Electronic Sound Issue 45

The ‘bundle’ edition of Electronic Sound 45 has already sold out, which means that if you didn’t buy it already, you’ve missed out on the opportunity to hear the exclusive Vince Clarke remix of ‘Magic Fly’ by Space that formed the A-side of the accompanying 7″ single. And believe me, that’s a pity – it ranks among Mr Clarke’s finest remixes and you’ll now probably never get to hear it. The B-side was the wonderful and moving ‘Before’ by Vince’s VeryRecords signing Reed & Caroline, marking the duo’s first time on a vinyl record.

For this issue I interviewed Didier Marouani, the classically-schooled musician behind the mysterious space helmet-wearing Space, marking one of those privileged opportunities that this magazine often gives me to write a story that hasn’t really ever been told before. My mum was dead proud too, because she bought ‘Magic Fly’ when it first came out in 1977 (I was a mere year old), and I think she believes that this had a major influence on my later interest in electronic music – and she’s probably right.

Elsewhere, for this issue I wrote reviews of albums by Julia Kent & Jean DL, Ghostly signings Helios, the marvellous Dutch group Go March, and Welsh non-pop artists HMS Morris. I also got the chance to review two absolutely stonking records – a jazz opus by Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas, and O.Y. In Hi-Fi by Optiganally Yours, fast becoming the record I’ve played more than any this year. The record was constructed principally from the original master tapes of sounds that would be used in Mattel’s Optigan, meaning it was made with sounds from the Optigan but in a high resolution form that the Optigan itself could never deliver.

And linking that back around to the 7″ you sadly can’t listen to – Pea Hicks from Optiganally Yours is the custodian of the only equipment in existence to manufacture optical discs for the Vako Orchestron, the zany professional version of the Optigan which Reed Hays used on Reed & Caroline’s Hello Science, turning Caroline Schutz’s vocal into lo-fi textural loops.

The non-bundle version of issue 45 is available at www.electronicsound.co.uk

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for Electronic Sound

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VeryRecords: Reed & Caroline – Hello Science Interview (2018)

Ahead of the release of Hello Science, I caught up with Caroline Schutz and Reed Hays to talk about identity crises, science (duh, obviously) and dealing with demands for royalties from daughters. The interview was published today on the VeryRecords website here.

Hello Science is available to purchase at the VeryRecords website, or from the merchandise stall if you happen to be Stateside and watching Erasure on tour

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence for VeryRecords

VeryRecords: Reed & Caroline ‘Hello Science’ album – released July 6 2018 (Press Release)

VERYRECORDS is pleased to announce the release of Hello Science, the second album from New York and Berkeley electronic duo REED & CAROLINE. The album will be released on JULY 6 2018.

“Formulate hypotheses and gather all the facts – it’s science! It’s all about science!”
Reed & Caroline, ‘It’s Science’

Reed Hays and Caroline Schutz will release their second album through Vince Clarke’s VeryRecords on July 6 2018. Titled Hello Science, the album is the follow-up to 2016’s Buchla & Singing. For clarity, this record also contains plenty of Buchla and singing. And a cello. Oh, and a Vako Orchestron too.

If the title of Reed & Caroline’s debut made it completely clear what it was all about, the subject matter of Hello Science is again immediately apparent. Consisting of twelve songs written by Reed Hays and sung by Caroline Schutz, the inspiration behind the album can be summed up by the album’s grandiose centrepiece ‘It’s All About Science’, because it literally is all about science – at least on the surface.

Hays, who grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, a town where rocket scientists decamped from Europe after the Second World War, fills these songs with intensively-researched references to science and technology – the good, the forgotten and the downright frightening – but he does so in a way that reveals their underlying meaning to be something altogether more profound. Themes of grief, loss, the squandering of the Earth’s resources, our diminished personal privacy, data manipulation and exploiting web-connected home appliances prevail in the album’s songs, but yet they’re disguised as accessible pop tracks.

“Somewhere along the line I realised that my love of science is something spiritual and optimistic,” explains Reed Hays. “In these troubling political times, people are putting science into question. It’s almost like a faith that’s being outlawed. Because of that ‘Hello Science’ became really personal for me.”

The album opens with the contemplative electronics and strings of ‘Before’, a timely treatise on the finite nature of everything on this planet we call home, as well as playfully reminding the listener of their very corporeal impermanence. The urgent post-punk / New Wave-influenced ‘Dark Matter’, featuring bass and vocals from Ayse Hassan and Kendra Frost of Kite-Base (supporting Nine Inch Nails this fall) comes with a succinct enquiry of a chorus – “Does dark matter matter?” – while the ominous, prowling synths of ‘Entropy’ shroud the anguish of a departed friend in chaos theory.

“Reed really uses science as a way to cope with things,” says Caroline Schutz. “It’s a way of making yourself feel better about those issues by looking at them from a scientific perspective.” The exception to such deep catharsis is the blissfully upbeat ‘Ocean’, co-written with Schutz’s pre-teen daughter, a track filled with fluid synths and euphoric Buchla 100 handclaps.

