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

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Maker of weird and wonderful soundscapes (and visuals), thatwhichcrawls, releases the digi-psych delight that is the new EP, Hardworker (available here). Armed with a modular synth and taking inspiration from experimental artists like Bjork, Arca, Coil, as well as hip hop and early 00s computer games, thatwhichcrawls aims to make music which is harmonic and organic sounding but with industrial music production. Here, he gives us his six of the best…

I am very excited to share my music with you, but in truth, to look only at the music that influences me not mention half of my influences. I am also a painter, a digital artist and writer, I have made films, and I currently have a few fashion items released in collaboration with the Reticule Project. thatwhichcrawls is a multimedia project, and so it is only suitable to look at all types of influences. 

As for the music, I want to thank my mum for always playing the best music from the 60s and 70s, and my older brothers for opening my musical horizons, even if I didn’t appreciate their taste for a long time. So let’s get into it.

Elysia Crampton Presents: Demon City
I have been wondering recently about what artists my music could be categorised alongside. I listen widely, from neo-soul to English folk, Outkast to Arca, but I don’t feel like my music is very similar to a lot of the musicians I like the most. I have however found a parallel between my work and the amazing stuff that Elysia Crampton puts out. My favourite record by her, Demon City, is incredibly dense, dark, and bursting with inventive textures, samples and hooks. While personally I often worry that I can make my tracks too dense or experiment too much with overlapping textures, I am encouraged by how Crampton pulls off these rich and even messy arrangements. She also flips samples in these off-the-wall, expressive ways that I wish I could do more in my own work. On “Esposas 2013,” she even makes an air horn sound uplifting. But the highlight of the EP for me is Dummy Track, where she matches rhythmic loops of evil laughter with metallic percussion to create a terrifying and perfect 3 and a half minutes of dark ritual magic.

Matthias Grünewald – Temptation of St Anthony
This may be my favourite painting. I have always been a fan of the inventiveness of medieval painting, how the artists could come up with unique styles and solutions to problems before rules about perspective and composition became more formalised in the Renaissance. This is the reason that a lot of medieval paintings seem surprisingly modern. Grünewald seems like the result of all of this inventiveness, his paintings predicting expressionism and psychedelia. The Temptation of St Anthony is a raucous affair, as the saint in question is assaulted on all sides by demons. Not the horned and winged people of our current culture, but a menagerie of ugly yet cute gremlins that you would not be surprised to see in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal. The monsters in this painting are how I imagine monsters teeming along to my music or featuring in my visual art, somewhere between human and animal, naughty, a bit gross. Yes, they can be horrifying, sometimes adorable, but most importantly they are fundamentally weird. 

Klonoa 2
I rediscovered this rare video game from 2001 about a year ago, after 16 years of not thinking about it once. I was surprised at how much of an emotional reaction I had to it, which makes me wonder if it has been swimming around my subconscious since I was 6. The game is a 3D platformer, similar to Sonic or Mario at first glance, but Klonoa has this air of strangeness to it which came from the period. Everything is super flat and in block colours, with floating cats, whippet-like robots and extended “snowboarding” sequences (At one point you ride on a flying manta ray). The entire game carries a comforting yet feverish air, as the characters chatter in high pitch made up language. The Protagonist’s sidekick Popka encapsulates the mood of the game, looking like an orange sci-fi balloon dog, strangely humanoid, with big green eyes, where he sports criss cross lines instead of pupils. There is not really anything like it, which explains how it has gained such a cult following.

I only just discovered this brand of jewellery, and I am not usually someone to show much interest in earrings and such, but this one is an exception. Their collection includes jewellery inspired by cyber aesthetics – similar to what you would see Bjork in the 90s wearing (cyber green zircons and brushed steel for example)-  and a lot of beautiful resin pieces which are simultaneously gooey, futuristic, bodily, and antique. There is also jewellery that goes around your head and under your cheekbones so that you can look like an android. I just hope that one day I will be able to afford it.

The Seventh Seal
Recently I had the pleasure of re-watching the beautiful Ingmar Bergman film, The Seventh Seal, a film following a medieval knight returning to Europe after a Crusade, trying to escape Death by challenging him to a game of chess. Meanwhile, the country is gripped by the Black Death. I realise how grim and heavy this makes the film sound, and it really does not feel that way. In fact, I was surprised when I saw it again that it was in black and white, as the imagery is so vivid and full of life that I remembered the scenes in colour. There is also a lot of humour in the film, with the knight’s world weary squire offering up dirty songs and sarcastic asides, and a troupe of actors and acrobats performing nonsense songs and recounting wondrous visions. Bergman manages to avoid a depressing testament to existential dread to instead create a film that feels like an ode to life.

Modular synthesis
My tool of choice for creating music, the modular synthesiser is a unique thing. For one, it is not an exact entity, being made up of multiple separate electrical modules which have no connection to each other until you patch a wire between them. Instead it is an organic instrument which the player builds through the process of playing. The conventional synthesiser is built to be instantly playable, pre-wired, and with each element of the electronics connected to the next with relatively little flexibility. The modular, however, is always open to be rearranged and connected in new ways, leading the player to create sounds which would be very hard to come across using traditional means. What also fascinates me when playing the modular synth is that it almost possesses its own life, since you are essentially building an analogue computer to carry out musical functions. When a modular synth is patched, it can often play itself, and when it is being patched, it often surprises me; all of which makes it feel less like an instrument in the usual meaning of the word, but like a co-composer, or co-player, as well.

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