The Music You Don’t Get to Hear

To strain a simile like an over-eager vicar, Capitalism is like the Borg: it assimilates everything it touches and corrupts it to its own ends. In the 90’s, the internet promised a new age of free information and participation; what we got was “influencers” and dark-money propaganda. Likewise, the explosion of music/audio-related technology over the last 40 years promised new worlds of sound, and far lower barriers to making it for musicians. What we got was something I’d like to call “produced music”.

To define this term, the starting point is to acknowledge that the vast majority of all music currently being produced and in general circulation is created in a particular set of contexts, is created using the same set of tools, has its exposure to an audience governed by an opaque algorithmic process, and is experienced either on a limited number of streaming platforms, or interpolated as a soundtrack of another commercial product.

Furthermore, great efforts are made to hide this uniformity; music as it is presented as product presents an aura that harks back to a bourgeois fantasy of what musical creativity is. We watch an interview where a moody singer-songwriter describes their struggle to write their last album, or a (beautifully colour-graded) video of a folk-rock band sitting around on tea-chests in a barn – and we forget that we’re watching an advert.

This is not to question the quality of produced music – music does not “suck these days”, and I believe that most of the artists that produce it are entirely sincere. But my point is that the way that it is produced and consumed – both technically and commercially – limits the scope of what music is and will be created. Furthermore, both the omnipresence of mediated music in our lives and the abundance of superficial stylistic novelty give a misleading impression of universality – this is the hypernormalization of a limited set of musical outcomes. These outcomes are produced music.

Some artists have responded with a subversive, deconstructive approach from within the form; for example, work by the likes of SOPHIE and Fatima Al Qadiri plays on an explicit performance of artificiality, of acknowledging the process of manufacture (the latter track being an explicit reference to cheap Chinese knock-offs).

Others might suggest that the only solution would be to destroy Capitalism, but I can’t say I’m a great fan of the alternatives. So, for my work, I’d like to understand the purely musical implications of produced music, and to challenge these in kind.

The starting point is the context of the person creating the music: the demise of the traditional models for marketing music and the rise of social media has led to a process of out-sourcing and left the musician as a self-marketing agency worker – part of the ever-expanding precariat. When the currency of the day is likes, shares and follows, any work of music is a pitch, a brand proposition, a rubric, before it’s music. For a musician starting out, their success will be governed more by the success of their online brand than the quality of their work.

On a major-label release, songs will be assembled in song-writing camps, where bright young things (with large Instagram followings) will pitch parts of songs to the label and artist. Even for less commercial work, it’s not enough to produce “a thing wot I wrote” – you need to “use boutique electronica and vintage dial-tones to construct a meditative exploration of time and identity”. Everything’s a pitch.

This process is exacerbated by the ever-increasing union between popular music and commercial music – sync fees are one of the few remaining good sources of income for musician. And again, it’s all agencies and pitches.

These strictures will lead to music that is uniformly consonant with pre-existing branding, and musical ideas that are quickly grasped. This is most obvious in the primacy of timbre in almost all contemporary music, and the dominance of cyclic over progressive structures. We don’t want to wait for the drop.

The next commonality is the universality of the Digital Audio Workstation in the production of music. These are very, very powerful platforms these days; whilst they offer fewer and fewer absolute restrictions, they influence the music made in what they make easy and what they make hard. Cyclic structures, layering, timbral variation, and complex regular rhythms are made easy; irregularity – in structure, in temperament (tuning system), and in terms of the freeness achieved by human music-making – is much harder. Furthermore, the power of non-destructive editing and the various “turd-polishing” tools available to the modern producer makes the tweaked and perfected master recordings the endpoint of the musical process. The listener is given little coming out of spontaneity or accident, and the touring musician is left to produce a facsimile of the “real thing”.

