Loula Yorke is the Oram Award winning live modular synthesist whose excellent new album ‘Volta’ is released at the start of 2024.

Prior to releasing her 2022 full length debut ‘Florescence’, the Suffolk-based composer was a member of underground dance duo TR-33N with her partner Dave Stitch, self-releasing an album ‘Tigerforce 10’ and experimenting with the sounds of footwork and jungle.

While her initial solo works had more of an experimental DIY punk aesthetic, ‘Volta’ is more about weaving more subtle patterns into sound on a modular synth and has been described by Loula Yorke herself as “luminous”. Acting as a trailer to the album, ‘It’s been decided that if you lay down no-one will die’ is a bittersweet meditation on overwhelm: the difficulty in trying to make space while everything still rushes in. The only way to end the cycle is to surrender.

After returning from performing in Northern Ireland for the Northern Lights Project, Loula Yorke took some time out to answer some questions put to her by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about her creative ethos and the making of her new album ‘Volta’.

It is well known that some involved in electronic music develop an equipment collection fetish, so how do you balance things and focus on the task in hand which is using these synths and modules to create and make music while being excited about new developments?

I have a serious aversion to consumer culture and shopping in general. I’ve no interest in buying or collecting synths. I don’t consciously keep up with what’s being released. Apart from anything else I can’t afford it! Instead I agonise over every purchase for months, and only press the button when I genuinely feel it’s going to progress things significantly. I’m quite good at selling modules I don’t use rather than feeling I have to hold onto them for an imagined future where they might come in handy.

What is your set-up at present and what does it help you do?

At the moment I have two Arturia Rackbrute 84hp 6U cases set up side-by-side. One is for synths – oscillators, filters, modulation sources, envelope generators, VCAs and a stereo delay. My main sound is a Verbos Harmonic Oscillator, which took me 4 years to get hold of. I bought it secondhand. The other case is for sequencing, creating rhythms, drums, textures, processing and mixing.

My main sequencer is an Erica Synths Black Sequencer, again a purchase I probably took a year to make. I also have a side project OULAN with a vocalist, Una Lee, and for that I use a single case with a mixture of modules focused on envelope following and vocal processing, with the Verbos providing a drone.

Do vintage synthesizers interest you?

Yes and no. I’m not into the ‘collector’ angle but I do appreciate the unique sonic peculiarities and eccentricities of vintage synths. How temperamental, how changeable they are, their warmth. My partner Dave Stitch has a Yamaha CS-60 in his studio as well as a TR-808 and some other classic synths. I particularly like the CS-60 actually – the range of sounds it can create is out of this world! My track ‘YES’ that came out on Accidental Records was made with layers of CS-60. I actually played a couple of gigs with it but it’s very delicate, heavy, and quite scary to take out so that adventure didn’t last long.

What did you think of the ‘Sisters With Transistors’ film which celebrated the little known female electronic music pioneers? Did that provide any inspiration or reassurance?

I really enjoyed it! I had the privilege of being on a panel with the Director Lisa Rovner as part of the promotion around the UK release back in 2020. The film is still being shown and having loads of impact as it reaches new people – for example, I’m playing in Leeds next year at an event where it’s being shown. It pairs really well with the documentary on Beverly-Glenn Copeland also. Just these fascinating glimpses into the history of the form. It’s great to see so many different approaches and manifestations of how electronics are used by composers who you can relate to a bit more readily.

Your previous album ‘Florescence’ appeared to be more random and rhythmic in its content than ‘Volta’ which has more structure?

I’d say they’re both rhythmic, but ‘Volta’ is born out of composed sequences, whereas ‘Florescence’ came more from experiments with patching and routing coupled with melodic content that relied on improvised pseudo-random quantised pitches.

What were the rules you set for ‘Volta’?

The idea was to create a series of monophonic sequences that would gradually reveal themselves over time, ie not all the notes would sound at first, rather they would build up to create a full piece over the course of each track. I wanted to use delay and picking different steps out with different voices to give the implication of multiple parts and voices, sometimes implying a bassline or a chord progression that isn’t actually there in a sense.

While on the creative roll, did you need to break any of your rules for the benefit of the outcome?

Yes! I ended up recording a couple where there was more than one sequence playing at once, and I discovered that that’s OK too. I had been worried that by having notes playing under other notes it would end up sounding too obvious, like a “song”, but it turned out fine.

You’ve described ‘Volta’ as “luminous”, does synaesthesia enter into any of your compositional approaches?

Interesting! So I’m not consciously evoking synaesthesia, but I did want this album to emanate or transmit a feeling of light – something shining, illuminating, uplifting, as well as the more spatial geometric forms that I imagine the sequences to weave.

‘The grounds are changing as they promise to do’ is inspired by nature, how important is being in a rural location for your creativity? Could you do what you do while living in a city?

The countryside is not an idyll. There is barely anything left of what we might think of natural landscape or wildlife habitat where I live in East Anglia, outside of a few dedicated conservation areas. What we have is a desert of arable monoculture farmland interspersed with roads with a few besieged hedges along their peripheries. I am very lucky to live on a protected piece of common land which is left for wildflowers and ‘taken for hay’ in late June. However, it has two busy roads intersecting right in its middle – the noise from which immediately pulls you out of any pastoral fantasy. The ‘natural’ inspiration behind that track is evoking that moist, fertile feeling of autumn leaves underfoot – something you’d be able to experience more readily walking in a wooded park in a town or city than standing in a freshly ploughed 8-acre field.

Which are your own favourite pieces on ‘Volta’?

One of my favourites is the closing track ‘Falling Apart Together’ because of the savage amounts of glide applied to a veeeeeery slow-moving sequence played right up against another sequence that is musically totally disconnected from the first. Yet your mind creates a connection. Your mind and ear working together makes it happen.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of music creation and consumption as an independent artist, especially with streaming, social media, business changes in platforms like Bandcamp and the development of AI?

Oh gosh, an answer to this question could be like 20 whole articles! All I will say is we need artist-first solutions that are not reliant on the goodwill of a single centralised platform.

Finally, who do you hope ‘Volta’ will appeal to and where would you like to take your music next?

I think ‘Volta’ will appeal to people who are intrigued by the sounds of “Laurie Speigel meets AUTECHRE”. Also listeners to Suzanne Ciani, Lisa Bella Donna, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Caterina Barbieri, lovers of ambient techno or anthemic dance music. As for “where next”, there will be more music, there will be more live shows, I just want to keep making and sharing what I make with kind and gentle ears. I’ve just started a free email newsletter called ‘Yorke Talk’ that I would encourage anyone reading this to sign up to https://eepurl.com/igs-cP

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Loula Yorke

‘Volta’ is released on 23 January 2024 via Truxalis as a CD, cassette and download, pre-order available from https://loulayorke.bandcamp.com/music

Loula Yorke 2024 live dates include Ipswich The Smokehouse (12 January), Norwich Arts Centre (27 January)*, London Cafe Oto (30 January)**, Leeds Howard Assembly Room (23 February)***

*opening for Mary Ocher
**opening for Vito Ricci + Lise Vachon
***‘Sister With Transistors’ screening plus live sets including NikNak + Gracie T





Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
14 December 2023