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Full On Deluge: Nik Void And Alexander Tucker Interviewed
Patrick Clarke , June 21st, 2021 08:37

Ahead of the release of their excellent new LP Sleep Nameless Fear, released exclusively today for tQ subscribers, Nik Void and Alexander Tucker, aka BROOD X CYCLES, discuss their remarkable modular synth collaboration

It was in 2019 that Alexander Tucker (Grumbling Fur, MICROCORPS) went to visit his friend Nik Void (Carter Tutti Void, Factory Floor). The pair had arranged two days’ worth of modular improvisation, the recordings of which have since been sculpted into Sleep Nameless Fear, their transporting new album as BROOD X CYCLES that forms tQ’s Summer Solstice Session, exclusively for subscribers.

When Tucker arrived, the two set up in Void’s studio, linking up their respective modular rigs, as well as his cello and her guitars, syncing up to a single clock to keep themselves to the same BPM. Immediately, the music flowed: monolithic drones, bludgeoning beats, scurrying synths and transfixing noise all swirling into one intense vortex. “We had our backs to one another,” says Void on a video call with Tucker two years on. “It was all about listening hard to what the other was doing.” They kept the volume low. “There was a lot of room to hear what the other was playing,” says Tucker. “It can be interesting to both be off in your own worlds, and I’ve seen people play live like that, but I like it more when there’s some kind of syncopation there. I really like that element of communication. I think you just get better results.”

Void and Tucker spent two days together improvising, without any concerns about shaping their work into an album. They geeked out over gear and threw playful ideas around about how it’d translate live, but ultimately, Void says, “something nice comes out of when you don’t have the pressure of doing a record. It’s a nice crossover of creativity and exists for the sake of existing.” Afterwards, they shelved the recordings while each returned to their prolific work elsewhere. It was only when tQ approached them about releasing something for the Summer Solstice, and with the benefit of a year and a half’s hindsight, that they found themselves taking stock of just how great those sessions really were. “There’s something about these recordings fermenting over a period of time, they can build in strength sometimes when you’re not listening to them all the time,” says Tucker. “You can’t really fiddle or tinker with them too much, they were done and dusted in the moment.”

Revisiting the hours’ worth of recordings, it didn’t take long for them to extract the most potent moments and combine them into the resultant album, the extraordinary BROOD X CYCLES. One aspect of Void’s studio setup is specifically tailored so “you literally plug in and go,” she says. “There’s no faffing around with cabling etc.” On this occasion we individually chose to work with just two stereo outputs meant “it was quite easy to edit,” adds Tucker. “We chopped out the blocks that sounded the best, because sometimes we’d have an hour’s improvisation to distil into a five- or six-minute track. You’re listening for the bit that pricks up your ears the most. Then it’s a form of collage, you’ve got all these great elements, you’ve just got to edit them in the right way, so they form a coherent picture.”

The duo eschewed VOIDCORPS and VOIDTUCKER – names Tucker had scribbled down on the train journey - to give the project its own unique identity, taking BROOD X CYCLES from the mass hatching of billions of cicadas that takes place once every seventeen years; an event that has been plaguing parts of the US recently. “If you’ve ever heard cicadas, it’s such an impressive sound. I was imagining this biblical storm like a buzzing synth, a full on deluge,” says Tucker. “[The title] lends itself to being in your own world with a modular set up, like we mentioned earlier,” adds Void. It’s the ‘our’ that’s most important, for Sleep Nameless Fear is the sound of the combined powers of two genuine greats of the 21st century British underground, working in absolute tandem.

Though they’d not collaborated before, Tucker and Void had long been mutual admirers of one another. Void remembers hearing Grumbling Fur talked about constantly around the North London studio complex where they were based. Tucker recalls an early solo show by Void. “I was completely blown away,” he says. “I think that was the beginning of me getting interested in modular stuff and realising you could use it as a compositional tool instead of just people noodling around with tone generators. I saw Nik, I saw Daniel Miller and I saw Chris Carter and was just like, ‘OK, I totally get it now.'”

It was only in 2014, however, that the two actually met, when Grumbling Fur were booked as DJs for a Factory Floor show. “I’d just come back from work doing specialist decorating all day, smoked a massive joint, jumped on the bus, and was suddenly backstage with loads of people looking at me like, ‘Who the fuck is that?’” He’d recently had his hair cut short, so Void wasn’t sure she recognised him. “I don’t know when I actually became aware it was you, but it was after Factory Floor had played. I think we’d just had a massive bust-up on stage…”

From then on, the two kept bumping into one another - “We were both in the same circle of what was going on in London at the time musically,” says Void – but never found time amid respectively hectic schedules to collaborate. When they eventually carved out those two days in Norfolk, however, it was clear that they were perfectly suited to it. Says Void: “Straight away, it was clear that it was going to work out. We were both interested in the voice, the cello, string influences and guitars. The sounds blended really well. Straight away we were aware that there was some kind of unique sound going on between us. It didn’t matter if we went to a beat oriented track, or a drone track, it sounded like it was in our world.”

Listen closely and you can hear each musician’s half of that remarkable, tightly intertwined sound – Tucker’s hectic skittering and buzzing, Void’s assured pummels and drones “It definitely feels like a real melding of the two,” says Tucker. “One of us would start with the kick, I guess that’s always a good place to start, and then the other one would introduce something from their sounds, then I’d introduce something, we’d assemble the building blocks as we were going, and before we knew it, we had a whole patch circulating between our two setups. We were making sure we were really laminating both our sounds into one big sound.”

It’s a sound that lives up to their imposing combined CVs, and crucially, is a sound we may well hear again. “While my solo work is much more about studio practice, with Alex I think it could exist in a live situation as much as it does a studio situation,” says Void. “I think this is an ongoing thing. We’re excited to put it out on The Quietus because this is the beginning. Now we can meet up and do the next chapter.”

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