THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP Burials In Several Earths

THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP was the legendary group of musicians / engineers that were set up in a BBC department ‘Room 13’ to provide music and sonic effects for the Corporation’s radio and television programmes.

Most famous for Delia Derbyshire’s iconic interpretation of Ron Grainer’s ‘Dr Who Theme’, the collective also scored the music for ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and ‘The Living Planet’.

Due to financial constraints, the Workshop was wound down in 1998, but in 2009 several ex-members including Peter Howell, Roger Limb, Dr Dick Mills and Paddy Kingsland, along with “long-time associate composer” Mark Ayres reunited for some live shows including an appearance at the annual ‘Dr Who’ event at The Royal Albert Hall.

‘Burial In Several Earths’ sees the first official studio release since 1985 with the music being inspired by an unfinished poem by Sir Francis Bacon. The spirit of Workshop co-founder Daphne Oram lives on within the album as she once treated a section of the Bacon work as a manifesto for the operation and its commitment to producing innovative electronic avant-garde sound.

The reunited collective’s manifesto for ‘Burials In Several Earths’ was to “…see what happened if we allowed people to react together with their machines in a very unplanned and spontaneous way” with “the computers and sequencers switched off” leading to a “very human interaction between all of us”.

The album also features guest appearances from Martyn Ware and Grammy-award winning mixing engineer for THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS, UNKLE, and NEW ORDER, Steve ‘Dub’ Jones.

Ware discussed the making of the album with The Electricity Club recently and the very improvised nature of most of the compositions featured, saying “No words were spoken as to what we were going to do, it was completely spontaneous. At first, it felt incredibly awkward and childish in a strange sort of way, but as things loosened up a bit and we played off each other in a classic ‘jazz’ style, what emerged was spasmodically transcendental.”

With the opening eponymous track clocking in at close to nineteen minutes and a subsequent pair of twenty plus minute tracks, you know that this album isn’t going to be one that requires a cursory listening. The epic piece seamlessly moves through several sections from peaceful piano through to howling EMS synth freakouts.

Cyclical piano starts ‘Things Buried in Water’ with background siren-like synths, and an echoed guitar texture adding to the atmosphere. At this point, this appears to be the most melodic track so far until a huge blast of white noise materialises at around the four minute mark to disturb the peace. Halfway through, an octave / filtered arpeggiator riff comes in with an ever-increasing tempo, but drops out of the mix pretty much as quickly as it appears.

‘Some Hope of Land’ is another challenging piece, constantly evolving with a mix of JOHN CAGE inspired ambience and blippy sequencer parts. The ending of the track is almost an electro-blues section, with the kind of guitar riff that Martin Gore would be more than happy to rock out.

In comparison, the short four minute ‘Not Come To Light’ is more concise and is split between full-on analogue distortion, through to a beautifully pristine synthetic aesthetic.

‘The Stranger’s House’ starts with an echoed Virgin-era TANGERINE DREAM-style sequencer pattern; short fragments of electronic sound punctuate before a deep JOHN CARPENTER-esque bass joins the mix. Three minutes in and a thinly EQ’d guitar helps to give the track a Krautrock feel, whilst the bass reveals itself as a sequencer pattern itself when other notes are additionally triggered. The additional of more real piano really evokes the playing of Edgar Froese and the mixture of live instrumentation and synthetics works brilliantly here.

With acts like Tim Gane’s CAVERN OF ANTI-MATTER perpetuating the influence and sound of THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP in recent releases, it’s undeniably brilliant to still have several original members creating vibrant and challenging electronic work.

In places this is not an easy listen, but with repeated revisits ‘Burials In Several Earths’ is a rewarding album and one can imagine the makers of the album having a huge amount of fun making it.


‘Burials In Several Earths’ is released by Room 13 Records as a 4 x 10” vinyl boxset, double CD and download

THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP play live in Surround Sound at the IMAX Theatre in London’s Science Museum on Friday 16th June 2017. The evening will also feature an onstage panel Q&A hosted by Dr Tim Boon – tickets are available from http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/Plan_your_visit/events/exhibition_events/radiophonic-workshop

http://www.theradiophonicworkshop.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/theradiophonicworkshop/


Text by Paul Boddy
20th May 2017

MARTYN WARE Discusses THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP + More

THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP are to release ‘Burials In Several Earths’, a brand new work which will be their first commercial available product since 1985.

The veteran sonic architects behind the soundtracks of classic BBC TV shows such as ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ recently gave a mind-blowing live performance as part of the ‘Picasso By Night’ evening curated by Martyn Ware of HEAVEN 17.

So it is fitting that he features on the album along with Steve ‘Dub’ Jones, best known for his engineering work for THE CHEMICAL BORTHERS and UNKLE.

Martyn Ware kindly chatted with The Electricity Club about his contribution to ‘Burials In Several Earths’ and about what is happening with the new, long awaited HEAVEN 17 long player ‘Not For Public Broadcast’.

Your musical history with THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP goes back performing the ‘Dr Who Theme’ in with Ian Craig Marsh?

Yes, we did in the earliest band we ever formed! It was in D-K & THE STUDS, Glenn was D-K, the singer and it was a supergroup with various members of CABARET VOLTAIRE, CLOCK DVA and 2.3 before we started THE HUMAN LEAGUE or anything. We only played it once and it was terrible.

What kind of influence were they on you during your phase in THE HUMAN LEAGUE and how did they exploits fuel your zest for experimentation?

It was in the zeitgeist really. David Vorhaus, who I’ve just done some work with recently, was perhaps more of an influence. He created WHITE NOISE with Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson from THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP.

I met them through Clifford Jones who was their manager. I’ve always been a fan of their work, so having a chance to meet them and do something with them was too good a chance to miss. I did a lecture with Peter Howell on the South Bank in 2013.

You and Peter Howell made a good double act in your ‘A Journey In 20 Synths’ presentation…

Ha ha! It was like a synth version of ‘Grumpy Old Men’… or ‘Last Of The Midsummer Synths’! ‘

I thought it was interesting that you both differed slightly in your views on the Yamaha DX7?

I don’t like the sound of digital synths, when things started moving into the FM world, I wasn’t so happy. I had the DX7, Roland D50, Korg M1, an SP12 drum machine, that period I went through loads of stuff.

Funnily enough, I’ve gone back to samples from the Emulator II OMI Universe of Sounds package and I prefer those to anything I’ve just mentioned.

I’ve now got all the virtual packages but there’s something about the sonic philosophy that’s too far down that Japanese clean path, it’s all shiny and lacking in warmth.

There’s a narrative arc that leads through the inception of domestic level synthesizers from the mid-70s to the birth of digital synthesis right through to the current day, it’s not ever really reversed, and this over-digitalisation of sound is a problem. That’s why there’s so many plug-ins and filters designed to counter that and reintroduce the artificial sound of tape or vinyl.

So how did the collaboration come about?

Although we were all busy with other projects and playing live, Mark Ayres called and suggested we go into a studio he’d booked in South London on this date at ten in the morning. It was a bit ad hoc, but I’m a great believer in just doing stuff rather than theorising about it, so I thought I’d better walk the walk.

I turned up with no instruments and there was nobody there apart from the engineer who opened up and let me in. About an hour later, people started drifting in and various synths started arriving including a Moog Modular, a Jupiter 8, a Korg MS20, pedals and a Teenage Engineering OP-1.

So I suggested we started improvising, which is so unlike me and right outside my comfort zone… I haven’t done that since the mid-70s. The one instrument there which I really knew inside out was the Jupiter 8 so I played that, Mark played the Moog Modular, Steve ‘Dub’ Jones played piano and the OP-1 while Paddy Kingsland played treated guitars and pedals.

No words were spoken as to what we were going to do, it was completely spontaneous. At first, it felt incredibly awkward and childish in a strange sort of way, but as things loosened up a bit and we played off each other in a classic ‘jazz’ style, what emerged was spasmodically transcendental. We did about 2-3 hours onto Pro-Tools and at the end, I had no idea if very much of it was any good.

We went from the live room into the studio and started listening to it… even without any mixing, we were astonished how interesting and unique it sounded. I have never done an improvised album ever, it was a four way jam with a genuine equal split.

The title ‘Burials In Several Earths’ is Mark Ayres’ idea and he was leading on the whole thing, doing the editing and mixing.

Meanwhile, HEAVEN 17’s ‘Not For Public Broadcast’ became available to Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound members as a work-in-progress. What was your strategy with regards this approach to launch the album?

I’ve been sponsored in kind with products by Bowers & Wilkins for over a decade and they started this online Society of Sound. I was asked to be an ambassador for it and Danny Wilkins from Bowers & Wilkins asked if I’d release some new HEAVEN 17 material on it via this subscription.

We’re not really sure about the digital world at all as you know, but the idea that it was only available for a month with the rights reverting back to us, and we’d get paid, appealed to us… so it was like a sonic Snapchat release.

We didn’t want to do the whole album but to get people off our backs, we thought it would be good to release a half-finished album as a kind of study into where we are heading and to expose the process via social media, as well as to discuss our theory of ‘Not For Public Broadcast’ on how to release stuff to people who actually care about music, as opposed to just giving it away for free.

Hopefully people liked it, I know to gain access one had to fully subscribe, but I do genuinely believe that it’s an amazing thing to subscribe to. It’s all looked after by Real World Records, Peter Gabriel’s label and there are some amazing recordings there. It was up to people if they wanted to do it or not… it’s all going to be on the forthcoming album anyway, so it’s not like we’re denying people anything.

So is the album going to be ready for the forthcoming tour with BLANCMANGE?

In reality, we’ll have more tracks ready for the Autumns show but the album will be finished Spring next year. The problem we have is time because Glenn is out on tour with HOLY HOLY, he’s writing the music for an upcoming ITV series while there’s all the summer festival stuff too.

HEAVEN 17 are touring with BLANCMANGE again?

Yes, we really like each other’s company and music, so I think it’s a good match, but it was the promoter’s idea to do it. It went so well in 2014, they wanted to do it again. So that’s what we’re doing.


The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Martyn Ware

THE RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP ‘Burials In Several Earths’ is released by Room 13 Records on 19th May 2017 as a double CD, 4 x 10” vinyl boxset and download

http://www.theradiophonicworkshop.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/theradiophonicworkshop/

Details of the forthcoming HEAVEN 17 live dates with BLANCMANGE can be found at http://www.heaven17.com/

Martyn Ware’s recently released solo album ‘Electronically Yours Classical’ is available via the usual digital outlets

https://twitter.com/martynware


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
4th April 2017

TEC Gold: INTERVIEW ARCHIVE

Today is The Electricity Club’s seventh birthday and our big portfolio of interviews reads like a Who’s Who? of electronic pop music. Whether you are interested in the pioneers of the genre or newer, up-and-coming acts, there is something for you.

They are archived in an easy-to-use page. From ex-members of KRAFTWERK, JAPAN, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, SOFT CELL and DEPECHE MODE, to OMD, MIDGE URE and HEAVEN 17, to KITE, MIRRORS and VILE ELECTRODES, they are all here. More inside ›

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Yellow+Magic+Orchestra+ymoOver the last seven years, The Electricity Club has written a large number of features that fall outside of the standard interview or review format.

Articles have included new artist introductions, lost albums, song listings based around a variety of topics, beginner’s guides on highly regarded personalities and TEC’s tongue-in-cheek Carry On Synthpop series. These Transmissions have been archived on a page in reverse chronological order. More inside ›

A Short Conversation with MARTYN WARE

Journey in 20 Synths-01Synth trailblazers HEAVEN 17 recently won the title of ‘Sheffield’s Greatest Band of All Time’ following a public online poll, Still going strong 35 years on from the release of their debut album ‘Penthouse & Pavement’. Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory will commemorate the occasion this October with a concert tour.

In the middle of rehearsals for assorted shows in the lead-up to the tour, Martyn Ware kindly took time out for an enlightening chat with TEC about a variety of topics… More inside>>