Spiritual Friendship – Drones

Seven chakra-inspired drones released weekly from February 1 by Calllm, a new ambient label from Calm + Collect

‘Root’ released today – listen here.

Drones appear throughout the early history of music, across many cultures. They reflect nature’s most elemental hum, the chord that threads its way through creation, said to be the sound of the universe as it stretches out into the infinite unknown. Channelled in Indian spiritual music, through the battlefields of Scotland and on through the minimalism of pioneers like La Monte Young and Phil Niblock, the drone is a universal constant in music, one that instils a sense of vibrating in perfect synchronicity with the energy that surrounds us.

For Spiritual Friendship – the pairing of hip-hop beatmaker and producer Nick Hook (Run The Jewels, 50 Backwoods, Gangsta Boo) and fellow producer and noise maker Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, John Foxx) – the idea of creating a suite of drones was not informed by their own shared spiritualities or an awareness of the transcendent properties these sonic devices possess; instead, it was the electrical hum of a hot tub the pair were sharing one balmy night in Asheville, North Carolina that coincided with a eureka moment from Gareth.

The pair were in Asheville in the summer of 2017 for a week-long residency at the Moog Sound Space. Previous collaborations between the pair had taken place either at Nick’s studio in Brooklyn or Gareth’s studio in London, whereas for what became DRONES they were sharing an apartment together in Asheville, and the experience of being away from each other’s normal equipment proved to be inspiring. They decided to build a fort out of vintage synthesisers in the upstairs performance space at Moog Sound Space and create a number of individual drones, each one representing one of four chakras – the root chakra, the sacral chakra, the heart chakra and the crown chakra.

The project referenced their debut album together (SPIRITUAL FRIENDSHIP, 2016) which comprised base elements of drums, drones, field recordings and sequences. In Asheville they decided they would make a series of albums isolating each of those individual elements. DRONES would be the first to be created, but to date only one of the pieces Nick and Gareth recorded during that week has been officially released (‘Root’, issued on Alternative Medicine as a limited edition cassette in 2018).

Spiritual Friendship (Gareth Jones & Nick Hook) recording Drones, Asheville 2017

“I was pretty scared at first,” admits Nick as he recalls their Asheville sessions. “I’m a wild ADD, hyperactive kid. I didn’t really understand how to do this. Gareth was like, ‘We’ll just set it up and let it breathe,’ and that’s what we did. When I heard all the harmonic interactions that could happen in a single drone, it felt like I was listening to free jazz.” 

“Each of the drones is simple,” adds Gareth. “We chose to honour each of the chakras with a drone note. We didn’t do any deep mystical research into the actual tuning – we just used the conventional scale for the drones. We set up a whole bunch of oscillators from Moog, and we borrowed a rig from Make Noise, who are also based in Asheville. It was important to us that we could fuse equipment from two companies who have been so inspirational to both of us. Just as Nick says, it all interacts with itself, almost as if there’s this gentle swaying between each of the frequencies, and these unexpected rhythms and melodies begin to emerge.” 

The process for each of the new pieces would be the same: they would set up the drone around a particular note, meditate together for fifteen minutes, stand up and then hit record, allowing the ground tone they’d created to evolve and develop. The pieces, typically lasting around 45 minutes, were executed with no conversation between Nick and Gareth. They relied entirely on instinct, and the kind of shared deep listening and non-verbal cues normally the preserve of improvising players as they altered the sound they’d constructed using volume controls and filters. Each piece was created completely live, with no overdubs, each one displaying a commanding resonance and a restless, ever-changing hypnotic energy.

Recording drones, Asheville 2017

“We turned it up as loud as it would go,” recalls Nick. “The guys at Moog were excited to hear their gear being used at very high volumes. They got to hear our drones rumbling and howling for eighty hours that week, while they were downstairs building the modern versions of what we were using upstairs, by hand. It was literally like a farm-to-table ecosystem.” At the end of the week’s residency, after sequestering themselves away in the synthesiser fort they’d built with very little contact with the outside world, the pair invited friends from the Moog and Make Noise workshops into the space for a special final live performance. They would go on to perform further live drone events for friends in Manhattan and a immersive two-and-a-half-hour drone, based around the solar plexus chakra, at 2018’s MoogFest.

To launch the new Calllm ambient label, Nick and Gareth felt it was time to complete the DRONES project with two pieces referencing the remaining chakras – the throat and the third eye. “Pushed by the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, the end of 2020 and a realisation that we hadn’t seen each other physically this year, we decided to create these last two drones remotely,” explains Gareth. Nick created the basis for the third eye chakra and Gareth created the basis for the throat chakra. They then each added to the other’s creation remotely, thus finalising the suite of drone recordings they envisaged in Asheville.

Beginning on February 1 2021, all seven DRONES will be made available as a weekly series of digital releases through Calllm. Each release will be accompanied by a Spiritual Friendship drone performance on YouTube and Twitch accompanied by live watercolour painting by Calm + Collect illustrator Hydriaillustrations and guided meditations from Quazzy.

