7th April 2022

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is that I love about music. Beyond the purely musical things (melody and drum sounds, in my case). I’ve concluded that the two most important aspects for me are fitting into my ‘world’, and narrative/continuity.

In terms of my ‘world’, I suppose this is largely an autistic thing. I have a kind of world in my head that is partially based on real experience, and partially on imagination. I suppose it could be described as a kind of ideal, an imagined manifestation of the kind of place I’d actually like to live in. It’s exceptionally difficult to really put into words. But in terms of music, there are a number of artists and albums that fit into that world: they soundtrack certain parts of it. It might make more (or less) sense to describe this as much I have an empathy with. A combination of elements – melody, rhythm, timbre, atmosphere, attitude, aesthetic, lyrical content, structure, an abstract overall ‘feeling’ – can make me feel like a piece of music is relatable on some level or another, that it feels like something I can understand. It’s never possible to predict what particular combination will create this kind of music. I was revisiting one of my favourite bands, the Manic Street Preachers, this week. I planned to listen to their discography chronologically. However, including deluxe editions, this entailed sitting through about eight CDs of the Richey Edwards era. I didn’t get to the end of this. I know these records are, for many, the heart of the band and considered their best stuff. Other than the sometimes tedious sixth form philosophy feel of the lyrics and Richey’s occasional flirtation with right-wing ideas, I don’t have any strict problems with these albums. But they don’t resonate with me. They don’t occupy the same world as me. With the arrival of Everything Must Go, my view is the opposite: the guitars chug less, there are fewer solos, James’s vocals are a touch mellower, the worldview is less bleak, the angst is lowered, the drums are roomier sounding, the artwork is more beautifully structured, the atmosphere is more relatable. With the exception of a couple of backwards-looking albums in the late ’00s, later Manics albums are very much in my world. It’s not really a quantifiable thing, especially as I would happily admit that an album like The Holy Bible has a lot more going for it in terms of importance, honesty, vitality, energy, originality and purpose than, say, 2013’s Rewind the Film. But ultimately, The Holy Bible remains a stranger to me, and Rewind the Film is a friend.

The other aspect is narrative/continuity. I love this kind of thing. I really enjoy following an artist, label, genre, scene, whatever. It’s really enjoyable watching things develop over time. I’ve spent hours reading Wikipedia pages for albums by artists I have no interest in (Yes and Limp Bizkit come to mind) just to find out how their sound changed over decades-long careers. I think one reason I struggle to get into a lot of electronic and experimental music these days is that I’ve lost the thread of it. For many years, I was able to discover a new exciting sound, listen to how artists had their own take on that sound, and follow it through to the next development. I’m honestly very jealous of ambient fans in the ’90s who were able to take the journey through the chill out room ambient house stuff into more isolationist material in the second half of the decade, following labels like Silent and 12k into more abstract territory combining with the clicks & cuts sound and into more acoustic stuff by the mid ’00s. I hadn’t the knowledge available to me at the time, of course, and was generally into more beat-led stuff. I recall a point in 2003 when I realised that, after many years of being mostly into electronic and instrumental music, I was almost entirely listening to song-based stuff, for the most part guitar-led. This pretty much became my default setting for a long time. The wonderful Jumbo Records in Leeds stocked a good range of experimental electronic stuff, and I could probably have gotten into labels like Type and Kranky in 2006-2007 had I followed up on a few chance purchases, but otherwise it was all indie- and punk-related music right through to the end of the decade. After playing catchup with ambient stuff for a couple of years, I had a brief dalliance with the tape scene in the early ’10s, but when Fangs & Arrows, Foxy Digitalis and the Type forums went offline around the same time, I was left afloat again, and once more returned to song-led music. I’ve spent the past couple of years looking around, but I’m yet to find a particular scene or sound that seems to be both coherent and musically appealing to me. Whether it was following the release of Ibiza trance singles in 1999 or posting regularly on the ElectronicScene forums in 2003, I always felt a connection to music because I at least had an idea of what was going on. I don’t seem to have that these days. And with less time and money than ever, and my own mental health issues that sadly affect how I listen to music, I do worry that this will always be the case from now on.

Bone Moor came out a few weeks ago, but issues with the manufacturing plant, courier and Brexit mean that the CDs are still in transit. They should hopefully be with Nick tomorrow and shipping soon after. I’ll have a handful to sell through my Bandcamp. The album’s been met with less fanfare than the last couple of albums, which is usually the case with my best work. Every now and then I make a record that feels somehow definitive for me, and this is one of them. I think it’s the ninth such record out of about 150, which is not exactly a great hit rate, but what can you do? Anyway, I’m incredibly proud of the album. Up next is The House by the Sea, which I’m hoping will be out this summer. I’ve been having a huge “oh shit I hate everything I’m making” period lately, but seem to have worked my way through it by totally deconstructing all the material I’ve been working on. For one reason or another, making conventional ‘tracks’ seems to have left me feeling very uninspired, but taking those tracks, splitting them into individual sounds and stems, and then reworking them into longer soundscapes has given them a completely new life. It’s kind of a new approach for me, as well as not being overtly inspired by any particular thing, which has made it feel incredibly satisfying. These pieces will probably form whatever album comes after The House by the Sea, which will probably mean they won’t be heard until early next year. Since abandoning SoundCloud I’ve not really done the whole uploading individual tracks thing, which still feels slightly strange. All the way up to Arboretum, every album I released was previewed with at least one track, often shortly after I’d made it, proud and excited to share it. I suppose that’s just one of many ways that online music has changed over the years, and possibly adds to my feeling disconnected to how things are. I still have fond memories of uploading ‘Rooftops’ to Electronic Scene (nearly 20 years ago – terrifying), adding ‘Safernoc’ to MySpace alongside a ‘Second Thought is back!’ blog post, or exchanging comments with various ambient artists on SoundCloud at the time my Photographic Reflection and East of Evening material was getting hundreds of plays. I wonder where this kind of community is now.

