Sonic Router 018: Patience & Progress With Morris Cowan
, February 23rd, 2011 09:40
Our man Oli Marlow sets his sights on the excellent Morris Cowan for this month's Sonic Router
There's definitely a relaxed tone in Adam Taylor's voice as he speaks to me through a crackling Skype line. It's the second time in as many hours I've spoken to the budding producer, with him explaining over a cup of tea the reason for his recent name change from Taylor to Morris Cowan. The double barrelled moniker is the one he's now using for a forthcoming 8 track album on German label Zaubernuss - a sub label of Traum which in itself is an umbrella for labels like Trapez, My Best Friend and Paintwork - and for any other work in the future.
"I was pretty bored of using Taylor. I got sick of it, with it just being my surname and all," he says flatly, musing over the point. "I didn't think it was that much to grab hold of - it didn't really stand out, so I picked my middle names as they're quite unique. Taylor was also being used by a trance DJ in the US, and he comes up in Beatport searches alongside me so, I'll have none of that… I typed Morris Cowan into Google and all I got was, ironically, a tailors in Wales and a garage in Scotland, or something."
Having released three tracks under the Taylor moniker on the Nottingham based Wigflex imprint, which were split across three assorted artist releases which displayed the depth of the pool of core talent that makes up the collective, there can't really be any such confusion once you listen to the music under the new moniker. Taylor's compositions are sprawling 7 minute-plus slices of electronica. Set firmly at the techno tempo, they're extra melodic, working away from the heat and intensity of a dancefloor as well as they do on it. Much like his Wigflex counterpart Hizatron, Taylor crafts a sound set completely his own, setting his kick drums back a little so that the melody draws the focus.
"I usually start with a phrase or a melody - some sort of harmony or a little interplay between a few different synths, like 30 seconds or a minute," he ponders. "Once I've got that laid out I tend to add in the groove and build the beat, gradually making that beat a little bit more complex. It gives me a minute or two of chunks of melody with a general theme through them, and then by that stage I've got four or five minutes of what would be the basis of the melody of the track, so it's a case of adding the beats to all of it and giving it that build up to build down, and the breakdowns and stuff. It's knitting all the bits together."
Working this way seems to pay dividends in the end. There's as much drama in his effecting as there is in the melodic progression - something that really helped his productions stand out from the three other artists on those initial Wigflex singles. Being presented alongside such talented budding producers as Metaphi, Geiom, Hizatron and Shortstuff was never a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination; it gave his tracks a great vehicle and provided a teasing glimpse at the maturity of his compositions.
"Me and Lukas [Spam Chop, the main protagonist behind the Wigflex empire] went to the same school actually, years and years ago," Taylor reveals when pressed on his involvement with the label. "He was in the year above me and during that time at school, you don't really ever cross that generational divide. The only link is like older brothers or sisters - but after school when we were 17, 18 we would stumble across each other at 2am on a dancefloor.
"We were both following similar sorts of dance music and were having a bit more of a general idea about getting a night together. He was doing his regular Wednesday nights at Stone Bar in Nottingham, sort of a hip hop thing with a crew of break dancers, which was a really solid thing. That was a really strong foundation for all the people who were interested in making a bit of music - coming around, and giving records for Lukas to play and suggesting bits and bobs. Over time it really developed as a strong crew of people to get involved with, and that crew acted as a base to push on and say, 'Let's put on our own little night'. I think putting out our own music was the next progression from that. We were all really keen to get into producing and put out our own identity."
With less than a handful of releases to his name so far, Taylor really has done that for himself by creating an album that explores the realms and self imposed boundaries of his sound palette. Forthcoming on the German imprint Zaubernuss, Circa is eight tracks strong and works best as a cohesive listen, benefiting from being given the time to develop and blossom. Harbouring dancefloor-ready tracks like 'Magnetor' and 'Conflate', it's also bookended favourably by the tracks 'Cavern Jive' and 'Flutterby', which, respectively, build up and down ostensibly well. It's an introspective listen, littered with great moments and with several remix projects for other Traum associated artists in the future, as well as with his own material, the label seem just as keen to incubate his musical persona as he is.
"A friend of mine in Barcelona - Miguel, who goes by the name of Mig De Foe - did the first release on Zaubernuss in December; an album called The Stonemaster. I'd been in touch with him for quite a while on Soundcloud. He messaged me and asked if I had any new material as he wanted to put me forward to these guys in Germany. So I loosely agreed to do it and got them together sort of September time, and sent them off to Riley at Traum. He got back to me really quickly, and he was enthusiastic, and it was only at that point that this collection of tracks started to feel like an album really. Up to that point I didn't quite know how they'd sit together, but it feels like it works together as an album now.
"It was more important to the guys in Germany to get the track order right. I saw the benefit of it but it was only after it had been in the order that we agreed that I thought it was very necessary that it all sat together well as a release. People will listen to the album and pick out a track and use it here and there or maybe they would like to put it in a mix, just as I pick out certain tracks for mixes here and there... but yeah, the fact that it can work as an album as well is a bit of a bonus. The tracks on there were made around a two year period so they are Circa/ a time. There's nothing massively that links them together other than they were made in a similar time of my life."
No stranger to musical performance, having performed for years as a guitarist in post-rock trio, Ad Infinitum, supporting bands like Explosions In The Sky, Acid Mothers Temple and Do Make Say Think as they passed through Nottingham, Taylor seems incredibly level headed about his success as well as completely committed to making the best of his run of luck. As willing to enthuse about the work of his friends, local nights in his now native Manchester or the live performance aspect of electronic music he's never an awkward interviewee; he's calm, patient and gentile consistently referencing previous conversations, shared acquaintances and experiences.
"I've promised Lukas an album for a long time," he says, chuckling a little at the thought as the conversation turns to his upcoming material. "I think part of me putting it on the back burner was because I didn't think my profile was really high enough to do it justice, or to do a full CD release on Wigflex justice because it'd be the first CD that Wigflex had put out. I want it to be a big deal. It was sitting there, and I planned to release it and then the stuff in Germany and with Super [the London based label started by Raffertie] took off, and given the name change I wanted to give myself a profile boost."
"Before that I'm trying to get together some stuff do some strong follow up releases with Traum. I'm doing a remix of the first track on my album, 'Cabin Jive', and then passing that on to other remixers as a little follow up a couple of weeks after the album to help boost its impact as well. There's another release with Super, hopefully; I've started a few tracks there so I've got plenty of stuff to work on, there's plenty of opportunity to do it. It's a really good position to be in where everything I'm making is pretty much of interest to someone and it's all getting picked up… but then I'll probably release some different sounding music under the Morris Cowan name in the future. So, for me, it's just about the progression of it."
'Circa' is out on Zaubernuss on March 16
Words: Oli Marlow for Sonic Router
DOWNLOAD: Morris Cowan – Sonic Router Mix #70
- Taylor – 'CMB' [Super]
- Taylor – 'Noob' [On The Edge]
- Morris Cowan – 'Flutterby' [forthcoming Zaubernuss]
- Morris Cowan – 'Sunnyville' [forthcoming Zaubernuss]
- Morris Cowan – 'Magnetor' [forthcoming Zaubernuss]
- Morris Cowan – 'Conflate' [forthcoming Zaubernuss]
- Morris Cowan – 'The Good Ship Fellow' [Connect for Music]
- Thomas Bjerring – 'Ice' (Morris Cowan Remix) [Traum]
- Morris Cowan – 'Afield' [Super]