BUNKR – The Initiation Well Remixed

The counterpart to BUNKR’s debut album The Initiation Well from earlier this year, this collection sees a diverse collection of electronic artists tackling Brighton-based James Dean’s exquisitely-executed pieces. The Initiation Well was a brilliant, if relatively understated gem of an album; an album that didn’t come with glossy promotion or a massive PR budget and yet which exuded a confidence, panache and depth very often absent from a lot of solo electronic efforts that cross this writer’s (virtual) desk. The happy news is that each of the mixes here simply shine a light on how good the original material was in the first place, even if they take Dean’s vision off down interesting, and sometimes unexpected pathways.

Fujiya & Miyagi return the favour offered through BUNKR’s mix of their ‘Personal Space’ with a fresh take on ‘Solitary Drift’, here recast as a mournful vocal pop track thanks to the addition of uncharacteristically muted vocals from F&M’s David Best. The result is a towering synth pop epic moving along on a waltz rhythm and dystopian path. ‘The Initiation Well’ is given a reverential acid techno retread by Jonathan Krisp that immediately transports you back to a mid-90s Richie Hawtin night, beautifully augmented by ambient washes and blurry vocal snippets.

Elsewhere, Echaskech’s mix of ‘Left For Dust’ flips the original into deep minimal techno shapes, its fluttering, filtered melody and unswerving rhythm given a firmness and urgency as the mix progresses, while Luxtron’s remix of ‘East Of Eden’ sounds like an updated version of Aphex Twin’s ‘Xtal’ from Selected Ambient Works 85-92, all woozy texture and shimmering, obfuscated melodies over a restrained progressive house beat.

Perhaps the most surprising moment in this set comes with Infinite Scale’s mix of ‘Docking Procedure’, which pushes the track squarely into deep dub territory, replete with springy percussion, haunting echo and stuttering rhythms offset by squelchy and vibrant 303 flourishes.

The Initiation Well Remixed by BUNKR was released November 29 2019 by VLSI Records.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Laura Agnusdei – Laurisilva

Laura Agnusdei is an Italian saxophonist, electronic musician and all-round deep thinker, whose musical endeavours range from studying electronic music in The Hague to playing sax in psych groups to producing complex melodic music fusing together all of her seemingly incompatible disparate interests. Laurisilva, her debut full-length album takes its name from ancient subtropical forests, the first part of its name providing a link to the Latin etymological root word that begat her first name.

Recorded in The Hague where she completed her Masters in electronic music and her Bologna bedroom, Laurisilva is an absorbing suite of six pieces that seek to evoke the natural environments of the forests that inspired its creation. Here, on tracks like the mesmerising title track or ‘Epiphyte Blues’, you find Agnusdei’s sax playing providing effortlessly evocative motifs, augmented by gurgling analogue electronics, intricate sound design flourishes and delicate processing, occasionally seeing a range of collaborators dropping in jazzy reeds, flutes and trumpet. The result is a sort of wonky electroacoustic big band music somewhere on the continuum between jazz, exotica, Warp electronica and modern classical (whatever that is).

The departure from woodland concerns arrives in the form of ‘Shaky Situation’, a skittish, randomised composition that finds Agnusdei layering in insistent spoken word instructions from what sounds like a particularly curmudgeonly jazz band leader about the need to practice playing daily. Here the sound palette moves from hooky electronic passages that nod to both Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works and Terry Riley’s In C, blurry sax lines and dissonant clashes of instrumentation, the result being something unpredictable, intentionally messy and gleefully disjointed.

The standout moment ‘Jungle Shuffle’ is the closest Agnusdei gets to a form of traditional jazz, her playing running the gamut from early 1920s swing to wild free jazz, underpinned by a fractured rhythm belonging on a long out-of-print Disney album of Polynesian sounds subjected to a precision-sharp digital scalpel. By the track’s conclusion, all traces of reverential jazz reference points have become buried, mere distant aural memories beneath a forest floor carpeted with broken beats and splintered percussion.

