f5point6 – The Shuttle Leaves at Midnight – See Blue Audio

Art for me is sometimes about what happens next. Not so much what you see in a given moment captured but what story unfolds in the next frame. The unseen, the unknown. Whether that is getting lost inside a conceived picture or photograph or being subsumed by pieces of music it remains about the excitement of creative, future thinking. Not slightly sad nostalgic reflection. So welcome back R. Cleveland Aaron with his next chapter of works coupling the suggestive depth of the cover Art together with fragments and impressions left in the wake of further sonic explorations. Remaining true to organic form while of course tantalising you with the unexpected via a whir of electricity pulsing with abundant emotion. If you listen closely enough you can hear the voices talking to you.

The Shuttle Leaves at Midnight escapes the stranglehold of the recent past in a blur. You also get the idea that a more utopian/ dystopian vision is being sought, one that encompasses a sense of sci-fi dreaming amid a breathless wonder of the human spirit. Midnight expressed.

Release: November 26

https://www.seeblueaudio.com
https://f5point6.bandcamp.com

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Simon McCorry – Flow – See Blue Audio

Pressing play at first seems like a perfectly natural thing to do but as you are drawn deeper into the mind-set of Flow 01 things start to feel strange and uneven. Like floating in space or in the depths of an ocean the sounds surround your psyche, feeding back, supporting and reassuring you like a long lost friend, albeit a slightly odd one. The unconventional is course to be celebrated as Simon McCorry’s breathless story telling across Flow, spanning the numbers from 01 to 05, criss-crosses senses and sensualities in an ever increasingly wondrous nature. Blissful, serene and yet broken at the edges to reveal something unseen, blending codes and coda the final realisation is that time slips away from grasp, sometimes gently while at others not so. It is the quick succession of emotions turning upside down, perhaps even inside out that provides the key to it all. In other words it’s kind of like breathing….

Release: September 10
buy https://simonmccorry.bandcamp.com/album/flow
https://www.seeblueaudio.com

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Steve Hadfield – See the World Anew Vol. 1 – See Blue Audio

I’m at a loss for words which isn’t perhaps surprising as music is about feeling. Steve Hadfield’s new long player for See Blue Audio is typically emotional in any case so that doesn’t cause too much concern. As sounds unfold telling their own story so does the human response to it all and by the time the second number, Ascension hits you are most likely in love with it all, albeit in remotely melancholy ways that seem to define human existence just as the joy of happiness does. Leading us neatly onto the title itself, the self-explanatory positivity contained within See the World Anew which just like life the ever evolving story is about contrasts charting the enviable moods and swings of to and fro. Take, Detached for example and its cosmically tuned funkiness in the shape of drifting percussion alongside soulfully charged chords that is as celebratory as it’s slightly disconcerting. Followed by the introspective chime of Orbit, surrounded by the final dark edges of Gravity suggesting there is more than at first there may seem. Which neatly captures the hidden essence of Steve Hadfield’s wonderfully sonic Art.

Release: August 27
https://www.seeblueaudio.com

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f5point6 – KaleidoSound: Time, Shape & Space Vol. 2 – See Blue Audio

The completing piece of R.Cleveland Aaron’s journey into the jigsaw of sound doesn’t feel like a conclusion. More like an old friend departing to find something else to do. I will miss these oddly tempting escapes into unknown territory as you never know who, what or where is going to happen or occur next in the process. Perhaps the dissolving tones of The Promise of Endless Possibilities says it all? Or maybe the caustic intention of It’s Perfect Here clashes more with a sense of acceptability. Or then again maybe it’s the breathless whisper suggested within the hidden drumming of Disconnect – Connect – Disconnect that hints towards answers? Either way the brilliant uplifting, reassurance of Speriamo further contrasts expectation. At this point in proceedings I know as little or as much as you do. Except to say that perhaps all along the whir of electrical impulse fuelling all of this has as much to do with bearing witness to urban decay as it does celebrating the architecture of being. Whatever next?

