Anthony Child :: The Space Between People and Things (NNA Tapes) LP
Anthony Child :: The Space Between People and Things (NNA Tapes) LP
NNA054: Anthony Child “The Space Between People And Things” LP
NNA is honored to be releasing the latest full-length solo recording from Anthony Child, UK electronic music legend perhaps best known for his forward-thinking techno production as Surgeon. A native of Northamptonshire England, Child has been at the helm as a DJ, writer, and producer of electronic music for nearly 20 years, creating works for reputable labels such as Counterbalance, Tresor, and Downwards. Aside from dancefloor-commanding techno, Anthony has also been creating a private collection of tone-based experimental works over the years, much of which have become the backbone for his latest solo album. “The Space Between People And Things” finds Child revisiting his collection of unreleased experimental studies from the last 16 years, collaging them into an entirely new framework. Using a sound palette reminiscent to his techno works, Child focuses in on the molecules within the sonic textures and frequencies, delicately emphasizing the negative space that surrounds them. These sounds are then intensified to form vast new worlds, enveloping the listener with bright, crystalline detail and clarity. These two side-long pieces seem to exist and not exist simultaneously, filling the listening space as an almost physical presence, to a point where they blend harmoniously with the air that surrounds you. The brainchild of intense focus and exploration, this record serves as an artifact that gives the listener a very personal glimpse into the mind of one of electronic music’s most creative producers. According to Child himself, this record “consists of location recordings, tonal experiments, and thought-forms from many different positions in space and time. It is the sound of the space between people and things.”
Mastered and cut by Lupo at Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin.
Available on: NNA Tapes LP
Techno veteran Surgeon putting out a non-dancefloor release on a tape label, you might argue, is a symptom of our times. But to frame this release as a product of the recent bleed between the dancefloor and the cassette underground would be to do Anthony Child a disservice. The fact is, Childhas never been simply a techno artist. Speaking to LWE he has recounted how his earliest dabblings with tapes date back the mid-80s; some of that material saw the light of day as the Boys, School Showers & Swimming Pools7”, released on Downwards in 2000. The record’s two short tracks are an fascinating window on Child’s pre-techno influences: the crude, surreal collage-structuring of 50s musique concrete, with a disturbing undertow reminiscent of industrial music.
That 7” was, until now, the only solo release Child had put out under his given name (he also uses it for a range of collaborations). The Space Between People and Things gathers together a series of experiments of a similar kind – deploying field recordings and synthetic material in a largely beatless context – but from a later period, spanning from Child’s mid-90s heyday to the present day. It’s a more controlled affair than those early experiments and, obviously, much more technically accomplished. But as far as Child is concerned, we can safely guess, both are part of a continuous whole. “The surface style can easily be distracting to what is going on a few levels deeper,” the producer asserted in that same LWE interview. “For me techno has always been a vessel or carrier wave to transmit other ideas.”
This LP, then, is best viewed as a collection of those very ideas – ones that will be perfectly familiar to Surgeon fans – untethered from a rhythmic framework and allowed to float in free space. Or to put it another way, these two side-length tracks are what happens when you take Child’s brand of dense, clinically precise techno and subtract repetition entirely, leaving only glacial changes in tone and intensity, eery holding patterns and unsettling mechanical drones. There are certainly parallels to be drawn with the abyssal atmospheres of the last Surgeon LP, 2011’s Breaking The Frame – a record which was bookended with beatless sketches. But where that album aspired to the cosmic,The Space Between People And Things operates on a far smaller scale.
As the title suggests, this is interstitial music: ghostly, barely-there. In its best moments, Child cleverly blends field recordings and synthetic material to evoke uncanny, weirdly neutral spaces that sound as if emptied of activity. Partway through side A we are placed in a bland cityscape, populated by hi-pitched sounds that are part cricket-chirrup, part piercing synth tone. Later, periodic washes of white noise – or is that the breaking of waves on a shoreline? – teeter on the threshold between calming and overwhelming. It’s the tautness of these moments, the sense that they hover, unstably, between states, that gives them their affective charge.
Elsewhere, however, that charge is lacking. The first half of side B in particular – a single protracted metallic drone – feels like a studio experiment that never quite achieved lift-off. But the following section, a collection of clean synth tones that perpetually swarm and disperse, sliding teasingly in and out of focus, redeems it. The Space Between People and Things was never going to have the canonical significance of a new Surgeon album – nor is that what it seems to be striving for. But as a footnote in Child’s discography it’s both fascinating and, often, rewarding.
Anthony Child presents his first solo album - outside of his work as Surgeon - in over a decade. As with his turn-of-the-millenium drops on Downwards and FatCat, ('Boys, School Showers & Swimming Pools'; splits with Jansky Noise and Stock, Hausen & Walkman), he uses his birth name to denote his non-dancefloor and texture-based experiments, as he explains that this record "...consists of location recordings, tonal experiments, and thought-forms from many different positions in space and time. It is the sound of the space between people and things." Using a palette of source material created over the last 16 years, Child's music here both exists in and emphasises negative space, favouring bright, visceral dissonance for its physical, kinaesthetic qualities in a sort of inverted harmonic co-action with your surroundings. The album plays through seamlessly, as it would on the original tape edition, ideal to absorb the whole piece properly. Both parts are conducted with glacial patience not normally associated with his techno work, gradually ascending through shimmering polychrome wormhole to ostensibly static microtones and deeply trippy choral voices, to a more dynamic 2nd half collage of diffused field recordings, computer music and electro-acoustic noise. It's by far the most interesting record we've heard from him in years. RIYL Bernard Parmegiani, Hecker & Haswell, EVOL, Emptyset.
