Psyché Tropes Label

People who have read this blog know me as a music geek but in my working life as an animator I tend to keep quiet about music. Over the years I've found that's the safest way to interact in professional situations. Often I'll be asked by employers (who don't know my dark secret) to make suggestions for soundtracks. As a rule I'll feign ignorance or push it back to them and the client to figure out. That's mainly because whenever I have made suggestions in the distant past people loathe my ideas. I think that's a mixture of the fact that these choices are about personal taste, and it's their prerogative as my bosses to have their way with regards to music; but also because the kind of things I like are by their nature sincere and intense, and never really suitable.

Furthermore, when you're outed as a music geek it gets political swiftly. It lays open people's insecurities, or on the contrary sense of superiority, about their music tastes. Personally I couldn't give a shit about how music maps onto status. Status itself is an entirely fucked-up concept and I care less and less about what is supposed to be cool music too. But other people don't feel that way. I'm happy to listen to what's on the office stereo and completely avoid thrusting my own music down other people ear-canals - with the attendent anxiety that someone is going to find my selection too abrasive, or depressing and, in one of those dreadful moments, complain publicly and put their own playlist on.

Over the years there have been a few moments at work when I have broken cover and music has come into the open. I worked a lot with a lovely guy Paul Byrne who runs the Test Pressing site, I became firm friends with  the genius Julian House after working on animation at Intro and very recently I greatly enjoyed meeting Richard Klein. But over twenty years that's pretty much the sum total. The one notable addition to this would be meeting the delightful and absurdly talented editor Steven McInerney.


Steve and I met in the bowels of Knightsbridge working on high-end commercials for a JWT-affiliated agency. JWT, the advertising agency that Keith Richards memorably told to fuck off in early sixties before launching his own long-lasting youth culture brand. Pretty quickly it became apparent that we could have conversations about musique concrète. Steve needed some help stabilising some planets in the short film he had made "A Creak In Time", and was man enough to pay me to devote some time in Nuke, Mocha and PFTrack to licking some very intractable shots into shape.

Steve, who records as Merkaba Macabre and is, as a musician, deeply wrapped up in modular synthesis also runs a record label Psyché Tropes upon which he has now put out two beautifully produced vinyl records. I don't say beautiful lightly because the artwork is exquisite and the materials are premium - the whole physical package is lovely. The label, certainly as things stand, is dedicated to releases which are the soundtracks to the films of London's burgeoning "AV" scene.

I first came across AV - shorthand for audio-visual - when I wrote about Sculpture for The Wire in 2011. In many ways AV is the future of what once was the impulse behind the underground forms in the music industry. With music increasingly finding its value in performance and with what was once unflatteringly dubbed "Desktop Video" morphing into the Mograph scene, it has meant that the same laptop culture of music is a mouse-click away from animation. In the nineties though we had separate crews responsible for each strand: so Coldcut for music had their counterpart Hex for live-visuals and TFSOL had Buggy G Riphead for video (though there was a certain amount of crossover within the latter's roles I believe).

The difference now though is that, epitomised by that strange platypus Sculpture, the one unit is entirely responsible for both. Dan and Steve would doubtless try and shoot down this digital convergance theory, as obsessed as they both are by analogue formats - modular synths, 16 mm film and vinyl-only releases etc - but as Stuart Heaney points out in the artfully-considered liner notes of HFF Volume 1 - "We have digital's empowering desktop cloning capability to thank for revealing to the world analogue's beautiful bubblebath of imperfections." To my mind it has clearly emerged from this prehistory of digital live-visuals.

And sure enough here are Sculpture amongst other known-unknowns brought together on this collection of accompanying music for the Hackney Film Festival. Certainly it would be nice to nice to see the accompanying videos but that's to miss the "mind's eye" concept behind the release - again the liner notes refer to visuality being enacted by the pattern-forming structures of the brain. It's a great, blind collection of strafing drones, clicks and bleeps that is unquestionably evocative in its own right. With these filmless soundtracks there is too an implicit suggestion of phantasm in the clasic, halucinogenic sense - nudge, nudge, know what I mean.

The second release on the label is Howlround's soundtrack for Steve's film "A Creak In Time". This features a suitably cosmic suite of lemurian horns echoing through the galaxy's fog, effortlessly mirroring the unheimlich soundtracks of classic sci-fi like Eduard Artemyev's electronic score for Tarkovsky's "Solaris" or even Kubrick's use of Ligeti in Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey".

You can watch an excerpt of the film and even buy these two releases at the Psyché Tropes website. If you're interested in witnessing the full sensory experience I strongly suggest you make it along to Further at the Portico Gallery in West Norwood on May 6th where Howlround will be performing their score live to the film. The evening has the added bonus of featuring an "Audio-Visual DJ Set" by none other than Julian House and Jim Jupp of Ghost Box. I mean ferchrissakes, you'd have to be an fucking idiot to miss it, and I'm definitely going to be dragging my sorry carcass along.