Broken20 founders Ruaridh Law (TVO), Dave Fyans (Erstlaub) and Dave Donnelly (Production Unit) have been friends of The Outer Church for some time now. Given the label’s stubbornly individualistic approach to electronic music, not to mention their keen interest in various forms of esoterica, it was perhaps inevitable that a mutual respect would develop. Further instances of common ground soon became apparent: we were intrigued to learn for example that the skeletal hip hop of Donnelly’s There Are No Shortcuts In A Grid System (2012) was influenced to a considerable extent by the work of Brighton producer Req, whose four albums (1997’s One and 1998’s Frequency Jams for Skint, 2003’s Sketchbook and Car Paint Scheme for Warp) contain some of the most inventive, fascinating and downright haunting beat-driven music to emerge from these Isles. Synapses fired, words were exchanged, and Production Unit soon produced a worthy tribute in word and sound. Here…
"First of all, an apology. This missive and its accompanying mix were meant to reach you much earlier in the year. The delay is the fault of two people: me (Production Unit) and the musical artist Req. The fact it wasn’t delayed further is thanks to two people: me (PU) and the musical artist Req.
"The tardiness first, then… I’m becoming more convinced as time passes that the concept of ‘being busy’ doesn’t exist. Rather, it’s a byword for a combination of three things: woeful disorganisation, rudeness, and an inability to say no. I hope that in my case it’s mostly the first and last of these, which are surely the most forgivable, though they’re all annoying in some measure and ultimately contribute to the second. I had a live set to play two weeks ago and I wanted to completely rewrite it, thus it took a lot of work up to the eleventh hour. If it helps, as penance for my unreliability, I obtained a keen knowledge of The Fear along the way.
"My accomplice/scapegoat in blame is the musical artist Req, whose music fills this mix. It’s no exaggeration to say that his music is locked in constant battle against the forces of quantisation, the latter of which is a staunch ally of yer disc jockey type (e.g. me), what with the mixing and the blending and whatnot. Circumstances being as they are I mixed this in Traktor, and while there’s an engaging skirmish to narrate involving Good Old Vinyl vs Letting The Laptop Do The Work Because Everyone And Their Granny Can Beatmatch These Days, it’s not the main event, so let’s leave it for another day. Anyhoo, digital mixing requires the program knowing where the beats and bars lie, and assuming they’re rigid, whereas much of Req’s music refuses to conform therein (Lord, the troubles I’ve had with the last minute of Cars Girls Money Too, its meter swaying like a drunk at bedtime). Some tracks didn’t make the cut because they were too woozy, but seven or eight others just demanded inclusion, meaning I had to chop and slice them into new edits in Ableton. It took time, and, frankly, it was worth it because it means they’ll reach ears they otherwise wouldn’t.
"And thus onto why it wasn’t further delayed, which involves a bit of fanboy hero-worship, but, I hope, in a grown up, collaborative way. Fanman, maybe. This was a joint effort between myself (PU) and the musical artist Req, whose music fills this mix and who is one of my favourite producers.
"He’s not a household name by any means, and his productivity occurred for the most part in an era when online music journalism was scarce and brief, therefore I rarely happened upon him in the main medium of the time: printed music press. In fact the only occasion we intersected in that sense was a short piece in, I believe, Jockey Slut. The pertinent (though somewhat stock) question was put to him, “What advice would you give to aspiring artists/producers?” and while I’m not sad enough to quote verbatim, the response was along the lines of ‘Don’t sit there waiting for the next bit of kit to arrive before you produce. Do it now or you’ll spend a lifetime waiting.’ Now I can’t say it blossomed, fully formed, in my consciousness instantly, but a seedling took root and began to slowly germinate. As I began to work more on my own music (while the group I was in disbanded slowly) motivational self-sufficiency became imperative. I had to feast on a harvest of my own making, and I found that more and more I returned to a now fruit-bearing source - Req’s advice.