Sheffield. All being well, I should be moving within the next six weeks. A friend has a room in his house to rent. A much, much needed fresh start, if there ever was one. I’m excited. Otherwise, things are trundling along as normal. I’ve been listening to a fair bit of Murcof, Charli XCX, Wolf Alice, Jon Hassell, and am finally beginning to enjoy the new Tangerine Dream album. There’s a new FSOL album in a couple of weeks, Rituals – the first ‘proper’ FSOL album in five years, despite a lot of other odd releases in the meantime – and I’m really looking forward to that. I recently started watching Casualty from the start. Currently up to 1995, and it’s been mostly excellent. A mixture of nostalgia, something very much in my ‘world’, and an impressive amount of important good social and political messages in the show.

And that’s about everything for now, I think.

15th February 2022

I was recently thinking about how releasing music has completely changed in the last 20 years, especially for smaller/DIY artists. For quite a while, I was very much following the more traditional record label approach, with every album being an ‘event’, with accompanying website redesign to match the album art, weeks of promotion either side of the record, maybe a few music videos. A tracklist would be announced some way ahead of the release, and reviews would pour (or trickle) in over the following months. And then it would go quite for a while, and a new album would appear a year or two later. I kind of did things this way with Purlieu and Vacuum Road Songs, and began to do it with Safernoc, before I ended up doing the 2010 experimental series and kind of burying it a little.

Last week, Bone Moor was made available to pre-order. And I did my usual bit of social media promotion, some chat on Twitter, Third Kind did the same, and got 50+ pre-orders in the first 24 hours. All pretty good, but that kind of feels like… it. It doesn’t feel like the grand culmination of a long period of recording and promotion. It’s just out there, copies will be shipping in a few weeks, and onto the next thing. This is neither a positive or negative comment, simply an observation. It’s so utterly different to how I did things back in t’day, and even now it does feel a little strange. I’m always living in the ’90s in my head, though. Hell, even my favourite band just stick albums online out of the blue multiple times a year these days.

Anyway, Bone Moor is possibly my favourite Enofa album to date. It’s certainly up there with Arboretum in terms of being a very tight, concise collection of strong tracks with a coherent theme. Unsurprisingly a moorland themed album, inspired by living in Yorkshire and often seeing radio and television transmitters high on horizons, and imagining snippets of transmissions coming from them. It’s the darkest sounding thing I’ve released since Melkur, and has a very Second Thought-esque feel in that sense. I’m ludicrously proud of it, and am glad it’s finally out there for everyone to hear. CD and digital can be pre-ordered from Third Kind Records.

Up next is another album due out on CD later this year, The House by the Sea. A lengthy and quite literal sounding title which is unusual for me. I suppose it had to happen one day. Last year’s Shattered Infrastructure was very much me pushing the maximalist approach to its extreme – 79 minutes of eight minute long densely layered ambient house tracks – and if Bone Moor is the start of a stripping away of that sound, then The House by the Sea very much continues that, largely a collection of ambient miniatures. More news on that before its release in the summer. I recently accidentally permanently deleted a folder of all my unreleased material, including a half-completed album. I tried a few pieces of restoration software but none of them could get glitch-free tracks, sadly. So I have a clean slate at the minute.

No news to report on the personal life front. Sheffield soon, I hope. When I get there I’d really like to start up The Curse of Kevin Carter as a band. I’ve been talking about it for fucking ages, and it’s really overdue. It’d be nice to take it out as a noisy slightly experimental psychedelic melancholic guitar pop project. So I might be looking at doing that later this year, if I get chance to meet new musicians. If anybody has any recommendations about what’s going on in Sheffield, do let me know.

Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Christopher Bissonnette, Alva Noto, The Joy Formidable and Placebo. I’d actually forgotten how odd a lot of Placebo songs are. I don’t think I’d properly listened to them in about 16 years until recently. I’ve actually gutted out my album wishlist and am trying to take on far less new music these days. I’ve spoken about reaching “peak music” for quite a few years now, as a way of describing my brain’s inability to take in too much new stuff for being overwhelmed, and the utter lack of time I have to actually listen to my existing collection. I recently calculated that if I hadn’t sold off a ton of stuff over the years, I’d have over 3,000 CDs, records and tapes by now, which is impossible to even listen to in a year. Even though I only have around a third of that these days, there are still albums I own that I haven’t listened to in maybe five years. I still have a Discogs wantlist, largely featuring rarities that go for ludicrous sums of money that I’d love to buy one day. Of course with the cost of everything rocketing again, who knows when that’ll be.

31st December 2021

Well, that was… a year. I kind of expected to have moved out by now, but then Covid didn’t quite go away in the way that might have been expected. Given that case numbers quadrupled to an all-time high this month, that doesn’t look set to happen for a while yet, either. Oh well. One way or another I’ll get out of here in 2022.

