Mutate – Wrench (Petroglyph169)

Mutate - Wrench

Album art. It’s a wonderful thing. This exemplary piece of it, for an album titled Wrench by Mutate, showcases a bit of dreamy photo-blur, stamped attractively with the name of artist and album.

Artist: Mutate
Title: Wrench
Label: Petroglyph Music
Cat#: Petroglyph169
Keywords: Experimental, Soundscape, Ambient
Reviewer: Alex Spalding

Hello, hello dear readers! Tonight we’ll be deviating from the typical YIKIS feed of porn0 and cat pictures (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) to bring you: an interview with Ade Bordicott of Mutate, as well as my impressions on his newest album Wrench! I hope that’s a look of excitement on your face and not indigestion! We will be delineating our perspectives on art and… likely everything in between, I’m sure. There are to be many surprises along the way. And tears. Possibly tears, depending on how heavy it gets. Read on, read on, it’s perfectly safe!

So… yes, the interview, that will be first. We’ll jump in someplace in the middle of the talk we had…

Ade Bordicott: […] I’m not certain about my favourite colour, but I definitely prefer odd numbers to even numbers, etc.

(quick aside: for the sake of the rest of this review we will assume Ade’s favourite colour to be silver; colour of wrenches and steel, tinfoil and brand-new industrial machinery)

Alex Spalding: That’s definitely going in there. 😛

Questions, questions… I felt it might be interesting to begin in this way. As you may remember, though it’s been quite a few weeks I think, in Cameron Thompson’s group for discussions about art this was posted by Forfy Acid:

“Pretty much everything I do stems from two quotes:

‘Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.’ — Andy Warhol

‘There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.’ — Audre Lorde”

Your response to this was…

“I concur, absolutely.

I’ll boringly add that I’ve pissed a lot of time away, obsessing over those points. The latter I attack from the point of view that if you have nothing new to say, don’t bother. But I’m hardly original in my output, so that stance would stop me making making any music at all, which is bollocks. So I prefer to see it as everyone has a different fingerprint & they mark what they make with that fingerprint. That way I can sleep at night, lol.”

To which Forfy Acid responded…

“The second point more refers to my not caring if stuff I do isn’t unique or new. Pretty much everything has been done. Sometimes it’s different, I don’t care either way really~”

Then, you said…

“I used to obsess about that crap – not worth it!”

I wonder if you would like to spend some time discussing in more detail your thinking toward these concurrent thoughts on your art, how you feel about “originality” and the “work ethic” of artistry?

Or not, if you prefer. We could conceivably leave this tangent and go on to something completely different.

Ade Bordicott: ***STALKER***

It’s nice to know anyone actually pays any attention to what I post, tbh. I personally feel that because I display openly my sense of humour, I am inevitably not taken seriously & I guess that’s just a fact of life. I always imagined my music would speak for itself, but the reality is that everyone is fuelled by prejudice – it’s called an opinion, contrived internally from what is received from the external. IMO (LOL!)

But anyways, back to the point.

Yeah, those quotes really mean something to me, whether in a positive or negative context – they drive me on, in either sense. They crystallise some of the things that drive me, or are the conclusions I’ve come to.

I had my head filled with the importance of ‘originality’ by people who know fuck-all about being creative & I totally had my head up my own arse regards that for a long time. When it finally dawned on me that we all interpret & can bring something different to a ‘sound’, then I realised it was ‘ok’ for me to make whatever sounds I wanted to. The *stupid* internal rules of a nuerotic – that’s me!

What transpires is that I *still* detest rip-off merchants & that’s really the only conclusion I should have drawn in the first place. D’oh. We have to go on our ‘journeys’, I guess..

