Following his release on RTR last month, Andrew Sherwell returns to the blog for a maker feature. The London-based experimental musician has been releasing his own unique blend of ambient and drone music, using re-sampled choral performances and field recordings gathered in churches and cathedrals. Since bursting onto the contemporary ambient scene with the album ‘Orthodox Tales’ on Harry Towell’s Whitelabrecs; Andrew then delivered the now-sold-out ‘Ektenia’ on Shimmering Moods Records in 2018 before releasing ‘Approaching’ on RTR.
Andrew follows up on his responses for the premier Listener feature, explaining significant albums that led him to ambient music. Inspirations for creating new material is discussed, and favourite releases from the last twelve months are updated – six months seems like a long time with such good music being released around the world!
How did you first get introduced to ambient/drone/experimental music?
James RTR was kind enough to ask me to take part in the Listener Questionnaire earlier this year, and I wrote about the revelation that was The White Room at the Land of Oz club in the 1980’s. But I should also have mentioned David Sylvian. While the White Room was a huge influence, it was definitely club related, about communal listening and a shared experience. Sylvian’s 1980’s releases however sum up the all-consuming rise of ambient as the home-listening of choice for me. Looking back now, releases spawned by The White Room, (‘Chill Out’ by KLF being the prime example here) are very much of the time and slightly gimmicky whereas Sylvian’s works just seem to constantly grow in importance.
What inspires you to create a new body of work?
Although I have been making music in various forms for years and years, I have only recently felt the urge to produce a coherent body of work. I’ve just finished album four of a self-indulgent five album block, all inspired by a time of intense mental and spiritual turmoil in my long-lost youth, a time I have only recently felt capable of exploring. The process has been quite cathartic and has helped me understand the legacy of the events, the way they still influence me today. Having said that, I was surprised at how restful and ‘pleasant’ some of the resultant tracks are – not really how I thought things would turn out.
How do you approach working on a new release?
I have quite a strong idea of the overall tone and arc of an album before I start. With that in mind, I spend quite a while trying new processing approaches and tweaking existing techniques to find an overall sound palate that I like and which reflects the original ideas about tone et al. For the last four albums, I have all but done away with synths and have been using loops and samples made from highly processed and savagely edited recordings of choirs and folk singers plus field recordings taken in churches and cathedrals through out Europe. As befits the subject matter of the albums, most of the choirs are singing in the Eastern and Central European choral and folk traditions. The album that I am working on at the moment is the most abstract and extreme in terms of processing. I’m not sure I like it although it suits the very introspective and nihilistic nature of the subject matter on this the fifth and final album.
Can you tell us about your favourite new release from the last 12 months?
‘Harmistice’ by 9t Antiope & Siavash Amini (Hallow Ground). Brutal and beautiful. Crushing yet cathartic. Two of my favourites knock it out the park sonically and emotionally. Can’t speak too highly of this release.
Forthcoming is ‘SERUS’ by Siavash Amini (Room40). Yes, again. Just amazing. I can never really explain why SA’s work is just so, so….incredible. Floors me every time without fail.
Also bit further on the horizon is a new album by Jurko Haltuu on Shimmering Moods called, I think, ‘Void’. It’s a deep drone workout that draws you, inexorably, into the void. I was lucky enough to get a (very) advanced copy of this when I did the Shimmering Moods show on Resonance Extra earlier this year and I can’t get enough of it.
Even further on the horizon, Deaf At Sea from Zurich has an album which I think is going to be huge. It may be next year though!
Andrew Sherwell – ‘Approaching’ (RTR018) is out now on Rusted Tone Recordings. There are a handful of copies left, available on cassette and digital download, and as part of the RTR Summer 2019 Batch alongside releases by Wil Bolton and Jim Wylde/sp3ct3rs.