Musically, 2021 was a hell of a year for me. I started the year with a real sense of uncertainty, having spent quite a while sitting on a huge stash of unreleased material from about six or seven scrapped or incomplete albums, not sure what to do with any of them, overwhelmed by a feeling of not wanting to carry on making music. Ultimately, the only way I could find to release them was by emphasising the totally inconsistent nature of the material by making a big, daft, completely varied album called All Roads Lead to Polesworth. And it ended up becoming my most successful album to date. Several reviews, some in print, a fair bit of radio play, staggeringly high numbers of streams, and excellent sales helped gain me a whole bunch of new listeners and a bit of pocket money in the process. The amount of kind words I received about the album was astonishing, and I still feel a bit taken aback by the whole thing to this day. It’s not one of my favourite albums that I’ve made – although I love lots of bits of it – but it felt like the record that got me back on track and brought back the self-confidence I lost a few years ago. Thank you so much to Nick for releasing that and helping me to realise the potential in my own music again.

I also released Shattered Infrastructure, which started as a brief EP before being expanded to a full 80 minute album later in the year. This is actually my favourite of my three 2021 records, and of course, it’s the one that the fewest people have heard. I did get a bunch of purchases as a result of more awareness of my music, but being self-released, it still exists in a bit of a void. It’s also a kind of turning point record, tying up a particular strain of my own music that’s been around for a while – a very rich, lush ambient techno sound – that I feel I’ve taken as far as I can without it becoming repetitive. So it was good to go out on a high.

My third album, Borderlands, is a bit of a weird mixed bag of old and new material mushed together into a collage. It doesn’t really sound like my past collage albums, nor the material I have lined up for next year, but does act as a kind of bridge between the brighter sounds of …Polesworth and my first 2022 release. It’s a dark, murky, experimental record, my first like that in a very long time, and it sold out in two or three days, which was wonderful. Cue more positive reviews – mostly from baffled people talking about how many different sounds and styles are on there – lovely comments online, and radio play. It’s more of a weird experiment than a ‘core’ album, but once again, the hugely positive response did my mind a world of good, so thanks to Phil for the time and love put into the release.

Speaking of Borderlands, I resurrected my project of that name for a self-released tape called Melkur II, in which I expanded the first Melkur‘s sound with the inclusion of folky acoustics. I sold a few hand-made tapes, which was a fun and spontaneous thing to do. I’ve got some ideas for Melkur III which will hopefully be out next year!

It’s not very often I end a year with “hey, I released some really good music this year and people really liked it and I’m looking forward to releasing more music next year.” It’s usually more “I put out some music this year and I quite liked one of the albums and I’m not sure what the future holds.” I do feel more confident about my music at the moment than I have done in a long time, though – Arboretum is the only brief blip in my lack of direction going back to about 2013 – so this really does feel like a great time. Next year will start with my next album, Bone Moor, which is the first step towards a slightly different sound. But more on that when it comes along.

My mental health has been all over the place, which is pretty unsurprising after yet another year like this. That said, the main difference between now and past shit years is in how well I can recognise my problems, accept them and move forward, rather than wallowing, which feels like an excellent step in the right direction. Finding a city I want to move to – Sheffield – this autumn has given me a sense of purpose, and although the past few weeks have been really difficult in some ways (not the best Christmas ever, it has to be said), I do have some ideas of how to sort myself out in the new year. My FSOL blog has taken up a huge amount of my spare time this year, and although in some ways it’s been hugely therapeutic – not only have I rediscovered my love of certain records, but it’s also been a great place to dump all my FSOL-related thoughts so they’re not going around my head all the time – it’s also been a bit of a strain. I’m only a few weeks away from the end of that, and I plan on not replacing it with anything at all. I need more space and time in my days so I feel the freedom of being able to do things on a whim, be able to read and watch and listen and walk more.

I listened to too much good music this year. Literally. There was a point in late summer and early autumn when I had a stack of about 15 CDs on my desk, all of which were albums I wanted to listen to every day. There wasn’t enough time to properly get into everything I bought, and that was also stopping me from picking up other stuff. It’s a small problem, really, and I feel grateful to have found so many albums I genuinely love. Here’s a list of my favourites:

Desperate Journalist – Maximum Sorrow
Chvrches – Screen Violence
The Future Sound of London – We Have Explosive 2021
Lande Hekt – Going to Hell
Dry Cleaning – New Long Leg
Wolf Alice – Blue Weekend
The Joy Formidable – Into the Blue
London Grammar – Californian Soil
The Weather Station – Ignorance
Humanoid – 7 Songs
Margo Cilker – Pohorylle
Pearl Charles – Magic Mirror
Roddy Woomble – Lo! Soul

Next year I’m looking forward to new music from Burial, Biosphere, The Divine Comedy, Tears for Fears, Tangerine Dream, Current 93, Charli XCX, Archive, Sigrid, and, finally, Environment Seven by FSOL.

I read a lot this year – I was on a book a day in the summer – but it was mostly Doctor Who books. For Christmas I received three books, and I’m slowly working through them now. It’ll be nice to get back to a more varied reading list, with lots of other things mixed in with my Doctor Who reading. Especially given how utterly bland most of the Eighth Doctor Adventures are so far.

No New Years Resolutions. I lost almost two stone this year, and then put a few pounds on again at the end, and I hope to continue the general downward trend; I worked out more about my mental health and hope to be able to understand myself further, enabling more personal stability in the process; when Covid allows, I will be looking to move away and take steps to put my life back together again; I’d love to be able to make more music I’m really proud of. These aren’t anything to do with the new year, they’re just generally positive directions in my life.

I hope everyone is safe and well and that you all have a wonderfully prosperous new year, and I hope for strength for those who find difficulty and stress in the coming months.

xxx

9th December 2021

I recently updated the Shattered Infrastructure EP somewhat dramatically: it’s now a 79 minute album. This is largely because there was a lot of material recorded around this time, and at that point I felt it didn’t quite fit and could maybe become part of a different, larger project; over time, however, I’ve realised that these tracks all exist within a particular timeframe and all have a particular sound, and so belong together. There’s one more recent track in there too, which seemed to close out the album brilliantly, so I chose to include it. It’s actually worked out as a really good album, which pleases me as I was never 100% comfortable with it, probably because I don’t really like EPs very much. There are beats on every track, and most pieces are over the seven minute mark, making it slightly unusual for me, but in some ways it completes a trilogy of quite far-reaching albums, stylistically, which see me exploring a very particular sample-based approach, I suppose my FSOL influence coming through in particular. In all honesty, this album has kind of turned into the epitome of that approach, and I’m really not sure I could actually improve on tracks like ‘Shattered Infrastructure’ and ‘Underwater Arboretum’ even if I tried. I might do a limited run of CDrs at some point in the next couple of months if I feel up to it. I recently put out some hand-made tapes of my second album as The Borderlands, and that was quite fun to do on a whim (I literally decided to do the tapes about 15 minutes before I released the album), and I’ve sold a handful of those, which is nice. The tape’s called Melkur II, partially because it opens with the same sound Melkur ended with, and expands on it, although it takes it in a very different direction, as I’ve included a lot of acoustic instruments recorded to four-track in there, amidst the various dark sound collage elements. I’m planning a third album at the moment, so hopefully that’ll come along in the new year.

Back to Enofa, and those older tracks being thrown in with Shattered Infrastructure makes further sense in terms of development: they were all recorded quite a while ago, and since then I’ve recorded Bone Moor, which is quite different in many ways, and a hint at where the project will probably be going next. I’m quite keen to explore a slightly more close-to-home sound again, a little more like Arboretum and the Enofa version of Melkur. The epic, dense, sound-design heavy approach of the recent few albums has been quite insular in a way, and I’d like to write some stuff that’s more reflective of the world around me again. I suppose I often try more expansive things for a while, only to find myself returning home again. I have one new track recorded, and one reworked version of my parts of an old collaborative track, both of which are sounding great and very different, but on the whole my creative focus has largely been on my FSOL track-by-track blog Fractional Difference, which I’ve been posting to every day lately. The 2008-2009 material holds a particularly special place in my heart, having been somewhat out of touch with listening to the band, but also electronic and instrumental music in general for some time, and the mixture of modern classical and hauntology heard on the releases and mixes from those years pretty much reignited my own interest in electronic music and relaunched Second Thought after many years of neglect. Electric Brain Storms Vol. 4 comes particularly highly recommended as a two hour mix that significantly influenced the direction of Safernoc back in 2009 (part one and two on MixCloud if you fancy a listen).

The future is depending on the impact of the omicron variant of Covid, which has come along just as I’m preparing to move on with my life in exactly the same way as the alpha variant did nearly two years ago. That said, all being well I will be living in Sheffield from some point next year. In one of those bizarre twists, it seems most of the people I’m closest to will be living there, or close by, as of next spring, and as it’s a very beautiful, friendly and laid back place with copious amounts of greenery, it seems like as good a place to move as can be expected at this point. I’d like to get involved in some sort of music scene when I move, but that will depend on numerous things. But it’s certainly something to look forward to. In the much nearer future, Christmas and New Year are on their way, with an opportunity to look back over another year of chaos. I’ll do the usual retrospective blog at some point nearer to the time, no doubt.

In the meantime, I’ve been listening to a Margo Cilker, Pearl Charles, Max Richter, The Joy Formidable, The Cooper Temple Clause, Weyes Blood and way too much FSOL.

I hope everyone is doing well. xxx

24th September 2021

Been a while since my last post, which isn’t to say I’ve not been busy. In fact, I’ve tied up a lot of loose ends into a new collage album called Borderlands which came out today. There aren’t many tapes yet, so pick one up here if you haven’t already. I was mostly just looking through my vast folder of unreleased material, and realised that quite a lot of it would work together really well. It’s not a tracky album, I pieced it together in a similar way to Leaf Pass, Exteriors, etc., so lots of it merges together and there are some very abstract sections given their own title. Inside the sleeve I’ve included an old story about walking into a room and it basically stealing a day from me. I quite miss writing those first person stories and should probably do it again. It’s nice to create an imaginary world. The album samples a lot of old TV and film dialogue, I suppose there’s more than a touch of hauntology about the feel of it – a big ’70s sci-fi and horror influence on the mood, if not exactly radiophonic or folky in sound – which is something that should tie in with my next album, Bone Moor, which is due on Third Kind at some point over the winter. We might even do some CDs as well as tapes for that. Borderlands is so called because at one point I almost considered releasing it under that alias, so it’s closer to Melkur than anything I’ve done since. Huge thanks to Phil for his enthusiasm for the album and releasing it, and to Nick for mastering duties. The cover art is by Eidolon and is very different to my usual style, but they did a wonderful job with it, so many thanks there too! One review so far, and it contains this incredible line: “I truly don’t know what to make of it, but I think I like it.” It’s a stylistic mish-mash, so I think that’s fair!