Regards contrivance, or ‘chasing the market’ – trying to please a certain section of people consciously during the creative process, I feel, often hinders & is subsequently somewhat counter-productive. Some music can be just too fucking ‘knowing’ – too obvious it was constructed with something very focussed in mind. I’m reading these word back thinking, “what on earth is wrong with being focussed or having a certain idea in mind??”. What I’m trying to say is that chasing a bandwagon is the death of creativity, for the most part. Another side of this: agonising over the fact that no one ‘gets’ your music *right now* is not the way to go, though I can completely understand that scenario & that “why the fuck am I doing this?” feeling. Some great things have come from those beginnings. The ‘why’ you’re doing something is the important thing here – I make ‘music’ because it’s in my blood, I’m driven to, music is the nearest thing to religion that I have & I won’t ever stop making it. It’s not like someone who decides to try to make a career in music for a few years. It’s just there.

I also revel in confounding. Go to soundcloud/mutate2 & sample some of the tracks there. We have a range of stuff, from soundscapes, to dubstep, to post-punk-pop. That’s all in me & I’m just letting it out. It’s not an attempt to invade the pop charts. Post-punk is what drove me to pick up the guitar & commit myself, rather than just fucking about learning Sabbath riffs & not doing anything with what I’d learnt. Black music is another big influence. 70’s reggae, dub & the whole clash of that & punk. PiL – woah. BIG influence. Jungle, dubstep, et al.

Work ethic – I go through phases just like anyone else. Sometimes, when I feel I have nothing to say musically, then I’ll spend time brushing-up on my production ‘skills’, repairing/improving my live set-up, or something else that is associated. I’m not all that prolific. Some things take time – months, years. Some things happen in the matter of a few days. None of this is predictable. I have numerous projects on the go all the time, that are occasionally dipped into. Some were planned years ago & are ongoing – some just pop up out of nowhere & are quickly completed & released, such as ‘Wrench’. Some have had to wait an age for me to get better at production in order for me to get them sounding ‘right’.

Regards the above – what sounds ‘right’, what is ‘good’, or ‘acceptable’. I sometimes think “will this or that person like this?” That’s *all* useless. Make what you make. If you like it, take it further. If you don’t, leave it – maybe you will come back to it with a different eye one day. Then that brings up the idea, “is this self-indulgent?” Another internal war. But.. the only reason why I should like a piece of music is because I actually genuinely like it. Not because of the message it conveys, the artist who made it, or that’s it’s ‘cool’, or whatever other high-level factors. Just that I like it, deep down, where sensibilities/opinions/politics/et al do not interfere with what I feel about something. Gong on that, if I make something & I think it’s good enough to go further, then I need to listen to that. Of course, others’ opinions are entirely valid & I have a few people I discuss this with, but other’s opinions are not the be all and end all. I suppose a balance weighted 70/30 in my favour is how I work.

I don’t consider myself to be an ‘artist’, & have trouble calling myself a ‘musician’. I make music. I think! I just do what I do & literally stumble around blindly!

Dude, I write in a very conversational style & as such, pepper my text with naughty words & whathaveyou – just be aware of that!

I *think* that covers those particular matters!

Alex Spalding: Wow, you wrote a lot of things! To be honest, I had never really given these matters that much consideration, but the reason I brought it up was that after these quotes got posted I had a kind of strange self-conscious moment, during which I did think about them… and then quickly decided to close the door again. It’s too much sometimes! Can’t we just art?

I’m skeptical of the idea that there are no new ideas (itself a very old idea, pre-dating many very new ideas even!). For me, ideas seem limitless. In contrast, feelings and emotions are usually just varying shades of the same general things I think, which is why universality and broad applicability is often sought in the pop-verse, and yet you can’t control for exactly the emotional impact a piece of art will carry quite as well as you can with concepts.

