The shimmering and throbbing influence of dub on Bristol’s musical landscape is about as obvious as it comes. A large contributor to the above is the city’s much-loved record store Idle Hands who, over the past five years, have released records by some of the city’s most highly regarded artists but also giving a step up to many under the radar.
One of the latter is Andy Mac, whose contributions stem from releases on Punch Drunk, Deep Street (his own label with Jay L), Trilogy Tapes (alongside Peverelist as Zennor) and as part of FallingUp (the party he runs with alongside Jay L and Typesun).
Making a welcome return to the label for a new series with a name harking to his Cornish roots, Diving Bird, Mac focuses his attention on his unconditional love for dub. On ‘Horse Fly (Dub)’, Andy ditches the often formulaic qualities of contemporary dub and dub techno to focus on a more subtle, organic and rhythmically traditional approach, albeit with a more modern eye. While it may appease many on headphones, the record shines on the soundsystem and it is clear that this idea was conscious throughout the production, on account of the minimalistic elements and structure. This is a record to be felt just as much as it is to be heard, one that bares a lot of similarities to its local heritage and influence, but also succeeds at being new, exciting and original.
Diving Bird 1 is out 24th Feb – pre-order from Juno and buy in-store at Idle Hands.
For more Andy Mac & Idle Hands on STW:
Bristol Spotlight: Andy Mac
Idle Hands at 5: music and memories from the extended family
Q&A with Andy
There’s a strong focus on dub and reggae for this one. What was the idea behind it and where was your head at creatively when you made it?
I’ve been into reggae music of one kind or another for about as long as I’ve been into music. It hasn’t always, if ever, been at the forefront of my activities so this release may seem like an unexpected turn but probably not to anyone who knows me.
Why now? I guess it was a reflection of what I was listening to at that time. Getting drawn into listening very closely to the drummer or drum programming in different kinds of reggae really unlocked it for me as well, the skill and musicality of it! I’m not trying to compete with that but being aware of it inspired me. And the dub style has been there for me from the beginning in the same way it has infecting practically all electronic music.
I had kind of been drifting away from house / techno ect at that time. I think quite different types music of have always come in and out of focus for me, I can’t focus on one thing and its close cousins for too long.
That said I do think the type or genre of music should always be in service of the idea with any music, not the other way around. The genre-ising for me should come after or never! So I think it was also the case that it was just the best way to realize the kind of musical ideas I was having rather than thinking I ‘I want to make this’ . It just comes out different every time I guess but for me it isn’t really much of a departure from anything I’ve done previously. The working method is almost exactly the same. I’m still just listening to myself on some level or another and turning that into music on my sampler. The only real changes have been using a tape delay and making / working with field recordings but to me it’s all still not really that different.
It’s been nearly four years since your last solo EP. Has this new one been a long time in the making or has it come out of a recent creative purple patch?
It definitely came from one creative period. As I have mentioned here previously I don’t like spending ages working on things. I had moved into a small place in a valley out in the sticks near Lands End. I needed to get away from Bristol for a number of reasons. Even though being there had helped me make a lot of music in the past, for whatever reason it wasn’t helping with my solo stuff. It was winter or very early spring I think, very wet, cold and empty in Cornwall. Although it was a mad year in other ways, I spent a lot of time alone in the granite landscape or in the sea. I think that definitely prodded me back to life musically in terms of my own stuff. Just having space !
Could you sum up each track in a few words?
I don’t think the there is much I can say about the first two. There’re just rhythms I guess! What ever I’m trying to express sonically is usually impossible to put into words for me, which is probably why I do it! I don’t think I really know whilst I’m doing it but there’s definitely always something guiding it, an image if you could say that. It’s definitely very visual anyway. Not colour really but more about form.
A couple of things I could say are that I’ve been listening to a lot of classic 70’s and early 80’s Ghanian highlife and there’s a particular guitar style that’s kind of uplifting and melancholic at the same time and that was a feeling that came up with Longships.
And with Horse Fly there was a particular rhythm in the drums in some reggae that has always fascinated me because it doesn’t seem to run half time or it runs double time even and I think I was thinking about that a lot. You listen to some of these tracks and it almost sounds like country music, which I think was quite big in Jamaica. Poor and Clean by Gregory Isaacs would be an obvious example for me.
10 is a collage of field recording. The sources were a thunder storm outside my house in Cornwall and various recordings I made on a trip to Algerian Sahara to visit the refugee camps where thousands and thousands of people from Western Sahara have lived for 40 plus years having fled after Morocco’s invasion and occupation. The rain and desert sounds seem like an odd mix but I realized there was a link. There had been unusually heavy rains and flooding in the camps not long before I visited that had caused a huge amount of damage. So maybe that’s the significance. That’s not a few words sorry!
You’re back on Idle Hands. What is it about the label that keeps you coming back?
Well it’s Chris! He’s been a good friend for a number of years and I know we see eye to eye about a lot of things. He’s always been very supportive and while I don’t necessarily follow everything he releases I know where he’s coming from and I know how passionate he is and that he really knows his shit! I have a lot of respect for what he’s done for underground electronic and dance music in Bristol. He’s provided something really important with the shop and the label. But it’s just very simple really: he’s a friend with a wicked label so it just makes sense. He’s obviously a huge reggae and sound system fan and has been for a while so it’s a good fit for this project.
This looks like #1 in a series. What can we expect for future editions?
Sure is. There are three editions lined up so far, but I won’t say more than that for now. Come and hear me play at Cosie’s in Bristol on the 3rd of March for a taste of what’s to come.
Beyond this series, have you got anything else planned for 2017?
Well, the next release on Deep Street (the label I run with Jay L) is nearly ready and is a total killer from Jay. I won’t say more now but that’s really exciting. There will be more from me and from Zennor on Deep Street as well. Beyond that I can say I’ve been making making all sorts of music by myself and with some new collaborators fairly steadily now for the last two years or so there will be plenty more to come in the near future. The trips to Ghana and the Sahara have both been fruitful as well but I wouldn’t like to say any more than that just yet. I am planning to release some tapes on my other label Stone King. A mix of music on an introspective tip from across Africa and South America and a mix by my friend Kaleb who co-founded Bristol Reggae Society and consistently blows me away with his super off-piste selections. I’ll be DJing a lot more as well and generally enjoying music as I always do!