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?
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