Structures – 1993

6835560738_acbe2c9783_oThe infrastructure behind the recording of v3.0 Structures, moving to London, acquiring new techniques and technologies, had been a process that had been going on for three years. In the later parts of 1992 a key recording from The Stamford Hill Noise Explosion tape, Diaboli, broke the mould using industrial rhythms programmed on MED which were phased to sound like knives cutting through meat. Over this a simple three note chromatic motif and a minor improvisation suggested abandoned Soviet satellite technology. I remixed the track several times during the night while everyone else in the flat was asleep, finding new things revealed by the overdriven offboard effects with each new mix. The abandoned corridors of the flat felt like a set from Solaris.

But it was the Casio RZ-1 that I acquired at the beginning of 1993 that pushed the recordings into deep new territories. The RZ-1 is an early sampling drum machine. The four sample pads are 8-bit and only around half a second in length. In addition the RZ-1 features a full range of onboard PCM drum sounds – kick, snare, cymbals and so on – and crucially, separate faders for each track, which makes it an excellent machine for jamming with; I could bring up and down different drum parts spontaneously and develop rhythmic combinations spontaneously. The lo-fi quality of the sound also allows it to cut through the densest mix with ease. The RZ-1 changed everything.

The v3.0 cassette was recorded quickly in the early part of 1993. I was unemployed at the time, and having my own four-track I could record at any time day or night. A few months before moving to London I had been invited up to Konk Studios in Kilburn to record a track by a friend from Kent who was working at the studio. I hated the whole experience. All of the processes took too long, decisions were taken out of my hands; it felt sterile and artificial. The friend was also clearly more impressed by his new metropolitan lifestyle than I was, and be spent most of the weekend being an arsehole to his girlfriend.

The ethic of lo-fi and guerilla technology was very appealing to me. I loved the sound of things you could just intuit together with yr own resources bleeding out through the speakers of the kitchen stereo. But if the recordings were raw they weren’t lacking in sophistication: most of the tracks were played diatonic major or minor keys rather than in the pentatonics that are more typical of rock’n'roll. I’d build up chords across different instruments, improvised counter melodies and cross rhythms. Whatever this was, it was not punk rock.

I had also chosen not to put any songs onto the tape; no lyrics, only instrumentals. The only words come through from field recordings and Platform Five(5) sessions which had been layered onto the background. One track uses a dictaphone recording of a train journey from Kent to London; two old style train doors slam exactly in time with two guitar gestures. I was starting to learn the value of serendipity; it wasn’t necessary to control everything. To do so would be to deny possibilities from opening up and miracles from entering the space. It was all about opening things up.

1915869_143759611119_5594147_nLondon was still not fully home. The ongoing Platform Five(5) sessions were vigorous and noisy and Seth, a ex-schoolfriend who I was living with, played clarinet on one track on v3.0. His sax often added free jazz to the melting pot. I was still making frequent excursions to Kent and back, as the dictaphone recording reveals, and now that didn’t feel like home either. The flat in Stamford Hill was on several floors above a hardware store in a Hassidic Jewish neighbourhood. My brother had commandeered the largest room in the place and would have moodswings, slamming doors and playing The Jesus & Mary Chain loudly, which could suggest that he was either happy or angry; he didn’t really communicate anything very effectively.

Seth, Richard and I played a few gigs as Omnihedron in venues in Camden during this period, mostly nights connected with Plankton Records. It was all dark, heavy and noisy. An audience member told me at the end of one set that the sound made him feel like he was on heroin. I don’t think that this was intended as a criticism.

Hallucinogen induced recording sessions were attempted. But mostly it made it very difficult to concentrate on what you were supposed to be doing, or whether these were your hands, or what a fretboard was for. Richard and I also constructed low resolution computer animations using Deluxe Paint on the Amiga 500. These usually involved a lot of strobing and op art effects. These computer art techniques fed into the design of the sleeve for the v3.0 cassette. Repeating motifs which broke the words of the title into incoherence. It was printed using a dot matrix printer in stark black and white, because nothing else was affordable at the time, but the result looked like an artifact from deep elsewhere; not psychedelic in any kitsch sense.

Time stretches and threatens to break in v3.0: repeating echoes, ambiguous machine rhythms. A favourite technique was to play two very fast digital delays against each other to make a moirĂ© smear out of the guitar sound. Track lengths were often extended; the third and fourth sides of Amon Duul II double albums were a precedent, as was Ligeti and Robert Hampson’s Main. v3.0 was recorded on both sides of a 100 minute cassette: these were cheaply available at Woolworths at the time, and the length was appealing in its arbitrariness.

I started my degree as a mature student later in the year.

The full v3.0 album is available for free download or streaming from archive.org.

Next: Defenestration.