2001 2011 ARC downloads releases

Bliss Within Agony

“Bliss Within Agony” was the fourth release on ARC, coming out in July 2001. The title refers to the concept of deriving pleasure from pain. I should point out that I have an extremely low tolerance of physical pain, so this isn’t about being bound and whipped for fun. It’s more to do with the idea that the music was meant to stimulate sensations, thoughts and feelings in a dark, loud environment that weren’t necessarily “nice” but were nevertheless enjoyable.

The release starts with “Sticky Fingers”. A very basic track recorded in October 2000, it remains one of my favourites. It leads in with a kick drum that’s quite heavily limited on the attack so it has a nice sustain. The vocal sample that filters and echoes once per bar caused some issues in the cutting room, I seem to remember, and on some decks can cause the needle to jump if not weighted correctly. All that really happens in this track is an off kilter synth line fades up and gradually gets more aggressive. It feels like it’s constantly getting higher and higher but I’m sure that’s an illusion, as the range on the EMU Audity synth probably wasn’t great enough for me to be able to keep increasing the cut-off frequency for four minutes. The synth was sequenced using the Latronic Notron, hence the odd pattern, and an LFO causes the pitch to waver up and down giving that seasick feeling that I tried to create with many of my tracks. I love this one. It has a relentless, single-minded vibe.

Next up is “Eastern Rumble”. Some might recognise that this track contains elements of the remix I did for Takaaki Itoh. The rumble referred to is a sample taken from his track “Step To Makin'”. I recorded this track in September 2000, immediately after finishing the remix that made it onto the Electracom 12″, while the sample was still loaded in the Roland S-760.

This track has a disorientating, chaotic feeling, created in part by the pitch LFO I constantly used on the Audity and also the pitch shift sequence used for the cowbell sound on the Boss DR-660 drum machine. Also, it fades in rather than starting from a set point. I can’t remember exactly why I did it that way. It’s not the “DJ friendly” method of starting a track, but perhaps it sounded rubbish starting any other way. After the event, I liked the idea that – although an audience on a dancefloor would probably never be aware of it – the fade in signified that the track was coming “from” somewhere; that it didn’t start at a specific moment, and when it fades out at the end it went back to where it came from. Or perhaps the listener did, after a brief glimpse into the maelstrom; a place / feeling / memory of something… heavy. OK, that’s all a bit mystical, but a lot of what I was always trying to do with music was to induce in others feelings that I had personally experienced at one stage or another, often while listening and/or dancing to techno. As the record title suggests, these were not always “happy” or “nice” feelings, but intense, powerful feelings that afterwards one understands as valuable, even if one is doubtful as to whether a repeat experience is desirable.

First track on side-B was “Backlash Boy”, recorded way back in December 1997. The title is an adaptation of the name of the band from which the main sample was taken. I’ll leave you to work that one out…shouldn’t be too hard. I would sometimes stick the input lead of the sampler into the output of a radio and just sample whatever was coming out at the time, and this was one of those occasions. I’m not fond of this track. To me, it feels like a track that was made on a day when things weren’t really working, but I felt like I should push myself to record something anyway. Similarly, I suspect I included it on this release because it seemed like there was something about it I didn’t understand, but that perhaps others may appreciate. And maybe they did…perhaps it’s your favourite of the bunch. I don’t want to spoil a track that others may like with my negativity about it, but I can’t recall ever wanting to play this after it was pressed, and I don’t think I would play it now either.

The last track on the release is “Home Is Where The Hate Is”. This was made  in March 1998. Like the noise track on “Walking Wounded”, I made this track some years before I really understood that there was a lot of dark, nightmarish music which already existed and formed part of a long tradition of alternative music making. Much of the electronic music I was familiar with at the time which was not aimed at the dancefloor (I consider this track just right for the dancefloor, depending on the circumstances!) fell under the “ambient” banner. It was more of the “nice” variety, and this track is definitely more inclined towards the “nasty”. It grinds, whines and wheezes its way over six nauseating minutes. Great fun.

Files are in lossless FLAC format, compressed from WAV files taken from the original DAT recordings.

download lossless FLAC version of Bliss Within Agony

Please get in touch if you have any problems downloading, unzipping, or playing the files.

2000 2010 ARC downloads releases

Walking Wounded

The next in the series was originally released on ARC as ARC03 in September 2000, and is titled “Walking Wounded”, a phrase I heard in a news report. I liked the way the two words went together.

The track kicks off with “Is Not Beauty”, which is an abstract piece recorded in November 1998. I wouldn’t call this a noise track, but it does have some noise elements in it (although in recent years I’ve listened to a fair bit of noise, back then I don’t think I was even aware that such a genre of music existed). I think that it’s my favourite track on the release.