In the background, I’ve been working on plenty of new music. All sorts of tracks have been finished, an album is taking shape, so I suppose that’s one for next spring or summer probably. I do seem to have lost a lot of my own self-doubt this year, and I think quite a bit of that has come down to the success of All Roads to Polesworth. After a few years of low sales and interest, to suddenly have thousands of people listening to a new album and it selling out so quickly was a real eye opener. Maybe I’m actually quite good at making music? It helps that I do think my production and mixing techniques have drastically improved over the past few years. I no longer feel like someone who’s just made their first track showing their mates. Anyway, that’s good, I’ve not felt this confident about my music in a very long time indeed. Still working on a couple of collaborative things behind the scenes, hope to be able to reveal stuff about them soon.

Quite a bit of spare time at the minute has been set aside for Fractional Difference, my FSOL blog. I’m going through their entire discography & transmission history and writing about every album, track and broadcast. There are a hundred odd posts already, and probably a couple of thousand to come. It’s probably a totally daft undertaking, but I have so many thoughts about their music that it’s nice to have an outlet for it, and writing all the factual stuff is working as a replacement for my old fansite that’s been offline for a few years now. Also been reading a lot, working my way through the entire series of Doctor Who novels. As I was on the final run of the Virgin New Adventures I was averaging about a book a day, which was pretty heavy going but a lot of fun. They’ve taken a bit of a stumble with the start of the Eighth Doctor series, but I’m hoping it picks up. On top of that, I’ve been rewatching the whole MCU, Farscape, as well as watching Star Trek: Voyager for the first time, and currently really enjoying ’90s women’s football drama Playing the Field. Almost overwhelmed by the amount of fiction going into my brain at the minute. What else? Ah yes, I visited Leeds a couple of weeks back, and had a day out in Birmingham for my birthday (37?! Where does the time go? I was 19 when I started this blog…), and it’s been really nice to be in other, more exciting places again. We’re still being pretty wary, wearing FFP3 masks and sitting outside where possible, but having at least a semblance of normality again is so nice. Will be visiting Sheffield and Manchester this autumn, and probably Leeds again, in the hope of finally working out exactly where to move. Be nice to move away from Hinckley again, and knowing that it’s only going to be a matter of months is really a relief.

Recent listening: Gas, BT, Sator Rotas, Wolf Alice, Desperate Journalist, Chvrches, Dry Cleaning, The Joy Formidable, 36, Off Land, Manic Street Preachers, Spraydog.

Hope everyone’s well! xxx

3rd June 2021

Yesterday, I read a really lovely review of All Roads Lead to Polesworth from Cassette Gods. Here it is in its entirety:

Enofa’s a decidedly and wonderfully British electronic artist that goes by the name Ross Baker when they do their taxes each year. I don’t latch onto the Britishness of this just because “Polesworth” is in the title or because it was released on Brighton stalwart Third Kind, there’s just a sense that this hi-NRG electronic pulsefest is a total throwback to 90s raver culture, the energetic rhythms and effortless melodies perfect for that retrofuturist dancefloor. I’ve gotta say, too, that I’m a sucker for what Baker’s slinging here – I can pop this on and relax to it all day, proving that you don’t need to stand up and wiggle to thoroughly enjoy it. And trust me – I’m an expert at sitting down these days.

Baker has appeared on Third Kind before with Seltrac as International Debris, another incredible release, and if we’re going to start getting regular releases from them like this, we should probably mark our calendars for when those releases are going to happen. It’s not easy to put together such a streamlined body of work as All Roads, but Baker weaves in and out of cuts like they’re assembling an expert mixtape, the more fervent tunes residing with equal comfort and natural placement next to chillaxed comedowns. So yeah, a regular schedule here would be nice. But even if we have to place All Roads in a vacuum and ingest it without context, we’re still taking in sixty minutes of the dance equivalent of high-speed future transportation, frictionless and smooth, efficient and beautiful. And winding up at Polesworth, if you can believe it.

You can also read it by clicking here. This is the third positive review Ryan’s given my music over the years, so much love to him for such kind words. 🙂

I also received my copy of The Future Sound of London’s Music for Calendars compilation, on which I am credited for “data input,” which is FSOL speak for helping pick the tracklist. So that’s exciting. My Apertures project with Brian is similarly coming along well, we might even have a mini-album out later this year.

Had my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine a couple of weeks ago, so while we’re a long way from a complete return to normality, I do at least feel a little closer to being able to return to something resembling pre-2020 life. I’ve been spending a lot less time online this past week or so and my mood has gone up accordingly, which is something I’m going to be continuing in the future. Remember when you could go about your daily life without having to worry about social media and what everybody else was up to and saying at that exact moment? And when you didn’t have to avidly avoid some of your favourite musicians because they’re posting conspiracy bullshit all the time? So yeah, less internet is doing me the world of good.

The follow-up to All Roads Lead to Polesworth is complete and is called Bone Moor. It won’t be out yet but I’ll keep everyone updated on that as and when the news is ready. You can hear a couple of tracks from it and get an idea of the general tone on the latest mix I’ve made for Bricolage, Discarded Analogue Simulations. It contains the following tracks:
Blackhill Transmitter – Obtainable
Luigi Turra & Christopher McFall – tactile.surface
Eivind Aarset – Jukai (Sea of Trees)
Pan Sonic – Maa
Barre Phillips – Mountainscape I
Elegi – Arvesolv
Enofa – Within Sensory Machinery
Current 93 – The Moons at Your Door
Synthi A – Surrounding the Garden is a Fog
Orbital – The Box [Untitled Version 2]
The Cure – The Final Sound
Roddy Woomble – Everyday Sun
Cremation Lily – Immaculacy
Brast Burn – Debon
Second Thought – Village
Krzysztov Orluk – Ozone
36 – Nova
Goldmund – Apalachee
Heads of Agreement – Earth Magnetic
Off Land – Parallels
Nurse With Wound – Nihil
Pietro Riparbelli – Second Day
Nicholas Langley – Golden Hats
Tarkovsky Quartet – Rêve II
Valiska – Lost
Michele Rabbia / Gianluca Petrella / Eivind Aarset – Nimbus
Origamibiro – Armistice Telegraph
The Future Sound of London – Rainy Third St.
Jack Anderton – Gully
Enofa – Receiving Signals
Tangerine Dream – Flute Organ Piece
Steven Hess & Christopher McFall – The Inescapable Fox I
Part-Sub-Merged – Cark
John Surman – Bedruthan Steps
Second Thought – Aqueduct

