When you look at current music that fuses electronica and rock sounds, you typically get a bunch of indie hipster nonsense. The music doesn’t have any bite to it, and more importantly, it is derivative of everything in its genre.
But wait, there’s actually good stuff out there.
Enter KLOQ. These guys have gotten a ton of press from my site because they deserve to be huge. With their newest LP Behind the Screams, the band has pushed their sound even further. This is not to say that the aggressive “punktronica” is no longer present. The LP just simply features a greater expansion on KLOQ’s core style. Most noticeable are the incredible melodic hooks in the choruses. The songs are infectious in a way that I have not seen from this band.
Present in Behind the Screams is also a shift in lyrical focus. There is a more obvious sociopolitical viewpoint. It is clear that the band have something to say about the state of our world, and it comes across as passionate rather than preachy. Just look at the album’s cover and you will notice that Behind the Screams is clearly a progression in the overall message of the band.
Between the infectious grooves and hooks, it really is a pleasure for me as a music journalist to recommend this record to you. There is so much nonsense on the radio nowadays that the talented artists sometimes get lost in the static.
KLOQ is a band that should never be lost in that static.
Behind the Screams releases on Friday 6/10/16. Follow KLOQ at:
(I’m pleased to present an interview with the founder of Two&Two Records, a UK label specifically for ambient and experimental artists. You guys know that I love this genre as I write this music also, so I hope you read and give the label some love.-Derek)
Derek: Tell me about Two&Two Records, how did it get started?
Neil: I started Two&Two back in November last year and basically I was at a point where I felt comfortable enough from everything I learned co-managing Dred Collective that I figured why not do it myself. I’ve loved that kind of music for a long time now and wanted to play a part in bringing it more attention.
Also recently a good friend of mine Rhamy has come in to co-manage the label which I think will work well. Rhamy and I are pretty much on the same wavelength and we don’t take ourselves too seriously, which is quite key I think, just because some of the music we release is dark and moody it doesn’t mean ourselves or the label should be.
Derek: What inspired the label to be a representative of ambient and experimental artists? What is your mission as a record label?
Neil: Just for the love of it basically, that’s all there is to it. We’re passionate about the music and want to help it along, we just want to keep growing and see how far we can take this.
I’ve got a long list of people that I would like to be involved with the label at some point. That’ll just continue to grow as we’re always looking for something new in experimental and ambient music. So yeah that and hosting events, something a bit different though, we’re going to take our time with it and make sure it’s spot on. Apart from that we’re just taking it as it goes.
Derek: The music industry has a lot of distribution methods, why should an artist choose Two&Two over another label or doing a DIY approach? What makes you guys better than the competition?
Neil: I don’t believe we’re better than the competition; In fact I have a lot of respect for the labels that are already established in this genre. I’m proud of what we’re doing and how it’s gone so far but we’re still very young as labels go, saying that we do have plans and definitely want to delve into all different areas of experimental music, so I think in that sense our palette of releases will be broader in comparison to other labels.
I think this compilation will show the variety of sounds we’re into and want to be more involved in, so if we were talking to a producer or someone came across us and felt they would be right for the label then we’re happy to have them involved obviously.
Derek: Say an artist is in the ambient/experimental genre and they are interested in joining your label, what do they need to do? Or do you handpick artists?
Neil: It’s a bit of both, we’re set for a number of releases after the comp and I’ve got people in mind I would like to work with in the future like I said. But all someone would need to do is either send us a demo or drop us a message.
Derek: How many artists do you currently represent and what regions of the world are they from?
Neil: Well we’ve had 4 artists release EPS on our label so far located in Belgium, Colombia, France and Australia
Derek: Being a London-based record label, would you say that your city is a hub for this type of music?
Neil: I would love to say it is but it isn’t in my opinion, nowhere near. There are things going on around the city don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to this type of music it’s not a hub. I think Italy or France has that down; a lot of decent producers are rising from there in this genre.
We’re soon to be Bristol based anyway, Rhamy already lives there and I’m planning to move over there soon. It’s such a good city in terms of openness and diversity with music so hopefully we can build a hub there, who knows.
Derek: You have finished a compilation album that showcases artists with Two&Two, when will it be available to the public?
Neil: All the tracks will be up on the 15th for preview and then released on our bandcamp on the 25th for free.
