Artist: Gyratory System"There's a museum in Brentford that has a lot of mechanical instruments from the 19th century, piano rolls but also wind-up one man bands, that's the kind of sound I'd like to think we're aiming for," says Dr Andrew Blick, effects trumpet player and producer behind The Sound-Board Breathes, the debut album from Gyratory System. "They're real instruments but played by machines. You get the repetitive, grinding machinery feel, but the things that are being played are actual instruments. It gives a completely different feel from what you'd get from a standard sequencer or digital sound."
Gyratory System gradually emerged from a succession of improvisational trumpet projects and collaborations that led the late John Peel to joke that he was going to have Blick barred from the BBC's Maida Vale studios as he'd featured on so many sessions. In demand for a method of playing trumpet through effects that still remains a rare art (70s, On The Corner-era Miles Davis, fourth world pioneer and Brian Eno co-conspirator Jon Hassell and Andy Diagram, lately known for his work with Pere Ubu's David Thomas, are among Blick's only co-practioners) Blick pursued the Gyratory System project as he developed a recording and production technique he dubs The Process. "The album title "the sound board breathes" is taken from a line in Milton's Paradise Lost," says Blick by way of introducing The Process. "One of the themes in Paradise Lost is the tension between free will and pre-determination. I wasn't trying to put Paradise Lost into musical form or anything as pompous as that, more getting the idea of that conflict, that there's a pre-determined formula and an improvised element." Aside from the pages of l7th Century literature, Blick explains the inner workings of The Process. "We have a different formula for each track we do. It might be taken from serialist classical composers who take ideas from a formula, or minimalist composers like Steve Reich where they have set patterns for notes. There's also composers called the Spectralists, who actually analyse different frequencies that they can combine together to create individual sounds.
"We combine all that to create a backing track, and that's the pre-determined element to it," Blick continues. In the studio, Gyratory System collaborators (including Blick's father Robin on a range of woodwind instruments) then begin to improvise over this fixed core. "The idea is that we combine these structural elements with random, freer elements. Having created this backing track, we get people to play on top of it, but it has to come from improvising rather than a set arc."
Gyratory System sit on a chrome orb contemplating from a distance those outside the modern classical realm who've influenced The Process. So that's Kosmische, groups from the post punk era who explored textures from around the globe rather than focusing on abrasive nihilism (23 Skidoo and A Certain Ratio) as well as more contemporary twists of Caribou, Holy Fuck, Kieran Hebden and his Four Tet work, along with Animal Collective "for what they do with live instruments where you can't tell what the instruments are".
Yet out of this mysterious birth comes tracks that are as suited to a dancefloor as they are the world of the contemporary avant-garde. Their motorik brass and woodwind counterblast to indifference has let the tongues of the blog world wagging, with 20jazzfunkgreats particular supporters, saying ‘we pace in confinement with a dippy feelings grin in our lips, this is the off one's feed of shit that keeps us going'. RCRD LBL praised Gyratory System for their "infinite aural comfort. Four-to-the-floor but oddly unhinged.the light-year become bored with relic of an general area marching band”. In the realm of the typeface impacting on paper, Vice have called Gyratory System "Liquid ecstasy”, while NME compared Barons Court Turret to Kraftwerk, The Normal and Art Of Noise while describing it as "lurchy, lovely thing."
And finally, what of these evocative names, these turrets, splurge guns, Sea Containers Houses, and Holloway Roads? "There's a big geographical influence," says Blick "I spend quite a lot of time getting titles that match with tracks, because if you're doing instrumental music the only words you've got are the titles. A lot of it is about London, places that wouldn't normally get mentioned. If you go to the end of the Piccadilly Line platform at Baron's Court there's a funny building that has a strange, turret-like roof. I've spent a lot of time at Baron's Court looking at that." One imagines Dr Blick standing on the platform as he makes his way to Parliament to take up his day job as an expert on the democratic process and the author of the tome How To Go To War, The Process whirring inside his head in a quest for more of Gyratory System's sublime fanfares for the uncommon mechanical.