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

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Electronic Sound Issue 43

Issue 43 of Electronic Sound is now available, and this month’s magazine & 7″ bundle includes exclusive tracks from the Radiophonic Workshop, the beneficiaries of a major in-depth feature this month.

For this issue I wrote a short introduction to the music of Ratgrave, whose jazz / hip-hop / electro / funk debut I mentioned in The Electricity Club interview, and who I expect I’m going to be banging on about for several months to come. Their self-titled album is released at the end of this month and it is a wild, untameable beast of a fusion record. I also interviewed Norwich’s Let’s Eat Grandma for this issue about their second album, which sees childhood friends Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton taking their curiously idiosyncratic music in a squarely electronic pop direction, complete with analogue synths and production nous from Faris Badwan and SOPHIE. We also had a god natter about the merits of rich tea biscuits.

In the review section I covered Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase‘s mesmerising Drums & Drones collection, three discs of processed percussion inspired by time spent at La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House; a hard-hitting gem of an album by 1i2c which I described as ‘therapeutic music for anxious robots’; the new album from 4AD’s Gang Gang Dance; another brilliant collaboration tape on the Front & Follow label by Jodie Lowther and ARC Soundtracks; the brilliant second album by Geniuser, one half of which is Mick Allen from The Models, Rema-Rema, MASS and The Wolfgang Press.

Finally, I reviewed albums by two projects by current members of WireColin Newman and Malka Spigel‘s second Immersion album since they reactivated the band in the last couple of years, and the third album from Wire guitarist Matthew Simms as Slows. Simms is a highly inventive musical polymath, as comfortable with a guitar in his hand as he is using analogue synths, found sound or pretty much anything he can lay his hands on. A Great Big Smile From Venus consists of two long tracks covering an incredible breadth of ideas, continually moving out in directions that are both unexpected and yet entirely expected when you’re familiar with Simms’s vision.

The review section also features Ben Murphy’s fantastically detailed review of the new Reed & Caroline album, Hello Science, released earlier this month on Vince Clarke‘s VeryRecords.

The magazine and 7″ bundle is available exclusively from the Electronic Sound website here.

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

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

Documentary Evidence 2016 Top 10 Albums: 4. Reed & Caroline ‘Buchla & Singing’ // Erasure ‘From Moscow To Mars’

I felt a little conflicted about including these two on my list, for reasons which I will attempt somewhat clumsily to explain. I then reasoned that this is my list, I’m kind of really proud of what I’ve done to support both these releases, and so on the list they shall remain. I’ve also linked them together for the purposes of convenience.

erasure_moscow_to_mars_1000
“It might have the look and feel of a futuristic tombstone, but From Moscow To Mars, as its title from the oft-forgotten single ‘Star’ indicates, represents a thirty year journey – a journey that the duo are very firmly still on with a new album in the works and plenty more rocket fuel left in the tanks.” – This Is Not Retro

“What emerges here is a distinct sense of loyalty – from Vince Clarke and Andy Bell to one another, and to the enduring art of writing emotional pop music.” – Electronic Sound

First up, the mammoth and some would definitely argue long overdue Erasure box. This was finally released in December after production delays and I reviewed this – atypically for me – for two places: Electronic Sound and then a slightly more personal piece for This Is Not Retro. I am, and forever will be, a massive Erasure fan first and foremost, so my ability to be objective about From Moscow To Mars is one possible conflict of interest. Personally, I think I pulled it off, but you can judge for yourself. The review for This Is Not Retro can be found here. Back issues of Electronic Sound are over at www.electronicsound.co.uk

The second reason for feeling slightly conflicted came in November when I found myself in Birmingham as a guest of the Erasure fan club at the official launch party for the boxset. I was there nominally as a guest but found myself helping out in a couple of ways – blowing up some very sorry balloons (I apologise to anyone who attended and laughed at those) while listening to Vince Clarke and Andy Bell soundcheck their set (including a new song) and then helping out with three hours of meet and greets. It was a special, and slightly surreal experience.

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Second, Buchla & Singing by Reed & Caroline, a charming album of compositions for the Buchla by Reed Hays with beautiful singing by Caroline Schutz. The album was released on Vince Clarke’s Very Records back in October to universal acclaim. I didn’t get to review this one, but trust me, had I done so I would have called it out as very special indeed.

I wrote the press release for Very Records for this album and enjoyed a very pleasant Skype chat with Hays in order to prepare that. Of all the things I have done this year, getting handed that job and helping support the release of Buchla & Singing – in a way somewhat different from just scribing a review – was right up there as a major career highlight, and I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity.

