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22 Mar 2017

PREVIEW: 25th March - BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Radiophonic Worksop perform TV Classics.

BBC National Orchestra of Wales Logo

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales bring an afternoon and evening of British film music history to St David's Hall, Cardiff this weekend. The Radiophonic Workshop responsible for the timeless soundtrack of Doctor Who and for changing the face of electronic music as we know it. If you are a fan of sci fi, interested in the history of electronic music or just enjoy a good night out. Geek Musique is the place to be this Saturday (25th March, 2017). An evening of television nostalgia presented by Robert Llewellyn also known for his star role in Red Dwarf as Cryton. The emotionally unstable robot.

Robert Llewellyn from Red Dwarf

The first show will be starting at 15:30 and will feature classic TV and Film soundtracks performed by NOW. Expect John Williams (Superman), James Horner (Star Trek), Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes ) and Alex North (2001: A Space Odyssey) amongst many other well known compositions. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/e5cp6q)

The evening show (21:00) will be the one to catch if you are in any way interested in electronic music. Three members of the Radiophonic Workshop will join the BBC NOW with a bank of vintage synthesisers and classic sounds from the nostalgic era of analog TV and Ceefax! Who remembers Ceefax?

“For this concert we’re joined by three members from the Radiophonic Workshop playing a bank of vintage synthesisers. The Radiophonic Workshop is responsible for having created other-worldly soundtracks for some of the BBC’s most iconic programs, including the Doctor Who Theme. The maverick group of experimental composers and musical innovators was founded in 1958, exploring new ways of using sound technology to produce sound effects and new music for the BBC until they were decommissioned in 1998. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/e853d4)” 

Cardiff will be getting a slice of BBC history this weekend. An event for all the family to enjoy.  

28 Feb 2017

Cardiff Label Bubble Wrap Collective: Q+A With Richard Chitty.

Bubblewrap Collective are an established independent record label based in Cardiff. Known for working with lively acoustic acts performing a mixture of folk, rock and ballad songs. Acts such as Little Arrow, The Gentle Good, Eugene Capper and Mandy. Recently they have also been venturing in to the world of electronic music with a recent debut show from My Name Is Ian. A fast paced, witty and forward thinking group akin to The Streets.

The latest news from Bubblewrap is the new signing of electronic visionaries Cotton Wolf. A duo formed of Welsh producer Llion Robertson whose name can be found scattered across countless releases from the likes of Gulp, Gallops and Future Of The Left. The other half is classical trained composer Seb Goldfinch whose featured on releases by Richard James, The Gentle Good and Reverse Engineering amongst many more.  They are a duo who have melded deeply intricate and original electronic music production with a classical songwriting and a heavily visual aesthetic.  Their live act is hypnotic and previous releases have gained support from BBC Radio 1 and 6 Music.

Bubblewrap records are set to release their debut album ‘Life In Analogue’. Described on the labels website as follows:

“Themed around the connection and disconnection found in our interactions with technology, the electronic backdrops are mediated through the pair’s deft, warming and human approach to production”

Richard Chitty, a musician, designer and the man behind Bubblewrap collective took time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions for EMW. 

EMW: Bubblewrap Collective is a great name. How did you come up with it?

RC: The origin is a little silly actually. It comes from a scene from Summer Heights High, an Australian comedy written by Chris Lilly. It doesn't really have any connection what we do or release, but after 8 years, it's a little late to change it.

EMW: You’re based in Cardiff. Do you find that most of the music you release is made in the capital?

RC: It is mostly from Cardiff. All the music we release is made in Wales, and I think most is from Cardiff because that's where I see the acts perform. We tend to build a relationship with the artists before agreeing to release anything. So naturally, that is easier to do when they are in the capitol too.

EMW: You have a close relationship with design and media companies. This gives your label a unique aesthetic that stands out. It seems you consider each release as a piece of art. Whether it be a physical vinyl release or digital only. Could you speak a little about your approach to each release.

RC: Well, my day job is as a graphic designer. I run Ctrl Alt Design and do all sorts of web and print based projects. Ever since starting studying design, my inspiration has come from album cover design, so to have the outlet where I can produce artwork for various albums has been a great way for me to feed my creative vice. The label and design side has also grown side by side with On Par Productions, who have been friends since University in Newport. So I guess we've been lucky to have a wealth of talent to turn too, especially with such a close relationship.

The approach is different to every release really. It depends on the artist, the album and what they want to say about it. Sometimes they will have the artwork they want to use, sometimes we'll work together on it. It is important for me to convey the music accurately in a visual form.

