Ones To Watch: Grasscut

Genuinely daring electronica artists
Ones To Watch: Grasscut
Grasscut look like Gilbert and George, sound like Daedelus sampled over Philip Larkin, and have now lured in Nathan Fake to get the Border Community boating shoes brigade on board.

Their music alternates between distressed glitch and planing ambient release reminiscent of classic Aphex Twin.

Signed to Ninja Tune, Grasscut’s duo of Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair live in Brighton and have been a team since they first came together as a half-baked folktronica band. Andrew Phillips has a classical pedigree that was developed producing soundtracks for TV; he describes making a frankly terrifying-sounding “soundtrack to one Carlton film about scientists growing human kidneys in pigs in Middle America, which came out really disturbing and exciting, electro and classical.”

Pig offal sounds like Venetian Snares territory, and while there are other clear similarities in their tension/release techniques, there are more modern touches - stuff that sounds like it’s sampled a wound-up Victorian music box or taken hints from recent Matmos material.

Andrew secretly records conversations and puts them into Grasscut’s music; his personal favourite is “a couple of Americans sitting in the back of a car in north Wales discussing a property development deal”, and he is praying that some of the people he’s taped aren’t buying his January single, ‘Muppet’: “Recently I was with a group of mates, standing around in one of those conversations where nobody wanted to be there...It was one of those quintessentially British situations. Behind me this woman I know was backbiting about a mutual friend - about him losing his job, his relationship breaking up - so I flipped up my mobile and recorded it. I bloody hope she won’t be able to recognise her voice...” There is also the Nathan Fake remix of ‘Muppet’, which incorporates signature scratchy sound and melodies that take it beyond classic methadone-mellow Fake techno.

The pair have been placed among the “select band” of genuinely daring electronica artists by 6 Music’s Tom Robinson, whilst deemed safe enough Sunday broadsheet inches. Their August 2009 single ‘High Down’ is a more accessible endorphin trigger, featuring synthetic sirens that he tells me were inspired by a flock of starlings flying around a telephone mast on the South Downs.

They opened on the main stage at The Big Chill last year, and among others have played alongside Luke Vibert, Tim Exile, Nathan Fake, Daedelus, Anti-Pop Consortium, Fujiya And Miyagi, The Invisible and Wildbirds And Peacedrums. As well as live sessions for Xfm, they have had airplay from Radio 1 as well as in Belgium and Japan.

Given Grasscut’s unusually literary angle (they feature a Hilaire Belloc poem in In Her Pride) and their sense for the ever-so British, it’s unsurprising that Phillips and O’Dair love Larkin, and describe ‘Muppet’ as a “cry from the heart of a shy Englishman.”

Words by Miguel Cullen

Where: Brighton
What: Symphonic glitchtronica
Unique Fact: They did a street gig, bowing, hitting and sampling bicycle wheels, outside a cheese shop in Brighton to a small but engaged audience.
Get 3 songs: ‘Tin Man’, ‘High Down’, ‘Muppet’

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