Alexandra – Ecdysis

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Alexandra Burress is a 21-year old singer / songwriter and producer from Portland, OR. Her latest album was recorded in the San Diego of her formative years, and finds her crafting a warm, tender, dreamlike suite of eight songs that gently wrap the listener in their gauzy, affecting textures.

These are pieces built from gentle, beatific fragility, their sparseness punctuated by subtle sounds – guitar, electronics, reverb, unplaceable instrumentation, field recordings – with each element given space to develop under Alexandra’s plangent, ruminative vocal. The standout track ‘Roller’ finds that vocal draped in transformative echoes while shimmering synth pads and a submerged, frantic, but never distracting processed rhythm propel the song relentlessly forward, concluding in a nest of whining, atonal sounds. ‘Membrane’ sees Alexandra’s vocal delivered as overlapping passages full of mystique and reflectiveness, accompanied by an inchoate, ever-shifting, dramatic bed of tiny sounds, scratchy micro-beats and emotion-manipulating glitches, mixed with naturalistic sounds.

The result is an album that is both deeply personal for its creator and yet universally shared: we have all transformed ourselves whether through circumstance or the decisions we make; we were all once children experiencing a world stretching out in front of us, making mistakes and finding ourselves as we go; we have all shed many skins, both physically and metaphorically. Ecdysis’s powerful and utterly captivating conceit is to focus you in on that which once was, who we are right now, and what we might yet become.

Ecdysis by Alexandra was released July 26 2019 by Spirit House Records.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Jah Wobble & Bill Laswell – Realm Of Spells

Bassists Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble both emerged from two vibrant post-punk scenes, Laswell in New York with Material and Wobble in London with Public Image Ltd. Both have spent the last forty odd years as deft collaborators, their playing threading effortlessly through everything from jazz to dub to electronica, while Laswell’s production nous has seen him involved in so many sessions that it’s generally hard to keep up with his discography.

Realm Of Spells is the pair’s first jointly-credited album since 2001’s Radioaxiom, a record that found Wobble sitting in alongside many players familiar from other Bill Laswell projects. Their new record evens things out slightly, with the whole project largely initiated by Wobble’s long-standing unit The Invaders Of The Heart (Marc Layton-Bennett, George King and Martin Chung), who provide the backbone of the nine tracks included here. Alongside The Invaders and the idiosyncratic bass approaches of Laswell and Wobble, the group were augmented by drummer / percussionist Hideo Yamaki and multi-instrumentalist Peter Apfelbaum, here playing sax on a number of stand-out pieces.

Though tracks like the serene, constantly-shifting electronically-enhanced dub of ‘Uncoiling’ link back to the sound of Radioaxiom, Realm Of Spells was directly influenced by Laswell and Wobble’s shared love of Miles Davis’s unparalleled electric period in the first half of the Seventies. You can hear that freedom of expression and borderless, flexible quality on tracks like ‘The Perfect Beat’ and the album’s nine-minute title track, melting pots of jazz, rock, electronics and funk with an unswerving, tight rhythm sections and cavernous basslines. ‘Dark Luminosity’ operates in similar territory, a snare-dominated groove and nagging low-end attacked by everything from delicate keyboard motifs to guitar lines that flip-flop between jazzy licks and prowling, angsty hooks, while the curt organ-led grooves of ‘At The Point Of Hustle’ sounds like Money Mark jamming with The Wailers.

Realm Of Spells by Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble is released on August 2 2019 by Jah Wobble Records. My interview with Laswell and Wobble will appear in the next issue of Electronic Sound.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

News: Jonteknik – Tectonics

Jonteknik will release Tectonics through The People’s Electric on 13 September 2019.

Listen to lead track ‘Mount Etna’ here.

Tectonics is the ninth album by UK electronic musician Jon Russell. After releases concerning themselves with architecture and the vibrant topographies of global cities, with Tectonics we find Russell turning his attention to geographical matters. “I’m fascinated by the connection between humans and nature,” he explains. “The subject of these songs is the foundation of the planet which we happen to inhabit. It constantly moves, just as society constantly moves.”