The latest release from The gentle Good; 'Ruins / Adfeilion', is a great example of this. We wanted something to reflect the themes of the changing society we live in. There's a lot of these ideas running through the album. But we also didn't want to create a typical 'folk' album cover. Gareth wanted something contemporary and I think we achieved that using the marbling approach. Plus the vinyl run had a matching marbled vinyl. Beautiful!

EMW: Would you say that the majority of the music you release have been focused on acoustic acts. More traditional band or singer songwriter structure?

RC: The label began with a few indie, lo-fi, twee, folky releases. It was just the type of music I was playing in bands with at the time, and the reason for the label back then was to release our own music. It stayed as more of a folk outlet for a while with Ivan Moult, Barefoot Dance of the Sea and The Gentle Good but as the years have gone on, I didn't want it to be restricted to a certain genre of music.

I listen to and enjoy most types of music and I don't think that genre should be a defining element of music. So now I just have the ethos that "If I love it, that's enough"

EMW: You have recently ventured in to electronic music acts. Is this a change of direction for the label or a natural progression?

RC: As I mentioned above, we are spreading our wings. Not in an attempt to become an electronic record label, but just to cover music that's great. It just so happens that this year, we're going to have a few electronic releases! but also more folk, indie, psych, lo-fi etc.

EMW: It seems that both Llion and Seb have been working with acts on Bubblewrap for sometime. Was it natural for them to decide to release on your label?

RC: Llion and Seb have worked with The Gentle Good a lot, so I've got to know them through that. I've been a massive fan of their EP's on Strangetown Records and when I heard they had an album ready, I jumped at the chance. It wasn't a difficult decision to want to release it and we have a good relationship. My only reservations were standing on any toes over at Strangetown, but I'd like to think there no animosity there. Or at least I hope so, Super Furry Animals are some of my musical heroes.

EMW: What formats will you be releasing Life In Analogue?

RC: Life in Analogue will be out on a 2 colour splatter vinyl and will also be available digitally.

EMW: Who else are you excited about currently?

RC: HMS Morris are such a great band. Definitely one of my favourites in Cardiff at the moment. Fifth Spear is another great electronic act. And great live too. I'm obviously very excited to be releasing Eugene Capper & Rhodri Brooks stuff this year, and again, such a great live band. In fact, I think most stuff I end up releasing has made a significant impression on me when I've seen them live.

In terms of music in general. I'm always excited when there's new Father John Misty stuff coming out. New Grandaddy too, which is very exciting. This year I've also been listening a lot to new stuff from Matthew E White & Flo Morrisey, Cloud Nothings, Bonobo and a load more. Plus King Gizzard are releasing 5 albums this year apparently. That's pretty exciting!

22 Feb 2017

The city needs music! Cardiff Music Awards

 Every city has its story, Cardiff is no exception. It’s musical heritage can be found in the small clubs, live music venues and bars scattered around the lively centre of the Welsh capital. From cover bands to all original experimental art bands, Cardiff has a lot to offer. Sometimes it is helpful to have an indicator of what people are liking. The Cardiff Music Awards plans to do just that. Bringing together a massive list of artists and influencers. 

The CMAs will be hosted at Cardiffs mid sized venue Tramshed on 30th March. Expect an event that celebrates the sheer diversity of music in the Capital. EMW caught up with CMAs founder Ed Townend to find out more.

EMW: The CMAs are now open for voting. How many different categories are there? 

ET: There are 20 different categories ranging from Best Group and Solo Act to Best Production and Radio Show.

EMW: How many years have you ran the awards? 

ET: The 2017 awards are the second year of the Cardiff Music Awards. Initially I started the project in 2015 as a lone venture, basing it 100% on the internet with no marketing budget or other people working on it. It built momentum through a bit of press and word of mouth. 

In 2016 I attempted to re-launch the awards with a Kickstarter project to fund an awards ceremony. Unfortunately the momentum wasn't quite there so I cancelled the project altogether. After the cancellation a number of people got in touch to discuss the future of the awards and I ended up partnering with River & Bear (www.riverandbear.co.uk) to bring the awards about in 2017.

EMW: Why did you decide to start the CMAs? 

ET: The idea came about after attending the closing party of Swn Festival in 2015. I felt that I hadn't contributed enough to the music scene that year and so was trying to think of a way I could use my experience and passion about Cardiff's music to create something to give back to the community. I had previously worked on Oxjam Cardiff in 2014 and wanted to pursue another music project. The idea of celebrating Cardiff's music seemed obvious after I thought about it and so I decided to create a music awards.