Lastly, we should consider the mechanism that delivers this music to people – streaming accounts for the vast majority of music consumption. Curation algorithms and playlists favour music that fits neatly into an established genre. This has benefitted some micro-genres like Vapour Wave and Lo-Fi Chill-Hop – but this “genre-fication” is an acute example of the broader influence of the medium. The user experience of using a streaming service promotes certain types of consumption – we are more likely to treat music like air-conditioning (switch it on to improve the atmosphere) rather than as an active experience. Again, this promotes uniform content with a limited dynamic range – something that can tickle through laptop speakers while you work. Music used in sync will be carried on the same services, and thus have the same features – with the added requirement of having impact and being identifiable on very short timescales – your video will start in 5 seconds…

From the above, we would expect the characteristics of produced music to be:

  • Understood primarily as a recording of sound – portable and endlessly reproducible
  • Identifiable and uniform in genre, and uniform enough throughout to allow easy identification – this will tend limit the length of a song as well
  • Cyclic harmonic structures that require little or no harmonic memory
  • Regular meter and fixed tempo
  • Little or no colouring through the tempering of notes (altering the pitch slightly for emphasis or colour).
  • Consequently, musical content is dominated by timbre, rather than melody, rhythm, or harmony
  • Reproduceable on cheap headphones or stereo speakers – so having limited dynamic range and bass extension and lacking any surround or 3D information.

I hope the reader will be struck by how proscriptive this list is – and how much music it describes!

We should then imagine the alternative: music the lives in live performance, music that could carry its meaning on everything from a mandolin to a symphony orchestra, music that is heterodox and promiscuous in style, music that develops ideas and tension over varying timescales, music that surges and develops, plays and converses with the listener, music that demands to be heard and envelops its audience.

I rather like that idea of that sort of music, and that’s why I’m writing a musical.

Turning the Tide – PMSE access to the UHF band

My five-year-old daughter has no concept of linear broadcasting – she is genuinely confused as to why she can’t watch whatever, whenever – as she can with almost all the media that she consumes, which comes either via YouTube or on-demand apps. She will be 18 in 2030, the date given in the Lamy Report for security of tenure for the remaining DTV band. Whilst PMSE users are still facing up to the loss of the 700 MHz band, we need to start thinking about what will happen to the DTV band (and by extension our access to spectrum) after 2030.

I had previously subscribed to what I will call the “King Canute” approach to PMSE spectrum – that the PMSE community must do everything it can to hold back the tide against the loss of our current spectrum – but watching how my daughter consumes media has changed how I see the situation. Clearly, anything I could say about the future of DTV is guesswork, but I offer the following observations:

  • In 2030, I believe DTV will be a legacy service, so I suspect that we’re looking at more than another progressive loss of spectrum to the mobile phone companies. Furthermore, DTV continues to lag the curve in terms of image standards – which further suggests that its future will be purely as a legacy public service rather than as a commercial prospect.
  • Certain territories with historically low uptake of DTT have already begun switching off services. However, I would be surprised if DTV was switched off altogether in the UK – it will be still favoured by senior citizens (who vote reliably more than the rest of us), and the optics of sweet old Mrs. Miggins missing Emmerdale because of the horrible people at Ofcom are not good. Furthermore, for a large change like this, I can see the attraction of a policy option that contains a degree of compromise.
  • The amount of spectrum required by DTV could be reduced massively if regional offerings became online-only and broadcasting was moved over to a Single Frequency Network. This would also wipe out the whitespace used by PMSE.

But do the mobile networks really need this spectrum? There is plenty of evidence that estimates for mobile spectrum demand are unrealistically high. Furthermore, in high demand scenarios, lower band spectrum (the DTV spectrum) is of limited use – it goes too far! The only way to meet demand in those scenarios are is large number of short range (higher frequency) cells – which is exactly what is already done at festivals and sports events.

However, I believe that the pattern of bidding the US 600 MHz auction gives some insight in to what’s really going on. Irrespective of technical need, the income from spectrum auctions is attractive to administrations, and there are no major actors to challenge the prevailing wisdom on mobile spectrum demand. Correspondingly, the network operators will be under pressure from their shareholders to be seen to be keeping up with competitors in the acquisition of spectrum. So, as there is no brake on the system, while the prices paid for spectrum have dropped significantly, it will continue to be offered at auction, and it will continue to be bought.

There is also, I think, a measurement problem here: whilst the utility of spectrum continues to be predominantly understood in terms of easily-measurable first-order economic effects, the apparently optimal outcome will always be to flog it to the people with the deepest pockets. Whilst I’m sure regulators understand the paucity of this approach, I suspect they lack the political cover for a more nuanced approach.

Bearing the above in mind, I would suggest that it is highly likely that the amount of DTV spectrum available for PMSE shortly after 2030 could be low enough to represent a crisis for large events. King Canute will be well and truly underwater, and I believe that we need to look for new approaches to securing spectrum for PMSE.

