Chop - who's dropped the "Mister" in the years between the release of 2009's Lightworlds and now - was supposed to have released his debut album for Now-Again years ago. But the album that Lightworlds was meant to precede took a long, winding detour. As The Heliocentrics began working on their recently issued 13 Degrees of Reality, Chop discarded the sessions he’d started with Catto and Ferguson, hoping to find a more singular voice. He holed himself up in his Ape Studios, located off a dirt road adjacent to a 19th century pub alongside an estuary that abuts Northern Wales in Cheshire, and rethought the process. Fueled by Catto’s drums, this time embellished by Chop and synth-enthusiast Mark Burnley’s handmade modular units, the results hinted at a more experimental future – a departure even from Lightworlds – and lead Chop deep into his record collection, where he found inspiration from the likes of Wendy Carlos’ Clockwork Orange period, Popul Vul, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. Working with a TKS sequencer and the EMS VCS3 synthesiser amongst a few other analog oddities, Chop decided he would try his hand at the nearly fifty year old – and rarely successful - quest to musically merge the organic and the electronic.
After nearly a further year of recording, Chop ended up with a host of material – long songs and short ones, sketches and finished ideas, drums on the road to anywhere and sessions awash in synthesized soundwaves. Rather than employ modern editing techniques made possible by software like Protools, Chop preferred to look to Can’s Holger Czukay and his razor-sharp tape splicing exercises in the band’s formative era as an influence.
He watched the nights turn into days as he attempted to edit together an album off-the-grid, overdubbing guitars and other instruments as he felt the tracks needed. But the music started falling into himself and Chop found himself in the center of spiral. The passing of his father during this time didn’t help pull himself out, as he dealt with the pain by constantly writing, rewriting and twisting one idea into another.
It wasn’t until 2012 when his friend Joe Fearon, A&R for the likes of Liverpool bands The Coral and The Zutons, came by the studio to hear what Chop had been working on that he realized how desperate a plight he was in. “I’m going insane making this record,” he pleaded, and Fearon took heed. He signed on and immediately dug into the pile of music Chop had created, picking out the tracks he thought could work as an album, while still encouraging Chop to search for the perfect additions to the raw tracks. Searching for voices, Chop found that his own voice – when processed through a WWII era bomber pilot’s reconditioned microphone or deconstructed via an early Texas Instruments computer - became an essential, ethereal element as likely to fall on the analog as the electronic of his album. Former lead guitarist of The Coral’s Bill Ryder Jones, provided parts for the opening track. And searching for the inspiration to tie the songs together took Chop and Fearon through the rest of their record collections – from hip hop to disco to new wave to minimal synth – but they really didn’t need to look further than across the estuary, where a 19th century power station still cackled with life, giving the pair a the nostalgia for a the past’s hope for the future – a retro-futurism, if you will – which pulled them into the album’s final stages.
We'll be presenting that album here sometime in late June - well before it's mid-July release date. But in the meantime, you can enjoy this sampler EP with three of our favorite songs from the album.
1 Bow Down to the Mutant 04:12
2 Picture Box 03:01
3 Building Blocks 04:33
Produced by Coz Littler & Joe Fearon
Mixed and engineered by Coz Littler
Additional engineering by Mark Burnley (also pre-mastering), Oli Buchanan and Mike Burnham.
Mastered by Chris Potter at Electric Mastering.
Drums Malcolm Catto
Recorded and mixed at Ape Studios UK 2013.
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