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Simian Mobile Disco pick 10 tracks that influenced ‘Murmurations’

The revered duo take us deep inside the inspiration for their latest album, ‘Murmurations’, out this month on Wichita...

James Ford and Jas Shaw, the brainboxes behind Simian Mobile Disco, are no strangers to being... well, strange. Always ones to push the envelope production-wise, in the past they’ve even limited themselves to just one synth and one sequencer each for a whole project (2014 album ‘Whorl’). Elsewhere, their Delicacies label originally put out releases named after exotic foods, and their albums often feature mind-bending artwork.

The pair’s latest once again pushes into new territory, harnessing heady vocals to create natural atmospherics, while playful drumwork adds an almost carnivalesque tone. We asked the chaps for a run-down of their influences and they’ve delved deep into the inspiration for their new release, from the Zenker Bros’ use of congas to the way Grand River’s wavy chords act like the uctuating tones of SMD’s own choir...

01. Efdemin ‘Kassiber’

“This has that lovely dreamy thing going on and plus it’s all based on polyrhythmic patterns that cut across the four-four. Proper endless techno that feels like it could go on for days.”

02. Steve Bicknell ‘The Moment I Stopped’

“This might seem like a slightly obtuse reference given how fierce it is but one of the things that we love about the choir is how they break up a chord or phrase and split it out to different groups, creating a kind of arpeggiation effect. This is something that we do with synths, and to see it done with people was strange but also familiar.”

03. Yaleesa Hall & Malin ‘Artin (Zenker Brothers Remix)’

“For drums we leaned heavily on natural sounds, congas, blocks and even trad hi-hats. In most cases we ended up chopping into narrower and narrower segments, eventually sometimes arriving at half a bar. It gave a rigidity and unnaturalness to the drums that reminded us of sampling breaks, which isn’t something we have ever done. If someone had told me a few years ago that we would make a record with a conga break on every track then I’d have been pretty sceptical, but then things have never really gone to plan for us.”

04. Lee Gamble ‘A Tergo Real’

“This comes off as a cross between early Autechre and Vangelis, but with the fidgety oddness that Lee Gamble brings to things. It’s pretty and also noticeably menacing, and while I don’t think that we have injected anything like the same amount of menace into ‘Murmurations’, we were constantly looking for subtle ways to subvert the beauty of the choral recordings.”

05. Acronym ‘The Trains Kept Rolling’

“Dreamy, chilly, spacey; at one point when we couldn’t nd a way to make drums feel natural with the choir stuff, we did go down the road of making the whole record beatless.”

06. DJ Python ‘Las Palmas’

“I love how the drums seem like they ought to be super- frantic as they are a choppy break, but somehow the whole thing just drifts along in a daze.”

07. Grand River ‘All Playing In Jannah’

“A huge part of the recording process with the choir got assigned to doing non-song-based stuff like drones or swoops. The texture of a group of singers who are used to singing together just holding a chord is so complex and
so interesting that it seems like a waste of time to muck about changing notes — that’s not what you are locked into anyway. Similarly, this is just a chord but it ripples and mutates in a way that means that you never tire of it.”

08. I-iii ‘Bun So Nude’

“Everyone has had that queasy sensation when they see congas or bongos set up in a club, it’s always going to end in tears. Certainly this is predicated on a conga pattern but it’s just that, a pattern, it rolls around and drills into your mind like a techno track and never does an annoying syncopated fill to show off. It gave us confidence that, if you can cut the human out of the equation, acoustic drums can be ok.”

09. Easter ‘Champagne (Luke Abbott Remix)’

“Probably the most obviously related track in the list, there’s vocals and wayward drums and washed out synths. I love how the vocals sit in this strange space between singing and chanting. The whole thing has a really dissociated sway to it that I keep coming back to.”

10. Von Haze ‘Hara’

“Dense and involving and slowly changing but not actually changing. These were definitely things that we were going for and while we wanted to avoid making a record of just drones, we do love a good drone, and this is unquestionably a good drone.”

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