Ancient Brickwork and Underwater Infrastructure, the two forthcoming albums I mentioned in my last entry, are very much not happening now. Elements of them have been reworked for Bone Moor, but the rest has been scrapped. I realised how easy it is to put out albums that are quite good, only for me to then listen back a couple of years later and disown them because they aren’t up there with my best work. I should strive to make everything as good as possible, and if I don’t genuinely believe that a track is up there with my best work then it shouldn’t be released.

I think one of the issues I’ve had with a lot of this material, and indeed much of my music in the past five years, is the use of computers. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to work on music at my computer without at least some dissatisfaction – it very frequently causing my mood to drop dramatically – and I should probably learn from that. Annoyingly, I currently have no space to set up my all my hardware. So I have some vague plans for the next album but no way to actually work on them. Which means 2021 will probably just be a one-album year.

That said, there’s a new Winter of the World tape in the works, which should be out fairly soon. It’s called Fluvial Lake and will be out on New Motion. Four tracks of textural ambient.

Lately I’ve been listening to Sigrid, Taylor Swift’s two 2020 albums, FSOL, Tangerine Dream and a lot of Guided by Voices. I hope everybody is safe and well! x

4th February 2021

As I’ve spoken about before, I’ve had a fair amount of trouble finishing albums recently. I am very happy to announce that this is no longer the case, and that the wealth of material recorded between the start of 2018 and the start of 2021 is all organised and ready to go. They will form a very loose trilogy of Enofa albums, connected by time of recording, the kaleidoscopic range of styles on each album, and general themes of town and country: these are albums inspired by places I’ve been in my life, rather than imaginary landscapes or romanticised pastoral imagery. The first, All Roads Lead to Polesworth, is out on 5th March on Third Kind (who previously released Seltrac). The second, Ancient Brickwork / Botanical Gardens, will follow a month or so later on New Motion (who previously released Holosphere). The final album is called Underwater Infrastructure, and label details are to follow.

The relief at getting these complete has been enormous, and the completion of the second inherently led to the completion of the third: once I realised that I had the material to make these hugely varied but narratively consistent albums, it all fell into place. You’ll find jungle next to acoustic guitar ambient next to acid techno next to abstract sound collage, and accepting that the albums would be so varied put my mind at peace.

Elsewhere, there are collaborative projects waiting to be released, which I’m hoping will be around at the end of the year. First is an album by Vast Sound Enclosure Project, an ambient techno/IDM project with my long-time collaborator and friend Tim Dwyer, aka Off Land. The fifth Winter of the World album is also complete, entitled Yindeed River, and we’re pitching that to labels right now. The sixth is about two-thirds complete, and will tie up pretty much every listenable morsel in my catalogue. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I now have no electronic material lying around without a suitable home. It’s a blank slate.

And I’m using this opportunity to finally get to work on new Curse of Kevin Carter songs. I have a notebook full of lyric ideas and I’m hoping to get writing in the coming weeks, with a plan to start work on an album in the spring. I’m currently planning to re-record a handful of my favourite tracks I’ve already released lo-fi versions of, as well as these new songs, and get them all recorded and mixed in a much more polished fashion, with the hope of one day in the not-too-distant future (Covid permitting) expanding the project into a proper band that plays some shows and things. It’s something I’ve been planning for 12 years so it’d be nice to actually get around to.

I just got an exercise bike and am hoping to get my body back into better shape over what I’m hoping will be the final months of lockdown. There’s not too much else to report at the minute. Currently listening through a lot of interesting ECM albums, as well as excellent new releases by Lande Hekt and Illuvia.

I hope you’re all well. x

Looking back over 2020.

It’s the two albums I released this year and what they look like.
I: Musically.
When an artist releases an album that is hugely acclaimed, the idea of coming up with a follow-up can be understandably daunting. Turns out this is true for small artists as well as well known ones. My first Enofa album, 2018’s Arboretum, took me by surprise in terms of how well received it was: all 100 copies sold out in a couple of days, it got uniformly great reviews, and ended up on a number of end-of-year lists. Throw in the fact that it was creatively satisfying and, on a technical level, probably my best made album to date, and it was an all-round success.

And then I had no idea what to do next. Between mid-2018 – before it was even released – and early this year, I recorded a LOT of music. Something like six or seven albums’ worth. A number of potential albums were put together out of this material – Skymusyk, The First Day, Großglockner, Skymusyk (a different album), Mono Music, Ellyten, Fluvial Lake, and at least one that never received a title – but ultimately none of them were good enough. Or maybe they were? They didn’t feel like it at the time, at least.

