The Listener #1 – Andrew Sherwell

Andrew Sherwell joins us for our first instalment of an RTR regular feature, ‘The Listener’. Similar to ‘The Maker’, this feature engages with the wider listening community and explores topics that aren’t often represented in artist reviews. If you’re reading this, chances are you have your own listening habits and unique introductions to ambient and experimental music. In this premier feature, we learn about the important moments in Andrew’s musical journey, his favourite releases in the last year, and why the cassette is a medium to treasure!

Andrew Sherwell first came to our attention following the release of his album, ‘Orthodox Tales’, released on Harry Towell’s Whitelabrecs at the beginning of 2018 – the London-based artist’s debut release. Andrew is a supportive member of the contemporary ambience music scene; an avid collector of physical editions and an incredibly talented creator.

Andrew Sherwell with Siavash Amini’s ‘TAR’ (Hallow Ground)

How did you first get introduced to ambient/drone/experimental music? 

In the 1980’s I was in a number of what would now be called Post-Punk bands. All split, forgotten and leaving no trace other than the odd, independently released single or cassette now only available in specialist shops (ie charity shops). Frustrated, I turned to DJing and ended up playing at gigs by such acts as A Certain Ratio, 23 Skidoo and Throbbing Gristle. From here I went on to DJ at Warehouse raves and squat parties. At night out at The Land of Oz club in Heaven (in London), I stumbled, bleary eyed, into The White Room, probably the first so-called Chill Out Room. The DJ’s who became The Orb were spinning, on 4 or 5 turntables, modern classical, ambient, dub, soundtracks, you name it. It was incredible. Utterly inspired, I abandoned the frantic breakbeats and started playing my own noisy version in the backrooms of clubs and warehouses. 

What is the one album that you can play over and over without it getting old? 

Anything by Siavash Amini. Probably ‘Subsiding’, gorgeous and, frankly, a bit ‘sunnier’ than his subsequent work although I would say ‘TAR’ is my favourite of his releases and the apotheosis of his Dark Romanticism sound. I could never play it over and over because I find it too emotionally draining. He really is in a class above.

How do you seek out new music? 

Social media has its issues but for keeping up with releases, it’s great. I always keep an eye out for releases from certain labels. There are some labels from which I will buy on the spot, finances allowing, as I know the owner or owners of the label have good ears that I respect. There are strong labels out there, each with their own take on things and that’s great.  I look at the reviews on some of the well-known ambient/drone/experimental sights too and of course, recommendations from chums are key to catching things you might otherwise miss. There are a few internet-based radio shows too that I always like to listen to – Resonance Extra is a great place to start and streaming them helps many a dull afternoon at work fly by. Paul at Shimmering Moods and Jonathan Hibernate both have excellent shows on RE – both very different, both essential. Also, Sunday morning wouldn’t be Sunday morning without the excellent podcast from Elm Records.

Once you’ve found it, what is your perfect listening environment? 

Easy. Sunday afternoon, lying on the sofa with the cats.

Can you tell us about your favourite new release from the last 12 months? 

Predictably it’s ‘Forus’ by Siavash Amini. Dark – so, so dark and emotionally troubling. Otherwise it’s a toss-up between ‘Lies, Deception & Sin’ by Niskogradba (Shimmering Moods) or ‘Contact’ by Masayo Kato (Whitelabrecs). LDS is music for the liminal spaces between normal and weird, awake and asleep, doing and waiting. I have listened to this album no end of times since it came out. At least, I think I have. It may have been just once. Or not at all, such is the album’s power to dislocate and yet cause nostalgia. ‘Contact’ is a quietly challenging listen that presents beauty in the imperfect, the impermanent, and the incomplete. It’s the album I turn to when things get too much.

As RTR is a tape label, we have to ask: What attracts you to the cassette medium?

I like a physical release. Also, I think there is something to be said for cassettes being the perfect format for a lot of the music I listen to. It encourages you to listen through to the end – it’s a right pain trying to skip tracks on a tape – I like the press the button, lie back and enjoy approach. Obviously, nothing beats the sound quality of a good vinyl but as that becomes ever more expensive….. Some releases I will listen to only on digital but for most, I kinda like the comforting hiss of tape.

Andrew Sherwell it set to release ‘Approaching Illumination’ on RTR later this year, where he will return to these pages for ‘The Maker’.

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