Synth & Sampler wizard Tom Giles (Clause Four / Modern Soul), responsible for bangers like “Mars Reprise” or the riddim for Pupajim‘s classic “International Farmer“, returns to Jahtari’s sonic fiction sublabel Zonedog with a utopian ambient project, The Electric Word.
Heavily inspired by a background in creative coding, techno-futurism and the UK counter culture ambient scene of the early 1990s this tape is a psychedelic deep dive into lush early-digi synth textures that feel like lying on a fluffy carpet, layered with field recordings and samples to tell the story.
Highly addictive journey through patterns, shapes and vibes, ideal for repeat listening sessions. Out digitally and as very limited tape edition!
Music & artwork by The Electric Word (Tom Giles).
The UK counter culture ambient scene came about post-Acid house in 1990 but didn’t last too long. The KLF, The Orb and the Future Sound Of London were the key players in this but they all had slightly different approaches.
Whilst all of them are very psychedelic and counter-cultural, it was FSOL who made this style explicitly techno-utopian. Gary Cobain has compared their second album, Lifeforms, to the poem “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace”, whilst their third album, ISDN, was compiled from performances they made pioneering live streaming in 1994.
They actively looked forward to a time when artists could deal directly with fans, where record labels and their corporate bosses wouldn’t exist, and we’d all be a lot freer. Obviously that didn’t pan out, but their ideas came straight from early issues of Wired Magazine (whose forerunner was called The Electric Word).
Beyond DJ sets by the Orb and their crew, probably the night which most defined the scene was Telepathic Fish, which was put on by Strictly Kev and Mixmaster Morris aka The Irresistible Force. Global Communications were also related to this (and obvs their name is quite techno-utopian).
There was also Spacetime Continuum from San Francisco, who also collaborated with Move D under the name Reagenz and ran the Reflective Records label.
And there was some stuff which veered off into dub, like some of the early releases on Zion Train’s label Universal Egg. Or also things that were on the hippy / Asian / dub connection like Black Star Liner, Transglobal Underground, Loop Guru. And then there was the more Warp side of things.
Whilst this particular scene was relatively short lived in the UK, the techno-utopianism of Silicon Valley is still with us. Whether we are talking about Elon Musk’s brain-computer interface or Mark Zuckerberg’s global communication network, one thing is clear: we live in the world the Future Sound of London imagined somewhere in a backroom of a squat in South London in the early 90s.