Luke Abbott
Future Music|February 2021
Norfolk’s premier electronic explorer, Luke Abbott takes a sabbatical from his Szun Waves trio to offer up the rich, filmic textures of new album, Translate. Hamish Mackintosh catches up with Luke and gets lost in Translation
Hamish Mackintosh

Luke Abbott has a wealth of electronic experience in various guises be it his Earlham Mystics alias (with remixes for the likes of Jon Hopkins, Todd Terje and Nils Frahm), the electronic-jazz explorations of trio Szun Waves or as himself on brilliant new solo album Translate. Engineered by long-time friend, collaborator and Border Community label boss, James Holden, Translate was recorded in three-day bursts at Holden’s spacious modular laden west London recording complex, Sacred Walls. It’s an immersive and rewarding electronic journey through the musical impulses of a musician/ producer always willing to explore new musical territories. FM caught up with Luke to find out more.

Translate has a real cohesive feel to it. Is that due to the large gestation period?

“I think it comes down to two things really. I made it quite quickly… there were 12 days of recording, which was also the writing period as I didn’t write anything before doing the recording and it was all done in situ. We did that over four sessions, one a month in James’ (Holden) studio in London. I’m based in Norwich, so I’d go down there, set up, stay there for two or three days and work on stuff to see what I came up with. I’d averaged out at about one good track a day… which is a fair hit rate. So, that’s probably part of why it feels cohesive because it was such a short period of time. The thing I think really links the tracks is that so much of the sound is the room sound. It all happened in the same space so there’s a sense of place about the record.”

Having previously interviewed James in his wonderful Aladdin’s cave, how do you begin when making gear choices?

“[Laughs] It is an Aladdin’s cave isn’t it? I’ve done quite a few recording projects in there – we’ve done a lot of the Szun Waves recordings there – so I’m familiar with the studio, and James and I have been friends for such a long time now… we’re basically in an ongoing, decade-long conversation about writing music. So, we have quite a lot of shorthand with each other which makes it easy to communicate in that environment.

“For the most part, I took down my own gear to use, though I did use a few of James’ things. I used his Korg Mono/Poly and his Elsita drum machine. We’d create different setups and try and write with a particular set of gear. In terms of making decisions then, I guess that’s part of the joy of giving yourself the time pressure of going into a studio and saying, ‘I’m going to get something done in the next two days’. It forces you into making decisions.”

Quite handy when making electronic music can be an open-ended process?

“Yeah, I find that way, the classic paradigm of electronic music, where you make one part, add another and build it all up that way layer-by-layer… it’s a bit like Lego. I’m just not very good at that. I think I make much better decisions in the moment than I do if I’m given a chance to reflect. I’m much more interested in my instinctive reactions to things and more interested in trying to capture a performance than I am in trying to make really good decisions over a long period of time.”

So the ARP Odyssey and the Elektrons you brought down to the sessions with you?

“Yeah, those are all my things. I wasn’t using the sequencer on the Elektron as I can’t really get on with the sequencer but the synth engine I really, really like. It also has a few interesting and unique tricks I enjoy like the speed at which you can switch voices. The last track on the album, August Prism, is four different voices on the Elektron Analog Four being sent too much MIDI information so that it has to keep switching voices and they all keep coming out of different voice outputs and they’re being sent to different preamps. In the room they were coming out of different speakers as well, which gave it a really three-dimensional effect. That Analog Four is the piece of equipment that appears on every track on the record, everything else got switched around to some degree.”

Elektron are coming up with the goods in recent years, aren’t they?

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FUTURE MUSICView All

Focusrite FAST Series plugins

From £5.99/month Focusrite meets Sonible for these new ‘smart’ mixing tools. Si Truss takes a spin…

3 mins read
Future Music
April 2021

Output Frontier £1,259

Audio company Output have shifted their attention to studio monitors. Jon Musgrave explores their new Frontier

2 mins read
Future Music
April 2021

CME WIDI Master $59

Fancy wireless operation between your old MIDI gear? Jon Musgrave pairs up with this new wireless MIDI system

3 mins read
Future Music
April 2021

Chillout

Lie down on a bean bag, close your eyes and relax as we explore the nebulous world of chillout music

4 mins read
Future Music
April 2021

BATTLE OF THE BEAT MAKERS

There's never been a better time to dive into hardware beat-making. This issue, we put eight of the finest drum machines and percussion synths head-to-head to crown the king of the beat

10+ mins read
Future Music
April 2021

M-Audio BX3 and BX4 from £85

Need some compact monitors for your set up? Jon Musgrave sizes up two new offerings from M-Audio

2 mins read
Future Music
April 2021

Aston Element £159

Marketed as “the people’s mic”, Aston say their latest mic has undergone exhaustive public testing. But what does reviewer Rob Redman think?

3 mins read
Future Music
April 2021

Ableton Live 11 Suite £539

The immensely popular DAW enters its eleventh chapter with an array of new features. Tim Cant goes Live

6 mins read
Future Music
April 2021

Steinberg Cubase Pro 11£499

Bruce Aisher takes a look at the latest iteration of Steinberg’s popular DAW to see if it is still up there with the best

5 mins read
Future Music
February 2021

Luke Abbott

Norfolk’s premier electronic explorer, Luke Abbott takes a sabbatical from his Szun Waves trio to offer up the rich, filmic textures of new album, Translate. Hamish Mackintosh catches up with Luke and gets lost in Translation

10+ mins read
Future Music
February 2021
RELATED STORIES

CAN YOU PLEASE Lower Your Voice?

THE EXPERIENCE OF AUDITORY SENSITIVITY

5 mins read
Muse Science Magazine for Kids
May/June 2021

SEYFRIED LENDS GROUNDING PRESENCE TO CAMPY THRILLER

Hollywood thrillers in which sophisticated, attractive city folk move to creaky old country homes and experience scary things are a dime a dozen. Less common is when those Hollywood thrillers are based on the theology of 18thcentury Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg.

4 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #498

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

THE VINTAGE COOL OF GUITARIST JIMMY JAMES

2 mins read
Guitar World
June 2021

Dance Dance Revolution

Ballet principal James Whiteside has expanded the audience for his art by pushing its boundaries.

5 mins read
Fast Company
Summer 2021

PCalc 4.9

The venerable calculator is updated

1 min read
Mac Life
May 2021

US JOBLESS CLAIMS FALL TO 547,000, ANOTHER PANDEMIC LOW

The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid fell last week to 547,000, the lowest point since the pandemic struck and an encouraging sign that layoffs are slowing on the strength of an improving job market.

3 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #495

CHOPPERTOWN LIVE AT THUNDER BY THE BAY

WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU COMBINE A GOOD HEALTHY MIX, OF OUTRAGEOUS CHOPPERS, VANS, HOTRODS, SKATEBOARDS, GREAT BUILDERS, BEAUTIFUL WOMEN AND PERFECT FLORIDA WEATHER?

2 mins read
Born To Ride Florida
March 2021

MORMON CHURCH SUED FOR $100 BILLION CHARITY SCAM!

Outraged member charges donations used to build insurance & property empire

2 mins read
National Enquirer
April 19, 2021

Fear of a Digital Dollar

Central bankers are looking at virtual currencies that could work without banks

5 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
March 29 - April 05, 2021

THE CANARY THAT ROARS

THE V8 SUPERCHARGED F-TYPE'S DAYS MAY BE LIMITED, BUT THE MATT SORRENTO YELLOW JAGUAR AWAKENS ALL THE SENSES.

6 mins read
Jaguar Magazine
Issue 206