Long form feature: Taylor
A dark club. The floor is sticky. Sweat seems to be dripping not just from the mass of twisting dancers, but also the ceiling. The crowd consists of mainly 18 to 30 year olds, all at different levels of intoxication. The beer is warm. At the front a DJ is playing a solid, pounding dance rhythm that organically mutates between major and minor, up-tempo and down, sparse and rich textures. The audience may be dancing in much the same way that it has since the dawn of acid house in the late ‘80s, but something is different. These people are not just moving mindlessly in time to the insistent beat, they are listening. Audio Addict wants to know why…
The heightened level of appreciation is down to the fact that this night is a good example of the rebirth (some may say progression) of Intelligent Dance Music (IDM). Its promoter, the Nottingham-based label Wigflex, is unashamedly paying tribute to the mid ‘90s peak of artists such as The Aphex Twin, LFO, The Future Sound of London etc, and the Warp label to which many of these artists belong. The influence of Warp, who are also believed to have coined the IDM idiom, is strong. The Wigflex collective specialise in twisted, angular electronica that is also at the cutting edge of its scene, incorporating the popular styles of dubstep and drum and bass alongside their more challenging productions.
24-year-old DJ/producer Adam Taylor (AKA Taylor) is a leading figure on the label. His appearances on Wigflex compilations (his own release will appear soon) have always been a highlight. Nottingham-bred, Manchester-based, he produces a distinct brand of complex techno that is designed equally for club and home listening. Taylor’s skill lies largely in his ability to produce complex and harmonically developed music within a genre so reliant on repetition and four-to-the-floor rhythms.
Musical life for Taylor began with the guitar, playing classical from a young age. Becoming more creative with the instrument in his teens he formed a post-rock group, Ad Infinitum, and set about writing epic instrumentals with intricate time signatures and mutating melodic passages. This aspect of his song-writing is present in his current guise as a producer of….well…what genre is it?
“I’ve had a few terms flung my way. Electronica, IDM [Intelligent Dance Music], Melodic Techno, Maximal, TekHaus, call it what you will, my music’s generally got a beat at the core, with colourful melodies and effects”, he says.
It’s that compromise of simplicity and technical complexity that gives Taylor the edge in his field. Is he looking to use some of his past post-rock influences in this way for future projects?
“Much of the electronic music I hear – though the groove and rhythm patterns can be quite diverse – is based around a neat 4/4 beat, which fits dance music sensibilities”, he explains. “I’ve moved away from that with some of my productions. The new project I’m working on – as well as some 4/4 patterns – includes different time signatures, from 3/4 to 7/8. What would you call that?! MathTek?”
The Wigflex camp contains such respected artists as Geiom, Metaphi, and Hizatron. They form a hive of creativity that influences not just their listeners, but also each other. Being part of such an innovative label must have its advantages in terms of staying on top of this ever-mutating genre?
“I owe a great deal of my creative development to this collective”, enthuses Taylor. “I am very excited about everything I’m hearing coming out of Wigflex, but I would say that! The boys are on fire! It’s gathering momentum, we now boast a club night and clothing line too.”
Taylor’s natural enthusiasm for his craft is obvious. A calmly spoken individual with a warm smile, he appears very keen for us to understand every aspect of his music. This includes his production methods, which are based around the powerful Logic Pro software.
“Everything I produce is based around that environment,” he explains. “I’m always on the hunt for new sounds. I’ve got tons of old chip samples, great for glitch noises. I’m also keen to get into field recording for more ambient textures and unusual samples”.
Squeege, his contribution to the latest Wigflex release, is a six minute-plus mutating techno epic. It shows off the young producer’s lack of inhibition regarding the ‘rules’ of song construction, and demonstrates his ability to weave intricate melodic passages in to solid rhythms. The bell-like synths and rhythmic bleeps put us in mind of a more up-tempo ISAN, or perhaps a less aggressive Mouse On Mars. Despite any noticeable hook, Squeege is instantly memorable, and even the briefest of listens through Taylor’s previous material proves that this is not a one-off.
Outside of the Wigflex stable, Taylor is reluctant to be pigeonholed when it comes to discussing his other influences. He mentions a few Warp-based acts, before enthusing about afro-beat king Fela Kuti, and neo-classicists Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff.
“On the whole I don’t appreciate that much dance music. Often it’s way too functional, though there are some gems in there,” he tells us. “My favourite stuff takes plenty of cues from various forms of music and forges a unique blend of styles, not solely a dance music thing.” Does this indicate disenchantment with the genre? “Electronic music embraces new technologies, which develops sounds and styles. There isn’t a best practice for making it, but preference instead. Definitely a good thing,” he reassures us.
Intelligent Dance Music doesn’t necessarily require intelligence to enjoy it, but it is a step in the right direction in terms of development for what can be a fairly restrictive genre. Artists such as Taylor are keeping electronic music moving forward, testing what is possible and pushing accepted boundaries to form new and interesting sub-genres. He leaves us with a warm goodbye, thanking us for our time. As he walks away, Audio Addict suddenly feels safer about the future of dance music.
Wigflex 003, featuring Taylor’s ‘Squeege’, will be released on November 21st
Feature: James Vyner
James Vyner used to play bass in promising indie-rock outfit Seachange, signed to the Matador label. You might remember them? They were big in Germany. Since leaving he has got married, become a London tour guide, and now plays in a band that sing about their bikes. Curiosity got the better of Audio Addict, so we went to find out more…
Ok, so we weren’t being completely truthful. Vyner is a tour guide of sorts, but very much one for the times. His online-based company, Soundmap, offers downloadable MP3 audio tours of London walks, complete with narration and a musical soundtrack associated with each area. Currently in production is a Fleet Street ‘walk’, based around the recent ‘Sweeney Todd’ film. “We were commissioned to do that by Warner Brothers. We got to interview Tim Burton for that, which was very cool! I got to use the score, and straight away that makes it sound brilliant, makes it sound like you’re in the film” he explains.
So a tour guide with rock and roll credentials maybe? Vyner laughs. “I’ve always had a horrible sensible streak,” he explains. “I once stole a game called ‘Bomberman’ for the ZX Spectrum from Boots in the ‘80s. I went back home and I couldn’t sleep because I felt so bad. The next day I went in on my bike, handed it back to the woman and said, “I’m really sorry I stole it” and then ran out of the shop”.
How about early musical memories? “I remember sitting with my Dad’s copy of Graceland, and listening to ‘You Can Call Me Al’ again and again until learnt all the words. I still know them now…”
Perhaps not then.
Nevertheless, Vyner does have a rock and roll grounding from his time in introspective indie rockers Seachange, achieving reasonable success while based on the Matador label.
Seachange. (From left to right) James Vyner, Simon Aldcroft, Adam Cormack, Neil Wells, Dave Gray, Dan Eastop.
The band released two acclaimed records, 2004’s ‘Lay of the Land’ and its 2006 follow-up ‘On Fire, With Love’, the latter making it in to the top fifty albums of 2006 in the German equivalent of Q magazine. The country really took to the band, and the band reciprocated by touring there many times. This led to some insight in to the German psyche. “The last gig we ever did on tour was in this massive venue, we were like “who the hell’s gonna come and see us?” recalls Vyner. “Adam [guitarist] and Dan [vocalist] had gone off to do a local radio interview, and Adam told this story about Dave [guitarist] having a threesome in Paris at some crazy art party. Then at the gig all these people suddenly turned up [dons generic German accent] “which one is Dave? Who’s Dave? The horny guy, yeah?” Dave’s backstage just going “oh my God…”
The transition from rock and roll bass player to virtual tour guide isn’t an obvious one. How did it come about? “It all comes from my skills as an audio editor.” Vyner explains. He recalls talking with Mark Spivey, an arts developer with Leicester Council. Spivey had heard an early Seachange demo that the band had made on a Fostex 16-track, and mentioned that they could probably produce themselves. With that encouragement Vyner started up a studio and recorded bands outside of Seachange, before moving in to teaching at Confetti, a professional studio with educational facilities based in Nottingham. “Those skills developed in to making audio documentaries, audio tours. What I’m best at is editing, so I’m building my business around that.”
By the time Seachange had disbanded, Vyner was already on to his next musical project, joining London-based The Grave Architects. The four-piece currently have a single out about the love they share for their bikes, aptly titled ‘The Bike Song’. “We’re not a comedy band…” he assures us.
Light-hearted maybe? “Yeah…I don’t know. It’s something that Matt [Vocals/guitar] battles with. Secretly I think we probably are a comedy band, although there’s too much emotion to it to be comedy!”
As the conversation has moved on to Grave Architects, who appear to be a much more cheerful outfit, perhaps now is when we should follow journalistic convention and ask something along the lines of which celebrity would Vyner donate a kidney to. “Bill Hicks,” he answers without hesitation. Well, that clears that up.
So how many tour guides do you know that have toured the world signed to a cult indie label, would freely admit to knowing every word to ‘You Can Call Me Al’, and would have donated a kidney to Bill Hicks if needed? “Although a pancreas would probably have been more handy! Oh dear, poor Bill……”
Visit Soundmap at www.soundmap.co.uk
This week sees reggae superstars The Wailers begin the UK leg of their latest tour. Only bass player Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett survives from the early ‘70s Wailers line-up, but this is not an unusual trend. When groups lose key components, the remaining personnel must decide whether to keep the name (and music) alive. Often audience interest wanes when high profile members are absent.
So is it possible for these continuing bands to remain relevant, or are they in danger of becoming their own tribute acts? In the case of The Wailers, it appears that the former is true. “They put on a great show, with occasional new material,” long-time fan Sian Caulfield explains. “It shouldn’t be considered a bad thing that they wish to keep the Marley name alive.” One of the group’s recent front men, Elan Atias, reinforced this in an interview with State Magazine. “I’m just trying to keep the message going…the most intimidating thing wasn’t ‘replacing Bob’, it was making sure I had all the lyrics”.
Others have thrived after forming new projects, such as Foo Fighters. Martin James is author of ‘Dave Grohl – Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Other Misadventures’ (2004). “At first the success of the Foos was linked to Nirvana, but as they went on people embraced them for what they do. It helps that Grohl is the hardest working man in rock!” he explains.
So the jury’s out. However, one thing is for sure. Due to the band’s evergreen appeal, those lucky enough to catch The Wailers live show won’t be worrying about the absence of Marley, Tosh, or Livingston.