As is the case with ARC02 (“This Weak Flesh”) I think the techno tracks on this release are not my best and have perhaps dated more than others. The second track, “Ayaar ver.2”, is in that category. As the title suggests, it’s the second version of a previously recorded track. Or perhaps it just used the same sample, I don’t remember. With the percussion and vocal samples, it has a vibe influenced by the prevalence of those sounds in techno at the time (it was recorded in May 2000). In retrospect I’d prefer to have kept that sort of thing off of my ARCart releases, keeping it for the MIST material that came out on Cosmic Records. This is the track I like least on the record. Typically though, it was the most popular track with other people.

“Circular Heaven ver.2” is another track made from significant parts of another, earlier track. The original version was recorded some time between 1996-1998. This version was made a day or two before the record was cut, and I remember feeling a sense of urgency about getting a track finished that would fit onto the record. ARCart releases were compiled of tracks that were made across quite a few years. The age didn’t matter, it was more important that the tracks seemed good enough and that they fit together to create a cohesive release. This recording allowed me to take something that I really liked from a track which wasn’t quite up to standard, and beef it up into something simpler, with more impact. I love the vocal sample; It comes from a pop song, reversed and put through some chorus, or flange, or both.

The final track, “Enclosed In The”, was recorded in November 1998. It appears immediately before “Is Not Beauty” on the original DAT, so may have been recorded any time from a few minutes to a few weeks prior to that track. When I recorded a retrospective mix of my own tracks in 2008, I came across this track with some confusion, as I barely remembered it at all. I think it’s made up of some drum machine and synth loops which I sampled and then looped, adding some snare and hi-hat from the TR-606, and an additional sample put through filters quite randomly without any manual control after the breakdown, which I think contains an odd number of beats.

Files are in lossless FLAC format, compressed from WAV files taken from the original DAT recordings.

download lossless FLAC version of Walking Wounded

Please get in touch if you have any problems downloading, unzipping, or playing the files.

2000 2010 ARC downloads releases

This Weak Flesh

ARC02, titled “This Weak Flesh”, was released around August 2000. The fourth ARCart release and the second on the ARC label, it has a bit more of a straight ahead techno feel to it. It’s not my favourite release, although it was one of the more successful releases on the label.

“Got To Get Down” is just a 30 second intro that I put together from a sample from a disco track…I think. The sample appeared again later on ARCN05 in the track “Got To Get Down Again”.

The bulk of the first side of the record was given over to the title track, “This Weak Flesh”. Although it could have been sequenced on anything due to its simple structure, I’m pretty sure this was made with the Notron. The main synth sound came from the EMU Audity 2000 I think. I don’t dislike this track, but it does sound a bit too structured and simple to me now. Not that I think simple tracks are bad per se, just that this is perhaps a bit too clichéd. It also contains a very lazy sample on my part. One of the sounds looped up in the background of the track is a sample from another techno track released the same year, recorded by Claude Young. Bad form on my part, and just laziness, really. My set up never facilitated a particularly useful method of recording samples so I probably pulled this one off a CD that was lying around. I know that CY was aware of it at the time (he’d have heard it on the promo I sent him) and he kindly chose to never bring it up with me in person. I don’t make music these days but if I did….or if I had developed the same attitudes around sampling which I hold now, this track would never have been made….or at least would have been different. Even though the sample arguably isn’t the most significant feature of the track, I can’t listen to it now without that thought nagging at me. That said, the feature which makes this track – the long, haunting synth sound which builds during the breakdown – caught the ear of Johan Bacto and that fact later helped to facilitate the Hardcell remix on ARCN04.

“Right To Left” is another track that I have mixed feelings about, 10 years after release. I always feel as if I don’t like it much, until I hear it and find I’m actually quite into it. I guess the use of what sound a bit like “standard” Detroit techno type stabs puts me off at first, but then I enjoy the groove of the track and the way it develops. I also like the fact that there are one or two “happy accidents” in the track, created by me moving the tuning control for that synth stab the wrong way or too far during the recording.

By far my favourite track on this record at this stage is the last track, “He’s Got A Knife”. Many assumed that the vocal sample in the track was repeating the words in the title, but that’s not correct. The vocal sample is very very short, maybe a quarter of one beat long. If it were to say anything it would only be “SA!”. The rest of the phrase isn’t vocal at all, but a mash up of the distorted drum samples and the short vocal stab which come together to create a loop which could under some conditions be heard as a voice saying “he’s got a knife”. I like the breakdown in this track, the sudden way in which the beat jumps back in, and the harsh oppressive feel of the track as it repeats over and over. This track was recorded by looping up the kick drum/vocal/distorted drum pattern as a single sample (you can hear that it is all one sample right at the end when I filter it down to nothing) over which are a couple of hi-hat and snare sounds from the TR-606 and that wibbly JD-800 synth sound that appears in the breakdown.