EMW: It seems you have had a really positive response from businesses in the area. What kind of sponsorship have you been getting and is there a feeling that live music is being given enough attention in the city? 

ET: We're really happy that so many local businesses are looking to get involved and hope to see more join as word spreads. Sponsorship is varying for each business involved but every contribution makes it easier to pull off the awards and make it accessible to as many people as possible. I think it's really important that local businesses support live music, the industry although booming still needs a lot of support when it comes to the smaller shows. Local businesses working together to continue live music in the area is essential for continuing its growth.

EMW: How do you think the closure of Four Bars and The Moon (upstairs) have affected the artists of Cardiff? 

ET: It's a really sad state of affairs at the moment. My first ever professional sound engineering shift was in Four Bars and walking past it the other day and seeing it closed made my heart drop. I was also a part of the last show put on in The Moon before it closed.

Womanby St was the heart of Cardiff's music scene, especially when it came to events like Swn and Hub Festival. To lose two venue spaces in quick succession is a massive blow. On the other side though it's started a lot of conversation about the health of the music scene in Cardiff and has made many more aware of how fragile the scene can be at times. Hopefully we as a community can bounce back and some intrepid business people can open up new venues in Cardiff to help it continue.

"Hopefully we as a community can bounce back and some intrepid business people can open up new venues in Cardiff to help it continue" www.cardiffmusicawards.co.uk

EMW: Do you believe city awards like the CMAs are beneficial for upcoming artists? 

ET: I definitely hope so. Certainly this year it will be a reflection of industry and local support if you're chosen as a winner in your category. I think it also is a way of showcasing all artists no matter their background, genre or subculture and exposing them to the wider music scene.

EMW: Who would you recommend to listen to and catch live this year? 

ET: Cardiff and South Wales has a great burgeoning scene and I'm really proud of the acts coming through. A lot of those acts are nominated this year and I couldn't be happier. Nominees I'd recommend include False Hope For The Savage, Boris a Bono, Junior Bill, Jack Ellis, Kizzy Crawford, Bryde & Dominic Griffin - just to name a few! Outside of the nominees there are some great acts too. I really liked seeing PARCS and Tetrahex - really expanding the electronic music scene in Cardiff with young talent. I wrote a blog summarising a lot of these acts recently! http://fearandloathingblog.tumblr.com/post/155951215755/fear-and-loathing-ones-to-watch-in-2017

EMW: Are you allowed to vote?

ET: Nope! I'm staying completely out of it. I trust the judges chosen and if I got involved in voting I wouldn't be able to take an objective view of the awards.

Find out more and cast your vote on the CMA website - www.cardiffmusicawards.co.uk

The importance of secrets?

Picture by Al Lynch

The music world seems to be full of secrets. From business to creativity there is no greater buzz word that I can think of. For music makers and entrepreneurs who seek success it is easy to be drawn in to the world of online top 50 secrets lists and exclusive interviews with well known producers claiming to be revealing their most protected techniques. It’s safe to say a lot of magazines, websites and writers use this hunger to get traffic. What dose it mean for an artist to reveal their most precious concepts, what does an artist have left if all is revealed, is there really such a thing as a secret formula when it comes to music production and if so why is it (supposedly) so easily attainable? 

Just a quick google of secrets of the  record producer brings up a stream of sites with promises of revealing all the masters years of hard work and dedication. Imagine if one day you woke up and your years of hard work were suddenly as easily attainable as a one click purchase on Amazon with free postage! 

Sure there are formulas that make logical sense. Perhaps it is not so much about gaining technical know how (which is vital of course) but more about how to approach a profession in a way that leads to success. From involving the subject of self-employment and taxation in secondary schools and university and preparing creative minds for the realities of building creative skills and talent and how to monetise upon this. 

Yes! Learn your trade and YES learn from your heroes. Find out who mixed/produced/recorded your favourite album, listen to EVERYTHING he/she has worked on, read interviews and become fully immersed in their story. Don’t stop at what compressor settings they used or what gear was behind each record. Find out what they were doing before working on the music that made them. Every professional has a story to tell…

In a recent article the Forbes writer Lara Maack stated that “there is no technological substitute for practice”. This is surly where the ‘secrets’ lie. To consider ones creative endeavours as part of a practice. How to become balanced in ones approach to work. How to live a healthy lifestyle, to treat a profession as an element of a greater purpose, as a practice. And how to treat oneself as a business. After working in a traditional job hierarchy structure the allure of being your “own boss” is strong but without a mentor or guidance from someone who has “been there” it can be a daunting prospect. Practicing not only the technical and creative aspects of your art but also the daily structure of being your own business. Even if you are just writing songs in your bedroom with no clear path, treat your work as a business. Embrace business as much of a practice as you do your art. Merge your art with your business.  