I should add that this point that I do not mean to criticize lobbying efforts made on behalf of the PMSE industry up to this point. The needs of PMSE users are better appreciated and carry more weight in the UK than anywhere else in the world, and this down to the exceptional efforts of a body of extremely dedicated people (you know who you are…). I do think, though, that we need a new approach to face the post-2030 challenges, and I offer several suggestions as to how we might approach it:

  • We should stop thinking in terms of “our spectrum” – whilst everyone’s taking the Canute approach, spectrum access is a zero-sum game. We need to remember that spectrum belongs to the citizens of the country and is regulated for everyone’s benefit – this public interest is important, and we need to recognise it as a starting point.
  • We need to embrace new spectrum opportunities – I absolutely understand and respect people’s hesitancy about new, unproven PMSE bands; however, I do feel that there is a tendency to reject them on the assumption that this improves the case for defending our current allocation – again, we need to let go of Canute.
  • PMSE needs to become a broader church – we should be moving towards an inclusive, technology neutral approach to short-term, short-range technically-assigned licensing. PMSE needs to lose the “special” and become are larger presence by brining other applications in to our space – on our terms. This will also remove regulatory barriers to innovation for PMSE manufacturers.
  • We should be finding common cause with other spectrum users – a shared commitment to technical transparency and the public interest could open up any number of opportunities – particularly as it would help us to capitalise on what is arguably PMSE’s greatest extrinsic asset as a spectrum stakeholder – we’re attractive as a sharing partner. Use is hands-on, licenced, low power, and non-ubiquitous. You know where we are, and you can get hold of us. Also, a significant lobby largely aligned with the objectives of the regulator is essential for this next point:
  • We need to change perceptions of what the mobile networks are, and therefore how they should be regulated – over the last two decades, how mobile networks are used has changed almost completely; the fact that you can use them to make telephone calls is almost incidental. Whilst it’s arguable that the majority of wireless data will still be carried by Wi-Fi (there’s a separate blog post to be written on how badly we need more spectrum for that!), I suspect that the mobile data networks will continue to become the backbone of more and more services, looking more like ubiquitous public utilities – and we need to make the case that they should be regulated as such.

The crux all this is that I suspect, post-2030, as well as taking advantage of new spectrum opportunities, for large events PMSE users will need to find a way to share spectrum with mobile networks under a Licenced Shared Access scheme. Current wisdom – from both PMSE users and mobile network operators – is that this is impossible. And the current direction of travel on LSA is for private contractual arrangements between incumbent and sharer – something that the PMSE industry won’t get a sniff of. But I think that this is Canute rearing his ugly head again – if we accept (as I think we have to) that mobile is going to dominate the UHF bands, we need to push for a regulatory environment where mobile networks are treated like a public utility, and access to sharing spectrum and/or infrastructure is open to as diverse a pool of secondary users as possible.

And it should be as wide a pool of users as possible – all the spectrum users put under pressure by the dominance of mobile. Sitting with our arms folded and only defending our own turf can only get us so far – like a certain Anglo-Saxon king. Special pleading by a single sector is easy to dismiss – a genuinely open and inclusive approach to spectrum access is not.



It Doesn’t Feel Like Home – Tonality in Grunge

When we talk about the features of a particular genre of pop music, the first aspect people tend to focus on is the sound – like the heavily distorted, scooped-mid guitars of metal, or the 808 kicks in hip-hop. They might then turn to groove, or the melodic hooks of notable songs, and then move on to visual aspects of the genre. But I think that this misses a trick – the emotional heft and over-all feel of almost all music is defined by the harmonic progressions it uses, and the tension and relationships they establish between themselves. To quote Frank Zappa: “One of the most exciting things that ever happened in the world of ‘white-person music’ was when the Beach Boys used the progression V-ii on “Little Deuce Coupe.”

In this post, I want to put forward a theory I’ve been mulling – what makes Grunge fundamentally different from most other rock music is its ambivalent attitude to tonality – that is, the establishment of a home chord, and the structuring of a song around departures and returns to this chord. Admittedly, you also find this lack of rootedness in extreme metal – but the effect there is one of deliberate disorientation in the name of heaviness, rather than ambivalence (that’s another blog post…).

Now, you might answer that any cerebral analysis of Grunge is pointless – the musicians involved weren’t noted for their counterpoint, and what we hear is the result of untutored plunking around. To that I say this: that plunking around, like the Beatles, produced some great songs, and I hope to show that there is some unity that defies pure chance.

