Here is an album that is very close to my heart. Although it wasn’t my debut album it certainly was the first I was happy to circulate widely. I even departed from my usual homemade covers and CD-R’s to have it produced in mass (166 copies to be exact).
Electricity was my take on Instrumental Hip Hop. The tunes are entirely built from snippets of sound on vinyl manipulated on phonograph turntables. It was a very, very time intensive album and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that over a 100 different records were assimilated. At the time I was obsessed with long-form, progressive Hip Hop compositions; tunes that evolved, had multiple movements and even different tempos and tonal colours within the same track. A song may even shoot off on an unrelated tangent halfway through! Anything to distance myself from the loop-based groove nature of rap beats. It seems ridiculous now but I used to wear the fact that this album was all turntable-based with no ‘real humans’ as a badge of honour!
Considering my lack of production knowledge back then, six years on I’m not too unhappy with the result. It was recorded straight into Cool Edit with very little use of EQ hence the dense, cloudy sound. The overuse of cheap Zoom reverb and delay guitar pedals only added to the muskiness.
What I loved about sampled-based production is that your sound palette is essentially the entire recorded history of music! Previously unheard combinations of sounds can be experimented with. Sitar and Theremin can duet with Tibetan Monk chants and accordion atop a rhythm section of funk drums and bowed double bass. A serious culture clash! Combined with the manipulation techniques of Turntablism this broad palette can be made to do your bidding. Almost as much fun as the arrangement is the creation of new timbres through layering, bending and effecting existing instruments. I’d go as far as to say that for me the sound world and tonal qualities of a song attracts me far more than the lyrics and melody.
For example, the title-track is based around a few shards of feedback taken from the final chord ringing out in a Captain Beefheart tune. These were repeated and overlapped to form the harmonic component in the track. That time-stretched and reversed guitar solo originates from Eric Clapton’s playing on John Mayall’s Blues Breakers album.
At the time of its creation (2006) I was listening to, and sampling, a heap of Miles Davis (electric era), Alice Coltrane, Santana, Sun Ra, Nektar, King Crimson, Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, Toru Takemitsu and Charles Mingus. It would be an oversight to not mention DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing”, Kid Koala’s “Carpel Tunnel Syndrome”, RJD2’s “Deadringer” and Blockhead’s “Music By Cavelight” as the guiding lights in the instrumental Hip Hop canon.
Electricity was released on experimental drummer, band-leader and composer Anthony Donaldon’s Explorers Club Recordings. He introduced me to most of the aforementioned artists and at the time took me under his wing, encouraging me to play the turntable in his jazz and psychedelic rock ensembles The Village Of The Idiots and Flower Orphans. There is very little documentation of his ECR label whose other releases include The Village Of The Idiots’ “School Of Hard Knocks”, Lucian Johnson’s “Night On The Plutonian Shore” and Box Of Birds’ “Captain Blood”. Perhaps I can twist Ant’s arm to let me upload some of these forgotten treasures!
The download link for Electricity is below. I would be super stoked if you could give it a listen. I actually have 1-2 albums worth of material in the same vein which I kind of got cold feet on. My methods and views on composition underwent a bit of a paradigm shift a few years back. However, this little rant is rekindling my affection for the style! I hope you enjoy.