"To paraphrase a paraphrase, it’s important to make the best of what you’ve got, and to do so now. That holds for music production as much as any other pursuit, and it’s thus become a stalwart in my thinking. There’s every chance that I’d have stumbled across this revelation of my own accord, but when I think back it seems that hearing it from a reliable source brought me to it quicker. The attitude affects everything - bringing up my daughter, coping with her ill-health, making dinner, getting from A to B - but it requires responsibility if you see it through. It’s fundamentally not ‘make any old crap from whatever’s lying about’. It’s ‘make the BEST of what you’ve got, and do so NOW’. It demands honesty with yourself and integrity in your dealings with the world.
"The music produced by the musical artist Req, whose music fills this mix and who is one of my favourite producers, but whom I’ve never met, bears out this idea. It seems to possess a certain truth, displayed by ragged edges which confirm that, like the best people, its imperfections constitute in large part its attractiveness. It’s music that has pulled itself up by its own bootstraps and got out into the world, saying ‘This is me, here, now, doing what I do because I have to and because I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.’ Though the focus is firmly on breaks and beats, there are frequent, naive plays at a specific kind of melody, evoking gaudy seasick circuses and thus the freak show soundtrack to the miniseries of Stephen King’s It. Their skewed chromatics aren’t ‘right’, musically, and they’re clearly quite under-produced, but they exist, and do so purely through the will of someone putting them there, hence I almost feel like I respect and know them on familiar terms.
"In case it’s not obvious, I’d have waited weeks and months to record this mix if I’d waited on the perfect opportunity. As it was, I made it on headphones at the dining table in an hour and a half I’d stolen from the myriad quotidian demands on my time. I know it’s not flawless, but (something of a crux, reader) it exists, here, now, etc, etc. You see where this is going.
"I didn’t always rate Req so highly, though I appreciated what he was doing. In the sixteen (sixteen! Blimey) years since I heard One it’s become apparent that his sound encompasses a large proportion of the music that’s filled my life in that period - hip hop, electronics, downbeat, ambient, drone, a general off-kilter aesthetic. Much like that advice to wet-eared producers like me, his music has encroached steadily, wrapping me in it until its intimacy is as keen as that of a childhood blanket. I think I really began to understand One when a tape rip soundtracked the writing of my university dissertation. I’d decamped from my flat to the parental abode with a few hastily grabbed cassettes for company, and as I scribbled about WVO Quine, Quantum Physics and its interface with the paradigms of possibility and probability (pretentious, I know, but the titles of philosophy tracts tend to be - and no, I’ve no idea if it was any cop) the assembled melding of boom bap, 4-track synth recordings and found sound hit home. True, in an environment that’s no longer your own, especially when you’re under pressure to finish a major task, music becomes the space you inhabit, so it’s not surprising that I sheltered in the arms of One, but it was a reckoning that became perpetual and I’ve been smitten ever since.
"And so, not to put too fine a point on it, I’ve found solace, inspiration and a wyrd moral compass through the musical artist called Req, whose music fills this mix and who is one of my favourite producers, whom I’ve never met and never want to. On that point: when I played The Outer Church last January the pastor of this fine institution said Req might appear, and linked me up to his Facebook profile in case I wanted to befriend him. I demurred. I met one of my heroes once. It was awful. He was quite boring and had a handshake like an old lettuce vomiting weakly onto my palm. Years ago I’d have jumped at the chance to meet an ‘idealised idol’, but ideals only exist in the abstract. What’s important, to me at least, is to grasp the imperfect now for all you’re worth, in eternal pursuit of those Platonic goals, here, now… again, perhaps you see where this is going.
"I hope this mix educates and entertains a few people who gather an understanding of Req, or of something at least. It’s deliberately cyclical (i.e. the tempo gathers pace throughout until by its end, it’s double the speed of the start, leading back irrevocably and repeating, the way that Req’s music has recurred and wound back towards me, or I towards it). For that reason, I thought the track title Mirror Beats might be an appropriate mix name. Like all portals, whatever their superficial destination and whether they’re circular or linear, this one really leads inward to an aspect of myself. But maybe it’ll work its way to an aspect of you too."