Note – the note and chord names I give assume standard or drop-d turning – many Grunge bands tuned down between one and three semitones.

Foundations of Rock

So, why is this tonal ambivalence so important? Simply, because in conventional rock music, it’s all about the tonic, the home chord (hereafter I) – hammering it home, leaving it for a bit to build some tension, and then crashing back to it just in time for the lead singer to rock you/his baby/the world. Like the blues it grew out of, the first step away from the tonic is usually the fourth degree of the scale, the sub-dominant (IV). Some songs, like Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, never get further than that – which rather strikes me as the musical equivalent of leaving home, and then getting scared at the post-box at the end of your road and turning back, but hey – irony.

To go further, rock music uses this I-IV relationship to create a circle of fourths – as opposed to the circle of fifths that dominates Tin Pan Alley and pop songs. So, continuing on, we get I-IV-♭VII-♭III-♭VI – or, in the key of E (what else…), E-A-D-G-C. These chords by themselves will get you through a lot of songs – “Hey Joe” is simply a descending circle of fourths, “Communication Breakdown” is I-IV-♭VII-IV with a bluesy IV-V at the end of the chorus. Leaving out a few chords gives us the ♭VI-♭VII-I beloved of cheesy rock build-ups the world over – see The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, which takes this one trick plus possibly the goofiest riff ever written a turns it in to entire song.

Simplifying ever further, we end up with the ♭VII-I movement, which is one of the strongest indications of tonality in rock; see The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”.

Even when these building blocks are handled with more dexterity, such as in the Beatles’ “Back in the USSR”, the result is the same – it’s all about having a solid tonic to jump off and crash back in to.

Eight Thousand Miles from Home

Turning now to Grunge, Exhibit A is “Rooster” by Alice in Chains. The verse is built around the alternating chords of F♯7add11 and A9 which is (as you might expect from my first example…) a textbook case of tonal ambiguity. The chords have no real hierarchy – they don’t share a scale that could define their relationship, and the alternation defeats and sense of antecedent and precedent or tension and release. Most interestingly, the drone notes that they share on the open top strings of the guitar, E and B, hint at a home key (E) that only ever features in passing – which is fitting, given that the song concerns a marine’s experience away from home in Vietnam. The melody line, admittedly, favours an F♯ tonality, often landing on that note at the end of a phrase over the A chord – but it’s far from emphatic, meandering over multiple suspensions (often using both A♯ and A♮ in close conjunction).

When we get to the chorus (“Here they come to snuff the rooster…”), two new chords are introduced, B5 and D5, and we finally get the sense that we’re heading somewhere, and the F♯5 takes on the feeling of a pedal that’s about to be part of the modulation as well. However, after all this building, we crash back to the ambiguity of the verse. And at the end of the song, the melody and harmony land on a consonant A – but we know this isn’t home.

Lost in Space

Soundgardens’s “Black Hole Sun” play’s a similar game; apart from a very brief ♭VII-I that comes out of nowhere at the end of the guitar solo and the outro, we never quite know where we are. Rather than complete ambivalence, we’re given perpetually moving goalposts (with an extended chord sequence that defeats our expectation of a 4-bar repeating sequence) – the play of the melody against the chords gives plenty of inertia, but every time we turn a corner, perspective shifts and we find ourselves no closer to home.

We could admit that the home key is G – this gives us the ♭VII-I previously mentioned, and the resonant E♭sus4-D7(no 3rd) that opens the chorus feels like that’s where it’ll propel us – but then we only have a G as a passing chord on our way to B♭ – more twists and turns!

What both this and “Rooster” have in common is that, in terms of arrangement and dynamics, they use fairly standard rock tension-and-release mechanisms – but these mechanisms are used to take us, tonally, anywhere but where we expect to go.

Smells Like Ambivalence

Conversely, there are plenty of Grunge songs with a strong sense of a home key – but the contrast with traditional rock here is how the song treats this home. Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, almost genre-defining on its own, is a case in point – the I-V drone over the verse leaves us in no doubt that we’re in F. Furthermore, vast majority of the song repeats the sequence F5-B♭5-A♭5-D♭5 – wholly conventional circle-of-fourths territory.

But what’s critical is the sense of ambivalence – there’s no tension and release, except in the dynamics between verse and chorus. We do get something a bit more pungent – the F5-G♭5 after the chorus. This suggests some movement – maybe a ♭VI-♭VII-I movement up to a new tonic B♭ – but what we get is a mocking “Yay” from Kurt, and a fall back to the well-established four chord sequence.

