When writing on behalf of a club, one very rarely explores the true avant garde of the electronic music spectrum, too often overborne with a harsh, dancefloor-centric aesthetic. Not only is this a pity for one’s personal listening experiences – it is the denial of a significant facet of rave culture. From the blissful to the disturbing, ambient and downtempo sounds have consistently and integrally counterpointed “dancier” club musics, and even pre-date them. Whether in their production or consumption, they provide an opportunity to let the mind wander into alterity, breaking out of rhythmic formulae to explore the full scope of sounds discoverable in nature or via our own music making machines. The infamous chill-out rooms of 90s raves were reportedly one such place where DJs could melt and deconstruct those relentless rhythms, allowing room for revellers to relate, recharge or simply daydream.
Carlos (Equaliser/Brudenell Groove) is one of many musicians currently engaging in this kind of experimental practice. Her efforts have recently won her a release on Manchester’s Cong Burn records, originally commissioned for &or Emporium’s Arctic Bazaar at the Art Hostel in Leeds in December. It’s a bubbling, freeze-thawing soundscape that, seems to float elegantly within any room it is played. There’s no doubt that Charlotte Bickley’s sensitivity to space and texture in production and performance comes as a result of her hugely varied listening practices, from a musical upbringing in London’s dubstep heyday, to her more recent education in Oliveros-inspired deep listening. That transformative effect, moving from the rhythmic intensity of the dance floor to more meditative engagements with sound and noise, is exhibited in her selections below. All of them would be right at home in those ambient break-out spaces of bygone warehouse parties – in artists such as Carlos, one hopes the relationship between clubbing and contemplation will continue to be nurtured.
This weekend, she will be doing just that as she DJs at non-profit collective Brudenell Groove’s 2nd Birthday in the Wire basement.
Reznicek – Audi & Goggo / Haus Armgartburg
“This is a pretty bizarre 10” I randomly picked up for a quid on the back of a larger Discogs order, and has now become my most treasured record. From what I can gather from the slightly incoherent translation on the insert, it’s two tracks made up from various processed recordings from a German household in the late 90’s. There’s loads of great clanking, hissing, slamming, whirring, whispering and breathing sounds, and I usually play it underneath something else in ambient sets to create another layer of texture. The record itself is also striking. One side has a distorted image of the block of flats where the sounds were recorded, whilst the other displays a photograph of a man, who is apparently the housemaid, ‘doing his daily business’ – which appears to consist of looking into a mirror whilst wearing a white furry hat and clutching a bottle of cleaning spray, with his top off. Business.”
Danny Wolfers – Unfolding the Future with Amateur Space Jazz
“‘What is Amateur Space Jazz?’ asks the elephant wearing a smock in the first frame of the wonderfully peculiar comic strip that accompanies this record. From listening to the record alone, it would be difficult to define – although bound together by the same lo-fi timbres, the tracks move from sweet, sad ambient numbers, to spooky 80’s videogame soundtracks, to G-funk sizzlers. In the words of Danny Wolfers (the man behind Legowelt and many other monikers), these timbres are created by just two ‘crappy digital synthesizers’ with ‘no knowledge of musical theory’ required. This is potentially why I am so fond of these pieces of music; as someone who’s own production style is grounded in haphazardly bumbling around on a motley crew of hand-me-down hardware with missing keys and knobs, I take inspiration from an album that has avoided snazzy production techniques and instead has been led entirely by the sounds of a few machines.”
World of Apples – Christian Zimmerman – Diary of a Lost Girl (World of Apples Mojave Rehab Mix)
“I hadn’t heard this remix when I bought the record, so mistakenly played it at 33 rather than 45 upon my first listen. Now I no longer bother with the original, so taken I am with this chugging, sultry accident. The process of slowing the record down makes the synth melody especially thick and languorous, which combined with the wistful violin and warm percussion lulls you into a lazy beach-daydream. Which is probably why I never properly listened to the content of the speech at the end of the track until writing this, when I realised it’s actually a strange little monologue about a panic attack in a restaurant. Which sounds like it might be a bit freaky and jarring, but instead it’s just really dreamy.”
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Ears
“I eagerly anticipated this record’s release after watching a video of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith playing her outrageously aesthetically-pleasing Buchla Music Easel. The album is as beautiful as the tools, as she combines the almost natural-sounding, organic timbres from the Buchla with a woodwind section and her own heavily-processed vocals to create something which always conjures in my mind an image of getting pleasantly lost in a lush forest. Meandering melodies tangle together to form a dense layer of foliage, yet the record somehow remains delicate and subtle.”
Pablo’s Eye – You Love Chinese Food
“This album is a vibrant mesh of spoken word, droney experimental ambient, Downtempo, folky violin, dub influences, spacey synths and strange samples. None of these tracks fit neatly into any genre, and I like playing them because even the ones that are danceable like AMB 7 are full of surprises. I bought this CD in a charity shop and never thought to delve into it’s history, but upon some light research for this piece I learned that Pablo’s Eye started working in 1989 as ‘a flexible project in which additional members were always welcome to participate’. Discovering this open, communal ethos further endeared me to the CD and the band, as I can perhaps sentimentally draw some parallels between this Belgian collective who are not too worried about form, wishing to remain ‘simple and open’ by focusing on ‘sharing the same artistic attitude’, and our own lovely collective here in Leeds, Brudenell Groove.”
Feature image: Brighter Sound / Both Sides Now