I record and perform music in various different combinations, across sound art and experimental music. Big things for me are home made / DIY instruments and electronics; studio experimentation and lo-fi recording; free improvisation and live composition; and an appreciation of sound and noise in itself.
Visit my official website to find out more about my work
I’ve listed these in roughly chronological order.
Daphne Oram – Bird of Paralax
It’s really exciting that new material from the Daphne Oram archive keeps getting released in dribs and drabs. This 1972 recording combines classic musique concrète tape techniques (sampling, tape delay) with sounds from the “Oramics Machine” – a huge, clanking, home-made contraption built in the 1950s and 60s that turned lines drawn onto transparencies into synth waveforms. Her whole approach was DIY, her research esoteric and her output inspiring.
King Tubby – Dub From The Roots
There’s all sorts of discussion about the specific origin of dub, but for me King Tubby was the key experimental force. Amp builder, sound system owner, producer, he knew the workings inside out. This track is a great example showing off various of his innovations. The classic tape delay and spring reverb tank, plus tone generator and that great synth intro (a sample maybe?). And of course his signature: the sweeping, swooping high-pass filter.
1970s Dub covers lots of bases for me – it’s psychedelic, affecting, ramshackle, innovative, and rooted in improvisation – King Tubby’s sound is the epitome of these.
Conrad & Sohn – Pro 3
This tune really made my ears prick up when I first heard it. Recorded in the early 80s by Conrad Schnitzler of Tangerine Dream, with his son Gregor. Aside from its simplicity, the grooving beat and abrasive synth parts, I really like the urgency of it – it’s real “first take, best take” stuff – the purest ethos of bedroom recording. It feels like it was fun to record and they weren’t taking themselves too seriously. But there’s a real darkness to it too.
A Guy Called Gerald – ACID HOUSE EXPERIENCE DEMO
There’s some great stuff in A Guy Called Gerald’s back catalogue, from acid house beginnings through house and techno, drum & bass and more. He’s still a consistently good DJ now, mainly playing stuff towards the tech-house spectrum, which is my preferred material.
This is one of his attic room recordings from 86-88, the real early days of acid. It’s full of tape hiss and totally saturated. There are bits where something drops in a bit too loud, bits where the tape chews and you lose a channel for a few seconds – these moments really bring it alive for me. And it’s just a great, hypnotic acid excursion.
Ekoclef – Lens Flare Oh Yeah
Plenty of tape hiss, wonky electronic rhythms and swampy reverb. From the album Tape Swap, a collaboration between Ekoplekz and Bass Clef. I’ve included it here for two reasons, I’ve done several “tape swap” projects myself in the last year – exchanging partially recorded cassettes through the post by way of collaboration – and finding out about this album somewhere during that process felt like a validation of it as a way of working.
And also it meant I could include two artists whose work I really admire into one entry on the list. Both are prolific and diverse in their output, with discographies as long as your arm. Bass Clef in particular inspires me: in addition to his output under that moniker
Ricardo Villalobos – Samma (2012)
Lots of minimal techno can come across to me more as design than art – it can seem a bit soulless and too directly functional in some way. Which is fine for dancing to, but leaves room for something more as well. Ricardo Villalobos’ work, in all its nuanced changes and restrained ‘droplessness’, takes that line, and is genuinely some of the oddest music around.
At the all-nighter to mark Villalobos’ tenth anniversary of playing at Fabric, his preferred timeslot was 8am till noon, far beyond when anyone sensible would have gone home to bed, leaving only the zombie hoards: his ideal audience. And this is perfect music for it, lilting, soft but driving, bassy but not abbrasive, and spiralingly psychedelic.
Rosanne Robertson – Point Attachment (2013)
Rosanne Robertson is a performance artist, a sound artist and an improvising musician – without easily fitting into any of these categories – and without coming across as an ‘entertainer’. The way she treats objects, for their sound making properties, their sculptural relationships and their visual arrangements, is really refreshing. Importantly for me here’s a non-hierarchical approach to the materials, including herself. Her performances go beyond spectacle, sometimes into the realm of audience discomfort – but again, without falling into that old art-shock cliché – it’s more like a feeling of mutual endurance.
Like all great improv, it’s impossible to capture properly in a recording. But this video clip gives a feel of the kind of objects and sounds, processes and interactions in the work.
Karen Gwyer – Tehe! Blah blah! Shhhh! (2013)
Seeing Karen Gwyer play a banging hardware techno and acid set at Supernormal Festival last year, – whilst heavily pregnant! – was one of my musical highlights. Thick layers of synths, unexpected drum sequences loaded with percussion, a slowly evolving monolith of sounds. Her music is melodic and enveloping, rich and driving. It incarnates what I think of as ‘rhythm and drone’ music, something I aspire to.
Áine O’Dywer – The Ruling of Pan (2015)
Áine O’Dywer is one of my favourite live performers right now. Her main instrument is a harp, or sometimes two harps laid horizontally. She improvises solo compositions ranging through maximal drone, polyphonic baroque fractals and near-silent textural passages. Add to this a performative thread, with aspects of Dada clowning and satirical references.
The Music For Church Cleaners double LP is a collection of recordings made by the artist on weekday afternoons, as the chapel was being cleaned. Aside from the heart-wrenchingly melancholy, droning and flowing improvisations, there are lots of layers to this. At times the environmental noises and the background sounds of the cleaners at work break through, their comments are recorded and different stories unfold.
Tippex – IT’S A MYSTERY (TBC CBT)
Tippex is Henry Collins and Robin Foster, another duo absolutely destroying all ideas of what music, performance and sound art should and could be. Ideas run off them like sweat. I’ve seen them play dangling dangerously out of trees, and do a full set of squidging slimy foodstuffs infront of a mic. They’re passionate about the process and ideals and history of improvisation, whilst disregarding or ridiculing any idioms that have become ingrained in it along the way.
Henry explained this clip to me in his own words:
“This is the only remaining result of two solid days with no sleep, recording a folk-meets-rummaging album which we were (in the end) unhappy with. We recorded in my secluded basement studio, and near to the end of the session we ended up filling the tiny space up with everything we could find in the building that would fit in the room; including a dubious bin bag full of kitchen waste. And of course, we demolished it all, then rummaged through it whilst screaming and being dickheads. The funny thing was we forgot to press record, so all we have is a couple of pictures. It’s fair to say we’d gone a bit insane by this point. That’s when we recorded this track, which Robin loved and I hated. I didn’t even realise it was online till you just said. Seems the asshole uploaded against my wishes but listening back now I’ve kind of warmed to it.”