Better known as Surgeon, Birmingham DJ and producer Anthony Child has released dozens and dozens of records at the crossroads of minimal techno and dark ambience since he dropped his debut EP on storied electronic record label Downwards in the mid-’90s. On March 5th, Vermont’s NNA Tapes is slated to release a collection of previously unheard music from the UK legend called The Space Between People and Things, and from the sound of this excerpt, which mixes the ominous tolling of bells with white noise tsunamis and some very delicately pattering beats, it’ll probably be a pretty good point of entry to the more headphones-appropriate side of his work. Says Child, “I’ve collected together unreleased material that I’ve recorded between 1996 and the start of 2012, all of it very personal: there was no intention to release any of these when I made them. It consists of tonal experiments, location recordings and thought-forms from many different positions in space and time. It is the sound of the space between people and things.”
As elaborated upon at greater length in this semi-hagiographic article about the rise of Sandwell District, I have often felt that the reason the music of Surgeon and the rest of the Downwards/Sandwell District crew has been so strong is because of their interest in the fringes of the darker side of sound design oriented musics... And thus it is hardly surprising that this camp periodically delves into the creation of the purely abstract/ambient sounds which they so clearly reference on their techno records. In Surgeon's discography, already you will find a handful of remixes that sound more like the death star approaching warp speed than something you might hear at a rave, and way back in "the day" he actually released a handful of excellent live ambient explorations as Anthony Child that I recall as sounding mostly sort of like swarming across a dark glass surface. Now, after a decade-plus of silence from Mr. Childs under his real name, he has presented a record on NNA Tapes that I can honestly say is my favorite thing the man has done in years, and is sort of one my favorite new ambient records in quite a while.
Starting off with some soft, puddling synths that have the vibe of a few of the Chain Reaction records that don't sound like Chain Reaction records, then overlaid/interwoven expertly with intrusive sounds, interesting beeps, and field recordings... Moving through early computer music sounds, meteor shower burnouts, and intergalactic radio traffic at just the right pace to keep the room painted with interesting sounds, this really is an expertly crafted listening experience that may truly open your eyes as to what an "ambient" record can be.
As Surgeon, Anthony Child has been active in the UK techno scene for nearly 20 years, but he's finding a newfound relevance as listeners look back to "industrial techno"'s first wave. His work has always tended, naturally, toward the clinically precise, counterbalancing the sheer power of his raw textures and 10-ton rhythms. This kind of mastery can reach a natural end point, though: on a mix like 2007 Warp exclusive This Is for You Shits, Child wove his own tracks, as Surgeon or in collaboration with Regis as British Murder Boys, into those of contemporaries like Autechre and forerunners like Whitehouse and Throbbing Gristle. Despite the catholic selection, an oppressive uniformity prevailed, making for a listening experience not too far removed from something like Richie Hawtin's similarly masterful but overly consistent Decks, EFX & 909.
Child's latest release is the first under his own name, and further diversifies his recent activities, which have included a return to the British Murder Boys project and Trade, an EBM-leaning collaboration with Blawan. The NNA Tapes release The Space Between People and Things is culled from 16 years' worth of behind-the-scenes electroacoustic experimentation, and breaks from the teleological progression of the projects he's best known for. Untethered from beats, the album's two side-long suites feel intimate, even airy and featureless, though they never settle into a traditionally ambient role. Some of the timbres bear comparison with the harsher end of the Coil discography, but Child's sense of structure (or lack thereof) is all his own. There's something stubbornly individual about these sounds, which metamorphose at will with no hint of narrative. Compared to many tape labels' releases, Child's album—which, atypically, is being released on LP rather than cassette—fails to suggest any reference points. It's guaranteed to make both techno fans and cassette-trolling esotericists scratch their heads, and that's certainly the point.
Even without comparison to Surgeon material, The Space Between People and Thingsdoesn't make a lot of sense: it's too abrasive and disjunctive to be either headphone material or the kind of thing one would put on in the kitchen. Maybe someone could read some dark tarot cards to it. It's not rewarding, at least according to the established value systems of the avant-garde and the techno horde; whether or not that's intentional, it's less of a rebranding effort than an interesting and pointedly disposable piece of marginalia. Perhaps these studies have fed into his main body of work, but more intriguing is the prospect that it's somewhat thoughtless and free-associative, like the slim volume that comes out in the middle of an author's career simply because there's enough interest for even something structureless to exist as long as their stamp is on it. There are miles of droning, acrid synth tapes on the market these days, and a blindfolded taste test wouldn't necessarily reveal qualities to put this album ahead of the pack: it's shit from an old notebook, an effort that's as much about the fact that it can exist as the music contained therein.