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    • CommentTimeMar 27th 2014

    Digitonal - Words on Tracks mix.

    I was originally going to have a theme for this mix of 'deep ambience' because it's something I've really got interested in again, but the mix ended up being more a selection of solid favourites, chosen more for having something vaguely interesting to say about them.


    Future Sound of London - Interstat
    Digitonal - Spacebed 5
    Sven Vath - Ritual of Life (Neutron 9000 remix)

    Hearing FSOL's Lifeforms album when I was about 19 was a total game changer for me. I think it's the first time that I'd heard an audio environment like that - sound used to create an almost physical world. Even now it sounds utterly extraordinary. That album led me firmly into the world of ambient electronica - the Neutron 9000 remix of Sven Vath was a stone cold classic of it's age. I was working near Soho in London at the time and you had early cyberpunk cafes like Global and Silverfish and Ambient Soho on the corner for the heads. It was a complete lifestyle almost. Whilst clubland in London was getting kind of stoosh at that point, this world felt like mine. That led to DJing and then writing my own tracks and then the internet happened and collectives and Toytronic heard some and that was that. I did an AV project a few years ago using scifi and space imagery and I've thrown one of my soundbeds from that project into the mix here - my attempt at tribute.

    08:04 Peter Gabriel - Of These Hope (reprise)

    I nearly followed up the Vath with FSOL in their Amorphous Androgenous guise with Fat Cat, but then I thought I'd rather hear the original source for that sample. This is an astonishing piece of work and I think it set the bar for fusion for me. Many attempts to bring together aspects of traditional music (whether that's the western classical traditions which are my grounding in music, or various flavours of world music) with electronic, pop or rock elements end up being horrible - neither one thing nor the other. Squeezing square pegs into round holes or just laying one style over another. Peter Gabriel's work on Passion shows that it's only possible if you understand the forms suitably and exploit their common ground. I'm rarely explicit about the influence of early choral music in my output, but it's totally there in the way harmonies move. You take those elements and then construct something new on the top and that's exactly what Peter Gabriel did here.

    10:12 Vangelis - Morning at the Bradbury
    Jon Hopkins - Fairytale

    Very happy that Jon is getting his due props with his later, more upbeat work. He's the best producer of our generation by a country mile. I've thrown this early piece in though because I think it neatly bridges the gap between the older school ambient and the nu-gen of totally digital producers (Jon's more than that of course, but it's a good place to start). A bit like FSOL, it's the expansiveness of the sound stage which gets me on this and the precision and attention to every single frequency detail. Wish I had that dude's work ethic. The mix bridge here is one of the atmospherics from the Esper edition of Vangelis Blade Runner score. It won't need any introduction, but that soundtrack pretty much sets the tone for the whole of the 90's electronica scene. We all grew up with that vision as our idea of the future and so when we came to attempt to soundtrack it, Vangelis was the basis. Plus he's legitimised fat dudes in electronica which I, for one, am grateful for.

    14:33 Global Communication - Epsilon Phase

    A complete let yourself get washed away tune. Actually a pretty audacious remix of a Chapterhouse jingle jangle floaty indie tune from back in the day, but a complete deconstruction of it. I love the way that ambient can do that actually. It's like those tracks which slow down pop songs by 1000% to make Eno-esque classics. By the time the vocal comes in on this one you're already on another planet. This one reminds me mostly of my old mate Callum and sitting in fields drifting away. Which leads us nicely to...

    22:31 Ulrich Schnauss - Molfsee

    Big Chill, 2004. I've just played there with Kirsty Hawkshaw - my first decent festival gig so am on a total buzz. I bump into a promoter mate of mine called John Power who, knowing our shared love of electronica, tells me to make time for this german dude. There's probably a couple of hundred of us there. It's dark. Rum has been drunk. This awkward looking dude is on stage with a laptop and starts playing. What happens then is a total wash of beauty and calm and hope and comfort coming out of the PA. Bliss, nirvana, complete and total harmony and joy. I've seen a lot of gigs that have done that for me to differing degrees but never so completely. I played with him a few years later. Nice guy.