Note to listener: to unintentionally evoke the legacy of Mr John Peel, this album also sounds superb at 45rpm.

Laurisilva by Laura Agnusdei was released November 29 2019 by The Wormhole. With thanks to Don Wyrm for coffee, comversation and cassettes.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Marcus Hamblett – Detritus

The second album from Brighton-based multi-instrumentalist Marcus Hamblett is a significant departure from his debut LP, 2015’s Concrete. Featuring six tracks of diverse styles ranging from jazzy balladry through to scratchy electronica, Detritus hangs together through Hamblett’s dexterous ability to assimilate himself into often incompatible genre reference points, ably switching between guitar, synth, cornet and vibes across the course of the album.

Hamblett is joined by a cast of similarly-minded sonic adventurers, including LNZNDRF’S Ben Lanz, synth maverick James Holden and saxophonist Etienne Jaumet, a fellow member with Hamblett in Holden’s Animal Spirits and one half of French electronic duo Zombie Zombie. These extra musicians add counterpoints to Hamblett’s own, many-layered vision for Detritus, the result being far from the trashy leftovers implied by the album’s title.

The central piece of the album is ‘Ghost Socks’, which features Hamblett sparring seamlessly with Colin Stetson’s clarinet and saxophone. Running at over eleven minutes, ‘Ghost Socks’ has a journeying, restless quality, effortlessly flicking between passages of languid jazz guitar, rigid electronic sections, noise rock and a concluding moment built out from stacked circular loops of Stetson’s playing that owes a debt to the effervescent cycles of Terry Riley’s In C. To cram this many ideas into one track is, on paper, a recipe for a dizzying, capricious sprawl, yet it feels entirely logical in Hamblett’s hands.

After a segue into Latin guitar on the reflective two-part ‘The Warren’, the second half of which features some beautiful, if mournful, strings, we find ourselves in the fizzing electronics of ‘Gardner’s Basement’. Aside from some horn sections from Mathieu Charbonneau and Ben Lanz, ‘Gardner’s Basement’ is mostly Hamblett at the synthesizer, offering a towering, cinematic piece loaded with rich detail and evolving melodic passages edged with a noir sensibility, twinned with rhythms and beats which seem randomised to the point of chaos.

The album concludes with ‘Vibraphone Piece’, for all intents and purposes an Animal Spirits track given the involvement of Holden and Jaumet, alongside flutes and strings. On this piece we are transported to a distant exoticism thanks to Hamblett’s contemplative vibraphone playing and its elegant string accompaniment, only for the mood to become suddenly unpredictable: echoing sprinkles of electronics appear out of nowhere, rasping horns that are both reflective yet curiously abrasive drift gently to the surface, and a sense of discordancy emerges as a metallic rhythm begins to underpin the whole assembly. At some point along this track’s path you realise you are no longer in a romanticised eulogy to mai tais, sunsets and palm trees but a dangerous, edgy, noisy, brilliant, harrowing vision of what it feels like to be alive right now.

Detritus by Marcus Hamblett was released on November 15 2019 by Willkommen Records.

(c) 2019 Further.

Inside Tracks: Amongst The Pigeons – Those Stolen Moments

It’s been seven years since the last Amongst The Pigeons album, and five years since Daniel Parsons decided to call pest control and exterminate the ATP project. After a spell working in the duo Exactly Zero, Daniel found himself idling away the time in a local café and before he knew it he was donning his characteristic pigeon mask all over again, and Those Stolen Moments was the eventual result.

In this exclusive feature for Further., Daniel talks us through the nine new tracks on a record that is distinctively ATP but more acutely focussed on its creator’s own instincts rather than deploying guest vocalists. It is a record of continually-evolving electronic juxtapositions and thought-provoking contemplations on how we spend that most undervalued of commodities – our personal time.

Happy Beginnings

The album opens with ‘Happy Beginnings’.

The track started out as an instrumental but it never felt finished and I spent a long time working out what to do with it. Last year I started going to car boot sales and while looking through some vinyl I found an old record that taught children how to play instruments. The samples in this track come from that and work perfectly for the opening of the album.

