It’s fair to say there has been a modular renaissance over the last few years. A trade which has been around since the early ’60s, one wouldn’t imagine the rise of its popularity in an age where every bedroom producer can gain access to the same production tools of a high end studio.
However influential artists like Actress, Mumdance and Blawan are some of those notable who have turned modular, and thanks to an increase in electronic producers turning to live performance, as well as many opening their doors for studio insights, it seems that modular machinery is becoming an increasingly dominant force in todays’ modern studio.
One of the most dedicated modular retailers in the country is Hackney Wick’s London Modular. Founded by Simon Lynch and Phil Ventre in 2013, the pair run the unit alongside electro producer Gavin Pykerman, also known as electro producer Koova.
When they’re not running workshops, putting on demonstrations, designing their own cases or supplying to figures like Thom Yorke, Boddika and those mentioned above, the trio are releasing dark electro records and touring live sets as London Modular Alliance.
Having already released on Hypercolour and Applied Rhythmic Technology, their latest effort, the Hands & Brains EP, comes via Dimensions Festivals’ new imprint Dimensions Recordings and sees the collective further demonstrate their mastery of the electro form with four varied cuts.
In celebration of the release we asked the crew to educate us on Modular’s history, picking out early developments within mainstream culture to some of its finest moments in electronic music. Peep below.
1. Delia Derbyshire – Love Without Sound
Delia spearheaded unusual methods using modular synths and tape. She pioneered music concrète and had a huge role in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Her best known work is the Dr Who theme, but this trip here is way ahead of its time
2. Roger Limb – Passing Clouds
Another British composer who had a huge influence within the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. This drone is one of several he created in 1976 for ‘Out of This World’ Atmospheric Sounds & Effects fromThe Radiophonic Workshop. One of us bought this at a car boot sale as a young kid before even knowing what a modular synthesiser was.
3. Hard Corps – Je Suis Passée
Officially released in 1985, this clip of Hard Corps playing live in 1984 highlights the power modular had over their sound. Seeing the size and complexity of this in the wild was enough to blow our tiny minds at the time.
4. Kraftwerk – The Robots
No list like this is complete without at least one Kraftwerk track. Robots is the definitive electro pop album. Experimental and melodic in equal measures, it paved the way for electro as we know it today.
5. Soul Sonic Force – Planet Rock
An early introduction to electro beats as impressionable children. This track really hit home how it was possible to merge different styles together.
6. A Guy Called Gerald – Voodoo Ray
Acid house from 1988 that epitomised how analog hardware, when programmed right, can create killer grooves. A timeless classic which pushed so many boundaries.
7. Galaxy 2 Galaxy – Hi Tech Jazz
Exemplary Detroit techno, the best of the best. This record has everything. We included an awesome live version in the link to really highlight the full scale of epicness behind the minds that wrote this…
8. Drexciya – Bubble Metropolis
It’s hard to capture the magic of Drexciya’s music in words. To be honest, we could have chosen at least another 3 or 4 but this is one of the their most well known Drexciya tracks. Released on Underground Resistance, this is paranoid machine funk of the highest order.
9. Acid Jesus – Hibernation Drive
Stone cold classic electro from Roman Flügel. Released in 1997 on Interstate, this was relegated to side B, track 2 as so much proper electro often is. An absolute travesty as this is a proper burner.
10. Anthony Rother – Describe Reality
Effectively raising the bar for electro music in the late ‘90s. Dark as fuck, slightly discordant, but with an undeniable groove. This track is a living, breathing masterpiece.
See our visit to the shop back in 2014.
The Hands & Brains EP is out now on Dimensions Recordings. Order it here.