Also, on the subject of calling oneself an artist, once you get past the instinctual revulsion you might find it positively effects your self-identity; you start calling yourself an artist, and after maybe an uncomfortable period of transition you even begin thinking of everything in terms of art. I’m I art’ing right now? I consider myself a recording artist, it doesn’t have quite the same connotations but allows me conveniently to avoid feeling like a “musician”, haha! I have a personal friend who refuses to call herself a “flautist” — she says, “I’m a flute player, not a flautist!” I can understand these aversions, but at the same time… think about this, would you rather be a “beautician”, a “cosmetologist”, a “hair stylist” or a “hair cutter”. One one end of the spectrum you have maybe this “hoity-toity” pretension vibe and on the other… you might as well be calling yourself a tool to many people’s ears. I think I’d call myself a flutician. Maybe you’re an artologist?

Anyway, moving on to the next question I had for you… Wrench: I’ve been listening to it and gathering thoughts and impressions. I assume that when most people hear the word ‘wrench’ they think of some artless object just… laying there, waiting to be used improperly. What inspired you to title this album Wrench and what does the word mean to in relation to the music you’ve produced here?

Ade Bordicott: Yeah, how annoyingly wordy am I !?!

When I read those quotes, I thought “Wow, that’s exactly how I feel.” Well, not *exactly* – I feel ambiguous about the ‘no new ideas’ thing, because, as you say, there are. Where that resonates with me is that I had big rules for myself wherein I had to try to be as original as possible – & as I said before, that was utterly stupid. Originality is something that maybe cannot be contrived?

Rules – rules are for fools, as Lydon once said & I cannot agree more, though I do not make it a rule to follow that rule, but nevertheless see the sense in it. A big part of my life is to slowly & surely move away from all the endless self-imposed rules I set myself as a very left-leaning teenager. That doesn’t mean a spring to the right, but rather a realisation of my own ideas, rather than others’ manifestos & ideologies. Meh. I tend to self-consciously describe myself as a left-leaning liberal these days, for the sake of others. We’ve talked about shades of grey, rather than the world being black & white, so I guess you understand.

Artist label, etc – then you totally see where I’m coming from. I guess I prefer ‘musician’, though actually what I tend to say is “I make music”, when asked about that kinda stuff & will elaborate if necessary. On my webpage, I describe myself as an ‘improviser’ – that’s fine by me, as I am in much of what I do musically.

When the title ‘wrench’ popped into my head, I felt it had the following connotations:

1. A sudden sharp, forcible twist or turn.
2. An injury produced by twisting or straining.
3. A sudden tug at one’s emotions; a surge of compassion, sorrow, or anguish.
4. a. A break or parting that causes emotional distress.
4. b. The pain so associated: felt a wrench when he was parted from his children.

…rather than the hand tool, but I realise that whatever words I use, the meanings can be interpreted in varying ways. I’m not overtly political when it comes to my music & yet the reality is that personal politics & beliefs drive how I do things. Not *why*, but certainly *how*. I’m not all that interested in wearing my politics on my sleeve, I’m not defined by them, so the titles of tracks, releases, etc will have meaning to me & that will sometimes be political, socio-political, et al. Or it could just be really fucking sarcastic. I have no plans, no message, no external driving force. What I do comes from within me, that can of course be influenced by the external, but ends-up being altered when it comes back out.

I said the title popped into my head – that’s how I tend to do things. I throw something together & then see what it makes me think of. Er.. what impression it gives me.

Hope all that makes sense!

Alex Spalding: Oh yes, I see where you’re coming from here! What I like about the phrase, “I make music” is that there is a sort of modest artisanal quality to it, like a cobbler saying “I make shoes”. 🙂

I was next going to ask you about your methods and tools for creating music (which, if you’d like to share, please do!), but I also had another question burning away in my mind, related sort of to things I’d been thinking about anyway: you’re a contributing member of at least two online communities I know of that have sprung together surrounding experimental, “abnormal” underground music. These are very close-knit and supportive places I’ve noticed, in which artists will post links to their music to have it listened to by others in a largely uncritical way… these communities have been of some fascination to me, though I’m a very low-key member and tend to lurk more than anything, but I love a lot of the people who are involved and the music I’ve been exposed to through them — yourself included. Though it may not necessarily be a driving force, do you feel the community influences or inspires you to do more to any degree?