We’re not going out to rock the world – we’re stuck in crappy small town we grew up in and nothing feels like home any more.

Faking It

In the wake of the Seattle grunge boom, record company rosters sank low in the water with a deluge of grunge-ish bands. Whilst this provided an opening for many entirely decent guitar bands, many of the most highly-promoted offerings where rightly criticised as bandwagon-jumping sound-alikes. Heck, even Metallica cut their hair and produced “Load”, which had more than a whiff of lumberjack shirt about it! But how do you spot a phony? These pretenders looked and sounded like the real thing.

Here, I think, is the counter-example that quite neatly demonstrates harmonic ambivalence’s importance to grunge: Sponge were amongst the most visible of the bands subjected to this backlash, and their radio-friendly “Plowed” is Exhibit Z.

The charge sheet is a long one – the verse chords are a circle-of-fourths in E, but the song’s really in G major, so we read them as a circle-of-fifths, with only the added C9 (IV9) providing the faintest whiff of rock-ness. And much of the song’s inertia just end up deflated by the C9-G relaxation at the end of each verse phrase. The D-C movement in the pre-chorus might provide a bit of rock energy, but again we already know we’re in G, so we read it as a V-IV – pure pop!

To give the lads some credit, in the chorus we do then take a detour through E and C before returning to G, and then pass through it to give our much-beloved C9 (the raisins in the blandest curry ever) the status of the “end of chorus home”. However, one small shift in tonality does not a summer make – it does provide interest, and the chorus’ hammering it home is consonant with the non-specific ennui of the lyrics, but it’s not enough. We already know we’re in a standard tension-and-release pop song.

Now, I rather like “Rotting Piñata” (the album from which the song is taken), and many of the other songs on the album are rather less white-bread. But I think everyone who heard “Plowed” knew they weren’t getting the real thing – and that wasn’t down to production, instrumentation, lyrics, or the band’s haircuts – it was the harmonic structure. All of the right chords, not necessarily in the right order.

What’s he building in there…?


I’ve been fiddling with something I’m calling “Bump” for some time now, and I thought it was time to share it with a limited portion of the world for comment.

So, what is it? Well, it’s theatrical sound playback software, but it’s quite limited (8 players, 4 outputs), as it’s designed as a proof-of-concept, rather than a fully featured system. It has, however, given me the opportunity to implement certain things that I’ve really wanted in the past:

  • RAM-buffered ASIO playback; very, very responsive and sample accurate
  • 32-bit mix engine with per-sample volume interpolation – fades as smooth as a fader
  • DAW-like cue layout, with drag-and-drop and multi-stage envelopes
  • Variable HPF/LPF for each sound file – get those effects to sit right!
  • MIDI or audio events can be BPM locked within a cue, and “Go”s can be delayed to the next beat/bar

So, it’s not quite ready for alpha release (not MIDI or looping at the mo, and crashes it bit!), but I’ll be looking for testers soon (and a manual writer. please.) to break it in new and interesting ways…

Sound, Status, and the Tony Awards

Since the announcement of the elimination of both Sound Design Tonys broke, many eloquent voices have put forward the (pretty bomb-proof, IMHO) case for their re-instatement. I’m not going to try and re-make those arguments, but there’s one facet of the whole affair that no-one’s touched on yet – hence this blog post. Let’s look at the reasons two anonymous Tony wonks gave for the change, quoted in the NYT:

Many Tony voters do not know what sound design is or how to assess it; a large number of Tony voters choose not to cast ballots in sound design categories because of this lack of expertise; and some administration committee members believe that sound design is more of a technical craft, rather than a theatrical art form that the Tonys are intended to honor.

Now, the first two reasons (and the wilful disinterest they imply) have been covered and rebutted well, but on the third point, the response has been more defensive. And, fatally, the responses have often implicitly accepted the premise of the statement: that the technical and the creative are opposing principles. Well, to that I say balls. And I think that in pushing for an open, egalitarian, and above all honest theatre, we should all say balls. Let me tell you for why…

Working in and around theatre, I often feel a tension between two opposing visions and sets of assumptions about what our work actually is. The first, let’s call it “The X Factor Model”, sees creatives and actors as innately gifted beings, reaching down to touch the lives of the mortals in the audience. It is consonant with this view that there should be an above stairs/below stairs division between the creative people, and the black t-shirts who scurry about realizing their vision. Now, I’m aware that a certain amount of what Roland Barthes calls “the mystification which transforms petit bourgeois culture into a universal nature” is required to sell tickets, but those of us working in theatre (including the Tony committee) should beware of internalizing this claptrap.

