I was first introduced to the work of Matt Spendlove, aka Spatial, through the jaunty, disco-fuzz EP he contributed to WNCL Recordings in 2013. In contrast, his debut LP, A Music Of Sound Systems, focuses on reduction, texture and inescapably physical low-end frequencies, better in line with the leftfield sound-experiments he has released with labels like Broken20 and Stillcold.
‘291 Anu’ clatters and scrapes across the stereo field, like a radio hovering between stations, while ‘Isotope Scan’ calls to mind the desaturated dub-techno musings of Retina.it’s Resina project. Then there are offerings like ‘Routine Conflict’ which wrestle you into submission with grinding shockwaves of bass and stuttered percussive assaults.
Taken as a whole, Spendlove has crafted a release which moves between ideas with rarely matched ease and confidence, simultaneously paying homage to the history of UK and Caribbean sound system culture. Given this context, we decided to catch up with him to hear about five of his most memorable gigging experiences.
Where I cut my raver teeth. Seminal, a respected nightclub in Gravesend with links to some of dance music’s biggest names. Details are a little hazy but it was a period that started with little genre segregation and lead to the creation of Hardcore and then Jungle. There was a mixture of (now) big names and local crews playing. One of the most memorable was Cyndicut FM - as Essex based pirate from just over the Thames who’s DJ’s played regularly, which I think is still going!
The two clubs that broke techno in London. Intrinsically linked for me as I was a devoted listener to Colin Dale and Colin Faver (RIP) on Kiss FM who ran the seminal Knowledge club at the SW1 in Victoria. Colin Dale’s shows were in two segments: ‘abstrakt dance’ which was the club focused part and ‘outer limits’ which was the abstract & experimental part. Lost, run by stalwart Steve Bicknell, embodied that across their two rooms. It was the first club in London to host artists like Underground Resistance & Jeff Mills in room one while people like Aphex Twin, B12, The Black Dog and the Fat Cat Records crew played room two.
I actually won tickets on Colin Dale’s radio show two months running to attend! It was the first & second ever events, hosted at the Vox in Brixton (I think they’d run a couple of squat parties as Lost previously). I had to get a mates brother to drive me up as I was too young.
The competition question was to name the track that Bicknell produced as Lost - a track called ‘The Gonzo’.
I’d been visiting Cafe OTO from it’s inception and was very honoured to win a commission to produce an event there with some friends. Ghédalia Tazartes still reigns as one of the performers that had most effect on me to this day. His guttural vocalistaions, similar to Tuvan throat singing, produce rich, textured overtones and sit atop of naive electronics and collaged tape loops. A truly original artist and a spine tingling performance. Also supporting that night was Rashad Becker.
In stark contrast with the autodidact we also presented Michel Chion the previous evening, suggested by a filmmaker friend. I was unaware of his work and academic importance with Audio-Vision but a little research led me to his work at the GRM and as a some time assistant to Pierre Schaeffer no less. The considered academic approach to performance was a totally different, mesmerising experience and a masterclass in live, multi channel speaker diffusion via an analog mixing desk.
I’m pretty sure I hadn’t seen Mika Vainio live previously but on the strength of his records alone he was one of my bucket list artists for the festival we produced in 2011. We commissioned a new collaboration between Mika and Bruce Gilbert (from Wire) and the performance didn’t disappoint, although Mika’s sound totally dominated, which was fine by me. That’s not surprising considering his rider detailed the pressure per square inch the sound system must be capable of producing and the KOKO rig was up to the task.
I didn’t know Mika at all, but it was fun hanging out over the festival weekend and it turned out he shared a birthday with my partner which added to festivities - on the same day of the performance!
An incredible musician and a huge personal influence - RIP Mika Vainio.
I decided to revamp my music production setup last year and I wanted the same portable configuration to work as a studio and in a live setting. After collecting the new equipment I locked myself away on an island in the Atlantic and got started. Six weeks later I’d produced the majority of the debut album and the backbone of my live set.
Through the SHAPE network, I was pleased to be invited to Montreal for Mutek and used that as the debut performance. It was incredibly nerve wracking as it was a new setup on a big stage for a very respected event. I’m very happy with how it turned out. The set started with very abstract, but visceral material working it’s way up to be rhythmic and danceable. The room was full by the end and people were into it so that was great! The sound system was immense and the panning I used really moved things around - a couple of well known producer friends asked at the end if it was 5.1 which made me smile. There’s a short video on FACT if you’re curious.
A Music For Sound Systems is available now.