You seem to do a lot of listening, not just posting, which is great. An issue that the older Sirona-Records group was having, and I’m sure many others have had, was with people who would spam post after post of their music but never give an ear to anyone else’s tracks. You seem much more involved than that in the experimental music community, so I thought it would be cool to hear from you of what you like, what maybe you don’t like about the communities, why you participate. There are some musicians out there, for instance, who wall themselves off in a dingy basement, sticking their music on the web and never really talking to any other musicians along the way. They’re very short in their communications, usually things like “Thank you to everyone!”

Ade Bordicott: Toolzzzz:

DAW: Ableton Live 5.22 – for construction of tracks/production/mastering, & occasionally recording. I don’t tend to use laptops live, though I have one setup with various pre-recorded drones, if I don’t really have the option to play instruments live. I may use it to add further layers while I play instruments, but we’ll see about that. Sound sources: guitar/bass, dictaphones, AM radio, a shitty microphone & occasionally a record deck & an old reel to reel to playback pre-recorded sounds/textures/drones on tape-loops.

Effects: Behringer V-Amp Pro, Boss BE-5 & it’s wonderful 2 second delay, various effect pedals, an old Korg Kaoss pad 1 which I use to loop audio & is the only looper I use. All drones are built with delays set to long repeat times. I have a thing about using the shortcomings of the equipment I have to my advantage, hence I don’t have an enormous setup of multiple long-repeat loopers. I can be a curmudgeon. I make it hard for myself, subsequently. I will most often start out with nothing & just build & build from there.

So, if I’m playing live I’ll just build things up with delay loops, bit by bit. If you listen to Depriver, you can hear the ‘live setup’ in action.

If you listen to something like Ingemansland you’ll hear guitar textures arranged & layered in various ways in Ableton.

With Wrench I went back to an older technique where I try to build an atmosphere by collaging public domain samples & self-made samples, in that case, all of the drones/textures were made with guitar. Rotator had me using VST effects to make textures into rhythm parts & also cutting & pasting particular audio events into a rhythmic fashion.

I will happily re-use previous recordings as raw material. Such that I have a stock of things that I will dip into for inspiration/use/remake/remodel, etc. Sometimes I’ll go back & think, “shit, this should be released.”

It’s cool to talk about this stuff, tbh.

Regards the on-line communities. Hmm.. pros & cons. The spamming is sad. Sometimes I’m frustrated by the idea that the only people who are listening to me are other music makers. That’s a concern. Preaching to the converted. Oh & in-fighting sucks balls. But I have made a few friends & will sometimes be invited to submit to compilations, etc. That’s great. That gives me some deadlines to work to & may make me try something else, if a comp has a particular theme, etc.

I must admit I do believe I work in a bubble, but I don’t really think that’s an issue. I’m not completely sealed off though, I don’t think. I just get on with doing my own thing. I listen to other’s work & there’s good & bad, according to opinion/taste, of course! For me, what I love about music is that it can move me & so I try to think about that in regards to my own. I’m not about showcasing a particular piece of equipment or whatever. I’d like people to get goosepimples when they listen to something of mine, like I do when I listen to something I love. That is something to strive for, though not consciously as you can’t contrive that kind of thing. I just try to get better until maybe what I make does actually do that.

The one person whom I have regular contact with who I met this way is Laetitia S & that’s on a friendship/music makers level. So I will occasionally send her textures for her tracks, or we will trade production tips, she & I both being interested in making our output sound ‘great’. Her influence on me is that I was driven to improve my production skills & she didn’t mind giving me advice. We will regularly send each other tracks we’re working on for opinions. Wonderful production should not just be for the commercial sector. I’ll also occasionally chat with Elizabeth Veldon, but moreso in a humorous banter context, rather than about music making.

