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

The Electricity Club: Documentary Evidence Interview (2018)

Those familiar with the story of how this blog came about – Erasure fan; found a copy of Mute‘s Documentary Evidence 4 inside my 12″ of said band’s ‘Chorus’; began collecting the Mute back catalogue; decided to write about it – will find an extended version of that story over at The Electricity Club website in an interview they did with me earlier this month.

I found this amusing, and slightly ironic: way back in 2003, when I started this here blog, I got in touch with Chris Bohn, then editor of The Wire and best known as NME journo Biba Kopf, to see if he’d be open to an interview. Kopf, for me, was synonymous with the Documentary Evidence pamphlet, as he’d written the Mute history that accompanied the catalogue listings at the back, and I couldn’t even estimate the number of times I’d read, re-read and digested those words. His response was along the lines of ‘Er… why?’ and so I shelved that as a bad, and slightly foolish idea. When The Electricity Club asked me to answer some questions, I could suddenly see Kopf’s point, and also my own naïveté.

In any event, I accepted, and the interview is now online here. Head over there and you can read about why Mute matters to me so much, musings on how much I love Taylor Swift (unashamedly), what it’s like to work for Vince Clarke, why I believe people have got it wrong about modern day Depeche Mode, and what electronic music I’m currently listening to.

I wrote most of my answers on a flight to Newquay to visit my father, who gets a mention in the interview. I only realised recently how important my dad is in the story of how I came to fall in love with electronic music… but that’s a story you’ll get to read another day.

(c) 2018 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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

Electronic Sound Issue 42 – Mute Cover Feature & The Normal Clear Vinyl 7″

ES42_BUNDLE-SQUARE

Electronic Sound have today announced their Mute-focussed latest issue, featuring a major new interview with Daniel Miller and an exclusive clear vinyl pressing of The Normal‘s ‘Warm Leatherette / T.V.O.D.’ 7″.

The issue also features a rundown of Mute’s 2018 artist roster and a new interview with the longest-serving member of the Mute community, Erasure‘s Vince Clarke, wherein he talks about joining the label with Depeche Mode, Miller’s influence on him as an electronic musician, and how he approaches running his own label, VeryRecords.

The full announcement from Electronic Sound is included below.

“I honestly didn’t think anybody would like it,” says Daniel Miller, talking about The Normal’s ‘TVOD’ / ‘Warm Leatherette’, which we are delighted to be reissuing with this issue of Electronic Sound. While The Normal was where Mute Records all started, this month’s cover story finds Daniel Miller discussing how his label is shaping up for the future. We also profile the artists that make up Mute’s Class of 2018, as well as catching up with Vince Clarke, a man who has only ever been signed to one label for his entire recording career. Click here to order now.

This issue also includes a rare interview with David Sylvian, discussing his soon-to-be reissued work with Can’s Holger Czukay, a chat with Finiflex, the artists formerly known as Finitribe, and a drinking session with post-punkers Sink Ya Teeth, who put us under the table. Elsewhere, we speak to Klaus Schulze, Claudia Brücken & Jerome Froese, The Orb, A Flock Of Seagulls and LUMP, a new project from indie folkster Laura Marling and Tunng’s Mike Lindsay. Plus there’s our usual bumper mix of tech, toys, books, gadgets and, of course, the very latest must-hear album releases.

This month’s exclusive music offer is a limited edition reissue of The Normal’s ‘TVOD’ and ‘Warm Leatherette’ seven-inch on crystal clear vinyl. Recorded by Daniel Miller using just a Korg 700S and a four-track tape machine, the single was the first release on Mute Records and is recognised as one of the most important electronic music records ever. Our reissue comes in a replica of the original 1978 picture sleeve. Click here to order now.

(c) 2018 Electronic Sound

Documentary Evidence 2017 Top 10 Albums: 2. Erasure ‘World Be Gone’ + Alka ‘The Colour Of Terrible Crystal’

“Effortless electronic majesty.”
– Electronic Sound

The release of a new Erasure album is always an emotional experience for me, but that’s what happens when you’ve been a fan for so long (nearly 30 years) and when everything else you’ve ever listened to can, on some level, be connected back to them.

However, even without that context – some might say bias – World Be Gone stands out. It’s the type of mature, bold pop that you’d want a duo like Andy Bell and Vince Clarke to make after this long in the business. It’s an album tinged with despair and disappointment at a world that seems to have turned backwards toward a more hateful, vengeful and intolerant version of itself; one that is occasionally hopeful but one that feels like all hope is gone.

None of this was a surprise to me when I heard World Be Gone for the first time, but some people commented to me that they thought the earlier demos for the songs would have been much faster and more uplifting rather than, as presented on the LP, slower and more thoughful affairs. That wasn’t the case – these songs were always intended to be thus, and World Be Gone is all the more coherent for it.

I reviewed the album for Electronic Sound, and I recall that the copy was all written during a flight to Miami with my family. A few days later I was told that a quote from the review would be used on posters to promote the album. I mentioned that to Vince Clarke just after the posters went up on the London Underground, and he refused to believe that there would be posters supporting the record at all. He also refused to let me show him the proof. Here it is (thanks Richard Evans).

Listen to World Be Gone here.

Buy Electronic Sound at www.electronicsound.co.uk.

I continued my work with Vince’s VeryRecords by writing the supporting press materials for Alka‘s The Colour Of Terrible Crystal album. This is truly a work of electronic genius by Bryan Michael and if you haven’t heard it yet, you should.

Given my involvement, albeit behind the scenes, I felt slightly conflicted putting it into my top ten, so I’ve grouped it in here with Erasure because Vince is the common denominator to both.

Listen to The Colour Of Terrible Crystal here. Buy it from VeryRecords here.

(c) 2017 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence