Friday, July 29, 2005
Large Number on The Electronic Bible Chapter Two
Early 2004 I conducted an interview with Ann Shenton,
ex-Add N To (X), who now runs her new project called Large Number. Large Number has soon a new split single out (with X-Wife and Hiem), with a track called 'Shy English Hitler', from the forthcoming compilation Electronic Bible Chapter 2, curated by Ann Shenton.
I just received a promo copy of the single, and Large Number's track is hilarious, like an electro update of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's title song to the 1967 film Bedazzled (a parodic anti-love song, which Cook delivers in a monotonous, deadpan voice, and which includes his classic putdown "You fill me with inertia).
And you didn't hear it from me: it is rumoured that a Finnish act called Kompleksi will be featured on some future chapter of The Electronic Bible...
Below you can read the press release notes that came along with the promo.
New Single Release
Release: Electronic Bible Split Single
Artists: LARGE NUMBER / X-WIFE / HIEM
Tracks: 'Shy English Hitler' / 'Hot Shot' / 'Crawlers'
Format: 7" Vinyl Triple A-Sided
In Shops: August 22nd 2005
Catalogue No: White Label
Archangel-like, this nifty little three-tracker heralds the forthcoming Electronic Bible Chapter 2 compilation curated by Ann Shenton, formerly of analogue headcases, Add N to (X). Marc Hunter of Windsor-based independent label White Label coaxed Ann into forming Large Number as well as contributing to and overseeing production of the first Electronic Bible, a wonderful, evangelical compilation of mavericks and forward thinkers, all sharing Ann's vision of electronic music as something vibrant, human and a little bit wonky.
The album follows in the autumn from where the three tracks from LARGE NUMBER, X-WIFE and HIEM have been selected for this limited edition 7".
Large Number - 'Shy English Hitler': Pacman rhythms combined with refrains wrung out of God knows what (Ann has been known to model monosynths from driftwood, go figure...) This pre-menstrual, not-suffering-fools-gladly Julie Burchill of a track -- voice by a bloke(!?!) -- is coruscating, vituperative and sweetly sinister. Ann thinks that Large Number tracks have a cheeky perverted dwarf humour to them. This hasn't stopped the Spray On Sound album from winning audiences ranging from Radio Three to New York's most avant-garde turntables.
X-Wife - 'Hot Shot': newly recorded for this compilation, these Portuguese punkers' Feeding The Machine album has won them tour spots with LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture and the Liars. Hot Shot's monochromatic slither of industrial cause and effect features X-Wife's Joao snarling like chief Pixie, Frank Black with a glowing wire up his arse jerking to a backdrop of dentist's drill riffs astride growling synths.
Hiem - 'Crawlers': another polyphonic pearl from the Sheffield-based dynamic duo. Hiem eschew songs for sub-four minute dance symphonies. 'Crawlers' stomps, punches the air imperiously and causes an endorphin rush. For All Seeing I member, Bozz, and his sidekick Nico -- a collaborator with Pulp's Russell Senior in the lauded Vennini -- feted by the switched-on and tuned-in. Oh, and Sheffield's postal force.
The Electronic Bible Chapter 2 will feature twenty artists including Momus, Anat Ben-David and the Sheffield Stylophone Orchestra. EB1 featured contributions from Ladytron, Electronic Trailblazer and Cabaret Voltaire man, Richard Kirk, Jarvis Cocker and Large Number. A third is planned for 2006.
THE ELECTRONIC BIBLE: Ten Commandments
In 2001, Ann Shenton left analogue art-punks Add N To (X). After a period of recuperation, she began making electronic music under the name Large Number. Large Number's debut album, Spray On Sound -- a selection of pretty, abrasive psychedelic pop songs -- arrived in 2003, followed last year by The Electronic Bible; an evangelical compilation of those mavericks who share Ann's vision of electronic music as something vibrant, human and sligtly wonky. With Large Number about to tour and the second installment of The Electronic Bible imminent, we present -- by way of explanation and biographical background information -- ten commandments from Ann Shenton: high priestess of the alternative electronic underground... (*)
Thou shalt not flog a dead horse:
It was when the rest of the band went on tour without her, says Ann that she realised that Add N To (X) had run its course. "It had gone as far as it could without causing personal injury", she says, cryptically. "So it had to stop." They were a band of fiery characters, who enjoyed fiery times: "Being kidnapped by New York taxi drivers, meeting Mexican drug dealers, the sex, the lunacy. It was all enjoyable, for a time. But, eventually, it's like going on the same fast ride at the fair: it's predictable and you end up being sick."
Thou shalt not wear pink plastic knickers:
"Somebody told me that the definition of electroclash was, 'electronic music with a punk attitude'. We'd been trying to do that all along. Maybe if I'd worn a tiny pair of plastic pink knickers we might have got noticed a bit more. But it wasn't in my nature."
"Ego-tronic rather than electronic, too many tears for my liking", is how Ann describes the last days of ANTX. For a time, she was quietly disgusted with the whole idea of making music and being in a band. However, after a period living (with a biker gang) in Idaho, she returned to her native Windsor where Marc Hunter, who runs White Label Records, set about persuading her to make more music: "He coaxed Large Number out of me with bottles of wine".
Specifically, after enduring the inter-band tensions that typified ANTX's stormy gigs, Ms. Shenton was shit scared of playing live: "I was scarred, like a Battersea dog". However, a series of dates with Chicks on Speed, as support to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, jolted her out of her fear. After being bottled off every night -- "One night, I had a whole bottle of Baileys thrown at me, abot 60 bottles of beer and a bag of shit. Although, the bag of shit hit a security guard -- Ann reasoned that: "Nothing could be that bad again". Large Number gigs may still be fraught with exploding equipment, etc., but at least no one is hurling turds at the stage.
Thou shalt ignore London:
"In London everybody's wondering what shoes you've got on, rather than what music you make."
Thou shalt love Moog as yourself:
Despite once having made a scale model of a Moog out of driftwood ("It looked shit."), Ann insists she doesn't fetishise old keyboards. Nor is she an outright analogue puritan. Large Number occasionally utilise computer technology in the studio. However, she does still LOVE the warmth and idiosyncracies of pre-digital synthesisers: "No one keyboard sounds the same as the next one, that's what I love about them. And they get knocked about, they have battle scars -- character".
Thou shalt embrace humanity: "You know when we talked about electroclash, and all these 'I am a robot and I'm going to fuck you' songs? Well, with Large Number, I wanted to avoid all that. I felt that with 'Metal Fingers In My Body' that ANTX had already covered that ground, so I wanted to do something which was more playful, colourful and organic". The resulting album, Spray On Sound was every bit as individual and engaging as that suggests. A record as merry as it is machine-drived, it sounds like Syd Barrett collaborating with Ladytron; pastoral banjo-flecked passages intercut with Krautrocking, synthetic spasms withing this dreamlike fug, where such eclectism makes perfect sense. Importantly, it is an avant-garde record which is not weighed down by a sense of its own intellectual importance. "Christ no", mutters Ann.
Thou shalt disrupt the process:
Normally, when bands record, they go to studios; horrible, shitty, claustrophobic studios in major cities where, if you step outside for a fag, you get accosted by junkies or session musicians. Instead, Spray On Sound was recorded in a rural holiday cottage (where Large Number had to pretend, to the owner, that they were a BBC sound crew recording local birdsong): "Being in these odd places feeds into the music", says Ann. "Recently, I've been recording bits at a friend's house and consequently the songs [see the 'Shy English Hitler' single] have a totally different personality; a cheeky, perverted dwarf humour to them. There isn't any of this beautiful, orchestral, walking through fields looking at bunny rabbits thing".
Thou shalt experiment:
... with your hobbies. Ann has recently brewed some cider, which turned into wine. Or was it brandy? Anyway, it was a public health threat. Friends have also recently given her a batbox and a beehive, to nurture her interest in nature. Elsewhere, Ann edits The Dedworth Echo, a pretend local paper (in the style of The Framley Examiner) which, when she distributed issue one around Windsor: "Many people thought it was for real".
Thou shalt not worship false idols:
"A whole generation of people think that electronic music equals Kraftwerk, as if they invented this forward-looking way of thinking music. But a lot of this music begins with what was happening at the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s, when they were looking towards NASA and new technologies, when the future looked all shiny and unknown. That's my favourite part of electronic music history".
Thou shalt spread the word:
The second volume of The Electronic Bible (feat. Momus, Hiem, Sheffield Stylophonic Orchestra, Anat Ben-David, etc.) will be released in September, while Large Number will tour, with full band, around the same time.
(*) Ann Shenton is not a qualified priestess and she does not run her own electronic cult. It's just a joke. Partly because the compilation series is called The Electronic Bible, but because standard biographies are very, very boring.