On his new album, ‘Changes’, Synkro peddles the kind of lush, melodic ambience that saw his early self-released records (unfairly) compared to the likes of Burial. But this time around, with a renewed confidence in his own sound, there’s no mistaking him for anyone but himself. It’s a break from the toughened, industrial walls of sound that typify his collaborative work as one half of Akkord – alongside fellow North-Westerner and hardware obsessive Indigo – and, as he explains, something of a welcome one.
This is a long-player that’s been a long time coming and has the hallmarks of expansiveness and freedom of expression that so often exemplify a decent first album effort, but without the irritating trend-hopping forays that artists still searching for confidence in their sound might be susceptible to. But, as its title might suggest, this is far from the end of the story and much more a document of progress as Synkro continues to mine his self-confessed obsession with both the history of electronic music and the instruments – as opposed to iMac configuration and pirated DAW software – used to make it.
With this increasing adoption of influence and hardware use, Synkro faces a new challenge not only in developing his craft but also in finding his place within and adding to this wider genre-denying context of ‘electronic music.’ Apollo Records – the ambient subdivision of legendary Techno imprint R&S Records, and home to releases from the likes of Aphex Twin and Locust – already lays claim to a large chunk of that historical discography, so where better for him to continue the journey from?
Hyponik: You’ve been making and releasing music for many years, why wait until now to release an album?
Synkro: I’ve been asked by labels in the past to do an album, but it’s something I didn’t want to rush into. If I’d put out an album 5 years ago, when I was still finding my sound, I would have regretted it. One of the reasons it has taken me so long is because I am very critical of my own work; I think I’ve finally got to a place now where I am comfortable with my sound.
H: You’ve been releasing fairly consistently with Apollo since debuting on the label; do you feel you’ve a good working relationship in place now? Do you prefer to work with a label that offers complete creative freedom or one which will provide more guidance in shaping your sound?
S: Its a real honour to be on the R&S/Apollo roster, some of my favourite records of all time have been released by these labels, and I feel very privileged to be part of such an important discography within the history of electronic music. I have a serious amount of respect for Renaat, Sabine and everyone that works within R&S; I really feel like part of the family. Apollo have given me the creative freedom to find my sound without trying to make me fit into a certain mould, and they’ve really pushed me to get the best out of myself too.
H: Your last release for Apollo was the ‘Transient EP’, this record is called ‘Changes’ – is there more to come with this theme of growth and development?
S: I am working on a lot of ambient pieces at the moment, and there’s a couple of tracks on the album that kind of hint at the direction I’m heading in. The bonus track on my Bandcamp ‘Above The Clouds’ is something that I’m really happy with and is a perfect example of this progression.
I’d really like to start working on commissioned pieces for visuals – one of my big goals is to score a film soundtrack; I’m obsessed with soundtracks and library music at the moment.
H: You’ve talked about the influence early electronic music and learning from the past has had on the album. How does this relate to your own musical past and learning from that?
S: I have been pretty open about my musical background, I think I’ve taken something from every step of the way. I started out playing drums in metal bands at high school, then moved onto guitar and piano; towards the end of high school I discovered Drum & Bass and Jungle tape packs, then from there to Garage, Grime and Dubstep. When I found Dubstep it opened me up to a world of interesting labels like Planet Mu and Warp, and that’s when I really became obsessed with electronic music and started collecting records.
I’ve said it before, but for me the influences sections in the Autonomic podcasts curated by dBridge and Instra:mental in 2009 really opened my ears to a whole range of music that just blew my mind. Since then I’ve been obsessed with trying to find obscure electronic music from the past and it’s been an amazing journey.
H: How different has it been working on this album compared with the Akkord project?
S: It was very different, to be honest. We made the Akkord album in a short space of time over a series of intense studio sessions working to pretty strict self-imposed rules. It was very clinical and precise and we kind of knew exactly what we wanted to do and how we wanted it to sound. But this album is something I have been gradually working on for a long time now, there are a couple of tracks that started out as ideas maybe a few years ago that I’ve put a lot of myself into and that really mean a lot to me. I definitely have a much stronger personal connection with this album than anything I’ve done with Akkord.
H: Both this album and the Akkord record featured lots of analogue synths and the sounds associated with classic hardware – is there a sense that the easier it gets for people to both make and release electronic music (particularly digitally) there’s greater value in returning to the nuts and bolts of it, as it were?
S: I’ve played instruments from a young age so for me making music has always involved something more than a computer and VST plugins. When I first started using a computer to make music I would always put something in the track that was recorded from another source, whether it was a little guitar lick or an accidental recording of a friend laughing. I think a big part of it for me is trying to capture a moment as much as a sound, when I listen back to a track I always remember the story behind the sound and the recording process. It’s the same with the synths I’m using. The Juno 6 has got no MIDI and no memory so you can’t program it or save patches, every part I record on the Juno is completely unique to that recording. The [Roland SH] 101 is similar, but I have a CV to MIDI converter so I can actually sequence parts on it, but there’s no internal memory so I can’t save any patches.
H: Do you have plans to convert this approach and perform the new material in a live setup (similarly to the first Akkord shows)?
S: I really enjoy playing DJ sets as Synkro but sometimes it is hard for me to translate my sound to a club environment as there are a lot of melodies and tempo changes. But, saying that, I like to challenge people in the club. It’s so easy to play a set of monotone bass music that is all made at roughly the same tempo with hardly any melodic elements – anyone can do that. It’s much harder to throw people around from one key to another, switching tempos and styles but still keeping a consistent flow. I will always love DJing but I think my own material would maybe translate better in a live situation, so I am working on a live set at the moment and hope to be able to take some bookings for early next year.
Words: Will Pritchard