In contrast, what I believe that we should aspire to as theatre-makers is to share our craft with each other, and with the audience, as equals. And I don’t think this idealistic – in my experience it represents the reality of good theatre-making. In this context, I think asking if Sound Design is technical is meaningless – it involves technique, but then so does everything else in making a show. The fact that it often involves black boxes with knobs and dials is massively irrelevant – we’re there for what we can give to the show.

Seen like this, the decision of the Tony committee looks like an attempt to preserve an illusory status quo, damaging the status of Sound Design in the process. We won’t win the argument by saying “we’re creative really – please let us in to the club!” – we need to reject the creative/technical dichotomy. We should trust our craft to make the technical aspects of our work irrelevant – if we accept the dichotomy and seek to hide anything “technical”, we’ve already accepted second-class status. We’ve already accepted that people have a right to look down on part of what we do. And, I would argue, we’ve accepted an elitist, disingenuous view of what theatre is.

One final thought – I don’t think that there’s such a thing as a “creative person” either – it’s as divisive and unhelpful as labelling someone “technical”. When you see someone being creative, you know two things about them – first, that they’ve put in the hours to develop their craft to the point that it’s almost invisible, and secondly, that they’ve overcome the self-censorship that we seem to beat in to kids to the point that they can be generous and open with their work. This should be celebrated in every single person that works in theatre.

Everything into a cardboard box

Having uploaded them to Bandcamp, I’m just reviewing the tracks from “We Were There”, and getting ready to write blurbs for various things. At the same time, I’m just ripping the last few CDs from my collection, and packing them into cardboard boxes to make space in the nursery.

The two activities seem pleasantly assonant. Going over memorabilia, and packing it away ready for the next bit of your life – that’s what albums are for, I think. Well, this one is, anyway…

FWIW, I think I’ll end up with about 1350 albums/13000 songs. Can any of our readers beat that?

Almost done

So, what can I say about it? When it’s done, which should be in the next week, it’ll be 12 tracks long, and is going to come in at just over 40 minutes. Musically, it’s a mix… of everything I felt like plagarising: Ambient, Glitch, Dub Techno, Dubstep, Hauntology. It’s a chin-stroking rather than rug-cutting album, but you might not your head occasionally

Cover art seems to be necessary, so I dun this:


…which also will give you an idea of the title – what could it mean?! Well… stuff, mostly. It’s a collection of stuff from this part of my life, which I wanted to get done before I move on to the next part of my life – the fast approaching one with babies in it. Innit? The tracklist looks a bit like:

  1. Filament
  2. Zombi
  3. No Sleep ‘Til Godalming
  4. You Will Always Be
  5. Ultrawhite
  6. Drone (Elektra)
  7. Arcaibh 1
  8. Arcaibh 2
  9. Daughter of the Sabbath
  10. Lakehouse
  11. m.b.
  12. Drone (Psalm)

It’ll be available on 3/3/12 to stream from Soundcloud, and for free download from Bandcamp.

Wrong notes

So, I’m in the process of getting some tracks together for something that might be a bit like an album. A bit like an album, except I don’t expect many people to hear it, and I don’t really expect anyone to pay for it.

Anyhoo… the fact is, everything I’ve do so far has come out EP-sized. That’s my attention span, it seems!

So, the idea this time is to try and break through that barrier – hence, heading for the album format. It’s been illuminating – I think that, unless you’re some sort of genius, you can’t “write an album” – an album is, as it’s name suggests, a collection of work over a period of time. Try and poot it out all at once and you’ll end up with filler for days (The Difficult Second Album, anyone?).

And speaking of filler, that leads me on to the challenge of structuring electronic/noise music – and why it tends to come out as sub-minimalist pap.

Now, first of all there’s obviously the studio process – layering and layering, copy and paste, 8 bar segments… but I do think there’s a second factor – I think you can challenge people timbrally, or structurally/harmonically – do both, and you risk producing something totally opaque.

Or maybe I am (as S suggests), just obsessed with putting in wrong notes in order to look clever…