Release: May 21
buy https://f5point6.bandcamp.com/album/kaleidosound-time-shape-space-vol-2
https://onemanandhispen.com

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Simon McCorry – Nature in Nature – See Blue Audio

Is it possible to overanalyse sound? Does that detach yourself from a more pure response to what you are hearing? Casting aside the thought for a moment Simon McCorry’s series of productions for this release each redefine the art of listening as layers of subsequent suggestion build upon, while sometimes tearing apart, what has gone before creating an unknown, uncertain quality. Background Thermal Radiation does precisely that by initially greeting you with warm envelopes of sound which are then pushed aside replaced by a grainier, more caustic resolution. Nature in Nature is perhaps more self-explanatory and again sequences notions of what is beautiful together with a contrasting edge like everything feels unsettled, which after all it is. Prometheus then opens out its reach into cosmic reality unbending, while Entanglement completes with over eight minutes of intense manufacture. Looping shimmering keys, offsetting its own pulse and then correcting it a cascade of otherworldly, spectacular imaginations leave you at the point of no return as you ponder exactly how to think about it all.

Release: January 29

buy https://simonmccorry.bandcamp.com/album/nature-in-nature-ep

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f5point6 – KaleidoSound Time, Shape & Space Vol. 1 – See Blue Audio

Listening to KaleidoSound is like watching time and space unravel into the ether of expectation. A strangely beguiling yet wonderful explanation of the fusion of particles floating, charging throughout the airwaves as elements reach into the darkness, grasping at the light, acting very much like the damaged reflection of this year. That holy/ unholy alliance is all the more evident on this latest selection of pieces evoked from the mind of R. Cleveland Aaron, who again hints that he may be in possession of some knowledge which the rest of us don’t. I’ll avoid the word cinematic as this isn’t. It is much more picturesque that that, much more blissfully explosive. Much more in a place of its own definition, breathing outside of most else classified loosely as Ambience, or that music which revolves around the sound of itself. Listen to the exquisite Tetrahedron of Forever (co-created with producer Elliott Ferguson) and its temptation of undulating rhythms generated greedily by emotionally intense electronics, leaving you to dangle somewhere in-between joy and pain, while its final breath of synthesized sound is further realised as a brutally exciting experience. Equally this is about divergence too and there is a homely, serene feel like warm water to Gradualism. Next, the pulse of drumming (Detroit traversing Düsseldorf) ads yet another piece of the jigsaw on this occasion to Hexapod. And by the time you end up at the completing Where to Next you are left with you are left with a complexity of questions answered.

Release: December 11

Bandcamp pre-order: https://bit.ly/3laqBYU

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Steve Hadfield – Displacement Activity Vol. 3 – See Blue Audio

The third instalment in the series of timely disruptions from Steve Hadfield reflects the time we live in as all good Art could and should. Saying something without the use of words may seem daunting but in the hands of creative minds that doesn’t seem to be a barrier to good intention, much as is the case on Vol.3. Where this album continues the theme from previous editions is in its evolution of musical attainment, encompassing grainy ambient resolution alongside a flair of warmer, more expectant instrumentation playing out as a prospect of hope, listen to the captivating Blossom Is a Vector. You may well prefer the melancholy, introspective swathes on offer such as the opening Refection or the more brutal landscapes found at Liminal Night Feeds but listening as a whole you can’t escape the feeling of expanding ideas plus forward motion. Which of course leads onto the exciting prospect of a number 4.

Release: November 6

https://stevehadfield.bandcamp.com/album/displacement-activity-vol-3

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f5point6 – KaleidoSound: Time, Space & Frequencies Vol. 2 – See Blue Audio

I was listening to a discussion on the nature of Art and it was said that artists reflect the times around them. I think creators of note do, while others repeat the past under the guise of authenticity. I want to listen to music that informs emotionally, sonically and politically – the personal is political, or is that the other way round. R. Cleveland Aaron’s latest collection of sounds and ideas do all three by enhancing the blue in the sky outside, just as much as they compress space to be viewed through the lens of an inner soul. The concept began by Volume one is now furthered on the location of this second release, guided by a series of intermissions before each setting is explored via the breadth of detail. Perhaps most intriguing of all is Stella Marina which remodels the flair of drums into another world of music. Followed by the free flow of improvisational [Outro – The Beginning and the End] which is likewise uniquely precise and supremely captivating.