Please ask more!

Alex Spalding: I will! In fact, I feel that now the time has come to lean in close and ask the really big question… once I think of it. Might have done that already. Sometimes, when I interview I feel little bit like I’m having a weird William Shatner session, exaggerating philosophical insights. “You said you work in a bubble… what is the bubble?.. what happens when the bubble blows?”

But, I don’t see a whole lot of the so-called “drama” and in-fighting usually, it’s something I only catch posthumously in scattered facebook status updates and the like. Very sad though. That, and that most of us are musicians being listened to by mostly just other musicians is something I’ve also considered… it can be a positive and a negative, depending on your outlook. For instance, if other musicians really like your stuff, then maybe that’s really cool since people who know something a little of the craft are digging what you’re doing. 😉

I like your philosophy on the gear you’re using, taking advantage of limitations! We are also using a Kaossilator Pad for an album we’re working on, doing ridiculous things like using a computer to convert the c-map to midi so we can control it with a keyboard and then running the output into a reel-to-reel which has been getting us a kind of naturalistic doubling effect. It also kind of analog-ifies the sound, which is normally somewhat sterile.

Do you play live often? And, I gleaned a little about your attitude toward live performance from your responses… say, when I hear that someone refuses to lean heavily on the use of laptops when they’re doing something live it sounds to me as if they are really into the performance aspect of music. Is that a big part of your art? What are your thoughts on the art of performance and how do you feel it relates to the sound you create?

Ade Bordicott: Bubble – ha! Well, this is what I term the bubble – i try to assuage any urge to join/involve myself in any new/upcoming ‘scenes’. i want what I do to be my own voice. It’s not infallible though! I think the point here is to avoid aping genres, but rather to incorporate & add to the palette. I’ll hear something & think, “Hmm, i like that, I’ll have a go at that myself.”, as some sort of exercise & then maybe something actually worth hearing comes out of it. So yet again, the bubble is no real ‘rule’, as such.

Running your audio through the reel-to-reel is a great way to add some warmth, yes! it’s kinda tried & tested nowadays, if you have access to such kit. I like using the reel-to-reel live because I’ll build up a big soundscape & then let it roll by itself, while I go turn the tape-loop upside down, so the other two channels are played back. The tape loops are usually 15foot in length. It gives me something to do on-stage, lol. At some point I want to run a tape loop around the perimeter of the stage. I’d also like to start with a blank tape & record live, so i’m then feeding the soundscape back into itself.

Live: It’s that whole post-punk anal thing I’ve had from the beginning. Play it live. Because, for me, I love to hear live recordings of the bands I like – the live context can set the music on fire! THAT is an amazing experience for the band/audience/listener. I play live when I’m offered a gig – I don’t chase shows. No real thing going on there other than being lazy & having enough to do already. By the end of this year I will have played four solo sets & two sets as additional guitar for the Mekano Set, playing live textures, loops & melodies. So, as I don’t play live more frequently, & I improvise the solo sets, no one has a clue what I’ll be doing on the night & that kind of includes me too! yeah, if I want to do beats, I’ll have them programmed & I’ll rehearse before a gig, but I still want it to be as loose as possible. Personally, I’m not about ‘free improv’, I’ve always preferred to work within a framework; I value melody & dynamics – I’ll always point out that what I do is not original – that’s not my ultimate aim – but this framework I mention relates to my approach more than anything else. A framework of ideas that form the approach. When you play with other people & you get those special moments when everything feels great & the music takes on a life of it’s own – THAT is what I love about making music.

This is me playing live a couple of years ago, so you can see me trying to employ field recordings, shortwave radio, beats & melody to make something:

I hope I don’t come across as a dick if you publish this, lol 😉

Meaning that I don’t take myself too seriously, but I’d like people to take my music seriously! If that makes sense.

