Premiere: Bruce – The Trouble With Wilderness

As a producer who has previously been referred to as “not one for half measures“, Bruce‘s latest release on Chris Farrell’s Idle Hands label will come as a surprise for some.

Steals, just out on Hessle Audio, follows what we commonly recognise as his “sound” – off kilter, dubby techno in a similar vein to Livity Sound – but The Trouble With Wilderness is an altogether different entity; a break-up EP of sorts, something hard to come by in these sonic realms.

The title track is our standout, which lures you into a false sense of the familiar with its bashful kicks and industrial tinkering. Before long it’s swallowed up by a gargling sub leaving you with McCarthy’s faint, passionate words followed by a brief silence, until – like a ray of sun through a forest’s canopy – a synth bursts the track back into life.

The prevalence for obscure and earthly sounds is apparent throughout the EP. Synths, subs, and other such effects either shimmer or grumble like a dialogue between light and earth. It’s not your normal dancefloor fodder, but it’s easy to imagine Ben UFO et al employing this for a moment of calm as dancers stop dancing in dumbfounded amazement. It’s refreshing to have an artist like Bruce who deviates from a path that’s served him well so far, to explore sounds and their expressive potential.

The Trouble With Wilderness is out 29th April, available to pre-order on iTunes, at Red Eye or hold off and go support Idle Hands and buy it in-store. We also caught up with Bruce to find out more about the making of a break-up techno record. 

Interview with Bruce

The Trouble With Wilderness is a very different sounding Bruce EP. Could you give us a little introduction?

In short, it’s a break-up record. Each track depicts the consecutive emotional stages I went through following the break-up of a long term relationship I was in till about this time last year.

Break-up EPs aren’t so common in the techno realm. Was it difficult to present such a personal and difficult milestone in your life, in a medium that isn’t used to embracing such themes?

It was certainly a cathartic process but the tracks pretty much wrote themselves. Plus I think there are many examples of emotionally rich techno: ‘Lady Science’ by Soul Capsule, ‘I Owe You Everything’ by Levon Vincent and ‘Sister,’ by Asusu. Maybe I’m being overly romantic, but these examples alone are dripping with sad feels. Just from my writing process I find my music is usually contextually specific to a certain/current state of mind. Plus in the case of such raw and relatable emotion, it doesn’t take much for such themes to transcend genres. It’s just a case of using particular musical devices, specific to certain cultural contexts. Besides, who said the tone of a kick drum isn’t capable of making a soul weep? Haha!

Why is Idle Hands such a good fit for this one? Did Chris play much of a role in the creative process?

I’m not sure. Personally, I’ve always rated how a lot of the label’s output is subtly, emotionally aware. But, being a long-term fan of the label and everything else “Idle Hands,” I’m just really chuffed Chris digged the tracks! ‘Trouble…’ and ‘Waves…’ were already written and it took me a while to complete the record. At the point of writing ‘Summer,’ I’d cheered up a bit, and I wanted to move on. But when I had my doubts, Chris was insistent that we used it and given it’s had the best response, I’m very grateful he was firm with me! I guess it’s safe to say he’s learnt a thing or two from all those hours in the shop, ey Chris?

Given that you’ve deviated from the sound we’ve come to expect from you, was the creative process different at all when you were in the studio?

Nah the process was pretty much the same: fucking with sound on my laptop in my bedroom. The only difference being that there were more tears this time round.

Could you take us through each track on the EP – the inspiration behind them, how they came together and what you wanted them to portray?

‘The Trouble With Wilderness’ is named after a study paper that Ellie (my ex) was really enthused by. It discusses the theory that the idea of escaping/returning to “the wilderness,” as “nature intends it,” is an overly-romanticised, antiquated ideology. Instead we should value and explore the environment we live in during the everyday. It was the first time I witnessed her whole-heartedly connect with something; an experience she’d witnessed happen to me many times with my music. So not only was it a special moment in our relationship, but the message of the paper could be somewhat ironically applied as a metaphor for one of the (many) reasons the relationship broke down. I wrote the songs as they appear on the record and this one, as you can probably hear, represents the sombre realisation that it really was over between us.

‘Waves (For Yasmin)’ is dedicated to a dear friend who I became very close to. We each had our own demons to contend with while living in a very similar situation and found great solace in each other. During one of our many chats, she referred to our struggle as being like “waves,” and I was so inspired that I boshed out the track the same evening. Keep your eyes peeled for her music, she is gonna do great things.

I was living back at my parent’s house last year and what with the break-up and my brother closely avoiding death (he’s ok now), “Summer’s Gotta End Some Time,” was a track to mark the end of what felt like the longest summer ever! I tried to capture the heat of summer that I was too emotionally preoccupied to enjoy at the time, through the state of tension and relief I experienced in the build-up of returning to Bristol.

We hear you painted the artwork yourself for this EP. Could you tell us a bit about that?

I used to paint a lot at school, until music got in the way, and always wanted to paint a canvas of Ellie while we were going out but never got round to it (cue sad strings). It was the first canvas I’d done in about five years so it was quite a shock getting back into it. Funnily enough, I didn’t really think through how her face was going to be formatted on to the record sticker: the spindle hole on her nose giving her a third nostril wasn’t a good look! But Chris Yeates who does the art work for the label did a fantastic job at taking abstract adaptations of the painting. It was an exhausting process but hopefully I’ll do some more in future!

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