Release: September 25

buy https://f5point6.bandcamp.com/album/kaleidosound-time-space-frequencies-vol-2

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f5point6 – KaleidoSound: Time, Space & Frequencies Vol. 1 – See Blue Audio

Following hot on the heels of R. Cleveland Aaron’s astute debut is this expansion of terrain moving through time and motion in brisk, provocative fashion. As with the former collection of music these soundscapes charge your mind with a series of images creating imaginary solutions to electric situations. And again this can be equally unsettling, equally serene. Likewise you still feel that what you are experiencing has an innately unique quality like these sounds exist only here. The compositions are deliciously intense such as on the drone infused, yet warm embrace of [Intermission 2] while the final collective tones of Theory of Change Pt 1 propose a probing fiction of science. Otherworldly qualities remain yet fractures and the spaces in-between suggest an infinity of musical wealth which Cleveland has opened up, and will continue to do so for some time to come.

Release: July 3

https://f5point6.bandcamp.com/album/kaleidosound-time-space-frequencies-vol-1

https://youtu.be/NEv3pn_eEcY
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Steve Hadfield Q&A

Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Steve. Can you talk us through your musical journey beginning with the sounds which first inspired you, until now and the music you currently produce?

Like many people, I got into ‘alternative’ electronic music via Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ when I was 16, which opened my ears to Warp Records and beyond. Some of those early forays really baffled my ears – I remember finding Autechre’s ‘Amber’ incomprehensible at first, but it’s now one of my comfort albums when I need headspace. At that time I was making really naff dance music using eJay and it was only after university that I started properly exploring more abstract electronica and ambient. It took 10 years of dipping in and out of composing to find a sound I was actually happy with – I pretty much gave up for a few years until we bought our first house which has a lovely attic space, and then suddenly everything seemed to click into place.

In terms of influences my sound is all over the place! I’m really interested in artists who blur the line between rhythm and melody – on the ambient side, the Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto collaborations are my biggest inspiration, alongside folks like Biosphere and Susumu Yokota where they’re notionally ambient records are often full of percussive elements.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdI1stk6oQI

Displacement Activity Vol. 2 has just been released on See Blue Audio. How did your relationship with the label come about?

I got to know Matthew, who runs the label, via Thomas Ragsdale who I plucked up the courage to go and chat with after he opened for Haiku Salut a couple of years back. One of the lovely things over the last couple of years has been getting to know folks in the indie electronica scene, particularly in the north of England. Everyone is really lovely and like-minded! I really liked the first release on See Blue Audio by Gabriel Slick and it seemed like a great fit for my more ‘contemplative’ work.

buy https://stevehadfield.bandcamp.com/album/displacement-activity-vol-2

Tell us about the cover photograph and what the location means to you?

The cover photograph is a bay near Belfast and it’s by Matthew so I can’t take any credit. I really like the aesthetic and how the images of the sea tie the label’s releases together but I can’t claim a personal connection to that particular location!

Can you talk us through how you produced one of the tracks from the album, including any favourite software/ hardware you use?

Everything I produce is in FL Studio using virtual software and a midi keyboard – I’m intrigued by hardware but also slightly intimidated by it! The closing track, ‘It’s All I Ever Had’ makes heavy use of probably my two favourite bits of effects software, Crystallizer by Soundtoys and Fabfilter Saturn, and one of my favourite synths, Sakura, which models string instruments. The basis of the track is a fairly mournful, simple piano melody (I can play it, so it has to be simple!), which gets gradually pulled apart and reconfigured through the effects. Crystallizer splices out snippets of the piano and then reverses them before playing them back and then cutting them up further, while Saturn distorts the results more and more as the track progresses before the entire thing is bitcrushed into nothing. A lot of my composing is done in snatched moments or (prior to covid) while travelling for work, so I often find myself without a keyboard and constrained to contorting, dismantling, and reconfiguring whatever melodies I have to hand into slowly evolving soundscapes.

https://soundcloud.com/seditiondjs/displacement-activity-vol-2-preview-steve-hadfield

What inspires you most: sounds, words or images? And who are your most important influences from each of those fields?

Sounds and concepts are what inspire me. I remember reading an interview with Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) once who said he often started his compositions from a real or imagined scene, almost like a movie set. I love that idea, but my mind’s eye is bordeline non-functional! My wife always finds it really strange that I don’t ‘see’ the characters and places in books in my head as I read – I love reading, I just… conceptualise it rather than see it in my head. The two Displacement Activity volumes to date were composed while my wife was pregnant with our first baby (who is about to have her first birthday!) and I was thinking a lot about how our baby was experiencing our world from this totally different perspective as she developed. That’s really the core theme of the music – this idea of looking back in on where we are from a different perspective, hence the title, ‘Displacement Activity’, which is taken (as are quite a few titles from my back-catalogue!) from my main source of word-based inspiration, the science fiction works of Iain M Banks.

