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Bristol-based techno producer, Bruce, delivers an experimental club LP packed with emotion and personality

ALBUM: Bruce – ‘Sonder Somatic’

WORDS BY JACK MCKEEVER

In electronic music, the most resonant albums and tracks are those that strike at the heart of the community, conveying memories while aiming to create new ones. Bristol-based techno producer Larry McCarthy, AKA Bruce, is devoted to the most personal aspects of the diagram. His music has always torn away any veils of conventionalism to underpin a playfully outlandish hand, taking core elements and twisting them out of time and place. Making the obscure accessible is hard to perfect, but in the case of Bruce’s back catalogue he’s often managed it with a thrilling smoothness.

In many ways, the release of his debut full-length album ‘Sonder Somatic’ on Hessle Audio feels like a homecoming. His previous releases on the label (2016’s ‘Steals’ and 2014’s ‘Not Stochastic’ – EPs respectively) have occupied the same innovative world-scape, playing sumptuous floor-filling kicks and alien atmospherics off against each other, with a mischievous sonic smile overhanging it all. But it’s the exploratory nature of Hessle Audio’s output that suits Bruce‘s placement here so brilliantly. He’s talked openly about the label’s influence on him over the years, so the synergy that winds up here seems only right and proper.

The LP was written ‘partly as an attempt to capture that rare transformative feeling that can cause you to fully lose yourself in a club space’, and on ‘Sonder Somatic’ Bruce wastes no time in going for the jugular. The whole thing sounds absolutely huge, for starters. Whereas before the late-night rawness of his music could occasionally feel opaque, on the LP a crystal-clear sheen sets its primal nuances and physicality against a gorgeous big room backdrop.

Crucially though, he focuses on inviting and then reducing ambiences, atmospheres and myriad percussive senses. It allows for a constant sense of idiosyncratic motion that rises and falls and creates new imperatives whenever they are most necessary. This is executed most effervescently at the mid-way point and the trajectory between the shuddering tension of ‘Meek’ and ambient of ‘Torn’, which is spotted with ghosts of breakbeat-y decadence, into previously released single ‘What’. The latter re-engages his most banging sensibilities with an intense sense of joy – caterwauling vocals, a deliriously catchy lead loop and the same unpredictable drum sequencing brought to a mighty zenith.

The notion that ‘Sonder Somatic’ reflects both Bruce’s professional and recreational relationship with club culture is purveyed inimitably too. Whether it’s through swaggering heaters built upon historic UK bass mechanisms (as on the opening salvo of ‘Elo’ and ‘Cacao’) or the freezing, small-hours surging lope of ‘Baychimo’ and lullaby-esque grind of ‘Patience St Pim’, a see-saw of hedonism and an absorbing approach is delivered near-perfectly.

 

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Back in manc next month! Chuffed as it’s quickly becoming my home in the north 🐝 Grab ya tickets whilst they’re only £8 (ikr)

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While the LP will do plenty for chin-stroking types and those always seeking to be challenged on dancefloors, at the core of ‘Sonder Somatic’ is the most communal aspect of club culture; personality. Bruce is one of the most singular techno artists operating right now, and the music here continues to define him as one of the most innovative and sensitive.

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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Elder Island

 INTERVIEW: ELDER ISLAND @ THE CASTLE HOTEL

Photo: Dominika Scheibinger

If you know of The Castle Hotel – nestled down Oldham street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter – you’ll think of lurking sounds, indie vibes and dark, delving corridors. That is until you see Elder Island perform there. Their intricate synergy of jazz and pop and electronica creates the perfect blend the back of your mind aches for, a sound you didn’t realise existed yet soon begs to be played at clubs, bars and your Aunt’s fiftieth. We found the artists huddled up in The Castle’s green room nursing an Irish hangover, with memories of last night’s “bonkers” set in Dublin and eagerly awaiting their first Northern gig beyond Birmingham. On this tour alone they have sold out not only Manchester, but all 6 nights on their tour.

The trio met in Bristol, “many, many years ago” through an exchange of Universities and hometowns colliding. David Harvard and Luke Thornton met as Bristolian youngsters and were members of multiple bands together, and as such their own tastes were delved into and moulded. Katy Sargent was in halls with David at the University of Bristol, a friendship was soon formed and ultimately Elder Island came to be. At the time of forming and understanding each other’s sound, they were toying with their mutual passion for experimental music. You could perhaps even say that their current sound is a twist on experimental; if asked to describe it you’d mutter some I’m-not-quite-sure/can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it answer, a sound pretty genre-defying in standard term. Though, when asked how they describe themselves, Luke bluntly mentions “Weird.” Followed by a laugh from the group and Katy chasing it with a fan comment that they all agree with: “someone said on the street that it was a mixture of house, jazz and another weird one.”

Before contemplative brainstorming led to the name Elder Island, during their early days of experiments and trial runs they were titled Traví but the name was met with fans being unable to pronounce the term. Their minds met through a similar admiration for music and taste within melodic symphony but they mention that their appetites have always been quite different to one another. Katy comments that it’s not dissimilar to a Venn diagram; “the overlap in the middle is the music that we love together and also the music that we make together.” In terms of taste, Luke mentions that they seemingly subconsciously take snippets away from the music they listen to, with no key, tangible influence, to their knowledge. Their current music musings clearly lay a strong groundwork to their daily lives. Summed up collectively into their MCR Live takeover which contains an eloquent selection of artists from prog-rock singer-songwriter Nick Hakim to Midnight Sister and everything in between. There are comments of “lots of Anderson .Paak” as well as proclamations hailing Spotify as a key defender of their corner. “There’s been a lot of people that we’ve met on this tour that have said ‘it came up on my Discover Weekly or through another artist and I’ve been listening ever since’ so it’s amazing, the Spotify algorithms have been amazing to us.”

Plans for the future include keen aspirations to get back in the studio and record as much as possible, but otherwise all else is under wraps. Swiftly avoiding the album question with grins that only seem to contain their excitement hinting that they have something big in store for us. Following the release of their last single ‘Bonfires’ the band actively decided to self-release and aren’t with a record label at the moment but mention that they enjoy the organic  process and find that being self-sufficient is key to their concept. They’re eager to get recording so that they can get their eyes on sorting out festival slots for the Summer, following on from a heavy festival season last year including the madness of Boomtown Fair and Somerset’s Farm Fest. “Seeing a whole crowd of 800 bobbing heads is an amazing feeling.” This hopefully means the future is bright for Elder Island – at least, that’s the image  painted when met by a crowded room of jiving, active fans saluting their performance in the cave of The Castle‘s music room.

Listen back to their takeover below. Ft. an eclectic meld of Smerz, Otzeki, Nick Hakim, Michael Prophet & more.

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