Plasma Splice Trifle pairs together Vibracathedral Orchestra member Neil Campbell’s Astral Social Club project with Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan’s Grumbling Fur. Consisting of four lengthy, many-layered, pieces occupying the electronic music’s most eclectic hinterlands, Plasma Splice Trifle was recorded over the course of three years, each piece overflowing with ideas and a constantly-moving inner turbulence.
Ahead of the album’s release, Further. spoke to Neil Campbell about the collaboration.
You hadn’t worked with Daniel or Alexander before this album. How did this collaboration come about?
I honestly can’t remember! I think we were probably hanging out after a Grumbling Fur or Vibracathedral Orchestra gig and it was mentioned by one of us – probably either Daniel or Alex – and it seemed like a good idea, in as much as none of us could imagine how such a collaboration would turn out. No better reason than that for me!
The four tracks on the LP were started in 2015 and completed last year, and involved time spent in three different recording settings. How did the process of writing these pieces work? Was there a plan for what the pieces would be like, or was each track conceived and developed relatively spontaneously?
I don’t think of it as ‘writing’, more ‘doing’, always in the present, without much of a plan. I really like how Grumbling Fur work – they’re really open to quick decisions and where they may lead you with a good sense of play / fun too.
Most of the record was generated from a day’s recording together at Tower Gardens, with three of the tracks having their genesis in an open-ended hour long live jam. We then each took the recordings away and sculpted them into four very distinct shapes and worked from there, adding and editing where appropriate, passing sounds back and forth through the e-aether. We then pulled the tracks into their final form with another studio session together at the end.
‘Back To The Egg’ And ‘Toejam Boxdrum’ are very busy pieces, with lots and lots of layered detail. I’m always intrigued with very densely-packed tracks as to when you know you’re finished versus a temptation to just keep adding details – more and more layers, more and more sounds – and with three musicians that feels like it could be a challenge to know when to stop. How did that work?
Strangely, ‘Toejam Boxdrum’ is actually a really simple construct, with most of the sounds all coming from this initial jam, which was all recorded live to 2-track. We then added very little. So I guess it’s not always the way it seems.
But it’s a good question – all three of us like to work that maximal / minimal dichotomy, so there is a danger of, ahem, over-egging it. I guess someone says, “Enough!” or, “Too much!” and we trust each other to go along with their vision. ‘Toejam…’ would have been even simpler if it was left to me, but Daniel and Alex each had small additions they wanted to add underneath the initial jam, so we tried them and they worked. But, equally, if they hadn’t worked then we’d have left them out.
In contrast, ‘Three Years Apart’ is more sparse, though it also has a denseness when the drones and fluttering tones start to mesh together. To me it sounds a lot like some of John Cale’s work on the first Velvets album – urgent and expressive, but also possessing a dark spirituality.
Conversely, that’s quite a dense track from our point of view, with myriad layers of strings and processed strings.
‘Ozone Antifreeze Intelligence’ seems to be channelling the work of various celebrated groups emerging out of Germany in the 70s. Are those groups a major influence for you all? The vocals on that track are mesmerising – I like the interplay between the main vocal and the bassier voices.
Sure, I’ve enjoyed loads of those German bands for a long time now, and I’m sure the same goes for the other two. Some bands chime with me more than others though, and I’ve got a particular emotional attachment to the whole Cluster / Neu! axis. I think ‘Ozone…’ is my favourite track on the record.
After the initial sounds went through the Grumbling Fur mangle / spanglemaker, it was a very pretty instrumental that I added some sounds around the edges to. But I think we all thought it needed just an extra something, probably to create a more direct human connection. So when we met up for the final session we each brought one line of resonant text with us and sang them one at a time, pretty much first take, and the whole song unfolded from there.
As I said, I like to work quickly, and Grumbling Fur naturally work like that too. We’re all happy to take the germ of an idea and just go with it to see where it leads. Added to that, I love how those two naturally, effortlessly harmonise with each other when they sing together on their own records, like it’s the expression of a deep friendship you’re hearing, so I really wanted to get some of that on the record just for my own kicks.
You each created a piece of artwork to go with the album. How integral to your music is that visual accompaniment?
The initial idea was to each create a piece of collage art so we could layer them all on top of each other for maximum confusion/density. When we had each done out piece we realised this probably wasn’t going to work as well as just letting the pieces breath on their own. An example of someone calling, “Too much!”, and us not being too hidebound by our original concepts to throw them out the window when they weren’t working. Improvisation / praxis!
Plasma Splice Trifle by Astral Social Club & Grumbling Fur Time Machine Orchestra is released on June 7 2019 by VHF Records. Read the Further. review here.
Words: Mat Smith
(c) 2019 Further.