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2017 drone suite
Root (46:40, C)
Sacral (57:24, D)
Heart (37:00, F#)
Crown (41:49, B)

2018 MoogFest performance
Solar Plexus (2:21:43, E)

2021 drones
Throat (43:39, G)
Third Eye (44:16, A)

DRONES release schedule
All live performances are scheduled for 1100 EST / 1600 GMT

Root – digital release February 1 / live performance February 4
Sacral – digital release February 8 / live performance February 9
Solar Plexus – digital release February 15 / live performance February 16
Heart – digital release February 21 / live performance February 23
Throat – digital release March 1 / live performance March 2
Third Eye – digital release March 8 / live performance March 9
Crown – digital release March 15 / live performance March 16

Spiritual Friendship discography:
Spiritual Friendship (Calm + Collect, 2016)
Drums (Calm + Collect, 2018)

Press release text (c) 2021 Mat Smith for Calm + Collect

Producer Gareth Jones to release debut album ELECTROGENETIC

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GARETH JONES – ELECTROGENETIC

Album released 18th September via Calm + Collect

 

ELECTROGENETIC is the debut album by producer and noise maker Gareth Jones.

Gareth is perhaps best known for adding his distinctive studio technique to albums from Yann Tiersen, Interpol, John Foxx, Erasure, Grizzly Bear, Nick Cave, Depeche Mode and countless others. More recently he has collaborated with Nick Hook in the duo Spiritual Friendship and with Christopher Bono as Nous Alpha. After many years spent in legendary studios in Europe and the US realising other people’s projects, Gareth decided now was the time to record his first solo album.

ELECTROGENETIC is immediately and necessarily personal. Recorded over a year-long period following the passing of his mother and mother-in-law, reflections on life and death hang heavy over the album’s nine pieces. The emotive and stirring ‘Farewell’ and ‘Safe Travels’ were recorded in his mother-in-law’s home in Michigan during a house-clearing visit following her passing; his photograph on the sleeve shows a view from the desk in London where many of the album’s pieces started, containing his late father’s wedding ring and an ankh, a symbol of fortitude that Gareth has been drawn to from his teenage years right through to his recovery from cancer over a decade ago.

Across the record you hear delicate, simple melodies, each one fashioned from lovingly-tuned samples of his mother’s piano that he played as a boy. Here you will also find motifs played on the recorder, an instrument that the infant Gareth learned to play, evoking a sense of youthful innocence, and complementing sections of spoken word.

These naturalistic elements – piano, recorder, voice – sit on top of intense, writhing nests of searching electronics that unfold with an understated forward motion. Those pulsing, criss-crossing patterns acted as the starting point for ELECTROGENETIC’s tracks, which in turn inspired the album’s title. “The name embodies my creative interaction with the machines,” explains Gareth. “These pieces each started with me building a patch with my modular synth. Building a patch is a creative act, but in a way you’re not really in control of what it does. Each time I started a piece the modular gave me back something that I would never have done consciously, or deliberately.”

The process gave Gareth hours of material to work with, which was then edited down into the seamless sequence of far shorter pieces presented on the album, with the other elements added on top. Tellingly, the album’s logical opener, ‘The Beginning’, finds Gareth reading from the Book of Genesis in Wesley’s Chapel in Islington, its familiar creationist text acting less as a statement of religious belief but as an allegory for the creative process that he went through while developing these pieces – namely taking a modular patch that was without form, and transforming it into something exuding brilliant light.

‘Mercury’, the album’s dramatic, yet meditative, centrepiece finds Gareth ruminating on the dualities of life that he is continually drawn to. Here he toys with the idea of Mercury as the Winged Messenger of the ancient Roman religion, while also reminiscing about the thermometers of his youth, the mercury’s rise and fall representing our perpetual ups and downs, of our continually fluctuating emotional states. The piece ends with a poignant ode to Mother Earth, an offering of thanks to the planet we call home, but also an appreciation of the mother figures whose passing fed into the creation of ELECTROGENETIC.

“The record is about death, commemoration, celebration, separation and transition,” reflects Gareth. “I’ve always been conscious of mortality, and of course I’m more and more conscious of that as I get older. I turned 65 last year, and the symbolism of that, plus an appreciation of the ongoing cycle of life, is what informed this album. I wanted to make something that was authentically me, something that was utterly personal yet whose themes would be relatable to everyone. I like to think that’s what I’ve achieved with this album.”

ELECTROGENETIC will be released as a download, stream and limited-edition cassette through Calm + Collect on 18th September 2020.

For more information on ELECTROGENETIC, including Gareth’s notes on each track, visit the album website – electrogenetic.com

Visit Calm + Collect at Bandcamp

Track list:

1. The Beginning
2. Trinity
3. Mercury
4. Michigan
5. Farewell
6. Goonhilly
7. Safe Travels
8. I Believe
9. Alone Together

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(c) 2020 Mat Smith for Calm + Collect