Gareth Jones – ElectroGenetic

Gareth Jones - ElectroGenetic

Gareth Jones is no stranger to helping artists shape astounding music. Having produced and mixed acts such as Depeche Mode, Erasure, Einstürzende Neubauten, MGMT, Can, Neu!, and beyond, it is safe to say Gareth knows his way around the studio. It is one thing to assist artists in honing their craft, however, and another to create original work, especially in a void of individualism. 

With ElectroGenetic, his first solo release, Gareth has successfully managed to create a sonically-rich aural snapshot of his recent journey through loss. Although deeply personal, the emotions Gareth has managed to capture are immediately relatable as they are being told – not simply as one person’s reaction to the travails of life – but through the lens of an all-encompassing spiritualism. 

ElectroGenetic sounds as the title suggests: a perfect blend of deep, earthly ambience accented with rich cosmic synth work. The listening experience of the nine-track ElectroGenetic (a seamless and flowing 40 minutes of morphing sounds) is a continuous journey one hardly knows they are on – much like life. Buzzing insect-like sferics hover over fields of sound in ‘Goonhilly’, low-pass filtered rhythms fluctuate atop ethereal beds in ‘Farewell’, choral swaths emerge from the depths as synth arps punctuate the darkness in ‘Trinity’, and effected spoken words reinforce a spiritual element throughout.

Gareth intricately blends raw modular electronics with floating atmospheres and the result is remarkably gentle and expressively emotive. There is a distance in the sound like someone observing a storm from afar. One is reminded of the pastoral ambience of O Yuki Conjugate’s Undercurrents (Into Dark Water) or the dream-laced techno of Air Liquide’s The Increased Difficulty Of Concentration

With ElectroGenetic, Gareth presents a momentary journey through life – one fraught with sadness but never losing sight of a grand spiritual order to the perceived chaos. A journey immaculately reinterpreted through electronics, field recordings, poetry, and dreamcatchers. Gareth has made a deeply personal album based on a deeply personal journey but one that is relatable to all of us as it is presented by someone who is not only an expert in the field of sound manipulation but also cognisant of when it is best to abandon ego and let higher consciousness control the ebb and flow. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, which inspired the final piece ‘Alone Together’, offers a touching summation of the album:

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.” 

ElectroGenetic by Gareth Jones is released on September 18 2020 by Calm + Collect. Pre-save here: https://ffm.to/electrogenetic

Words: Bryan Michael. Bryan is one third of Alka. Alka’s new album, Regarding The Auguries, is released October 9 2020 by VeryRecords.

(c) 2020 Bryan Michael for Further.  

Plaid – Polymer

What separates the natural world from that of synthetic recreations? Is it not just all vibrating molecules arranged into rhythmic patterns? Polymer, a Greek derived word meaning ‘many parts’ and used to describe both natural and synthetic macromolecules composed of repeating patterns of monomer molecules, accurately describes Plaid’s latest release.

Similarly to the ages-long process of specific natural elements converging with each other to form sparkling jewels, Plaid have been synthetically honing their craft since 1991 – longer if you include Ed Handley and Andy Turner’s start with Black Dog Productions. The result has been a slow, subtle evolution of electronic aural alchemy sounding unlike any of their peers at Warp and beyond. Plaid have long been masters of crystalline, interlocking comb-filtered percussive FM synthesis forming almost euphoric (and sometimes melancholic) melodies, and Polymer has plenty of that.

Where Polymer stands apart from Plaid’s recent past releases is that it doesn’t feel just like a loose collection of tracks, but rather a tightly-bonded, cohesive yet diverse album informed by Ed and Andy’s manifesto for the project: “Polyphony, Pollution, and Politics”. Their many years of experimentation in the Plaid laboratory have enabled them the ability to create dazzlingly refined and complex tracks where everything melds perfectly while still pushing the boundaries of contemporary electronic music.

The opening ‘Meds Fade’ is something new from Plaid, a sci-fi, almost darkwave track which buzzes and drifts over alien landscapes sounding like the soundtrack Zaxxon never had. It feels like the chaotic and polluted external route one must take to get to the inner sanctum of the Polymer experience. Once there, we are greeted by the lab experiment that is ‘Los’, complete with cyclical machine percussion and bubbling 303 (a nod to this album having the prestigious Warp catalogue number 303, perhaps?). Later, ‘Ops’ combines a natural human vocal element to provide an effective rhythmic phrase punctuated by percussive syncopated vibrating plucks. One is constantly impressed with the spatial dimension Plaid is able to produce in their music and it is especially apparent on Polymer.

Further along the experience, ‘Drowned Sea’ – a dark, brooding Coil-like track with hauntingly subtle pitched and warped vocal samples – reminds us that with great modern advances oftentimes comes the failings of humankind’s ability to properly deal with the remains of their creations. Informing this particular track are the ever-present micro-plastics in the food chain and massive plastic tides. It is no wonder that plastic debris was recently found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, which, at 11km, is deeper than the tallest mountain is high. On a more optimistic tone, albeit a deeply melancholic one, ‘Dancers’ lifts one up as only Plaid can do with their signature melodic chimes and ethereal pads floating over skittering fragile drums. With light there is dark and ‘Recall’ brings thing back around with the sounds of glitched and sputtering synths akin to malfunctioning lab equipment.

However synthetic the title Polymer hints at, and with Plaid’s music in general, they are no strangers to incorporating natural elements seamlessly, if not subtly, into their array. Polymer follows other plaid albums with the addition of guitar and other acoustic staccato sounds which can be found in the likes of ‘The Pale Moth’, ‘Nurula’, and ‘Crown Shy’, satisfying perhaps their long-standing threat of recording an entire album with nothing other than a slowly deconstructed guitar. Nothing in Plaid’s discography comes quite as close to the full-on acoustic mark, however, as Polymer’s closing track does. ‘Praze’ – an old word for meadow – is a strikingly enchanted mediaeval bard-esque strain that relates to Britain’s disappearing wildflower meadows. In ‘Praze’s final melancholy there is also hope, not unlike stepping into a field after the daunting journey which began with ‘Meds Fade’, travelling through Plaid’s polymerisation laboratory experience until finally closing on a sole harpsichord.

Polymer is a wonderful and emotionally diverse experience that manages to retain the playfulness of past releases such as Rest Proof Clockwork to the darkness of Greedy Baby. As the word implies, Polymer is a complete album made of many parts, made of songs of many parts, made of machines and instruments of many parts, and so on down to the realm of mere vibration. For even in the realm of electronics and their perceived artificial means of creation, a most natural experience can be created – one known as music.

Polymer by Plaid is out now on Warp.

Words: Bryan Michael. Bryan Michael is a founding member of Philadelphia electronics unit Alka. Listen to Alka’s The Colour Of Terrible Crystal at Spotify.

(c) 2019 Further.