The title for this one came from a conversation I had with a friend. He was talking about the concept of a ‘happy ending’ massage and said that in his mind it would be better to start with the ‘happy’ activity and then move onto having a nice relaxing massage.

Inflight Entertainment

The second track is Inflight Entertainment. This track was born on a flight to Poland using my iPhone and GarageBand. During the flight I created a 20-second loop which was sounding quite cool. When I got home I took the loop into my Shedio and fully fleshed out the track. A Shedio is a recording studio in a shed and mine sits at the end of my garden. It’s a magical place where time often stands still.

When I made my debut album and early EPs I used a lot of field recordings and still like to capture sounds while I am out and about. In the background of this track there are samples from the actual flight.

Perching

Back in 2014 I announced that I would stop making music as Amongst The Pigeons.

In the years that followed my friend Ollie and I made music under the name Exactly Zero (exactlyzero.co.uk). We would meet up each week and work on tracks but it was a slow process and in between our weekly meets I was starting to work on some new music on my own.

‘Perching’ was the first ‘new’ Amongst The Pigeons song and it really did come about by accident. One day I was sat in Perch (my local coffee shop) and I had my MacBook with me, I hit record and started capturing the background noise of the café. When I got back to the Shedio I cut up some of the clutter and created a little beat with the crockery and started putting synths over the top.

This track also has both of my kids voices sampled across the song. They enjoy coming out to the Shedio and if I am in the middle of recording I always try and get them to shout and sing into the microphone.

Polly Bee Gone

‘Polly Bee Gone’ is one of the heavier-sounding ATP tracks and became a bit of a nightmare to finish. I actually released an earlier version of this back in March on an ‘introductory’ album. My plan was to draw a line between the old ATP songs and the new ‘ATP 2.0’ music. I kept working on this song after that original release and managed to tidy it up a bit more and get to the stage where I was happy with it.

The song title came from the synth patch I was using which was a ‘PolyB’ sound.

I also made a video for this track which features me wearing one of my ATP Pigeon Masks while walking through Trafalgar Square. There was a very funny moment when a small kid was chasing a load of pigeons and they turned round to see a 6ft Pigeon towering over them disapprovingly.

Beautiful Negative Space

As I mentioned earlier I didn’t really plan to restart ATP, but once I had a few tracks, I started to question what I should do with them. Originally I was going to release a four track EP, then a five track EP and so on. It got to the stage where I had eight tracks and I thought I should stop but then I started work on this song and felt it would sit perfectly in the middle of the album.

It is one of the more mellow tunes on the record and originally I wanted to get guest vocals on it and turn it into a Robyn-esque tune. I don’t sing myself and in the past have been lucky to work with some awesome artists, but the more I thought about it, I wanted this album to be much more of a pure electronica set of songs. The next ATP releases will likely feature more guest singers.

At Any Opportunity

The album is called Those Stolen Moments as I wanted to capture the circumstances around how it was made. I have a full time job and a family so my ‘free’ time is limited and this album was made in those pockets of time that don’t really exist. I usually head out to the Shedio one or two nights a week and tend to work between 9 or 10pm and 2am. It’s a beautiful time of the day / night and I love being awake and creative while many people are asleep.

‘At Any Opportunity’ has a little sample at the start in which I try to sum up my feelings about making the most of time and seizing chances. There are times when it can be hard being a solo musician and you only have yourself to push you along to get music made. There can be times when self-doubt creeps in and you question everything you are doing.

Thinking Is Addictive

This track features part of an Eckhart Tolle speech about how thinking can be addictive and the importance of being able to stop thinking. What he says is very true and it fits so perfectly as an Amongst The Pigeons tune. There are some great synth and bass parts hidden away in this song. I always try to make my music do the unexpected and take people on a whirlwind journey as they listen to the songs. I also made a lyric video for this track which took ages to do.

I have no idea if Tolle would approve of this track but I like to think he’d appreciate it.

The 25th Hour

The title of this song again harks back to another example of making the most of time that doesn’t exist. In my mind the 25th hour is the extra time you create when you really push yourself to do more with your day and get stuff done.