Files are in lossless FLAC format, compressed from WAV files taken from the original DAT recordings.

download a lossless FLAC version of This Weak Flesh

Please get in touch if you have any problems downloading, unzipping, or playing the files.

1999 2010 ARC downloads releases


This is the first of a series of posts offering free digital versions of old ARCart releases, previously only available on vinyl, and in which I will waffle on a bit about the original releases.

“Joyrage”, the first ARCart release came out on ARC in May 1999. It was my third vinyl release, coming after “Watch As We Now Drift” on Meta, and “Beyond The Pale” on Kne’Deep. Those two previous releases helped provide some momentum and recognition from distributors. Not enough, though, for Prime Distribution, the main movers in the UK when the label was originally conceived and proposed.

I first set up distribution through a new London based organisation called Metropolis Distribution. They were, ummm…not very good. Nice guys, mostly, just useless at distributing records and even worse at paying labels for the few records they did manage to sell. Eventually they went out of business and I never did get paid what I was owed. It wasn’t enough to live on considering their poor sales performance but it would have bought a few very nice meals.

Before Metropolis collapsed I managed to get the unsold stock of this release sent to Prime, with whom I’d launched ARC(ANE) some months later. It sat in their warehouse for a while but when Prime offered up the bulk of the unsold stock of “Joyrage” (which was probably about 75% of what was pressed) they sold within a month.

The catalogue number differs slightly in format from all the other releases. ARC.MD.01 – this was partly down to a suggestion from Metropolis that I regret following, and possibly an error by the graphic designer, or by me, that compiled the artwork. It still irritates me for various reasons.

I’m still quite into the tracks on here. They’re all fairly simple affairs, especially on side A. I think that “Tinitus” (incorrect spelling, I know) was one of the first tracks I made after acquiring a compressor, hence the very low kick drum. The high pitched hissing sound is a sampled TR-808 snare playing forwards and then reversing on itself, filtered through the mixing desk with added delay. This was a possible contender when Oliver and I were reviewing tracks for the Meta release, but as it wasn’t used for that I put it out myself.

“White Lies” is as simple as it gets, just a relentless pounding loop, really, reminiscent of how it would often feel at 4am on the dancefloor at Lost during a punishing mid-90s Jeff Mills set (which was of course one of the major influences on all the techno we were making).

At this point in time my favourite track on the record is “Onslaught II”. I like the snare hit and the slightly woozy processed vocal samples that make up the main sounds of the track (all the non-percussive sounds are vocal samples). It’s the only track on the EP that has a hint of the slightly seasick wavering pitch effect which I later tried to inject into most of the music I made.

“21 Number 4”, titled in honour of my friend Tommy’s 21st birthday, also has a vocal sample stab throughout. This is layered with a filtered synth patch from the Roland JD800. The sequenced distorted percussive sound that fades up after a short while was programmed randomly using the Alesis MMT-8 sequencer, which is all I used to sequence tracks until later buying a Latronic Notron step sequencer.

As mentioned in the previous post, I’ve uploaded the files in lossless FLAC format, compressed from WAV files taken from the original DAT recordings.

download lossless FLAC version of Joyrage

Please get in touch if you have any problems downloading, unzipping, or playing the files.

2010 ARC ARC(ANE) releases

ARCart releases in digital format

Several years ago I updated a page on the ARCart website announcing that mp3 versions of all the ARC and ARC(ANE) releases would be made available. Some years later I removed that text as I realised I’d still not got round to fulfilling that promise and, like my vague ideas of ever making music again, might never actually get round to it.

Well, at least on one of these points I’ve finally managed to make good on my word. Over the coming weeks I’ll be making available digital versions of every ARCart vinyl release. The intention at this stage is to make them available in FLAC format, compressed from WAV files created from the original digital recordings made on Digital Audio Tape and in some cases, CDr.

The files will be posted in the order they were originally released. I expect I’ll write a bit about each one as well, giving some background information as well as sharing my opinions on how I feel about them all these years later.

I don’t know if anyone is really that interested at this stage, but it will at least serve the purpose of creating an archive that will sit alongside the bits of vinyl still floating around in various collections, bargain bins and landfill sites. And it will give me something to write about on this ever-sluggish blog.