The ten tracks on Tectonics use intricate, mesmerising electronics and Russell’s questioning vocals to simulate the fundamental, restless, uncontrollable movements of the earth. From violent plate movements (‘Seismic Waves’ and ‘Continental Drift’) to the towering ruptures in the earth’s surface wrought in slow motion over millennia (lead track ‘Mount Etna’ and the thrilling ‘Mount Fuji’), to the waltz-like pop eulogy to California’s Yellowstone National Park, these pieces are among Russell’s most evocative soundscapes. Melding meditative rhythms and layers of finely-crafted synths, these tracks use forty years of electronic music technology as a sonic metaphor for billions of years of geographical drama.

Jon Russell has been making music for nearly thirty years, from his humble bedroom beginnings with a Commodore Amiga, via his studio work with OMD’s Paul Humphreys and Propaganda’s Claudia Brücken, and onward through his recent investigations of Eurorack modules and analogue equipment. His last album, Alternative Arrangements (2018), saw Russell paying homage to his favourite songs with a collection of covers. Far from drawing a line under his career, the sleek, considered electronic arrangements of Tectonics show an imagination in overdrive.

“I was once advised to always make the music that I would want to listen to myself,” he reflects. “As long as I am happy with what I’ve created, and so long as I carry on enjoying the creative process, then there will always be new music from me.”

Tectonics will be available on LP, CD and through digital / streaming services. The album will also be released as a highly limited cassette edition. Physical formats of the album will be available from The People’s Electric. The album will be released worldwide on 13 September 2019.

Track listing:

1. Tectonics
2. Mount Fuji
3. A Fatal Attraction
4. We Are Volcanic
5. Yellowstone
6. Seismic Waves
7. Silfra
8. Mount Etna
9. Continental Drift
10. For The Silent

All production / programming / mixing / vocals by Jonteknik.

About Jonteknik

Jon Russell is a programmer / writer / producer / remixer who has been making electronic music since 1988. His credits include co-producing and writing with Paul Humphreys (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark) and Claudia Brücken (Propaganda), remixing artists such as Le Cliché, Nature Of Wires, Metroland, iEuropean (feat. Wolfgang Flür) and OMD.

About The People’s Electric

The People’s Electric is an electronic music community where everyone is welcome. Our artists like to release music on physical formats, but our little community will just as readily embrace those who love to download too. We exist to bring great electronic music to your discerning ears, whatever your listening preferences. The People’s Electric was founded in 2016 by Jon ‘Jonteknik’ Russell in Shoreham-by-Sea, England.

Press release (c) 2019 Mat Smith for The People’s Electric

3 Questions: Rick Wakeman

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Rick Wakeman originally wanted to be a concert pianist until the steady work of a session musician beckoned. His dependable talent for nailing a part in one solitary take lead to memorable contributions such as playing Mellotron on David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, work on Lou Reed’s post-Velvets debut LP and with Marc Bolan’s as he metamorphosed into a glam megastar with T-Rex.

Best known for several stints in Yes alongside his solo work and complex and extravagantly-executed stage shows, Wakeman was also one of the earliest keyboardists to see the limitless potential of the synthesizer through a bargain purchase of a Minimoog from actor Jack Wild. (The Artful Dodger-playing actor had assumed his synth was on the blink because it could only play one note at a time.)

This weekend, Wakeman celebrated turning seventy earlier in 2019 with two final performances of his Journey To The Centre Of The Earth album at the Royal Festival Hall in London, the location of its original presentation in 1974.

What is your earliest memory?

Crawling backwards. I never crawled forwards. I can remember getting stuck under the sideboard and having to be yanked out.

I was a very early talker and a very late walker. I can remember the first time I walked and checked it with my mother many years later and, to her amazement, I was spot on.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Always look for the good points in people. My father said that everybody has some good points and if you can find them, you will get more out of knowing the person.

In general he was right, but I have met a few who have absolutely no endearing qualities!

When are you most productive or inspired?

Early morning. I get up around 5 and my brain is whirring from the moment I put the kettle on. Things go downhill after that!

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Kepier Widow – Perspectives And Boundaries

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Kepier Widow is the alias of North Manchester’s Alexander Roberts. With releases over the last couple of years on labels like Rusted Tone and Panurus, Perspectives And Boundaries is perhaps his most ambitious project to date, consisting of four 30-minute pieces of audio art across two cassettes released by Chelmsford’s Misophonia imprint.

