By the sounds of it, you might not recognise the productions of Simon Unwin, aka Hence Therefore, from one project to the next. In a dusty pub near Liverpool Street earlier this year he mused on writing the soundtrack to a queer production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, exploring the world of pop music under the name Simon Unwound and playing in a Fugazi inspired rock group with 3BS Records founder Jon Papert. “I put an ad in the street press” he begins when asked to expand on the latter. “I think it was something like ‘we need a drummer, we like Fugazi’ kind of thing… That was back in 2009. So we’ve known each other since then and been really good mates ever since. We lived together for a few years too. I guess I had listened to some electronic music before we started living together but he got really deeply into it. About the time I met Jon I was interested in trying to make electronic music and I started messing around with keyboards and stuff. That was like 6-7 years ago: it’s only now got to a point where I feel like I’m any good at it.”
His recent cassette, ‘Machine For Destroying Value’ saw its release through Papert’s 3BS, presenting a tapestry of faded percussive loops, gritten synth work and mournful ambience. Although the material may sound painstakingly arranged, according to Unwin, much of the release stems from live recordings. “I have no patience for software” he begins. “I just get so dizzy you know? I could do literally anything with this and it’s too much! About half the EP is live. I have a Korg Poly 800. My brother’s a teacher and he found it at his school. It was going to be thrown out so he gave it to me. I use that sometimes, but I’m trying to stick to just using vocals for Hence Therefore because I love singing and it’s much more expressive. If you’re running it through all this hardware too you can really explore where the human voice starts to sound inhuman. Where does it turn into a percussive instrument, or where does it start to sound creepy? That sort of uncanny valley of the human voice is rich.”
Aside from the EP’s mature tonal palette, Unwin has also been at pains to present a release which expresses something reflective of his own experiences and politics. “The EP is about the way that capitalism makes particular places or environments feel really nightmarish and strange”, he divulges when asked to explain the EPs context further. “The title, ‘Machine for Destroying Value’ is a quote from a Francis Spufford book about the Soviet Union called Red Plenty. I asked my friend Lizzie to do the cover art, which is of a giant coal mining machine in Germany I think. I guess the irony is here’s this machine that’s mining a very commercially profitable commodity but its actually destroying something else which is more valuable. If it’s about anything its about that: that idea of being alienated by capitalism.
“In Sydney in the Autumn it just rains all the time. A bunch of the buses in Sydney have got these huge ads on them. They’re printed in this sort of gauzy way so you can ostensibly see out the window still, but when it’s raining heavily, the effect is that you basically can’t see out the window. You can’t see where you are. This confluence of being on public transport in the rain with a privately rented ad on the side so you can’t see where the fuck you are. These vague sort of anxieties are what it’s about. I’m sure there’d be a myriad more examples in London, you’re so close to the financial heart. People write about it and it’s real, I can tell that from a week here.”
Unwin’s mix for us comprises the 60th in the series, and as such Unwin has provided something different from the usual format. His contribution comes in the form of a 25 minutes live set, showcasing his texturally rich, organic take on leftfield electronica, clamorous rhythms and swelling vocal abstractions building to a resonant close.