I spent a lot of this year trying to work out what the fuck to do with all this material. Some tracks were ripped apart, and used as the basis for collaborative projects. Others were scrapped. The remaining tracks eventually formed the basis of two albums. The first was called Nerra Ninna Noak, and is pictured above in two CD editions. Despite being released on the same label as Arboretum, and being stylistically similar, it failed to reach the same level of interest as that album. There’s a lesson: never try to repeat the past! It’s got some lovely material on, but to me it feels like what it is: a desperate attempt to fashion an album together when there isn’t enough suitable material. A second album from these sessions, entitled All Roads Lead to Polesworth, will be out next year on Third Kind. It’s all over the place, but at least I really like every track on it!

My other 2020 album was created separately from the rest of it, over a period of a fortnight, when I just sat down with a bunch of samples and knocked a load of stuff out. The best tracks made a great little 38 minute record called Paxanimi. It reminded me that spontaneity is a huge part of my own creativity, and the lack of it played a huge part in the mess that was those two years of constant dead ends.

So in the new year I’m going to start work on the fifth Enofa album, with a certain renewed, refreshed mindset. I don’t have any concrete plans and will let my creativity take me where it wants to go, but I am hoping to make it sound a little more personal than a lot of what I’ve been making lately. Hopefully you’ll be able to hear at least some of that at some point in 2021.

II: Personally.
I won’t deny that it’s been a tough year. The original plans of getting my life back on track – starting to look at moving away and living something resembling a normal life – have obviously been put on hold. It’s a reminder that relying on future plans is inherently daft as 99% of everything that happens to you is out of your control. Still, being forced to stay here was initially utterly devestating. My mental health has gone up and down a lot since then, but despite currently wading through a bout of autistic burnout, I have lately been able to work out some necessary changes that I plan on putting into action in the new year.

I quite like the idea of New Year as a celebration – some people say it’s pointless, but given that so much of our life revolves around the calendar, to me it has a lot more relevance to contemporary life than most holidays – but I’ll be the first to admit that the reason most resolutions go to pot is that people tend to make them because of the time of year, rather than because they have the real desire to change (why put off until tomorrow etc.) That said, the festive period came about as I decided on my changes, so following Christmas, Lucy’s birthday and NYE, new year seems like a wise time to make changes to diet, lifestyle and routine.

I’m overweight. I don’t want to be. Since my weight has risen noticably in the past couple of years, I’ve noticed far more physical problems: aches and pains, stomach problems, generally feeling less fit, a rise in my cholesterol, early symptoms that suggest I could end up diabetic without lifestyle changes. So I’m going to be doing more exercise and eating better. I know can do both of these things because I’ve done them before. So I can do them again. I’m also going to drink less. Not only because of the health benefits, but also because when I drink every I stop actually enjoying the beer and realise I’m just doing it out of habit.

My health will also be helped by changes to overall lifestyle and routine. I stay up too late, while I know that getting up early and taking Rosey out for a long walk always sets my day off to a great start. I spend too much time online, I spend music-making time doing stressful things (scouring for samples, clicking buttons at my computer) rather than playing music for the fun of it. I ALWAYS HAVE TOO MANY THINGS ON THE GO. TV shows I’m watching, albums I’m trying to get into, albums I’m making, books I’m reading, etc., etc., etc. Simplifying my time at home will not only help me keep a clear head and improve my mental health, but it will allow me to spend more time outdoors without worrying about all the things on my mental checklists I could be doing if I stayed at home.

And, expanding on that, I need to buy less music. I’ve said, for several years now, that I reached Peak Music a while ago and no longer feel able to take in everything I try and get into, and this year that’s been worse than ever. There’s not enough time in the year to listen to all the albums I already own, let alone get several new albums a week. I spend so much time and effort these days trying to find new electronic music that I end up listening to five or six times before admitting to myself that it doesn’t do much for me. The number of new electronic artists I’ve got into in the last ten years is about four or five, and all my searching is basically FOMO. I’ll still keep half an ear open for new indie and pop stuff, but frankly I’m a fan of enough active artists to keep me in music for a year as it is. Again, it’s time to slow down. Music should be something I listen to to enjoy, not a cultural race to see how many new and ‘relevant’ artists I can check off in a year.

Maybe because it’s my favourite time of year, but I always do end each year in a really positive frame of mind for the coming twelve months. This time, I think that, were it not for Covid (damn – there was me thinking I could get through this without saying the ‘c’ word!), many of those positives for 2020 would have come around. So here’s to 2021. Maybe in 12 months time I’ll be healthier and happier and moving forward with my life in a more positive way!

2nd November 2020

Paxanimi came out a couple of months ago and has pretty much sold out, I only have a couple of copies myself and the label are all out. Everyone seems to be enjoying it a lot, which is great!

Interestingly, the album is the only collection that’s come purpose-made since I completed Arboretum and Melkur in early 2018. Since then I’ve been working on a lot of material – somewhere in the region of ten hours of stuff has been recorded – but have struggled to work it into any sort of album shape. The first work that came out of this batch was Nerra Ninna Noak, which ties together a particular ambient sound that some of the pieces had. After that, I kept playing around with the remaining tracks, never quite working them into a coherent record. It doesn’t help that the batch of work ranged from jungle to techno to drone and just about everything in between, often with no more than two or three tracks in the same style. In the end, a lot of the material has been repurposed, reworked and remixed and folded into a couple of collaborative projects, including a new Winter of the World album.