    29:32 Maps and Diagrams - Meet me at Slussen

    I've known Tim for a while. Dude is prolific and he's normally the best person to embarrass me into pulling my finger out and getting some work done. I love the way his style has shifted so subtly over the last few years. I did an EP for his Cactus Island label and it's still one of my favourite things I ever did. Solid two weeks of inspiration and work...that never happens to me. Anyway, this is taken from, I think, his best album on an obscure Japanese label and it's just wall to wall brilliant.

    33:30 Pleq - Someone like comes into your Life

    This is taken from the Leaves label compilation I contributed to a couple of years ago. I've done a few things like this and they're really good for energising you back into work. I think they're also perhaps one of the last bastions of community in electronica circles. It's the thing I miss most. The death of the record shop has also been the death of the label as a community touch point. In the Toytronic days (which was basically run out of Sister Ray records in Soho), we were an actual physical community. Smallfish, Ambient Soho, all these places were hubs and that's how people met. Most of my important meetings and serendipitous moments happened in those places. Online communities have been important too (particularly in the early days) but I think the signal to noise ratio is very hard to cut through now and the lack of actual human contact does make natural creative connection difficult. That said, compilations like this probably wouldn't exist without it so it's swings/roundabouts really. Oh, also, this is a tune.

    39:00 Seefeel - Air Eyes

    Probably the most underrated of the Warp electronica stable, they were massively influential for me, not just musically, but in the idea of electronic music in a band setting which is what I've always tried to work toward. I saw them with about 50 people at a pub in Finsbury Park. Their support act - Boards of Canada. No one ever believes me. Anyway, I love the sense of space in their music - minimalism can be quite busy and they bring it into ambience nicely.

    40:29 Plaid - Rakimou

    The first time I heard this track was also the first time I'd ever heard electronica being performed live. It was at the Blue Note (also gone now, like most of the best London places) for a Warp Records night in about 1996. I had been upstairs and I walked down into the crowded room, being pulled in by this utter enchantment, this siren song. I couldn't get down to the floor so ended up on the stairs, with Mixmaster Morris in front of me and Bjork behind me, whilst I listened to this utter heaven. One of those 'never forget' moments. Been a massive fan ever since, although I had to temper my listening a bit because 'influence' was in danger of becoming 'pastiche'.

    46:03 Bola - VM8

    Whenever people ask me who I sound like, Bola is the most accurate answer I can give. There are, obviously, more mainstream touchstones, but Bola's work has always been the closest thing in electronica to the spirit of where I'm coming from. I totally envy his production as well. Not only did he write Forcassa 3 which is somewhere near the top of "tunes I wish I'd written" but every single album he's done has a sheen and polish which astonishes me. I use his tracks as A/B comparisons in mastering sessions.

    50:58 Toytronic - Untitled hidden track from Everything is Green

    Props to Toytronic. It was a golden age for me and I remain honoured to this day to have contributed to such an awesome label and culture. I wish Martin had hung around more. It was a label that needed a creative force behind it. That said, I'm very glad that they didn't just limp on. I've never wanted to self-release my music. It's both a privilege and a responsibility to put your work out with a peer group in that way, and the way that Martin, Chris and the rest of the crew curated every aspect of that label was inspiring. I definitely wouldn't have had the opportunity to still be here now if I hadn't had that early mentorship.

    51:51 Loscil - The Making of Grief Point

    I'm straight up obsessed with this. I think it's pretty much perfection and it resonates with me through every pore. Musically it's as beautiful as anything Loscil has written, but the voice over man - look it's a ballsy move doing spoken word anyway, it rarely works. My ex is a poet and I've often toyed with having recited sections of her work over tracks but it just sounds mawkish when I attempt it. Maybe there's something about that Canadian accent ("super-true to the genre"). This track so beautifully captures the inner dialogue of the record-making process. The fear and self-doubt that pervades is like an unstoppable force. I've nearly finished my new album and the entire process has been terrifying. Like therapy. Gone is the effortless way I used to just make music and everything now is subject to doubt, to self-analysis, to existential angst - a constant barrage of "is this good enough"? And the final beat of this track: "It is done". Perfect. I've actually printed out "The world does not like me grim - it likes me melancholy but not miserable" for my studio wall. It's something I need to remember.

    Andy Digitonal, Feb 2014.