Perhaps it is important to start considering this when teaching the next generation of music makers, mix engineers and artists the secrets of the trade. That it is more important to develop a practice, a philosophy and to build self confidence in oneself as a business. 

Bruce Lees writings help to bring up a vital point that “independent inquiry is needed in your search for truth, not dependence on anyone else’s view or a mere book”, aligning this to the search for self this can also be considered alongside the development of an artist, mix engineer. To build up ones own view of the world and not take any opinion as gospel allows the artist to develop his her self in an original way.

Just as martial artist develops a practice so should any other artist. Remember that no 50 secrets to success article will provide a shortcut to this.

And so how important are these supposedly well protected secrets to a dedicated practitioner? Does their career really rest on a handful of techniques kept closely to ones chest or a small list of equipment that if revealed would render ones life's work less valuable?   

I can’t imagine that by revealing method and process will render the work of a mix engineer any less desirable, quite the contrary, by sharing such valuable knowledge there is an exchange of recognition. For someone to consider and use that advice is a sign of great respect towards the advice giver. As for an artist still seeking recognition, to make a name and become successful is it important to build up and keep close a personal and secret method or does it benefit all levels to share ones findings? 

I’d love to hear your opinions on this. Especially artists and people involved in music industry. Comment below or get in touch - info@electronicmusicwales.com 

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ElectronicMusicWales/ 

Twitter - https://twitter.com/EMWBlog

18 Feb 2017

Add some new colours to your music production palette

Pluginboutique - VST Plugins Buy Instruments Effects and Studio Tools

You may have noticed a couple of adverts appearing on the blog recently. This is because I have become an affiliate for Plugin Boutique .

As well as a part time blogger I am also a practicing music producer and sound designer. I work as a live sound engineer (get in touch if you'd like me to work with you info@electronicmusicwales.com) and also have fun making noises in studio. 

I fully support the music software companies behind all the amazing tools that we use every day. Websites like PlugIn Boutique make it possible for music makers, engineers and general enthusiasts to get their hands on some really good quality professional plug ins for a fraction of the rrp. I can not recommend them enough...

Some of the current deals worth noting include the essential Izotope vocal bundle, OhmForce plug ins and Sunrizer soft synth. 

There are many other offers on the website if you are looking to add a little more colour to your music production palette.  

Pro Audio Plugins Sale from Pluginboutique.com

These deals are time limited offers so make sure to visit Plug In Boutique website on a regular basis to keep up to date. 

15 Feb 2017

Bywyd Studios open their doors in the heart of Cardiff Bay

Bywyd is a new venture that opened in the heart of Cardiff Bay last week. After a well received open weekend providing potential clientele an opportunity to visit the studio located at the Douglas Buildings complex. It is clear that a lot of work has been put into this cosy music production venture. With high ceilings, a wooden floor and plenty of light, the studio has a warm and welcoming feeling. 

The space is situated on the second floor surrounded by a cluster of small creative businesses ranging from music production to meeting rooms. The studio is an open plan design with a monitoring set up and a fully equipped live room which includes a full drum kit, a large range of keyboards and other noise making oddities available to add the essential sparkle to your productions. There is also separate spaces for vocal recording and amp isolation.

Bywyd is a partnership between Leone Vuetivavalagi and Tom Westgard who met at the USW whilst studying MSC in music production and audio engineering. Their work ethics and philosophies resonated enough to start up a musical partnership and studio space. Originally in the now closed Abacus next to Cardiff central and then a brief flirtation with the Coal Exchange before the historic building was sold to be turned in to a hotel. The duo found their gear in storage for a few months whilst they waited for the perfect place to become available. 

Their motto ‘where the science of sound meets art’ is a clear indicator of attention to detail and a willingness to embrace creative approaches to recording and mixing. The services they offer range from simple tracking sessions right through to realising full album projects from conception to completion. Just by meeting and talking with Leone and Tom it’s clear to see an enthusiasm, energy and approachability that makes the stressful process of choosing the ideal space for your creative projects that little bit easier. 

