In 2009 Jack Hamill, aka Space Dimension Controller, released his critically acclaimed single The Love Quadrant.
As a 19 year old he was praised for its detail, but an album had been drafted the year before in his bedroom in Belfast. Named after the tiles in his kitchen and a snake enclosure his grandad helped him build, Orange Melamine – which recently found a home on Ninja Tune – is arguably his most personal release to date.
The influences on the LP are varied. Spirited at times and contemplative at others, it functions as a peek into the life of a young Hamill living at his grandparents’ house, rapidly soaking up a deluge of audio and visual content. The recording process was unusual and time-consuming, resulting in a worn sonic palette that captures a vintage perception of the future, all the while retaining his trademark sense of humour.
We spoke to the man behind the myth about the creative process that went into this special album…
By releasing Orange Melamine as Space Dimension Controller, you’re placing it somewhere in the character’s narrative. Did you have a sense of the persona and its universe at the time of creating the album?
It’s the very beginning of SDC! You could call it the prequel and I definitely moved more into the project after making this particular record. It’s definitely the first full project finished with SDC in mind, but I was making music all the time back then.
Were the tracks always meant to be part of an album?
I took so much time making this album and each track was meant for a more long form idea. When I make an album it’s always mapped out and I sketch a tracklist in my brain then slowly work it all out in the studio.
Is there a reason it hasn’t seen a release until now?
I was sitting on it for years and sent it to Ninja Tune, mainly out of curiosity as I’ve always been quite proud of it. It’s definitely aged well as they picked it up immediately and it just kind of happened from there.
You’ve remained pretty concealed over the years. Do you feel this album shows a glimpse into your life as a teenage boy?
It definitely encapsulates that period in my life and you can hear a lot of what I was into in the samples etc. Musically I think it’s definitely influenced by what I was listening to back then i.e Aphex, Boards, Skam etc. The whole thing is a bit like a time capsule I guess.
Amongst the more thoughtful moments, the album is essentially a lot of fun. Do you hope for it to be received with a sense of light-heartedness?
Everything I do has a sense of humour to it and this record is no different. It’s definitely a mix of emotions but I think the undertones in this piece are more on the ethereal side. It’s more of a listen than my stripped back dance stuff and it should be engaged with in that way.
There is a strong attention to detail throughout, particularly in terms of effects processing. Do you think the restrictions of making music with relatively little equipment drove your creativity?
This album took me so long to do, and patience was the key. Just painstakingly going through it all and drawing out each tiny motif was so much effort. It was something I worked on nonstop for days on end and when I look back I can’t believe how patient I was. The process was slow but it was enjoyable to get the final result.
Your approach involved using old hardware and drawing inspiration from grainy video tapes. Is that a process you continue to use today?
Not really, but hardware is always a feature in my music. I’ve definitely moved on into more direct ideas, and those that are sonically more stripped back. The whole project has an intentional sound to it but this particular album is made on tape which gives it that gorgeous effect.
Is that weathered sound something you’ve tried to replicate digitally?
Never! That’s almost sacrilegious haha.
When you listen back to the album now, what are the strongest influences you can hear from that period? Musical or otherwise
Definitely old Warp stuff, John Carpenter, sci-fi films and cartoons I was watching. At 18 years old you assimilate a lot of things quickly, and a lot of them are hidden in the record. I don’t want to give away too much but plenty of Easter eggs are in there if you choose to find them.
You have spoken about having worked with more ambient styles as a teenager, an element which can be heard on the album. Can you see yourself focusing on that again, or is it just a part of your broader aesthetic?
I love ambient music and it’s something I make naturally. I’d love to release more but then I wouldn’t be having so much fun with music. Definitely something I’ll do in my later years but for now I’m enjoying my job, and technically that’s making people dance.
Orange Melamine is out now on Ninja Tune. Order it here.
Featured image: Jacob Chabeaux
Words: Adam Sinclaire