Simian Mobile Disco have always sought to escape any pigeon-hole, any genre-tag placed against them.
The duo – Jas Shaw and James Ford – emerged from the wreckage of an indie band, before becoming one of electro's foremost production teams.
New album 'Whorl' represents another stunning about-turn, with the pair grabbing all manner of vintage kit and heading into the desert.
Backed by a fluid yet muscular live show, 'Whorl' is an engrossing, addictive universe. Set to play Brighton Audio's closing party on February 28th, Simian Mobile Disco will pull out all the stops for the final hurrah at one of the South Coast's most vital venues.
Ahead of this, Jas Shaw agreed to name five inspirational LPs – not their all time favourites, perhaps, but ones that left an impact.
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Dr Who - 'The Krotons'
When I was a kid Dr Who was serious business. Before I was old enough to spot that the Daleks had a toilet plunger for a hand and couldn’t go up stairs, they were terrifying. The whole thing looks silly now in a charming kind of way but the sounds will always have a place in my heart. Obviously there’s the theme, realised by Delia and there’s that whooshing scraping sound that could only come from the future. I’m not sure the version on this is the best one, obviously the series ran for ages and they progressively ruined the original - I think one even had an electric guitar type sound on it? Like there’s going to be electric guitars in the future, idiots.
Synth nostalgia aside, the attitude of BBC radiophonic workshop, to find new sounds and invent new techniques when they needed a sound that the current gear couldn’t make is something that I still feel inspired by. Lots of what was coming out of the workshop was every bit as interesting and otherworldly as what had been done in the, largely academic, music concrete scene but this was televised at prime time to the whole nation.
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Tomita - 'Snowflakes Are Dancing'
The idea of making a classical album on a Moog modular was not new, that was done and dusted by Walter Carlos in ’68 with 'Switched On Bach'. Rightly, that won awards and was widely praised as a pioneering electronic record. But there is something that I love about Tomita. He traveled to the Moog factory from Japan and brought his enormous and expensive synth home with him with few instructions and no one to tell him how it worked.
So, he just had a go, figuring things out slowly by trial and error. He approached the instrument in a quite conservative way, attempting to mimic acoustic instruments, but they way he went about it was unusual, so the sounds are very distinctively him, though they resemble acoustic instruments. Also, the choice of Debussy works really well. Bach comes over as a bit robotic on a synth in comparison to Debussy’s dreamy, romantic tone paintings which take on an even more otherworldly quality when voiced in this way.
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The Velvet Underground And Nico - 'The Velvet Underground And Nico'
I could have chosen any of the first three albums, they are all amazing. I remember hearing this record and thinking that I’d like to be in a band, and get up to no good. There are lots of records that try to do that but this goes one step further; when you listen to this you feel like you might have just done something sordid, and you don’t care.
It occurred to me recently that 'Venus In Furs' is in some ways a template for My Bloody Valentine, the droning, atonal, slightly nightmarish feel runs though both. Which leads me too..
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My Bloody Valentine - 'Loveless'
An album so good that we were happy to wait 20 years for the follow up. When you put on 'Loveless' it’s as if you have just taken a very strong anaesthetic - the music is there, but it’s not there. There’s guitars and lots of distortion but it’s somehow over there, or perhaps it’s here and we are over there? Did you just say something? This is one of those albums that disconnects you from your body while it plays.
Even stranger, they make it work live as well. Perhaps its the deafening volume that My Bloody Valentine insist on playing at but I would never have said that a record that famously took years and almost bankrupted all involved because Kevin Shields wanted every last sound just right would work played in a traditional band format but it does the same thing. They play that chord for ages and everything disappears.
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Autechre - 'Amber'
'Amber' is not just a wonderful record - although it is that too. In addition to being a record that you will want to put on when you can’t quite manage the idea that it’s a day for other people, it’s also a gateway into the world of Autechre with all the wonder and frustration that goes with it. Certainly, you could jump in anywhere in the Autechree catalogue but I would recommend that that you start with 'Amber'.
It’s their first distinct album and I would say the most accessible and straightforward. Subsequent records disappear progressively into their own distinctive and intricate aesthetic, in a good way. Many of the later records are not immediate, they get you after a few listens, but with 'Amber' you are straight in, hovering above the strange pink desert.
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Catch Simian Mobile Disco at Brighton's Audio venue on February 28th.