The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

Too Good To Be True: Tom Robinson's Favourite Albums
Lisa Jenkins , August 7th, 2013 07:52

The erstwhile punk frontman and now radio presenter and all-round man of music distils his sprawling record collection down to his 13 finest albums


Grasscut - 1 Inch: ½ Mile
I suppose this is a concept album, but you don’t have to know that to enjoy it. It’s two dudes in glasses with synths standing behind a bank of nameless equipment. Not just synthesisers but Kaoss Pads and weird bits of equipment that you don’t even know what they are. They also pick up a double bass or an electric guitar as the song progresses, and they perform this stuff live, rather than playing to a click-track. They’re firing off things just between the two of them, and they do a projection behind them while it’s going on, so their live shows are really special.

I started playing them as a BBC Introducing Act. I persuaded them to put their stuff up on the BBC Introducing Uploader, even though they were kind of Ninja Tune artists, and invited them to come and play a festival. I was curating at Riverside Studios, and I’d also had them in session, so I’d seen them do it live on stage with the back projection and everything.

Marcus O’Dair is the kind of public face of it. He plays the double bass and the keyboards, but Andrew Phillips is the main writer. He’s also a very successful soundtrack writer and his main living is writing soundtracks for TV and film. But then he does this kind of landscape music. You can link it back to Brian Eno but it’s so much more aggressively innovative and fresh and amazing.

Just listening to the opening track on the first album blows your mind. It’s difficult music. Partly there’s the force of volume. You have the dynamics in a live situation which you don’t have on a record when everything’s compressed, just to get it into the groove. To make it audible in the car stereo when there’s background noise you’ve got much more of a dynamic range and subtlety. You know when there’s a blow of the chorus coming in, and the fuzz synth continuing on the sub-bass frequencies while they sing over the top. It’s great. It’s not like C, F and G, simple triad chords either. It’s very subtle, dense music. It’s just amazing that they pulled off the knack of making it accessible to a live audience so you don’t think they’re wanking off or whatever. There is that kind of self-indulgent thing with electronic music. You think they’re going off on one and pleasuring themselves, but [Grasscut] manage to keep it focused towards the audience where they draw you into this story and pull you through it.