist’s sound has become in the absence of lyrical inhibition. Qais Khoury’s vocal delivery and melodic structuring evoke the spectrally affecting beauty of Jeff Buckley as Reverie traverses the complex emotional landscape with soul-stirring urgency and timeless poignancy.

The guitars, warm and overdriven, act as the perfect counterpoint to the raw lyrics, as the progressions journey through the valleys of longing and the peaks of despair. Pinwheel Valley masterfully conjures a world where every note and every word is steeped in emotional significance. The result is a track that does more than just resonate with the listener; it pierces the soul, leaving an indelible mark.

Khoury’s influences, ranging from Thom Yorke to Ben Howard, shimmer through in the song’s intricate fabric, but Reverie is unmistakably Pinwheel Valley’s own. As the band starts this new chapter, writing through their inexplicably alchemic signature, it is clear they have the potential to write the future of alt-indie.

Reverie is now available to stream on all major platforms, including Spotify.

Follow Pinwheel Valley on Facebook.

Review by Amelia Vandergast