Alongside the studio, Bywyd will also become a platform for artists to release their music to the world. Bywyd records will begin releasing very soon with the band Them Dead Beats set to be the first followed by singer songwriter Eleanor Brown. 

It looks like the new studio space is off to a flying start with many musical projects already in the pipeline.

EMW: What made you want to start a music production space in Cardiff? 

B: The reason we wanted to start a music production space was that we both cut our teeth in the Atrium recording bands and would do anything we could to cover up those un-inspiring four white walls, fluorescent lights and grey carpet by bringing in throws, different colour LED lights, oil burners and even a kettle! 

After a few successful collaborations we realised we both approached music production and engineering from a similar place and decided to continue that relationship in the future. 

We had looked at the possibility of using other fine studios in Cardiff but found a lot of closed doors.

We were approached by chance by Victor Frederik who offered us a space at the Abacus. We jumped at the opportunity and whilst we hit a few hurdles we still managed to keep working towards a goal, of having our own studio.

Even whilst we were learning to do basic carpentry and juggling jobs and other commitments we found we worked well together bouncing off each others enthusiasm for music and the possibilities that lay ahead.

EMW: What can you offer to prospective clients? 

B: We offer a range of services as a studio, but as a production/engineering duo we are really trying to push artists/bands to create records that w ill also see the light of day, by  setting up the label, since we know it can feel like a daunting prospect when it comes to releasing a record.

Working together we are able to accommodate many genres and tastes giving our clients a service which is not easy to come by. We do our best to be as creative  in our approach  as the music we are working with,  from recording techniques to finished mix and production.

EMW: What do you believe musicians are looking for when finding creative spaces to realise their projects? 

B: We both believe the environment in which you are recording has as much of an impact on the performance as anything else we have worked hard to create a space that reflects this ethos. We wanted to create a space that compels artists to be creative and allows us to work with them in such a way that there are no barriers whether that means technically or in communication. Trust is a big part of the recording process and for us that means not only being technically proficient but serving the song at all times, taking care to make sure that the emotion that created
the song is conveyed through the speakers once it's recorded and being played back.

EMW: What can we expect from Bywyd in the near future? 

B: In the near future we are starting production deals for three more albums and a couple of
EP's as well as looking to build a group of solid reliable session musicians in the local area that we can call upon to work with us on projects.

We are also bringing in a group of students to see how a n  open studio functions and to show a musicians studio. 

We look forward to bringing you more exciting and new music in the future.

Pluginboutique - VST Plugins Buy Instruments Effects and Studio Tools

3 Feb 2017

Boris a Bono 'Epoch' review

On his most recent release ‘Epoch’ we find Boris a Bono in a state of uneasy rest, hiding in the sanctuary of his duvet in a flat in Roath. Filtering and tremolo haunt his vocals as grains of found sound are sprinkled over beats. The schizophrenic combinations of acoustic and electronic initially suggest that there is more than one person involved but it appears this is not the case as BaB explains, “originally Boris a Bono were meant to look like two different people. One was more involved with the acoustic side of the sound and the other involved with the electronic. Since then the idea has evolved into one person and with different people contributing to the live performance - it makes more sense this way”. 

It’s music that hangs between the dream state and consciousness, a juxtaposition between rest and having to get out of bed to face the day. As the creator reveals a little more about the character known as Boris a Bono:

“Boris a Bono is a timid introvert with fears and stresses of everyday life. He’s an over-thinker and a very shy man. He is closed and distant. Writing songs of daydreaming, fear of interaction and placing himself in other people’s shoes exploring emotion through music.”

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected and the role of musician seems to be intertwined with the ‘other’ of music which includes promoting oneself as an artist and maintaining some social media presence it is no wonder that creative introverts the world over are hiding beneath the sheets. By stressing about social media exposure and getting enough plays it is possible to let the pressures get in the way and disrupt the essential creative process.

Speaking of the creative process BaB says “I quite like the idea of putting myself in someone else’s mind and write from their head. Or just make up scenarios for the character I think they are. The window is always a good place to start”. Whether it be from the perspective of a passer by or his own emotional state ‘Epoch’ is a fragile sonic painting of a slightly withdrawn but intrigued individual attempting to make sense of his day dreams through his songwriting.

You can listen and download Epoch on the Cul:De:Sac records Bandcamp.

Also listen to Boris a Bono previous release 'In the Doldrums EP' available through iTunes .

Boris a Bono performs at Cardiff Made on March 4th alongside Swansea Laptop Orchestra, Ani Glass and Friends - Facebook event