Six Of The Best: Seraph | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Seraph is a producer and composer based in the North-East whose sound incorporates elements of wave, post-rock, math-rock and shoegaze. His new six track EP, Veins (released 6th november), is his love letter to some of his biggest musical influences. It takes the listener on a journey through vivid, digital soundscapes filled with hypnotic rhythms and tonal textures; creating an atmospheric ambience that chills and thrills in equal measures. 

We find out more about who this EP pays homage to in Seraph’s six of the best…

When speaking on my musical influences, I’ve always struggled to narrow it down to a few artists/albums in particular. Growing up, I was exposed to a myriad of musical inspiration. I remember my dad first letting me use his iPod Nano when I was 8 years old, discovering all that music at my fingertips blew my mind as a kid; I often cite that experience as the moment I realised that music was going to be a significant part of my life. Beyond that, I continued to be influenced by other experiences in my childhood. Growing up playing games like Halo and Zelda with my brother were also huge sources of musical inspiration, as was the first time I watched Spirited Away and heard the beautiful piano work of Joe Hisaishi. Moments like these became the driving force for me to learn guitar and piano, it felt amazing to have that as a creative outlet during my time at school.

Eventually, I decided to study Music Technology at university, where I quickly became indulged in the world of electronic music. We used to have these optional lectures every Friday which covered different eras in music, these really opened my eyes to the sheer genius of some electronic artists. When setting out to create this EP, I decided I would pay homage to these artists, while focusing on a central theme of nostalgia throughout. Each of the following artists have influenced the creative process of my upcoming EP, Veins.

Emancipator – Soon It Will Be Cold Enough
One of my favourite electronic artists, introduced to me by a friend during university. There was something about the delicate melodies and traditional instrumentation, blended with the electronic chopped-up beats which I immediately loved. It’s fair to say that this is among my favourite albums of all time, each track is perfectly put in place and it makes for an incredibly cohesive listening experience. With the theme of my EP being nostalgia, I felt somewhat compelled to pay homage to Emancipator; it only felt fair, considering this album would play on loop while I worked on my university assignments. The opening track of my EP ‘Symmetry’, would act as a homage to Emancipator, with more of an electronic approach in its production. It felt really liberating in a way, to break away from my usual formula and to instead create something which is a lot more heartfelt from its inspiration. 

Aphex Twin
Probably my favourite artist on this list, and arguably the most influential for my EP. I first discovered Aphex Twin from browsing youtube back when I was 17, however, I’ll admit that it didn’t grab me initially. I think the track I came across that night was from his 2001 album Drukqs, which is known for being one of his more experimental projects. I had a proper dive into the Aphex Twin catalogue during my time at uni, and I was genuinely blown away by the scope of his creativity. From IDM, to Jungle to ambient to piano instrumentals, the guy did it all. What’s kind of ironic in hindsight is how Drukqs grew to become my favourite album of his, just because of the sheer creativity in his ideas. That whole album is a whopping 140 minutes long, which alternates between aggressive IDM and slow piano instrumentals throughout the whole thing. It’s an idea which sounds bizarre on paper and it’s not for everyone, but I genuinely think it works. One track might be 5 minutes of absolute chaos, but once it’s done, you’re treated 2 minutes of piano bliss. Traces of Aphex Twin’s influence can be found in the second track of the Veins EP, ‘Infrared’. I wanted to instill some aggression into this track in particular, the whole melodic structure has an undertone of tension. It’s not until the last minute or so where the aggression comes all out with the hard-hitting breakbeats, this is perhaps where the influence of Aphex Twin shines the most.

Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right To Children
Out of all the artists on this list, Boards of Canada are perhaps the most relevant to the central theme of nostalgia for my EP. The electronic duo exclusively uses analog equipment from decades ago to achieve their signature lofi sound. Where most electronic artists are focused on exploring sounds of the future, Boards of Canada are more concerned with conjuring the sounds of the past. Their debut album ‘Music Has the Right to Children’, consists of warm, hazy synth textures paired up with broken up drum loops to reinforce feelings of nostalgia. They also sampled Sesame Street and Earth, Wind, & Fire in this album, which I always thought was pretty cool. This album has been a pretty big inspiration throughout the creation of this EP, I figured if nostalgia was gonna be a central theme, I might as well learn from the best. The final two tracks on the EP are perhaps where this influence shines the most. With the melodies of these final tracks being more melancholic, I thought the fuzzy synth timbres of Boards of Canada would really drive home those feelings of nostalgia. 

