Nestled against the vast open expanse of Joshua Tree’s National Park, Pioneertown’s Pappy & Harriets, is a legendary honky-tonk saloon. This April, electric pioneers Simian Mobile Disco will head into the desert for a very special show presented in conjunction with FYF and with Seattle band Earth supporting. No computers; no racks of gear; just one synth and one sequencer each, a system they have created. They will perform and record their new album ‘Whorl’ live; a never to be repeated experience, and undoubtedly, a particularly memorable party.
Purchase tickets for April 26th event here:
Simian Mobile Disco’s James and Jas have never been ones to follow anyone else’s methods – the title of their last album Unpatterns, say it all about their penchant for reinvention – but for the recording of their new record, they’ve taken William Blake’s advice literally, and created an actual physical, electronic system specifically for its production.
Over the years, as members of the underrated “prog-psychedelic” band Simian, one of the UK’s finest electronic duos Simian Mobile Disco, and individually as esteemed producers for other acts, James and Jas have accumulated mountains of incredible vintage synthesisers and other general sound-making boxes. The sounds of these devices made Unpatterns what it was, but for Whorl they’re putting it all away, denying themselves the almost unlimited freedom they afforded, and limiting themselves to two suitcase-sized boxes each.
“This forces us to commit,” says Jas. “When we record with it, this is the system, and there can be no turning back. When both of us have worked with bands, we’ve always banged on to them about preparing songs before you come into the studio so you can get them done fast and don’t get bogged down in the process once you’re there…”
“…And now we’re giving ourselves a taste of our own medicine!” laughs James. The entire process is going to be open ended and exploratory as they work their way around this new system – until that very moment when they come to record, then they will have to commit 100% to the sounds they are making.
Although keen to stress that this will not be a “Live” album per se – SMD’s last, simply entitled “Live” was a very particular document of one night, and involved a simple straight recording of a show without edits or mixing. This new album will be performed, with all parts separately recorded, allowing them to mix the album in the studio following the gig, to achieve a hybrid of studio and live.
“We want to try blur the boundaries between studio composition and live performance as much as possible,” says Jas. “Anything we record in the studio will essentially just be another ‘take’ of a live performance – the system we’re using has limited ability to save patterns in the sequencer, but nothing like the flexibility of a computer. Live performance and studio composition will be essentially the same, rather than the common method of writing a track on a computer, and then working out ways to perform it live. We’re not slavishly limiting ourselves just to this performance – we’ll be recording numerous takes before hand in the studio, and when we come to mixdown the album, we might well end up using portions of studio takes as well as those recorded in the desert. At the moment the whole project is pretty fluid and there’s no telling where it will be by the time we actually perform!”
And why the new name? James again: “With this new set up, playing our old music will be impossible. Over time we might attempt to replicate some of our previous releases, but starting from scratch with a new sound pallet and way of writing will make them more like cover versions! We wanted to make clear to our fans what this performance and album will be– a set of totally brand new music, which will feature no vocals and no samples”
“We chose Whorl as it both ties in with the visual side of the project we’re developing, and it reflects the process of branching and nesting we’re looking at in the actual music.”