Req - I
Req - Wasp Zither
Req - Cosmic Elements
Req - CCK Orchestra [Production Unit edit]
Req - Stalking
Req - 207
Kid Acne - Rubber Body Poppers (produced by Req)
Kid Acne - Junction 20 (instrumental, produced by Req)
Req - Seek [Production Unit edit]
Req - JJ Smoke
Req - Skit 2_Ryslide
Kid Acne - Gyp-o-hop (instrumental, produced by Req)
Req - Subculture
Req - Java Bytes
Kid Acne - Hooligan 78 (instrumental, produced by Req)
Req - Love Ache
Req - Dnop A Ni Selppir
Req - Crack [Production Unit edit]
Req - Razzmatazz
Req - Navigator 2
Req - New Intro
Req - What [Production Unit edit]
Req - Itchin [Production Unit edit]
Req - Cars Girls Money Too [Production Unit edit]
Req - Drum Piano 1 [Production Unit edit]
Req – Dharmas [Production Unit edit]
Req - Mirror Beats
Req - Vocoder Break Rock
Req - Bonus Jam
Req - Soul Plot
Req - Mixtape 99
Req - Train Jam
Req - Runout Scratches
Req - Wasp Zither
Irish composer Amanda Feery contacted The Outer Church some months ago requesting advice on matters pertaining to the paranormal. Naturally, we obliged, the only condition being that she furnish us with a specially tailored sonic collage and commentary. Feery chose to assemble a mix of vocal music, which can be found below, along with some highly illuminating notes on each piece. "I work with acoustic, electronic, and improvised music," she says. "I’m interested in writing for anything or working with anyone that reinforces my musical ideas. I’m interested in the connection between creativity, memory, and everyday life - everyday flaws, fears, and passions, and how these translate into something musically meaningful. I’m determined to realise some of these ideas through a wider community, whether orally, or through non-conventional notation. Abandoning notions of ever becoming a pianist, I started composing seriously around 2006, and have been very lucky to work with peers, teachers, and musicians through various disciplines of film, theatre and sound art.
"I’m drawn to musical harmonies and timbres of vocal music that have a basis in nature, the body, and an uncanny connection to the past. I’ve come to believe that this goes back to our relationship with a very remote musical history, an evolutionary relationship with the voice, as far back to our ancestors - how song, and how harmony emerged and evolved. With regard to vocal timbre, there’s nothing that breaks me more than an open throat vocal sound, belted out right from the gut, at breaking point. I think that must hark back to our evolutionary makeup on some level, something to do with our ancestors in danger? Through mimesis and physical response, we know the tension involved in producing that quality of sound. Through our emotional affinities we understand the associations behind producing such a sound. I think the sounds that we vocalise that come to us so instinctively, when presented to us in the context of an already affective music, give the music itself a heightened meaning.
"In vocal music, for me, harmonically, less is more. I’m not drawn to complicated vocal harmonies. A small group humming a two-part harmony makes the hairs on my neck stand to attention more than a group tankering forth with a 7-note clusterfuck of a chord. There are 2-note musical intervals that have a very open sound that interest me. These intervals are found in many other scales and styles beyond Western music. I think that commonality must have something to do with how sound and harmony vibrates in our environment, what intervals sound consonant to the ear, whilst other intervals cause a literal dissonance. These are the intervals, from my own experience, that I find singers naturally tend to produce during improvisation, communally arriving at a concord.”
1. Meredith Monk - Dolmen Music (excerpt)
"Most of my first listens of Meredith Monk result in me scooping my jaw from my lap, as did this the first time I heard it. It begins liturgically and unfolds into a sort of ritualistic chant. You can clearly hear the gradual transition from a pure voice to a more open throat sound as the nasal phonemes burgeon from the texture. The voices rise in tension and the pacing is so effective - exhalations that expand and disperse across the vocal spectrum. The rest of the album is also incredible.”
2. The Watersons - Souling Song
"The Watersons’ harmony is in another dimension altogether. There’s no point trying to notate it or recreate it, you will fail. I’ve never heard anything like it. As much as I love a full choral sound, The Watersons are testament to how colourful and raw and flawed a smaller vocal group can be. All voices are exposed, with little room for gloss and perfection. It’s the imperfections and singularity of each voice blending together that makes their sound so individual. Their harmony is so instinctive and ephemeral that you’ll not hear the same song performed the same way twice.”