Derek: Is there anything else you would like to add before we finish this interview?
Neil: Erm just a thank you to yourself and everyone who has supported/ been involved with the label so far, we’re having a lot of fun doing it and it’s been a pleasure to work with everyone. Oh, also we’re planning a collaborative night with another label, one that I’ve been a fan of for a while, so look out for that!
Two&Two Records can be found at:
(hey guys, here is an interview that I did with the awesome wombat_army…enjoy it!)
Derek Kortepeter: So tell me how you got into music and how you eventually found your artistic voice? Were you formally trained in a conservatory?
wombat_army: My Mum is a music teacher and my Dad was really into Jazz so there was always music in the house as I was growing up, they encouraged me to learn the Cello as a kid and I played in youth orchestras and so on. Possibly more importantly I have an older Brother and in the early nineties he was quite into metal and played guitar in a band. I was a bit too young to be going out drinking, like he was, but when he was out I would sneak into his room and play on his guitar for hours. He had a multi FX pedal and I used to just mess around with loads of delay and distortion, suddenly playing other peoples pieces on the Cello seemed a bit boring.
When I got a bit older and into my teens my mates and I graduated from Metal to Punk and Indie and we formed this angsty teen punk band called the Devices. At 15 that was my first experience of writing songs and performing live, we played a fair bit round London in venues we were too young to be in, it was really exciting. At the same time the school we were at had a basic recording studio that no one ever used and my band mates and I kind of took it over. While the other guys in the band were really into multi track recording I was more into this old Atari Notator sequencer, Juno synth and Akai sampler that were set up at the back. It was really liberating to realise that I didn’t have to write music just for guitar, bass and drums and that really any sound was possible. After leaving school in 1997 I saved up a bit of money with a summer job and bought an Akai MPC 2000 and a sound module and that was how it all started.
Here are a couple of examples of the stuff I was making around that time… http://wombatarmy.bandcamp.com/album/private-traps-heart-filled-with-pain
A few years later I met some like-minded musicians who were making similar electronic music, we decided to get together and put on a few nights in East London where we could play our music to other like-minded folk, we called it Oche Music. This was fun but after doing a couple of nights we all felt that really it was just 4 blokes playing tunes off laptops so we decided to form an improv band instead… I had gotten back into playing the Cello after an old friend from school had asked if I’d play some simple parts on some of his tunes (check him out here…. https://supermanrevengesquad.bandcamp.com), so in our new Oche Music band I switched from playing bass to cello through FX and amps (have a listen https://soundcloud.com/rat-rooms/sets/oche-music-ep).
Through playing the cello in Oche Music I was asked to play at this film night called ASSEMBLY, which screens vintage information / education films with the soundtracks removed and new soundtracks composed and performed live on the night. For this I started to combine the electronic stuff I was making with the cello. It was suggested to me by people who were coming to the film nights that I should release some of the tunes I was performing and Bandcamp seemed like quite a good way to do this. I put together an album called ‘October Lanterns’ (https://wombatarmy.bandcamp.com/album/october-lanterns). This was made up of 3 brand new tracks that I’d made for these film nights (Tchou Tchou, Golden Fish and Baby Turtles) and a selection of older tracks. I think that was when I really found my voice, with the mixture of the electronic stuff I was making with the cello and also the focus that writing and performing music for these films brought to my music, and that’s when I started working on ‘firsteight’.
DK: Who do you consider to be influences on your music?
wombat_army: Growing up as a child in the 80s synth pop was indelibly etched on to my brain. I think Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Human League, The Associates and New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ have definitely lingered in my subconscious and influenced the music I’ve made ever since.
I went through the obligatory heavy metal / punk phase as a teenager but then in the mid-nineties someone lent me some Aphex Twin albums. This was around the same time that I was tinkering around with sequencers, samplers and synths, and I was blown away by his music. This led me to discover other stuff like Autechre, Orbital, The Orb, Future Sound of London, Plaid and Biosphere. I had been quite into the DIY ethos of Punk, but really the things I was listening to (Sex Pistols, The Damned, Buzzcocks and Stiff Little Fingers and so on) were all from before I was born, electronic music felt like my generation’s punk. This was the music that inspired and influenced me at the beginning when I started making music and is the stuff you could say is a direct influence, but then over the years my tastes in music have grown out in many different directions, and all of it has had some impact. I’m a big fan of Zappa, Bowie, Velvet Underground, Kraftwerk, YMO, Minimalism (Glass, Reich, Riley etc), Gorecki, Arvo Part, The Cardiacs, The Fall, early They Might Be Giants, a lot of African music (Congolese rumba, highlife, afrobeat and so on), the list goes on!
DK: Walk me through the process of writing firsteight, what is the album about in your eyes and how does it differ from your previous work?
wombat_army: Previous to ‘firsteight’ I was making music mainly on my Akai MPC 2000, but after about 17 years of use it finally died in 2014 so I started to use Ableton Live 8 instead. (This is kind of boring but it’s called ‘firsteight’ as it’s basically the first batch of stuff I made using Live 8).
Using Live 8 certainly changed the sound and style of the music I was making. The stuff I was making before was probably a bit more rigid and structured, more beat orientated, lots of 4 bar loops. But the combination of using the cello through looping pedals and Live8 meant that the music became a bit more fluid and evolving.
Also, as I mentioned above, I had been making music to be performed along with films at the ASSEMBLY film nights. The films are generally between 10-20 mins which is a fair amount of time to fill, plus the audience have the film to watch and hold their attention, so I felt I could stretch things out a bit, let one idea run for longer than I would normally when making a track. I had this in mind when putting ‘firsteight’ together, I wanted it to flow as one body of work.
All the tracks were made between May – September 2014, during the summer… I think the album has a feel to it of this sort of hazy summertime confusion like staring at the sun for too long. I wanted it to be dreamlike in places, with pieces evolving and building out of one another, then disappearing back to nothing.
The album sort of builds up to ‘Skydiving’ which was composed to be performed live along with a screening of an amazing 1970s film called ‘Skydive!’ (Have a look at the original film here… www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtG9TCH2tfQ the version on bandcamp is the full version of this so if you fancied it you could watch the youtube clip along with the music).
DK: You are a multi-instrumentalist (cello, synth etc.), how do the instruments you play affect your overall songwriting approach?
wombat_army: The use of cello has certainly changed the way I make a tune. But it’s possibly more about the software I make the music on, but then I see that as an instrument as well.
DK: You mention looping pedals as being a part of your music, do you usually have the parts mapped out in your head of what to loop or is it spontaneous? I ask because composers/musicians do it differently, some write entire parts out (Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint for instance) whereas others just improvise.
wombat_army: It’s a bit of both, mainly I improvise with the looping pedal but sometimes this is done in a certain key and tempo which I then combine with more structured mapped out parts.
I’ve gotten quite into doing these one take improvisations with the cello and looping pedal, where I start recording and just play, loop and layer and see what happens. On ‘firsteight’ ‘Birdsflutter’ and ‘if16’ are examples of this. With ‘Birdsflutter’ you can actually hear my girlfriend say ‘hello?’ towards the end as she’d stuck her head round the door to ask if I wanted a cup of tea as I was recording it. With tracks such as ‘Soon now’ and ‘Cloudgazing’ I used this method but combined if with other parts I had made.
DK: Do you often play your music live? I imagine if you do it is a pretty daunting task with all the layers!
wombat_army: Yes, as I mentioned my main live thing is playing at these film nights. At first I was relying quite a bit on a backing track from the laptop and then doing some cello over the top. However as time has moved on I’ve started to do a lot more fully live improvisation with the looping pedal and trying to keep the backing to a minimum, or at least alter the backing as well. It’s a bit tricky as whilst playing the cello I then lack hands to do other stuff, but that’s all part of the fun.
Playing live to films is great as the audience has something else to focus on and so I feel I can sit back and relax a bit more. Also you can kind of use the film as the score, it becomes a nice way of structuring the music.
DK: In the United States, the electronic music scene is dominated by EDM and dubstep artists. What about in London? Is there a place for ambient composers or is it more about club music?
wombat_army: If I’m honest I’m a bit out of touch with that sort of thing. Dubstep is still very popular, having started here, and has mutated in some lovely ways. I’m not really sure what EDM is though, to me it seems to be one of those horrible catch all terms that the music industry invents to classify a huge range of music they don’t understand, but then in some ironic twist, becomes a genre in itself through people missing the point and trying to make ‘EDM’ style music. But I digress…
London does have quite a good improv/electronic scene with places like cafe oto, and we are also lucky with our radio over here. The BBC, Radio 3 and 6 Music in particular, do a lot to support different types of music and being publicly funded it doesn’t need to pander to the lowest common denominator / commercial interest. That’s not to say that London’s music scene isn’t dominated by the mainstream, just that it’s quite easy to ignore it as there are lots of other options.
DK: In general what do you hope people take away from the music you write?
wombat_army: I guess if anything I would like people to become immersed in the music and for it to then both sooth and thrill them in equal measure. I would like the music to take people on a bit of an emotional journey, and I like the idea of music creating tension and atmosphere. Other than that, if I’m honest, it’s not something I think about too much… You can only hope people will enjoy it!
DK: You mentioned to me that you started making this style of music roughly 15 years ago. That was, coincidentally, the dawn of a new age in the music industry. What we all knew as musicians changed with the onslaught of the mp3 revolution…do you think that the current landscape is better or worse for musicians than pre-mp3 days? What would you like to see done better?
wombat_army: One of the things that inspired me from the start was the DIY nature of electronic music. That you don’t need an expensive studio and a label backing you, great creative music could be made in your bedroom with a sampler and a sequencer. I think it’s now much easier to put stuff out with sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud and has to some extent taken the label out of the equation. That said it is really hard to then promote that stuff (which is probably the only place a label still comes into its own)… I think with the sheer volume of music out there it is very difficult to be heard. I also think that the way the Internet has developed has fundamentally changed the way people consume music. The MP3 revolution has lead to this idea that music should be free… A few years ago I would always give my brother a cd on his birthday. I’d go to the record shop and choose something I thought he’d like and actually spend money on it… But now he just gets all his music free on Spotify or whatever, so giving him a CD is a bit pointless I might as well just give him a list of stuff to find on Spotify which isn’t quite the same. It’s like music has become devalued as a commodity. It is now considered the norm that artists should give away their music for free (as indeed I do on Bandcamp)… But then I’d rather people listened and enjoyed the music and not get any money than still get no money and no one listen at all.
DK: What can we expect next from you creatively?
wombat_army: I’m in the process of putting together a new album, I have about 4 or 5 tracks so far. I think it’s going to be a bit darker sounding (maybe as these tracks were made in winter!?). Here’s a preview of couple of them…
I’m also trying to get together a live set that includes visuals (and is something apart from the film nights), It’s quite hard to find gigs however, so if anyone wanted to offer me one that would be great!
According to the artist behind firsteight, “wombat_army is the solo project of London based composer/producer Martin Webb, who has been using samplers, synths, looping pedals, a ukulele and a cello to create music for about 15 years.” I had the chance to listen to one of the tracks and I really dug the vibe of it (leading me to listen to the whole album). As you know, when I hear something I like, I have to share it with you via review.
The record has had an interesting critical response already as, according to Webb, “tracks have been played on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction show, Resonance FM’s ‘Sleeping Dog’s Lie’ and also on BBC London.” My take on it is also, like the media that has played it, quite positive. firsteight is an atmospheric, ambient journey through a total of 9 songs that cause you to engage psychologically. The logical idea behind the songs is to give you a different sphere to exist in, but also keeping you totally engaged. What I mean is, you react like an individual should to the ambient/downtempo genre (i.e. meditative), but the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms also keep you present. There are remnants of Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno and even Philip Glass, but wombat_army has a style of his own.
Within the looping minimalism and the atmospheric tones, the tracks on firsteight allow you to experience each with a calm and pondering frame of mind. With each sequence there are subtle additions to the overall theme of the songs, which is what ambient music should do at its finest. Each melody builds off the previous in a very symbiotic relationship, interlocking to create a complex soundscape. firsteight is ultimately a journey into various parallel musical universes all connected in some way. If you want to think or simply be brought to a different frame of mind with your musical experience, I highly recommend this record. As an ambient composer and musician myself, wombat_army has created something that I truly believe is worth hearing.
Standout tracks: “sunbox,” “cloudgazing,” “birdsflutter”
wombat_army can be found at:
https://wombatarmy.bandcamp.com (firsteight is available for download here)