This song was pretty much made in a single night and was born out of being utterly uninspired. I went out to my Shedio and was feeling quite fed up after a long week at work and didn’t really fancy doing anything at all. I started making the track and it all came together incredibly quickly, it was one of those nights where it got to 1am, then 2am and I thought I really should go to bed but couldn’t stop working on it.

For me that is the biggest thrill about making music. When you start, you effectively have nothing, but an empty page, and over a period of time you are creating something that didn’t exist before.

Water Into Whisky

Most of the songs on the album all clock in at under three minutes but on this closing track I allow things to take their time to unfurl.

It is fair to say that one of my favourite bands when I was growing up was Orbital. They have always heavily influenced the sound of Amongst The Pigeons which I think people may hear while listening to this song in particular.

This song started out as a little 10-second loop of random synth riffs. A few years ago my friend Adam (from Monkeyfist) came down to the Shedio with his euphonium to record on one of the Exactly Zero tracks. During the night we polished off a bottle of whisky between us and before we finished for the night we spent half an hour messing around with the synths.

A year or so later I revisited the loop we had made and started to stretch it out and build this song around it. It’s a slow build which leads into a more epic ending for the album and brings everything to a close.

Those Stolen Moments by Amongst The Pigeons is released November 15 2019 by Peace & Feathers.

Interview: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Tears|Ov – A Hopeless Place

When I was a small child my parents bought a copy of a children’s music LP called All Aboard. It had a whiff of a K-Tel compilation about it, containing songs like ‘Right Said Fred’ by Bernard Cribbins, ‘Ernie’ by Benny Hill and ‘Grandad’ by Clive Dunn. Side one of the album opened with a version of ‘The Laughing Policeman’ by Charles Penrose. I suspect because of mishandling on the part of my mischievous toddler fingers, that track was irreparably scratched, right at the point where the jocular copper of the song started laughing. That looped chuckling left an indelible mark on my childhood, running through the fear I felt as I watched the original version of IT, through TV shows with canner laughter and pretty much right up to the point I heard ‘I Stand On The Cable’ and ‘Dancing Without’ by Tears|Ov.

Tears|Ov is a trio of Lori E. Allen (vocals, samples, sequenced percussion, piano, synth, noise), Deborah Wale (vocals, percussion, tube, synth, noise, scratching, spoken word) and Katie Spafford (cello). Although the three performed together as part of Allen’s 2016 album for The Tapeworm, Tears Of The Material Vulture, the catalyst for this LP was a performance commission by artist Wolfgang Tillmans as part of the South Tanks series that ran alongside his 2017 Tate Modern retrospective. These are not the pieces that Allen / Wale / Spafford performed, exactly, as these are tracks formed of a collective after-hours improvisation process wherein each is a discrete moment unto itself. Triggered initially by Allen’s foundation loops, Wale and Spafford are then free to respond as they see fit, creating a feedback loop that allows Allen to alter and answer in return.

The eight pieces here are powerful, driven moments that sound perfectly composed rather than carrying the scratchy, inchoate gestures that one normally associates with freeform music. The tracks mentioned earlier – ‘I Stand On The Cable’ and ‘Dancing Without’ – possess a rich, interwoven tapestry of sonic events, glued together as tight layers (pulsing electronics, clipped instructions reminiscent of ‘Revolution #9’, and that incessant, troubling laughter – which collapses into distress on the latter track). If these found sound layers appear skittish and randomised, Spafford’s cello and Wade’s spoken word, when placed next to Allen’s finely-wrought electronics on moments like ‘Trapdoor Ant’ provide a stentorian focal point to proceedings, even if they are almost immediately sliced through with brief snatches of noisy intervention.