Gustavo Santaolalla – The Last of Us Soundtrack
While not being an electronic artist, the work of Gustavo Santaolalla definitely helped me overcome writer’s block when finishing one track in particular. Both of The Last of Us games have really resonated with me, and Gustavo’s music perfectly complements the various themes explored in those. As someone whose first venture into music was through learning guitar, the use of electric/acoustic guitar in the music of The Last of Us really piqued my interest. Both games are set in a post-apocalyptic United States, where you explore the world which was lost. This also includes walking around abandoned record shops, where the melancholic chords of Gustavo’s guitar gently swell in and out. I always admired how he was able to use the guitar as a texture-based instrument, it made me realise the importance of using ambience within a piece of music. There was a time during the making of this EP where I hit a bit of a roadblock, and the inspiration I got from Gustavo Santaolalla’s music drove me not only to finish one track, but to even write an ambient interlude to follow it. The third track of the EP ‘Wither’, features these sombre guitar chords which swell up in the outro. Initially, I was planning on ending this track with a fade out, but I was tempted to turn those ambient textures into a new track entirely. The outro of Wither then transitions into the fourth track of the EP titled ‘Cinders’, which is an ambient guitar composition that acts as a breather for the whole EP. This is perhaps the most nostalgic track on the EP for me, I’m really happy with the peaceful atmosphere in this track. I even sampled videos of my friends, along with a sample of Ellie from The Last of Us, both of which act as ambience towards the end of the track.

Deftones
I think I first discovered Deftones back in 2011, back when they played at Reading Festival. While I didn’t fully jump into their discography at that time, I remember learning some of their songs on guitar. It wasn’t until I graduated university where I fully explored their catalogue, and found myself captivated by their unique twist on the metal genre. I love how well they’re able to convey feelings of angst, without the need for aggressively distorted guitars. Don’t get me wrong, they definitely have plenty of those heavy guitar riffs, but what’s great about Deftones is that they know when to dial it back. Their shoegaze-esque guitar riffs build a lush atmosphere, which is often juxtaposed with these hard hitting 8-string guitar riffs. Perhaps the best example of this is with their song ‘Rosemary’; the mood is immediately set with this ethereal guitar melody, which is later harmonised with the aggressive, yet minimalist riff of the 8-string guitar. I’ve always found these two extremes in their songwriting to be the best thing about Deftones, and I wanted to replicate some of that in my own music. While the final track of the EP is still very much an electronic piece, I couldn’t help but instill some of my love for Deftones in there. I really wanted to convey a sense of angst to finish the EP off, and it felt like recording a moody guitar riff through my old amplifier was the best way to show my love for Deftones.

Burial
Another brilliant pioneer of electronic music, his influence on the underground music scene cannot be overstated. I was first introduced to Burial’s 2007 album ‘Untrue’ during one of those optional university lectures I mentioned earlier, and I remember downloading it immediately after the lecture had finished. There was just so much to admire with that album; particularly how he made his track ‘Archangel’ from editing together sounds from Metal Gear Solid to resemble hi-hats and snare drums. His soundscapes were always amazing too; I loved the sound of London cityscapes fading in and out of the ambience, they really helped elevate his music to a much more transportive listening experience. I always loved listening to ‘Rival Dealer’ on the bus home from university and getting lost in those soundscapes, it was a big inspiration behind the final track of my EP. I wanted to make sure that the music I was making wasn’t just constant melodies being thrown at the listener, the sound of ambience can be just as impactful when executed effectively in a track. The combination of Burial influenced soundscapes, coupled with the Deftones-esque guitar riff really helped bring the final and title track of my EP together.

 

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