One of the best tracks on the album is ‘Henry The Worm’. Reed and I spoke about that track at length but I just couldn’t find a way of fitting it into the press release, so here is that little off-cut. I thought it was a nice story. Music sometimes needs to take itself less seriously.

“Around the time my son was born, I wrote a song that’s on the record called ‘Henry The Worm’,” explained Reed. “We named Henry, my son, after a little caterpillar that was crawling around a Mexican restaurant. When we saw the first sonogram I thought he looked like a little caterpillar.”

(c) 2016 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

Vince Clarke’s Very Records announce Reed & Caroline ‘Buchla & Singing’ album

VERY RECORDS are pleased to announce details of the debut album by Reed & Caroline, Buchla & Singing, which will be released on October 14th. The album will be the second release on Vince Clarke’s Very Records label.

Buchla & Singing is just that – vocals and nothing but a vintage synth. The album was conceived by New York electronic musician Reed Hays using only a Buchla modular system, interwoven with the pure, angelic vocals of Caroline Schutz from the bands Folksongs For The Afterlife and The Inner Banks. With songs celebrating the humble electron and the equally underappreciated washing machine, Buchla & Singing takes in shimmering, spacey synth pop, tales of roadtrips, quirky bedtime stories, and pieces grounded in austere classical minimalism.

Reed Hays met Caroline Schutz while they were studying at Oberlin College. Hays, a cellist, had arrived at the school under false pretences, switching to their new electronic music programme just to be able to get his hands on the college’s Buchla synthesizer. Art major Schutz only discovered that she wanted to be a singer after graduating and schlepping round the States as a graphic designer for the touring Lollapalooza festival, before realising that she could sing better than some of the bands she was supporting.

Their first album together sees the pair delivering tracks like ‘Singularity (We Bond)’ and ‘Electrons’, whose electronic structures and lyrics fizz with scientific discovery. “I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, which is where they put German rocket scientists after World War II to work on the space programme,” Hays explains. “When I was growing up there in the 1970s and 80s, there was nothing there but scientists and engineers. Space and science were just what I grew up with, so they’re natural things for me to write about. I like those early OMD songs that sounded like love songs but were actually about science. Our stuff is pretty obviously just about washing machines and electrons!”

The third member of this duo is Hays’s Buchla. Best known as the go-to synth for producing crazy R2-D2 sounds, Hays has managed to coerce his system into producing a broad array of unorthodox styles here: whether classic analogue electro pop on ‘John And Rene’, rippling randomised arpeggios that nod to classical music, or the crystalline sounds of glassware being washed on ‘Henry The Worm’, a cute story that could have been conjured from the warped imagination of Lewis Carroll or Eric Carle that follows the adventures of a worm as it crawls around a restaurant. Buchla & Singing is the sound of a tricky synth being put through its paces in ways that its creator never envisaged. 

Buchla & Singing will be released as a digital download and as a CD available from www.veryrecords.com on October 14.

Reed Hays on the Buchla

Most people pronounce it wrong. It’s pronounced Boo-cla. It’s a Dutch name.

Don Buchla was out in Berkeley, California in the sixties, designing synthesizers at the same time that Bob Moog was over on the East Coast, but they never spoke to one another. Buchla worked for NASA in the sixties and he developed technology for fuel sensors on rocket tanks. He put those on the synth he developed. They respond to how your fingers touch them. There’s no keyboard, just these touch pads. For me, being a string player, it’s something I can really relate to, but it’s a really difficult piece of kit to use. Nothing’s labelled like any other synthesizer. Making this album just with that synth was a real challenge.

Buchla came from a crazy background. Some of the first modules he designed were for Ken Kesey’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Those were all red modules. The rumour was that if you licked the red module you’d get high. I have some of those original modules. Did I lick it? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

On this album, I set up a lot of arpeggios, dialling them up on little sliders and having them addressed randomly. I was letting the Buchla do the work for me in writing some of those arpeggios and chords. It really is like having another collaborator.

Even though I’d set myself the challenge of making the album on the Buchla, I wanted to cheat. I wanted to use a Moog for the bass, which is what you’re supposed to do, but actually in the end I got a great bass sound on the Buchla. ‘Washing Machine’ has a Sennheiser vocoder, but the vocoding on all the other songs is done on the Buchla, so in the end I didn’t cheat really.

Vince Clarke on the Buchla

I had one once but I sold it. It’s way too difficult to use.

Press release (c) 2016 Mat Smith for Very Records