On the whole, this is a dark and brooding album befitting of both its title and the two tracks with the same name that bookend the LP. Surprising, then, to find two tracks that are, at least in part, completely at odds with the prevailing tone of A Hopeless Place. ‘Overstimulated Arcade Rat’ carries a sci-fi edge reminiscent of Don Dorsey’s soundtracks for Disney attractions at Epcot, full of fizzing futuristic electronic energy and perverse optimism, while ‘Family Feudal’ begins with genuinely laugh-out-loud faux pas culled from shows like Family Fortunes, before being taken into a mournful conclusion by Spafford’s cello, angry loops and an oddly unsettling segue into Satie.

Taken as a whole, A Hopeless Place leaves an uncertain, unresolved impression on the listener. There are difficult themes at work here, if you search them out, hiding beneath the splotches of sonic colour that dominate the trio’s music. How you elect to interpret those, just as with any work of art, in whatever discipline, is entirely up to you. You can be horrified, despondent, amused, ignorant or – if you perhaps hear the echo of a terror that dominated your early years – deeply terrified all over again.

A Hopeless Place by Tears|Ov is released November 1 2019 by The Wormhole.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

YOVA – Moondog

YOVA are a five-piece group centred around the hypnotic vocal of Jova Radevska, whose near-whispered delivery is inflected with an effortless, mesmerising post-R&B soulfulness.

On their debut track ‘Moondog’, Radevska’s haunting voice is offset by a shimmering, sparse accompaniment from Alex Thomas (drums), Grumbling Fur’s Daniel O’Sullivan (bass, Mellotron and programming), Martin McDougall (kalimba) and PJ Harvey acoloyte Rob Ellis on Ondes Martenot. The result is something rooted in earthly concerns of forgiveness and emotional upheaval yet positioned with a grandeur that is entirely astral in its breadth.

Presaging a remix EP in November and a full album in 2020, YOVA today revealed the hauntingly noir Christian Barnett-directed video for ‘Moondog’, draped in vintage monochrome texture and jerky motion reminiscent of the earliest silent movies. Watch the video below.

Words: Mat Smith

The Fantastic Plastics – Malfunction

Recorded over a period of two years at their brilliantly-monikered CoCo Beat Studios in Brooklyn, Malfunction is the follow-up to The Fantastic Plastics’ 2015 debut album, Devolver. As with that first record, the order of events here is hyperactive tracks threaded with spiky guitar riffs, buzzing synths and chunky drums that offer up a futuristic vision of pop drawing a line back to the most effervescent and innovative moments of electrically-infused post-punk.

From the energetic forward motion and symbolism of ‘Numan’ (with its general nod in the direction of the erstwhile Gary Webb and possibly Wayne Knight’s annoying character in Seinfeld) to the insistent high-speed glam-punk of opening track ‘Disintegration’, Malfunction is (mostly) an upbeat record. The harmonic interplay between the band’s Tyson Plastic and Miranda Plastic has a gleeful charm, even if their outwardly euphoric tracks appear to mask a general cynicism at the state of the world today. The effect, on the sinewy, Cars-y ‘Telephone’ or the feisty political grandstanding of ‘Disconnect’ – a thinly-veiled bash at a certain high profile abusing the freedom of social media – is slightly disorienting: here you are, pogo-ing around like a complete lunatic, and then when you start to focus in on the lyrics, you realise you’re actually hearing a cheerful protest song.

The frantic pace drops just twice, once on the charming space-age instrumental vintage synth interlude ‘Neon Satellite’ and again – briefly – with the jangly guitar intro to the otherwise perky ‘Bad Day’. The latter has a brilliant, cutesy quality that wouldn’t go amiss on a kids’ TV show, even if its theme – about either being chronically hungover or clinically depressed – sit slightly uncomfortably with the joyous ‘la-la-la’ing and generally upbeat mood of Miranda’s delivery.

The standout track here, ‘Evacuate’, finds Tyson doing a brilliant impersonation of Phil Oakey’s leaden delivery, its lyrics and insistent guitar riffery urging us to get the hell out of dodge before the world ends. That it ends suddenly with a brief, dissonant electronic tone suggests we didn’t quite make it, but if this album was the last thing you heard before the world ended, frankly it doesn’t seem like the worst way to go.

Malfunction by The Fantastic Plastics was released October 4.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.