Tag: electronica

New Music Friday: [sane]

[sane] is the name for a Northampton electronic quartet consisting of Gabriel Halford, Tim Robinson, Adam Bullock and Connor Webb. New single ‘Stitching’ sees the band return from the studio…

[sane] is the name for a Northampton electronic quartet consisting of Gabriel Halford, Tim Robinson, Adam Bullock and Connor Webb. New single ‘Stitching’ sees the band return from the studio with music after a bit of a hiatus. New Boots spoke to the guys to get up to speed.

How did you guys get together?
Gabriel: We formed the band about four years ago, off the back of these four songs I’d made as part of my music tech degree. When I moved back to Northampton and got to see so many bands I was really inspired to start performing again. I asked my old bandmate Adam first because I knew he could nail it and we shared similar tastes, then asked Northampton’s busiest drummer/musician Josh to join. I asked my friend Tim from school to join as we shared very similar tastes in music and I knew he could play keys. In all honesty I didn’t know what to expect as he’d never played in a band before, but when he learnt so much so quickly it became obvious that it was a great bet. The other guys were very keen to try another singer for a song, and after I eventually pushed my ego as singer aside, we got him on ‘Born Lever Puller’ and the difference was undeniable.
Connor: I was drafted into the band a little after its creation, I was originally a guest vocalist on a track (‘BLP’), did a couple of gigs with the guys where I sang on said track, as well as a couple others. I was made an official member sometime after that.
Adam: I was in a band with Gabriel when we were young. We had a break for a couple of years before starting [sane]. Gabriel had written an EP and wanted a band to do live performances and that’s where we started.
Tim: Gabriel had been making music under the moniker ‘sane machine’ for a little while before deciding that he wanted to put the band together in order to play live shows. At the back end of 2014, he assembled Me, Adam and Josh (our old drummer) to fulfil that. Gabs had previously been in a band, called Black Friday, with Adam whilst teenagers, and all four of us have been kicking around together for years. Josh left the band a while back and we gained a vocalist in Connor. He brought so much to the song and had a great feel for the music so we asked him to join .

How would you describe your sound?
Tim: That’s a tough one really. We dread having to associate ourselves with any particular genre because nothing quite fits! We usually tend to go with electronica/ambient techno, but there are elements from all sorts of different places.
Connor: Danceable, emotional electronica.
Adam: Electronic, moody, dance, infectious.
Gabriel: Poorly.

Who are your main influences do you think?
Gabriel: All the guys on Monkeytown Records (esp Siriusmo), Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, Country Teasers, Flying Lotus.
Tim: We are all big Radiohead fans, so some of the songwriting is influenced by them for sure. Artists such as Siriusmo, Modeselektor and Alex Banks are huge influences in terms of production style. Most of what is put out by labels like Monkeytown, and Ninja Tune, is usually a pretty good bet. Bonobo, Machinedrum, Amon Tobin. Maribou state, Dark Sky, and vocalists such as Jono Mcleery, Thom Yorke and Sampha. To be honest, we all just really love listening to music. Our tastes are fairly eclectic, and massively overlap, but we each bring something individual to the table.

What was the reaction like to ‘help your self’ EP? Also, why the two year gap in releases?
Gabriel: It was generally really positive! We put a lot of effort into every song and making sure the CDs looked swanky and professional. We also learnt a lot about how to improve for our next release, mainly simplifying the arrangements. The main reason for the long gap is that we’ve been wanting to make an album. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and it’s taken a long time to create material I’d be proud enough of to release.
Adam: We had a good response to HYS. I spent six months travelling around India at the back end of last year, so the band was a man down for a while also.
Tim: Generally pretty well received. ‘Holy Poly’ got a fair bit of radio play and is the one people tend to anticipate at live shows. It took us a long time to put together and we have definitely progressed a long way since then, in terms of production and songwriting. We did release another song, ‘Born Lever Puller’ the following year, which was the one that featured Connor. The big gap is down to a combination of perfectionism, lack of time, and various life events that slow the whole process down. Our drummer left the band, so we had to regroup a bit after that as it changed both the type of music we make and the way in which we make it.. And also just miscellaneous work commitments and trying to fit music around a functioning life. It would be great to be able to dedicate more time, but once or twice a week is about all usually manage.

Tell us everything about this new track, ‘Stitching’.
Gabriel: The song is about the feelings you go through after losing something and trying to put yourself back together again. The aches of grieving and trying to also be grateful for having had something worth losing in the first place. ‘Good grief’ I suppose you could call it.
Connor: Very melodic, multi-sectional, fun to play live.

What are your live shows like?
Gabriel: Kinetic.
Connor: Big in sound, lots of emotion.
Tim: For live shows, we have synths, guitar, vocals and a couple of midi controllers to deal with the drums and various samples. The recorded stuff adds piano in to the mix, so we have those on Ableton to drop in for added texture. There’s normally quite a lot going on!