Alex Spalding: Ah, I wouldn’t worry about it! 😛

Ade Bordicott: cool 😉

Anyway, I really appreciate this & more to the point, you have me enthusiastically answering questions rather than looking at them as a chore – good work!

Alex Spalding: Haha, no problem at all! This sounds like one of those wrap-ups, kind of like… there it is, the interview, completed. I guess we’ll let it go like this naturally, that way I can complete the rest of this review of your album! It was a pleasure speaking with you, I’m sure I’ll be thinking about all the stuff we talked about for quite awhile. 🙂

… Yeah, that was a fun interview.

… Oh, right, the review! Almost forgot!

The first track on this album, ‘Undergrounded’, seems to begin with a rattling stick and other sparse bits of percussive noise, under which a distinct, noisy ambiance swells. It’s a bit unsettling… and then suddenly, the most peculiar sensation! Imagine, if you will, that you were listening to a glittering, bright, sparkling and brief introductory overture performed by some magical symphony orchestra, if said orchestra were hellishly comprised of rusted gate creakers, fingernail scratchers, steel bangers. It’s both majestic and nightmarish; tingling, chilling, wondrous. Pure magic in that moment. When that small bit ends, it feels as if we’ve been unceremoniously plucked from the relative comfort of our computer world and thrust into Silent Hill. I detect a lot of Akira Yamaoka influence, and perhaps some Lustmørd. In the dark recesses of the sonic world Mutate has created, we hear the whispers of strange, metallic beasts, the groan of gears caked in ages of rust. Electronic cathodes pulse, ringing in our ears with an artificial awareness. I feel like my mind is being scanned with infrared beams. There are many ccasional crashes of springy debris and the menace of the track is amplified toward the end.

Next is the titular ‘Wrench’, and suddenly I feel myself standing on an ocean liner looking out upon a dark ocean of oil. I hear a helicopter suddenly take to the air. It feels surreal, none of it sounds quite the way it ought to, like a flattened moment of psycho-acoustics. I think I’m hearing either an elephant or wild, frenzied ape screaming from someplace, then a throbbing martial undertow like a series of piston timpanis takes us someplace even more alien and forbidding. This is a zoo of horrors. A gunshot rings out, followed immediately by a cavernous wail of indiscernible origin! I’m reminded of the lunatic “great white hunter” from Jumanji. The sound abruptly ends…

… and on comes ‘Held’, beginning with a disquieting serenity of airy drones very low in the mix. A ringing, electronically treated cymbal zooms by. I hear a muttering choir, formless in the dark, humanoids with blank faces. The harmonics here read of danger, the brain sends out signals warning to turn back. So, we proceed. Scares jump out at us from the audio-sensory field. The drones become more like the frozen beauty of an ice sculpture, a touch of the organic lies layers beneath the snow.

Then there is a short track, something that sounds like reversed field recordings, titled ’13h’. Some steps, a door slams at the very end sending a shock (hope I didn’t ruin that for you)!

Very harmonic drones and beautiful feedback on ‘Rotator’, which seems to be a favourite of those who’ve listened to this work before me. I’d have to agree, something that irritates the contrarian in me, but this is just too nice to ignore! It’s difficult to describe something composed largely of feedback, rustling shapeless samples and distortion as lush, warm and inviting, but… here is something that really is all these things. Blasts of rhythmic noise modulation occur that are also wonderful, expansive in the mix and gritty. Under these, audible wails of drone noise sound like a chorus of dying monks. Unfortunately, it is the final track on this album. I know, we were having so much fun, I didn’t want it to end either.

There’s always been something about the word ‘wrench’, both noun and verb… to me, it always has felt very close to ‘wretch’ or ‘retch’, though don’t know that there are any etymological ties… now that I’ve had my imagination altered by this album, these connotations are sure to disappear. I’ll have to implore you to check into it at the following link:

https://archive.org/details/petroglyph169MUTATE-WRENCH

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