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Sonic Router

Sonic Router 025: Bandshell's Bruised & Battered Techno
Oli Marlow , June 13th, 2012 05:34

Previously unknown and very low key producer Bandshell has just signed to Hessle Audio for their latest 12", released this month. He speaks to Sonic Router about the crumbly swung techno of his debut EP, and accompanies it with an excellent mix

As a human being sometimes it can be hard to get motivated. You can get bogged down in the trivial stuff, the day-to-day menial shit that isn’t really urgent but always needs doing. It’s like having the foresight to do the big weekly shop - to plan your week out so you’re ready and prepared is all well and good, but there’s something to be said for staying open and being able to act on a whim. It’s also pretty normal to shun that kind of strict organisation and operate like an outsider.

Truth be told, it’s probably a good thing if what you’re doing doesn’t fit perfectly through the play-doh star-shaped mould of what everyone else is doing. In life and in music, a personality is what helps artists, outfits and record labels forge a reputation for themselves. No one really gets anywhere on the merit of perfectly mimicking something. Look at Alistair McGowan, he’s resigned himself to shaving his head every three months so he can film another run of substandard David Beckham parodies - something I doubt anyone really dreams of when they’re sitting rigid after smoking hot knives through a butchered lemonade bottle in their university halls.

Simply put, individualism goes a long way. When an artist/label is way out there on their own tangent and people start to draw attention to them, it’s likely that slowly you’ll notice people starting to pop up around them, in that once hollow space they inhabited. Whether you can illustrate that kind of influence on a ‘beat map’ style Venn diagram or not doesn’t really matter - imitation remains an issue when you’re trying to consistently remain vital.

There are labels out there that harness their influence incredibly well. Punch Drunk have their own unique geographical agenda rather than a core sound and Ramp Recordings, to a certain extent, has managed to find a unified voice through its unpredictability with records from Cupp Cave filling the space between Dro Carey records nicely. Hyperdub are now positively encouraged at every turn to throw some weird shit into the fire with artists like Samiyam, Laurel Halo or Hype Williams, and smaller labels like Astro:Dynamics and Vlek are slowly carving their own niches that seem to shapeshift and blur with every new release. Maybe it’s just natural to be into (and release) such a wealth of different timbres of music. Or perhaps it’s the overriding influence of a society that’s lived with the internet and its endless tidal ocean of multiple choice for so long now that it’s made our collective attention span scatty and erratic. Or maybe - just maybe - it’s just the sound of music writers using their own personal hang ups about living online as weird justification for their own expanding interests...

Hessle Audio have always been one of those individualistic labels - the irony being the fact that their unique approach is seeded by a collective of three brains – that do things staunchly on their own terms. They release records by their friends and they’re not long winded with it: they don’t play the conventional promo game, choosing instead to leak information out through social networks once the test presses of the records have been approved. And that ties into to what I was fumbling over earlier: the notion of very much existing as your own entity and positioning yourself as a bit of an outsider. I’m not sure that anyone outside of the Hessle nucleus and the core followers of their Rinse FM radio show knew their 21st release was going to be by a little known Northerner called Bandshell, but that’s the sudden appeal of the way they do things. If you’ve not been paying attention for a minute, they’ll calmly reel you back into their way of thinking with a four-track collection of awkwardly jagged techno.

“I sent Ben (UFO) some tunes a couple of years ago, but I’d lost interest with most of what was going on musically with radio shows etc,” Bandshell explains via email, “but late last year I ended up catching one of the Hessle shows on Rinse. Ben was playing some sort of weird, grotty music and I thought it sounded a bit like some of the stuff I was making, so I sent him some tunes and we just went from there.”

What’s really evident when reading that statement onscreen is the flattened honesty of their exchange and the simplified A&R process. Like, I know kids out there who would literally kill someone to have a release on Hessle - but then I’m sure that their instinct to play to the Hessle discography, and make music that they think the label will like, would probably be their downfall. After all, everybody is looking for something that little bit different and with HES021 Bandshell introduces himself as precisely that: something unexpected, something coarse and something strikingly individual.

If you frequented Dubstep Forum four or five years ago, you’d probably recognise the Bandshell name through his copious posting and general thread omnipresence, but in terms of his music, for a lot of old and new users - myself included - these four tracks are his world premiere. 

Introducing himself simply as Angus, Bandshell seems quite self effacing, acknowledging that he’s simultaneously in something of a production slump and blissfully unaware of how his productions might function in a club environment. There’s a real simplicity to his answers, the way he purports to answer the question but only ever gives you enough to do just that. He’s playful, like he’s aware of the occasion, but he comes across a little timid towards it at the same time.

“I don’t like to broadcast stuff too much and I don’t have much of a web presence, musically, so I imagine it does seem to have come out of nowhere,” he agrees when pushed on the surprise factor. “I used to send music to a fair few people but I stopped and only sent stuff to mates for maybe a year or so. I write a lot of music (or used to) and tend to always be chasing the next idea, so I end up writing a lot in a short space of time. All four tunes came together fairly quickly - I usually find the tracks that flow and come out quickly are the best.”

He’s refreshingly unconcerned with club functionality. “I’ve never been to any clubs or raves or anything,” he offers. “I saw Daft Punk in 2007, but that’s as far as my experience of seeing anyone DJ or whatever goes. I’ve never really made music with DJs in mind. It’s not something that occurs to me very often.”]

Listening to his music and reading his words HES021 feels like an alignment of a lot of rougher, sketchier things. It does fit sonically with Hessle’s output to date in that there’s bass and driving percussion and, yeah, ‘Rise ‘Em’ does sound a bit like something Pangaea might make, but the real beauty of the record is in the variation. You get four distinctly different approaches – slow techno through aerated garage and swampy, bitcrushed almost-house - that sound inexplicably linked through their maker. They’re purely and simply a product of him - in the same way that Joe makes tunes that only really sound like Joe, or Pearson Sound makes records that murder club rigs in his flutteringly percussive kind of way, or how Hessle chose to align with Peverelist - a person who finds it impossible to make a tune that sounds at all conventional.

Knowing of Bandshell and having agreed with a high percentage of his taste back in the DSF days, there’s a real element of a shared knowledge to his music. You listen to it and you can hear traces of other producers in the drum patterns; there are bits of other artists in the elemental scratchy noise in the overlying atmosphere, but Bandshell himself is the most important figure: the filter. When you ask him to describe his music, throwing your own overblown adjectives at him, he simply deflects your attention and replies, “I dunno... Bandshell-y?”

That’s kind of the point.

Words: Oli Marlow // Interview: James Balf

DOWNLOAD: Bandshell - Donald Duck's Down At the Navy Blue (Sonic Router Mix #134)

Donkey Kong Country - Underwater Music #1

Actress - Credit Da Edit

MM/KM - Unterwegs Mit Cash Von St. Vinzenz >>

Tapes - Dungeness

Madteo - Scream Seq. 2

Instra:mental - Let's Talk >>

Robert Rental - ACC

Lukid - This Dog Can Run

Nochexxx - Ritalin Love

Zomby - Alothea

Bandshell - Landfill (v2)

Photo by John Sarginson