Are you part of a wider scene in Northamptonshire, playing with like-minded bands?
Gabriel: We’ve played with Usurp, Rise quite a few times. There’s a lot of mutual respect there I think. Those guys are amazing musicians. I have a side project called Mr Mulvaney with Angus McAlpine (formerly of Adolphus Tips), which is high energy stuff.

What has been your favourite band moment of the past year?
Gabriel: Playing at The Garibaldi Hotel earlier this year, no doubt. Our live setup is technically pretty complicated so we’ve been haunted by very distracting issues a few too many times. It was about first gig since Adam got back and motivated us all to keep going!
Connor: Our most recent gig: everything ran smoothly, everyone performed well, it was our most successful gig up to that point and it felt like we’d really nailed it .

What was the last album you bought/streamed?
Gabriel: Tyler the Creator – Flower Boy
Connor: Khruangbin – Con todo el mundo
Adam: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food
Tim: Djrum – Portrait with Firewood, and Maribou State – Kingdoms in Colour

What is your burning desire for the band to do in the future? What plans do you have?
Adam: Have bigger gigs with bigger bands and get more releases out on Spotify etc. Work towards an album.
Tim: To get our music out there, really. Its really satisfying to hear positive feedback. Its also incredibly gratifying seeing people dancing when we play live, so more of that. It would be nice to be playlisted somewhere, to get ourselves heard outside of the local scene.
Gabriel: We want to tour off the back of our next release and get some good shows and recognition. I myself want to do more solo live sets (Ableton live) in some different environments. Basically though, play Glastonbury!

‘Stitching’ is out now via the usual platforms

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New Music Friday: Fugues

Northampton/London electronic duo Fugues have just dropped their Merge EP. New Boots gets the lowdown How did you get together? Fugues started as Shannon and Chris O’ Conner with a piano and…

Northampton/London electronic duo Fugues have just dropped their Merge EP. New Boots gets the lowdown

How did you get together?
Fugues started as Shannon and Chris O’ Conner with a piano and voice around mid-2016. We always knew we were electronic focused, having similar interests such as Massive Attack, Hope Sandoval, Unkle, Coco Rosie, Moderat, etc. But it really developed in to what it is today when Jo Burns-Russell joined as co-producer, and we explored more techno and bass music to go with our songs. Since then Fugues has moved forward as a duo with Shannon and Jo. You can still hear Chris’s piano on the EP, but the end result has been more electronically focused. Musically we’re a blend of electronica, heavy basslines with Shannon’s ethereal vocals, and Chris’s classically influenced piano.

How would you describe your sound? The term “trip-hop” seems to be inadequate and do it a disservice.
It’s quite difficult to pin what we are doing into a genre really, which I think happens with electronic music, particularly when it’s not club-focused. There are elements of trip hop, house, glitch, techno…just interesting music. Shannon’s vocals are very poetic and meaningful, which is juxtaposed with the more electronic edge. Generally we’d say just give it a listen and see what you think!

How do you divvy up the work: do you both come up with musical and lyrical ideas?
It’s very much a joint effort. Our vocals were all recorded in a bedroom studio in Clapton, at Tobias Lawrence’s house. The piano at Chris’s home studio in Kimbolton. The other elements were created by Jo at her home in Duston, then it got married together.

Tell us about the EP.
‘Low Bass Lives’ was something Shannon came up with at a music festival and upon her move to Northampton. ‘No longer’ was written by Shannon and Jo in one night that just clicked, then Jo continued to develop it from there. ‘Smokey Red’ was another that was done in Kimbolton with piano and voice, drum and bass samples then developed by Jo over the coming months.

You’ve just started being a live band. How’s that going? Does being an electronic duo bring its own challenges?
Its definitely interesting trying to translate what is 90% computer-generated into a live show. We use Ableton with a series of controllers, Shannon plays synth and has a vocal FX unit, but luckily her vocal performance carries it. We’re investing in more synths and a drum machine soon to try and make the live experience as dynamic as we can. We’re also quite theatrical and want to bring lighting shows and projection mapping over the coming months. We want it to be an experience!

What has been your favourite Fugues moments so far?
We’re really pleased with how the final EP is sounding, at the last stages we bought in an engineer to help with the final mix down, Chris Pettifer [who is a Northants resident also]. He’s really bought what we have done to life. We played our first festival last weekend which was an incredible experience, and something we really want to do more of.

What is your burning desire to do in the future?
I think continuing to develop the show to make it an experience-led thing, with music, lights, projections etc. We are also really keen to keep the momentum going on our releases and hope to have more tracks ready by the autumn.

