Track-by-Track: Sim Hutchins – ‘Vantablank Stare’

UK producer and video artist Sim Hutchins first made waves in the grime scene, having spent the last decade working with MCs and playing on Essex pirate radio and the East Anglian free party scene. In more recent times Sim has gravitated towards more experimental spheres, with a string of releases and a debut album on respected London label No Pain In Pop that took an outsider’s approach to traditional composition, nodding towards various club movements whilst unafraid to wander into unfamiliar fields.

This approach has seen Sim compared to contemporary producers such as Actress and Lanark Artefax , with his latest effort for Lee Gamble’s UIQ label further cementing his status as a truly unique artist. A project born from a personal discontent with the vacuous repetition of 24 hour rolling news coverage, Vantablank Stare sees Sim explore current socio-political issues via an audio/visual narrative, as CGI representations of public control news studios are soundtracked by bleak samples of radio waves and covert signals that Sim shapes into cold, abstract phases and fractured templates.

We caught up with Sim for a run through the creative process and deeper meanings behind Vantablank Stare. Stream fragments of the release and watch the full A/V project, which runs with the entirety of the record on loop, below.

In summary of the audio-visual aspect:

The multi-language video responses created for this project (inspired by the endless black-hole that is 24-hour rolling news) present each of the three tracks as bleak soundtracks to meticulously edited stock footage of empty newsrooms tinted in an unworldly green hue.

As void-filled screens loom ominously, text scrolls by on a ticker filled with headlines mocking the codes and conventions of the medium and exposing it’s real function as a tool for public control. The video and music started to take form at the same time as the European referendum here in the UK, where I was just absolutely sick to death of the endless news cycles and found some solace in creating something to advocate for the demise of the industry’s stranglehold on events.

Fast forward to the start of this year and UIQ’s Sam Keating-Fry created a multi-language infinitely-looping video installation, whilst Zuli translated the text into Russian and Arabic respectively – that now seems more relevant to me than ever in a world post-Trump, post-election and post-truth.

Sim Hutchins

1. ‘Some Men (you) Just Want to Watch the World Burn’

I wanted to create something that depicts a losing battle of anxiety, one that is armed by a high-tempered relentless stream of skewed views and distorted snares & bass lines, and is a kind of nod to the chaotic sound of the post-ecstasy-comedown that jungle diverged into after it split with hardcore.

Tracks like Dylan’s ‘Witchcraft’ and Laibach’s ‘God Is God (Optical Remix)’ spring to mind for me, along with the distorted bass of Dillinja’s 808s under his Capone alias. Jams I recorded on my circuit bent TR626, which also supplied the drum samples, and I think the rest was just chord samples ran through reverb into some junk guitar pedals a million times over, and lots and lots of automation.

2.  ‘Nescience is Not Ignorance’

Here we’re moving further into an unsettling ambient soundtrack of radio wave samples, electronic communications and covert signs whilst peddling the same narrative over and over again.

Synths and pads nod to the conjured imagery of forgotten worlds on the dark ambient soundtracks of Burzum’s ‘Hlikj疝f’ and the hum & buzz of William Basinski’s ‘Shortwave Music‘. It’s hard for me to remember what was going on technically here, as there’s tons of processing going on, just assume everything is side-chained to everything else ad infinitum.

3. ‘Some Men (you) Just Want to Let the World Burn’

Vantablank Stare ends in stark contrast to it’s counterpart ‘Some Men (you) Just Want to Watch the World Burn’. Whilst the chaos inspired side A fights a losing battle through Jungle-inspired urban warfare, dub techno electronica soothes the listener into submission on the flipside.

Think the bassline blips on Slam’s ‘Reverse Proceed’, which was on my Hyponik mix, paired with phasing repetition akin to something like  Convextion’s ‘JMA020603’. Here I took parts from the first track and flipped them into something slower and more subdued, and conceptually it’s the difference between disrupting the system, and sitting back and waiting for it’s inevitable demise.

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Vantablank Stare is out now on UIQ Music. You can buy it here. 

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