Bradley Zero has a deft touch when it comes to breaking a track, for want of a better term. His musical network spreads far and wide, from Vancouver to Cairo, Peckham to Adelaide, so when you combine this with his astute A&Ring it provides him with a rare ability to be the first to introduce new music to discerning ears. Jack J’s ‘Something On My Mind’ is the most notable example, but there are countless others, including today’s subject Contours. We first started hearing his music on Bradley’s NTS shows back in March and stayed in contact since, eagerly anticipating his debut EP for Rhythm Section. Contours followed in his father’s footsteps as a drummer and so, unsurprisingly, the six tracks on Technician have rhythm and percussion at their core. As a result, we asked Tom to put together a similarly-themed playlist and answer a few questions exploring the role of rhythm in his music.
Technician EP is out now and available on Bandcamp, alongside some t-shirt and sweatshirt bundles.
Solomon Ilori – ‘Igbesi Aiye (Song Of Praie To God)’
Amazing Afro jazz from 1964 on Blue Note. Pulsating talking drum, conga and djembe rhythms weave around Donald Byrd and Hubert Laws on trumpet, sax and flute. The drum break towards the end is killer!
Har-You Percussion Group – ‘Welcome to the Party’
Loose percussive vibes from the Harlem Youth Percussion Group bringing Afro, Cuban and jazz sounds together for an absolute leg shaker. The group started off as community group that formed following the Harlem Riots of 1964. This record has so much soul!
Cinematic Orchestra – ‘Flight’
Been listening to this one for so many years now and still not bored of it. Jazz breaks in 7/8 with some damn fine tuned percussive vibes.
Max Roach – ‘Absolutions’
Max Roach’s kit sounds so good on this track. The drums and double bass are locked together so tight it gives the track so much momentum. Up their for me with the best jazz tracks no doubt.
Makaya McCraven – ‘Gnawa’
Makaya McCraven goes on some mad Moroccan Gnawa meets hip-hop tip for this one and the result is ridiculous. Such drive and rawness in it and nothing but drums, percussion and gimbri.
Tom Blip – ‘Wrong Guanco’
Tom Blip works the conga sample an absolute dream on this track. Rhythmic dancefloor heat straight outta Leeds.
Jazz Collective – ‘Velvet’
Tight hat and snare work on this luscious rhodes heavy jazz breaks tune. Vibes straight outta Japan on this one.
Friends From Rio feat. Robertinho Silva – ‘Batucada Bidu’
Straight up samba. It’s the texture of this stuff I love, so full and powerful. Plus I’m a sucker for a samba whistle!
Francis Bebey – ‘Sanza Nocturne’
Beautiful kalimba work on this track and the entire album to be honest. Real hypnotic stuff!
Afronaut – ‘Neuvo Rumbera’
One long percussion meets synth workout. One of my favourite tracks to play out. Like all Afronaut stuff, the groove is so good! [sadly we couldn’t find this on Youtube]
Exploring rhythm and percussion with Contours
On the Technician EP you have nailed a really organic feeling aesthetic. Could you talk us through your creative process when writing the record?
The organic aesthetic of the record is something I really wanted to achieve so I’m glad it comes across like that. I think a lot of this is down to the use of live recorded percussion within the tracks. This kind of underpins my whole approach to making music. I like building thick textural percussion parts that feel warm and have a certain rawness to them. As a musician you are influenced by what’s around you, so for me that meant using a load of the percussive instruments I had in the house while growing up.
One of the most noticeable parts of the record is the percussion. The rhythms are really complex, as they are in a lot of the music Bradley plays and releases, so putting it out in Rhythm Section looks like a great match. How important is the role of rhythm to the EP and the label, and what has led to it taking such a prominent role?
Rhythm has always been my focus when making music. My Dad’s a drummer and drums were the first instrument that I felt any real affinity to, so approaching my own productions from a rhythm and percussion heavy angle felt natural. Experimenting with rhythm allows me to explore the convergence of loads of different music styles. I use a lot of polyrhythmic and syncopated rhythm patterns in my music that is heavy influenced by a lot of percussive African music. There’s also jazz, house, hip-hop and loads of other influences in there, so the intention with this record was to find a common ground between these through rhythm while also trying to create something new in the process.
I remember Blawan’s early releases on Hessle Audio were rhythmically crazy, and this was attributed by some to his background as a drummer, a background I understand that you and him share. Has this informed the way you play and produce records?
I think growing up in a really remote part of the country meant I was kind of outside of the whole music scene I’m now in. Obviously we had the internet so it was all accessible but it felt distant. There was a sense of isolation from what was going on in London and Manchester. Instead of making music with the intention of sending it to labels we spent years just jamming, sometimes recording stuff, but often not. I think this led to a kind of mentality that the music we made was just for ourselves. A couple of the the mates who I grew up jamming for years with were Tom Werkha and collaborator Bryony Jarman-Pinto. I think when Tom got signed and started putting out music, that was a sign that people might be interested in the kind of stuff we were doing.
I also understand as well as having a background in music, you have been producing for a few years. How come it has taken so long for you to get a release under your belt? Was it a case of waiting for the right opportunity to come along, or is there another reason why you hadn’t done so until now?
I also think it takes time to feel comfortable with your sound as an artist, and I definitely feel like I needed time to develop a sound I was happy with. I feel like Rhythm Section perfectly encapsulates the sound and ethos that I look for in music so couldn’t be happier that Bradley wanted me to join.
Finally, is there anything interesting you have planned for the future now you have got the debut release off your back?
In terms of up and coming stuff, there’s something in the pipeline with a collective of mates from Manchester that I’m excited about. Got a remix on a release scheduled for early next year too so keep your eyes peeled for that. There’s also a few collaborations on the go and have been jamming recently with a bunch of classical and jazz musicians as part of a live improv band, so there’s a number of interesting projects happening. More than anything it’s just good to be pressing on with a bunch of new material, making and playing!