You have also recently released a solo album, Unreality for the label you co-founded (Disintegration State) which sees you explore other avenues of music. How do you feel about the way nostalgia works in music and about the current creative state of play in electronic production?

Most of my output on Disintegration State, including ‘Unreality’, is the product of a nostalgia for a past I didn’t experience. My favourite period of electronic music is the mid-to-late 90s when there was such a pervading sense of playfulness in the work of folks like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Wagon Christ, mu-ziq, Plaid, and so on. I only discovered that music a decade after its heyday and now I’m finally making that music another 10 or so years after that! Maybe its time will come for a retrowave-style re-imagining and I’ll be ahead of the curve… The creative state of electronic music is both inspiring and overwhelming – I feel like I could fill my entire listening time with new releases from folks I know in the northern UK scene alone! It’s saturated, but the output is of such high quality that it seems churlish to complain!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyX1rRY5ffc

How do you think music culture, and more broadly the nature of society, will change as result of Covid-19?

I worry for the music industry at most levels. As we all know, touring is hugely important for so many artists given what streaming has done to sales. I hope that it inspires people to support local artists and venues when they have the opportunity again – we’re already seeing the indie scene come together through events like the Bandcamp Days, fundraising compilations, and the like. I suppose I hope that folks outside of the bubble learn more about what music needs in order for to be financially viable outside of the upper echelons. It’s hard to imagine any sizeable events will be happening in the short-term, and I’m missing live music massively!

More generally, this situation highlights inequalities in society which should have been apparent to many more people for a long time now. It’s interesting and saddening that the real spark for outrage in the UK has not been the tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths, but the notion that one political figure in particular has flouted lockdown rules and is not being punished. People who have only ever known relative privilege are suddenly being confronted by the truth that their lives and liberties are, and always have been, less important than those who have the most privilege and power. I really hope that this breeds a degree of empathy to the plights of the less fortunate – the front-line workers, immigrants, and those who face institutional discrimination. The only good that can come from this is that it shifts us closer to real positive change. I’ll get off my soapbox now!

More generally, how do you feel about the way electronic music is supported/ nurtured in the music press? What are your thoughts on Streaming from an artist’s perspective, and about the way people now connect through ‘social media’?

I think the more ‘niche’ coverage is excellent and heartwarming – sites like your own inject so much passion into covering music that they love, ranging from the stars of our scene down to, well, folks like me! Similarly, podcasters and local radio shows like Monday Graveyard or Kites & Pylons are helping to pull together this lovely community. Folks like that are putting huge effort into curation and description and it’s wonderful to see. On the flipside, there feels like there is something more gatekeeper-like about some of the bigger players, perhaps tying in with an emphasis on club culture and the need to be a DJ, not just a producer. I occasionally think the surest sign I’ve ‘made it’ would be if someone felt it was worth their time to write a negative review of my work!

Streaming is a tricky topic to unpack… I genuinely don’t think that Disintegration State would have made headway as a label without the low barrier to entry that something like Spotify provides for a listener. Of course, I write from a position of privilege here where music is a ‘hobby’ rather than something I am trying to make a career of. The distribution of revenue is all wrong, and it feels like there’s a need for collective action to redress that imbalance

Social media is probably my single most important ‘tool’ as an artist. It helps connect the electronica scenes, both locally and globally. I particularly like Twitter and interacting with similar artists and listeners – it helps that everyone seems pretty like-minded given the capacity for toxicity on that medium!

https://soundcloud.com/seditiondjs/displacement-activity-vol-1-preview-steve-hadfield

And finally. Can you tell us about any forthcoming plans you have?

I have so many plans! The huge change in my life has been working out how to balance parenthood with work, other relationships, music, and climbing (my other main passion). I’ve been ‘field recording’ our daughter since she was born and have a nearly-finished album based around samples of her… I think it’s enjoyable alongside the novelty value but I’ve lost all sense of perspective really! I’m working on volume 3 for Displacement Activity alongside some more classic electronica for Disintegration State, then I’d like to explore some more glacial ambience where I resist the urge to add percussion… My musical plans tend to evolve against my will though, so who knows what any of it will sound like in the end!

https://disintegrationstate.bandcamp.com

https://twitter.com/Steve_Had_Music

https://www.instagram.com/climbingandmusicandmisc

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