Album Review: Sunroof – Electronic Music Improvisations Volume 1

Daniel Miller is a well known figure in the field of electronic music. Founder of Mute Records, which gave birth to Depeche Mode, Fad Gadget, Yazoo and Goldfrapp, and consolidating the works of such legendary acts as Throbbing Gristle and Can, Miller has brought electronic and experimental music to the fore for several generations of fans. However, despite his own modicum of success in the post punk days with The Normal (the very excellent “Warm Leatherette” single), and a collaboration with two members of Wire as Duet Emmo, he has released very little of his own work. He has collaborated with Depeche Mode producer Gareth Jones for many years, and they have released remixes for other artists including Can and MGMT, but never recorded their output, instead just working for fun together during down times. Until now that is. During the course of 2019 the two decided to record their improvisations on modular synthesizers and this is the result.

Sometimes it’s a lot of fun just to plug in an old synth and mess around for hours making all sorts of whirring and bleeping and swooshing sounds for your own amusement. However this isn’t always fun to listen to, but the sounds you can get out of them can be rewarding if you apply patience and planning, and that’s just what the duo have been doing.

“1.1 – 7.5.19” is a perfect example of the scope and richness of sound they are capable of. References to early synth pioneers are inevitable here – early Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze spring to mind immediately. The mostly rhythm led “1.2 – 30.5.19” sounding not unlike Chris Carter from Chris & Cosey, shows that the instruments are capable of forward movement as well as linear. “1.3 – 30.5.19” sounds like spaceship landing and taking off from an old BBC radiophonic workshop sound affects album, and with “1.4 – 18.6.19” we’re squarely back in Klaus Schulze territory, which is really no bad thing. This is gorgeous stuff, it moves dreamily along but with a sense of urgency about it which piques the interest, and therefore it’s not so ambient that it just becomes aural wallpaper. It’s a real listening experience.

“1.5 – 9.7.19”,  “1.6 – 7.5.19” and “1.7 – 30.5.19” are very much back in radiophonic workshop land. I wonder if they were wearing white lab coats out of respect! Lots of  bubbling whooshes and crescendos and twisted arpeggios. It’s all very Bleep & Booster.

“1.8 – 2.3.19” is a multi layered rhythmic tour de force, with deep moogy bass arpeggios and striating electronic strings.

I love this kind of thing. I thought it might have been a bit too arty and ambient for my liking, but it’s rich warm analogue sounds really lend a depth to it that you just want it to continue to delight the senses forever, and get lost in the it’s aural journey. It manages to be both modern and sleek and yet fuzzy and nostalgic all at the same time. I remember back in the late 60’s, just after man had gone to the moon, my brother was bought a silver sided slim blanket, marketed as a space blanket, that utilised NASA technology to keep you warm despite its apparent flimsiness. Back then that was the future. It wouldn’t be long before we’d be eating pills for meals. This was the scratchy, still black and white world of Bleep & Booster. Modern and sleek yet fuzzy and nostalgic. More of this kind of thing please.

Sunroof’s Electronic Music Improvisations Volume 1 is out now on Mute Records – order/stream it here.

Review by Andrew Wood

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