Merge is out now via Bandcamp. Fugues play the Wonderland Garden Party festival in September in south London

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Record Review: Venus Fly Trap ‘Icon’

VENUS FLY TRAP Icon [Glass Modern] Much like their beloved Dr Who, it’s been a long, strange, bewildering trip for Northampton’s long-term purveyors of dark wave. Formed in 1986 as…

VENUS FLY TRAP
Icon [Glass Modern]

Much like their beloved Dr Who, it’s been a long, strange, bewildering trip for Northampton’s long-term purveyors of dark wave. Formed in 1986 as a trio from the ashes of their other projects by Novak brothers Alex and John, they rose phoenix-like to be a central part of the local scene of the late-80s [and you can read all about those early days in the latest, fourth, instalment of the Have Guitars…Will Travel book series]. Fifteen or so ex-members later and the last three albums have been the work of core duo Alex Novak and Andy Denton. Indeed Icon completes their trilogy that began with Zenith in 2004 and continued with Nemesis in 2011.

This record is probably the strongest of the trio, taking all the ideas explored so far and crystallising them into short, sharp, energised songs. If you are unfamiliar with the music, then imagine a PiL-like band playing Taffey Lewis’ bar in the original Blade Runner film. A sound rooted in the dark wave/electronica sounds that emerged post post-punk, but one that isn’t confined only to that world. Dystopian sci-fi rock from Northampton means everything from Bauhaus to The Cramps, The Stooges to Sisters of Mercy. The VFT sound is instantly recognisable, but never falls into the trap of being too repetitive. Indeed, after the scene-setting instrumental title track that pulses with film dialogue, each of the remaining eight tracks could be pulled off the album and released as a single. The one track that already has been, ‘Vitesse’ [see below], is pure Blitz kids synth-pop with a memorable hook placed above the motorik underbelly, whilst Novak mixes up his automobile and love interest metaphors to great effect.

The love theme continues on the crunchy ‘Voodoo Voodoo’ and the cinematic ‘Flashback’, both which revel in the VFT interest in the psychedelic. The characters within this pair reveal themselves more and more on each playback, as you catch new parts of the story. The middle of the album is dominated by the slightly epic ‘Deadly Nightshade’, which warms of the dangers in human relationships, where you can find “instant karma in the perfumed garden”. The track is the most sonically pleasing on Icon, as it transforms from beatific to angry and back again continually on its six minute journey.

‘Return of the Sidewinder’ kicks off a trio of culturally-referencing tunes. This song, named after a 1968 TV episode, gives nods to fellow Midlands heavyweights: Bauhaus in the lyrics, and The Specials in the ‘Ghost Town’-esque musical pallete of smokey dub reggae. ‘The Genesis Of The Daleks’, meanwhile, was a 1975 Dr Who series, and the Delia Derbyshire-indebted opening gives way to post-punk guitars and throbbing synth patterns. The song is surely a love letter to those childhoods that were both scarred and enlivened by existential television dramas.

‘Puppet’ seems to take the lead from ’50s pulp fiction from Philip K. Dick, but this time taking the music in another direction into dream pop. It’s a tender lullaby – well it would be if the intonation of Novak [“you’re just my puppet”] wasn’t quite so unsettling. Icon finishes with ‘In The Moonlight’: a Paisley Underground-style acid-folk slow waltz with a Hammond organ dominating the canvas, and some superb background harmonies that drifts us ever farther away from the darkwave idea from whence they came. It’s a fitting ending to a formidable album that, if it is to be their swansong, sees them very much go out on a high.

Phil Istine

Icon is out June 29th via Glass Modern

*Interview with frontman Alex Novak*
NB: You’ve said this is the last studio album.
AN: Probably; more than likely. Never say never. It’s just the length of time it takes to write and mix tracks seems to take longer each time. Does the world need another VFT album? We will see…

There’s quite a bit of diversity going on here; musical references to reggae and dream pop, for example.
We never set out to write in one particular style, just see what comes out of various ideas, see where it takes us. Our inspiration comes from many points of reference.

That’s always been a VFT strength – you always look beyond the “dark wave” tag.
VFT certainly has a dark psyche at the core, but we like to layer it or dress up with different costumes. We tap into many influences.

Keeping one band going for over three decades without a break is remarkable. What’s your secret – sheer, bloody-minded drive?
Its had more twists and turns than a rattlesnake, shedding many skins over the years. Change keeps it fresh. We are the Doctor Who of music – transforming a constant metamorphosis.

‘Icon’ is out via Glass – a label who you have history with, via your old band Religious Overdose.
Full circle – my very first release was on Glass. There’s a symmetry to it all. I like Dave Barker the label boss, and the band’s he has released over the years. It feels like home for us.

Will you continue the band as a live concern in future years?
We will see what reaction this album gets, and take it from there…

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