Hello Science is an album rich with contradictions, where contemporary concerns are executed with decades old (and centuries old) musical equipment, where songs that celebrate the overlooked women computers that powered NASA’s early space endeavours and songs that celebrate the perforated printer paper you drew on as a kid can coexist. Yes, it’s all about science – but it’s also human too.

Reed & Caroline will support Erasure on all dates of their North American tour, which commences in Miami on July 6.

Hello Science will be released as a download, stream and CD via www.veryrecords.com.

Track listing

1. Before
2. Dark Matter
3. Buoyancy
4. Another Solar System
5. It’s Science
6. Digital Trash
7. Ocean
8. Entropy
9. Computers
10. Internet Of Things
11. Continuous Interfold
12. Metatron
13. Before (Vince Clarke Remix)

Credits

Caroline Schutz – vocals
Reed Hays – Buchla, Orchestron, cello
Ayse Hassan & Kendra Frost – bass and background vocals on ‘Dark Matter’
Harriett Hays – Russian vocals on ‘Internet Of Things’

Synth corner: Reed Hays on the Orchestron

It may not look like much, but the Vako Orchestron was intended as a portable alternative to the Mellotron. This thing was more the size of an organ and instead of tapes it uses clear plastic discs, and each concentric groove on the disc is a different note.

Kraftwerk used an Orchestron on three of their albums. It creates a very scratchy, low-bandwidth sound. It’s the source of the strings on ‘Trans-Europe Express’ and the the choir on ‘Radio-Activity’, both of which are very unique sounds. They were the only band to really run with it.

The Orchestron is basically a turntable with a lightbulb inside, and a motor. Every key you press opens a little window and a light shines on part of the disc. It’s got such an eery, haunting sound. It’s just so kooky, a technology that’s so linked to one tiny little era in the mid-70s.

For Hello Science Caroline sang every note on the keyboard, and we made a bunch of optical discs from those recordings using the original Orchestron factory equipment through a guy called Pea Hicks. It’s truly amazing that he’s kept that equipment alive. That opened up all sorts of possibilities for adding really interesting vocal sounds to some of the tracks by reducing Caroline to little optical floppy discs. I told Vince about it and he thought I was completely insane, like ‘Can’t you just get samples of all that instead?’.

Reed & Caroline biography

Reed Hays first used the Buchla Electric Music Box after hiding in an empty harp case in the basement of Oberlin College and sneaking into the electronic music lab after hours. Caroline Schutz, an art major, became an accomplished singer and musician in her post-Oberlin days with her bands Folksongs For The Afterlife and The Inner Banks. By sheer chance, Reed and Caroline’s first synthesizer and vocal collaboration became the score for a number of L’Oreal hair commercials.

Their first album, Buchla & Singing was released by VeryRecords in October 2016.

About VeryRecords

VeryRecords was founded in Brooklyn by Erasure’s Vince Clarke in 2016. We are a small record label dedicated to releasing very fine electronic music. The label was launched with 2 Square by Vince Clarke and Paul Hartnoll, which was then followed by releases from Reed & Caroline (Buchla & Singing, 2016) and Alka (The Colour Of Terrible Crystal, 2017).

“Shaping up as a label to keep a serious ear on.” – Electronic Sound

Press release (c) 2018 Mat Smith for VeryRecords

VeryRecords Artists Reed & Caroline Reveal New Track ‘Before’

VeryRecords artists Reed Hays & Caroline Schutz have unveiled the first track to be taken from their second album Hello Science. The album will be released by Vince Clarke‘s VeryRecords on July 6 2018.

(c) 2018 VeryRecords

VeryRecords Artist Alka Remixes Roger O’Donnell’s ‘This Grey Morning’

Bryan Michael, better known as Philadelphia electronic musician and vintage synth restorer Alka, has remixed ‘This Grey Morning’ by Cure keyboard player Roger O’Donnell. The track originally appeared on O’Donnell’s 2005 album The Truth In Me.

Whereas O’Donnell’s original was all weightless, occluded synth texture and ethereal vocal dreaminess, in Alka’s hands the track becomes a brooding, edgy cut driven by fat low-end and a mechanical rhythm. Listen to the remix on Soundcloud here or below.

It isn’t the first time that Alka and O’Donnell have collaborated. “During his time away from The Cure, Roger started his own label and was looking for tracks for a compilation,” recalls Michael. “This was back in the MySpace days. I sent him a couple tracks and he loved them, and even bumped some folks off the album so that he could include me.” Bryan Michael went on to work with O’Donnell on his 2008 album Songs From The Silver Box, contributing synths and drum programming to three tracks on the Moog-laden LP. The pair have also worked on other tracks together more recently which have not yet seen the light of day.

Alka’s critically-received third album, The Colour Of Terrible Crystal, was released by Vince Clarke’s VeryRecords in 2017. Listen to The Colour Of Terrible Crystal on Spotify here.

My interview with Alka about The Colour Of Terrible Crystal can be found at the VeryRecords website.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence