Kepier Widow is the experimental music project of Manchester-based Alexander Roberts. While living in Newcastle upon Tyne, Alexander was a regular feature in the underground and experimental music scene under the name of Joseph Curwen, producing an extensive catalogue of long-form drones. Since relocating to Manchester in mid-2017, Kepier Widow was launched, exploring unconventional and experimental music practices, releasing on a wide range of independent labels including Lugubrious Audio, Aetheric Records, and Panurus Productions.
Kepier Widow – ‘Absolution’ (RTR002) was the second tape to be released on Rusted Tone Recordings back in March 2018, and it is a privilege to have Alexander taking part in our ‘The Maker’ feature. Alexander talks about evolving tastes in music, using Pure Data to create new music, and the warmth of the cassette medium.
How did you first get introduced to ambient/drone/experimental music?
My Mam had a couple of Tangerine Dream records when i was a kid, and my good friend Matt gave me a copy of ‘Apollo’ by Brian Eno when I was a teenager. One summer I worked on a land fill site and bought loads of Autechre and Merzbow CDs and got really into watching the machinery smash up all the human waste blasting weird stuff in my headphones. I’ve always loved heavy metal and as I’ve gotten older my tastes have slowed down so drone and noise came naturally after years of playing bass in bands.
What inspires you to create a new body of work?
Back when I lived in Newcastle I performed as Joseph Curwen. The Curwen discography is canny extensive – back in those days really long form drone pieces just seemed to pour out of me, like my life was a series of slow rumbling noises. Now I’ve moved to Manchester and the psychogeography around me is different, I perform as Kepier Widow. My priorities have changed, and the pace of my life is greater, so these days I spend more time crafting each release, often creating collages of various tracks I’ve recorded, with field recordings and that. My friend Stu from Rail Cables said my music is like an insight into my brain, so going off that Kepier Widow is my interpretation of the skitziness of a living in a metropolis.
How do you approach working on a new release?
I’m very grateful to have released stuff on a lot of different labels, in various formats, over the past few years, and I love pushing myself to learn new techniques all the time, so whenever I get asked to do a release it’s like a demonstration of what I’ve been experiencing and experimenting with over a period of time. My brain runs canny fast most of the time, I’m constantly taking stuff in, so my music has been described as “maximal” and “spectral noise”, I like micromanaging field recording samples, layering them with weird generative midi patterns into various digital and analogue synths. Whereas my Curwen stuff tended to be monolithic and all-consuming, I’ve pushed for Kepier Widow to be more dynamic in sound and scope, more of a journey than just an atmosphere. I’ve gotten really into hardware and midi routing in the past couple of years after getting really deep into soft synthesis and time stretching, I’m enjoying mixing loads of layers in real time to create highly detailed, constantly evolving soundscapes. I’m in the process of building a synth on breadboards to interface with cv and this cool little bela computer I’ve been tinkering with, building up really percussive/rhythmic stuff that I’m gonna put out on Bandcamp under a different name.
Can you tell us about your favourite new release from the last 12 months?
I dunno if I could pick a favourite, but three releases I’ve been enjoying recently are ‘CFPA’ by Cloud Forest Protection Agency on Infinity Trax Records, ‘Fight The Future’ by Alocasia Garden on Casement Exchange, and ‘Talus’ by Two Years On Welfare on Endangered Species Tapes. I buy tapes all the time, there’s a lot of mint stuff going on in the drone/noise/ambient scenes at the mo. I love consuming what my contemporaries are doing. I run an internet radio station at Wellbeck Digital Garden (started cos I was really rusty with HTML and that, and I’m well into icecast/pure data jams on higher ports (8000)) that I’m always adding tracks to from stuff I’ve bought on Bandcamp.
As RTR is a tape label, we have to ask: What attracts you to the cassette medium?
I was born in the mid 80s, so I’ve grown up with tapes my whole life. From my Mam’s Eurhythmics tapes, to the school bus happy hardcore tapes, to metal to prog rock mixtapes in my mate Minnis’s car, to a run of 5 Harsh Noise Wall tape I got sent by Cory Strand from Alter of Waste cos he admired my stuff, I’ve always enjoyed the warm glow of a good tape. I got back into buying tapes about 6 years ago when the first Curwen tape came out on Cruel Nature Recordings and I dug my old tape deck out of storage after a couple of years of nomadic/couch surfing lifestyle. I love the process of putting a cassette in the deck and sitting and taking the tracks in on their intended format. Still haven’t gotten around to buying a tape Walkman, too busy making field recordings of my fellow city dwellers riding the bus, on my phone.
There are still a handful of Kepier Widow – ‘Absolution’ (RTR002) available via Bandcamp. Do be sure to check out ‘Burden’, due out on Panurus Productions February 22nd.