We all recognise now how strange these times are. How weekdays ease their way into the weekends so sneakily, and the challenge to work out where time begins and ends. The barriers, buffers and schedules that keep most of all connected to each other, and the world at large, have largely been erased recently.
I became increasingly concerned that many friends and colleagues were struggling with anxiety, a feeling of feeling disconnected and simply trying to remain sane in this lockdown scenario, whilst the media continued to relentlessly drown us all in overwhelmingly intimidating statistics and stories. So, rather than sit back and worry, I felt it was important to immediately embrace the tools at hand, and use the power of technology to respond positively, and offer some light to others.
I was meant to be performing at Machina Bristronica in Bristol in March, which I’d been so looking forward to, as well as shows in London, France and The Netherlands. These were all cancelled with immediate effect, and at the time of writing, have still not been restored, and with that zero income. At the same time I had been exploring what to use for these live shows, since I always like to challenge myself for every different performance. So, instead, I set up my equipment in the studio, as if for this very live show, and broadcast this performance on YouTube to an audience around the globe on a Saturday afternoon, at the very same time I was meant to be on stage in Bristol.
And, just as in a live performance, I remained online to answer all manner of questions at the end, since people are always so curious to know what I had been using to make this music. In fact, that’s often one of the most rewarding parts of performing live, engaging with the audience and chatting with them afterwards.
I always improvise my live shows, with only some vague idea of how to begin, but after that it’s quite literally flying by the seat of my pants! The performance was received extremely positively, and after an enthusiastic conversation with Ian Boddy of DiN, I was inspired to follow the weekend with a series of improvisations using the identical equipment to the broadcast. I spent the next few days simply performing direct to tape and finished up with over ninety minutes of new music, which needed to be edited down into something more palatable. And this became An Ascent, out on 17 July 2020.
Reviews have already become to come through, from both press and folks who have heard the release. Igloo Magazine seemed to recognise how the music was very much reflective of the present times, describing it thus:
Never outright menacing, but clearly dystopian, a world you recognize but seen through alien eyes. The music itself is never fully drifting ambience, there is an ever present rhythmic sense either in a shuffling background rhythm, a deep bassline undercurrent, or repeating textures of noise, driving each track along. Voices drift in and out lending a subtle narrative to the entire work. I don’t know how to describe the melodies themselves other than the cliched haunting, eerie, and, well, mysterious. A very subtle, coherent, and beautiful work from a seasoned master.
Music connects us all and is a social experience, but for many people this isn’t possible or even practical, sometimes for geographical reasons, sometimes because they simply don’t like crowds, or for mobility reasons, or, as at present, because of this pandemic. Curiously, in many ways, if it were not for this extreme international lockdown, this album would never have existed in this form.
In many ways this strange and rather surreal global pause has provided some moments of reflection for many people, and demonstrated the warmth of human spirit and genuine intentions for positive social change, and a vast landscape of creativity, largely sitting behind studio and bedroom doors at present.
I’m delighted that my good friend Uršula Berlot created this beautifully sensual video for the opening track on the album. Uršula works as a visual artist, theorist of art and lecturer, with an interest in the intersections of art and science. Her artistic practice is related to perception and conditions of consciousness, her light and kinetic installations investigate forms of cerebral landscapes, simulated nature and relationships between body and technology. We’ve now worked on many projects together over the years so it’s joy to share this new work with you.
I’m extremely grateful to everyone who has supported this release so far, to Ian Boddy from DiN for giving this opportunity to share the music on CD and digital form, and to Wendy Carroll for the beautiful photograph that adorns the sleeve. You can buy the album directly from DiN here and even pick up a very limited edition fine art print of the artwork in a signed edition of just 20 copies, which you can see me posing with in the photo above. It’s also available from retail stores and at the usual streaming locations such as Spotify, iTunes and more. Happy listening!
BUY An Ascent here.