What’s immediately apparent from the opening moments of the Perspectives cassette is that this is a beautiful sprawl of a project, and by the conclusion of the final passages of Boundaries it’s clear that Roberts possesses a potentially limitless capacity for sonic adventuring. Ideas are spliced in, developed quickly and already in the past by the time you’ve got your head around them, whether moments of found sound or intricately detailed electronic music fragments or surreptitious recordings of overheard conversation placed jarringly out of context. Elsewhere, you pick up backward sounds and heavily-disguised vocals that, were it the Sixties or even a NON LP, would have had people claiming to be able to hear satanic orders and coded messages. And who knows? Maybe that’s what they are.

As I made my way though Roberts’ two-hour opus perhaps the most unexpected result was how I found myself thinking about my childhood. There’s a looped laugh at the start of the second part of Perspectives that took me back to a scratched LP of children’s songs wherein ‘The Laughing Policeman’ would cackle menacingly until you ran screaming from the room. Elsewhere, one of the muted electronic passages took on an atmospheric Eighties soundtrack vibe, immediately transporting me back to my pre-teen years glued to episodes of Airwolf.

Perspectives And Boundaries by Kepier Widow is out now on Misophonia.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

3 Questions: S. T. Manville

S. T. Manville released his debut album, Somebody Else’s Songs, earlier this year, collecting together eleven surprising covers of tracks by Jimmy Eat World, Green Day and others. At the very end of June, Manville released ‘Make Believe’, a self-penned piece of tranquil acoustic music for guitar, ukulele and violin that perfectly details our uncomfortable relationship with growing up, being full of wistful nostalgia, regret and hope.

Here, Manville talks about spelling, overcoming shyness and being inspired during the middle of the night.

What’s your earliest memory?

There are a few and I don’t know what order they came in so here’s the two that contend for earliest…

I think my brother Patrick was born but still a baby so I would have been about two or three. My mum took us to feed the ducks, which was a short drive from where we lived. God knows how but she managed to throw the house and car keys into the pond along with the bread. After getting really flustered and shouting a bit she jumped in after them and managed to get them out.

I was thinking about this recently and decided it was too insane to have really happened so I asked my mum if I’d made it up. I hadn’t. When I asked her why she jumped in and didn’t just leave it her reasoning was that ‘Mobiles didn’t exist then.’ I’m not fully sure I see the logic in that, but she’s a smart woman and so there must have been some sense in it.

The other memory is being in the car with my mum and dad around the same age. They used to use the time old trick of spelling out words to each other when they didn’t want me to understand what they were talking about. During one of these covert conversations I asked if we could get some ‘B-C-P-S.’ When they asked what I was on about I replied with ‘Chips’. I’ve always been a great speller.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

‘Shy kids get nought,’ a really good friend said it in passing once, and it’s stuck with me. He probably doesn’t even remember saying it, but I genuinely live my life by it. There’s no shame in asking for help, guidance, or bit of shameless self promotion, if you ask in the right way and it comes from a sincere place.

Where are you most productive or inspired?

I’ve learnt that when inspiration happens, I just need to get on with it while it’s there, and when it isn’t I need to be patient, not force it and just wait until it reappears.

The times in the cycle that I’m not being musically creative can be pretty horrible, with plenty of self doubt and worrying about whether I’ll ever be able to write again, but I’ve been doing this for so long I’ve gotten better at dealing with those feelings. Sometimes it helps to find new music that inspires me, and sometimes I find that it’s better not listening to any music at all for weeks.

I tend to find inspiration in two places – from other music or art that I enjoy, and from watching general life unfold around me. The only real criteria for creativity, in my case, is sobriety and sun light. I’ve never been able to write or do anything creative unless I’m sober, and so I usually tend to work during the day. I find it really hard to work after about 7pm. When I see people in the studio at 3am getting stoned, drinking beers I always think, ‘How are you getting anything done?’

That said, I have woken up in the middle of the night a few times over the years with lyrics and melodies that I’ve written in my sleep, and then I’ve had to sneak downstairs to record a voice note. My wife loves that…

Make Believe by S. T. Manville is out now on Difficult. Listen on Spotify. Read the Further. review of Somebody Else’s Songs here.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.