3. Orlande de Lassus - Motet for 8 Voices - Osculetur me Osculo
"When I was a dossy, unappreciative undergraduate student, the only worthwhile thing I did in the library was listen to CDs from their extensive collection. I was immediately attracted to the early music CDs, particularly Lassus. The celestial purity of the early music sound is one attraction, but with Lassus if you listen long enough you’ll come up against these jarring points, harmonies that sound more at home in contemporary music. It’s like a double-take for the ears.”
4. Gavin Bryars - Glorious Hill (excerpt)
"I love how this piece vacillates between the past and somewhere more contemporary - a palette of austere and chromatic sounds.”
5. Stefan Dragostinov - Planino Stara Planino Mari
"This is my ‘right from the gut’ choice for the mix! I first heard it in Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World. It’s cut to the most amazing underwater scene in the Antarctic, a thick frozen sheet of ice for the sky with the deepest blues and turquoises dotted with luminescent sealife. Jaysus. I think it snapped the heart strings off of me when I heard it, and I’ve been trying to create the same affect in every piece I’ve written since, whether vocal or not."
6. Moondog - No, The Wheel Was Never Invented
"I had to include one of Moondog’s rounds. His album, Moondog 2, is a collection of 25 short rounds, sung with his daughter. I love rounds, because they are instant part-singing, instant community, belonging etc. I often wonder did our ancestors accidentally discover rounds and canons first, and vertical harmony was born out of that.”
7. Denson’s Sacred Harp Singers - I’m on my Journey Home
"When I talk about right from the gut singing, I had to include a Sacred Harp recording. I think the reason the Sacred Harp sound hits me at such a visceral level is because there is no real hierarchy in any of the parts. Each part carries a melody, it may not be the main melody, but there is melodic movement throughout the parts, no part is restricted to a ”harmonizing” part, if that makes sense. There is more freedom, and I think that translates into the overall sound.”
8. Karlheinz Stockhausen - Stimmung - Moment 51
"Stimmung is based entirely on overtone singing over a one-note drone, essentially one chord for about 70 minutes. This chord is continuously filtered though various phonetic inflections. The singers guide the vowel sounds full circle before moving on to explore another atom of the chord.”
9. William Duckworth - Sardina, from Southern Harmony
"I was introduced to this piece only last year. William Duckworth died last September, sadly. The title comes from the name of one of the Sacred Harp collections in dissemination, Southern Harmony. In this piece, Duckworth has rewrote, borrowed and abstracted material from the original hymn collection. The entire work is fascinating. This piece, Sardina, is based on one line from the hymn, ‘Evening Shade’. The pitches from the hymn are sustained and layered over each other, like scrolling through a waveform and timestretching one microscopic area.”
10. Bela Bartok - Bolyongas
"I used to sing this with other students in my ear-training class in college. We sang a lot of other Bartok and Kodaly short pieces. I can’t remember any of the titles, but I’d be able to sing them back to you because the tonic solfa was drilled into me! This was one of my favourites. I know it’s based on a folk melody, but I couldn’t tell you which one. Bartok and Kodaly collected a wealth of Maygar melodies, so it could possibly be based on one of those. Nice though, isn’t it?”
11. Rustavi Ensemble - Tsinskaro
"I first heard this in Kate Bush’s song Hello Earth, where it’s perfectly placed because Kate is a genius after all. I like how simple this piece is on one level, but not what it seems after a few listens. The accompanying harmony provides that wonderfully bare open sound that answers the solo melody throughout the piece. The melody, however, is dark. I feel like it’s withholding a huge amount of tension that’s trying to escape through the vocal embellishments. A lot of Georgian music I’ve listened to communicates a similar feeling.”
12. Sergei Rachmaninov - Praise the Lord, O My Soul, 2nd movement from the All Night Vigil
"The All-Night Vigil is an entirely a cappella piece set to Russian Orthodox texts. It is one of my favourite pieces, but I also return to it for scholarly, nerd-based reasons because the part-writing is so fluid, and it helps me with my own vocal writing. This movement is based on a Greek chant style of recitation, with an alto soloist.”
13. John Cage - Four2
"Four2 was composed 2 years before Cage’s death, part of his collection of ‘Number Pieces’. This piece is perfect for me because the harmonies are just given enough time to sit with you and seep into the bones. The harmonic changes, time-wise, seem to be spoton also. Total music of the spheres, if such a music exists.”