A bulk of the remaining material has finally been condensed into an actual album. It’s intentionally very diverse, almost incoherent in style: as there was no way of making a stylistically cohesive album, I’ve instead focused on going the opposite direction and making an all-over-the-place album instead. It’s called All Roads Lead to Polesworth and the tracklisting runs like this:
1. Anti-Entropic Chamber
2. Humbridge
3. Four-Fifths of a Painted Lady
4. 761,200 Horse Town (1994 Version)
5. Don’t Fall Asleep
6. Disintegration Disposition
7. Who’s Got the Houses?
8. The Reappearance of the Disappearing Nail: Part 2
9. Army Itchpit
10. Seaverb
11. Hibernaculum Acid
12. The Boy Who Cried Emergency Exit
13. Foxes Eating Discarded Dog Food
14. Sornpipe
15. The Lost Domain
16. Night Furrow

It’ll be released next year on Third Kind, who put out Seltrac a few years ago. More news on that soon.

Since I compiled that album a couple of months ago, I’ve begun working on new material. It was actually going quite well for a while, until I completed a track called ‘Einstein-Rosen Fridge’. It’s pretty different to anything I’ve worked on before (or certainly since about 2009), and it’s immediately considerably better than almost all the material I’ve worked on in this batch. It’s a strange moment when you realise that tracks you’d been really happy with are suddenly put in stark contrast and sound exceptionally average. Playing this track back, I realised I can do so much better than a lot of those recent pieces. So into the ‘Unreleased’ folder they go, waiting to be remixed, or reworked into collaborative pieces, or simply left until the end of time. There are still two tracks in that folder that I really, really like but just don’t have a home, a couple of epic synth ambient pieces that were recorded for a scrapped tape called Skymusyk that was originally due out last January. I really don’t know what to do with those.

We’re going back into lockdown again later this week – who didn’t see that coming? – which makes comparatively little difference to my day-to-day life at the moment, although obviously the extension of Covid’s dominance over world affairs continues to put my ‘getting my life back on track’ plans on the back burner once again. There’s very little to say about the whole situation that hasn’t been said a hundred thousand times elsewhere online. Recently I’ve been listening to Tangerine Dream and The Divine Comedy (recent excellent boxsets), the two new Autechre albums, Guided by Voices, and Weyes Blood.

I hope everyone’s well. x

16th May 2020

Well, my track-a-day lockdown project didn’t get very far, which usually happens with me. I remember 11 years ago when I started recording Safernoc and was giving blog updates on a daily basis and then disappeared again until the album was finished, eight months later.

Nerra Ninna Noak came out a couple of weeks ago, on the wonderful Time Released Sound. The limited boxset sold out in two days, and the response so far seems very positive. There are still digipaks and downloads available from the TRS Bandcamp. Listening back now, it feels like a step on from Arboretum, more spacious in some ways, more dense in others. Unlike that album, NNN took a lot of moulding and shaping and editing and reworking to get into its final version. It started off as a much weirder sound collage, a touch of the darkness of Melkur with some of my FSOL influence sprinkled on top. Needless to say, the final version is a dramatic improvement and it’s an album I’m enormously happy with.

Speaking of Melkur, I’ve combined both the Borderlands and Enofa editions of that album together on my Bandcamp as I was never entirely comfortable having them separate. The albums are about 50% the same and deserve to be heard side-by-side. Anyone who previously bought the album can re-download and get a copy of both albums.

Despite not continuing with the track-a-day project, I have been working quite a lot on music over the past month or so. The result was, in some ways, the opposite of what I was planning: I’ve basically scrapped the best part of an album’s worth of recordings. The music itself was actually quite good, I think, but the whole thing just didn’t feel right. As I was recording it felt very much like I was covering ground I’d been over multiple times, recorded in exactly the same manner as Myosphere, Holosphere and the forthcoming Paxanimi. I’ve always been fairly open about my need to continually move forward – indeed, it was this that set up the idea of challenging myself to do new things in my abandoned track-a-day project last month – and while the tracks I was working on were great, I didn’t feel like they reflected me now, and I was ultimately left unsatisfied. Indeed, a lot of the work I’ve completed in the past few years has been of a specific type: dense, multi-coloured works with tons going on in them. The music has been full of greens, yellows, reds and other bright colours, with complex patterns and grains in the imagery. I feel somewhat worn out by this approach. I feel like returning to a plainer palette, with washes of greys and dark blues. In hindsight, this exact feeling is something I was beginning to explore on Arboretum and Nerra Ninna Noak, both of which are among my best works and probably the pieces from the last five years of which I am most proud. Coming to this conclusion actually filled me with a feeling of excitement and vitality, the like of which I’ve not had when it comes to my own music for some time, so I feel it’s probably the right decision.

Before all that, however, there is still Paxanimi to deal with, which is currently slated for release in June as a run of 30 cassettes on Doom Chakra. The artwork has been finalised and I believe copies are in the process of being manufactured. Keep an eye on social media for that. It’s one of the dense, multi-coloured works, but still a record I’m very happy with. Once it’s out, it’ll be a bit of a clean slate as I currently have no completed tracks and only a couple of vague sketches moving forward. Whatever approach my next work takes, it won’t be out until next year I imagine.

It’s taken a few weeks, but I’m gradually getting used to the current lockdown situation. The government have eased it this week, and the ‘R’ rate has shot back up again, so I imagine we’ll be back where we were pretty soon. I’m using the time to work through the rather large backlog of books I have (currently ploughing through Tolkien’s Middle Earth books) and revisiting albums I’ve not given enough time to in the past. In particular, Autechre’s work of the last decade. Ae albums always take some time to digest, and one thing or another has prevented me from dedicating the time needed to process the last few, so Exai, elseq and the NTS Sessions in particular have been on my CD player. I also realised, for the first time, just how good Untilted is. Only took 15 years.

I hope everyone is well out there and that you’re all keeping safe! x