Unsigned, but not forgotten

One of the things I really wanted to do when I started this blog five years ago was to try to do anything I could to help unsigned artists. I had tried previously, actually, on a radio show, and had found that a lot of unsigned acts couldn’t get their, um, “act” together to make it work as a cohesive feature, and so it only really ran three of four times before falling in flames.

The unsigned feature on this blog lasted a little longer, and did showcase some interesting acts, but it also opened me up to a lot of artists who for one reason or another weren’t appropriate for the blog, and one or two people who didn’t take that news too well. These are the perils of doing anything on the internet.

But let’s take a look at those who did make it, and see what they have been up to!

Blue Swan

First covered on my radio show in February 2005, and then subsequently looked at in detail on this blog in November 2012, this Danish duo seem to have entered a quiet phase in their career. Looking at their Soundcloud, their last new tracks were the ones we covered here five years ago, and there have been a few DJ mixes since then, but not a lot of activity.

Hugh Doolan

We covered this Irish acoustic act back in November 2012, and looking at his Soundcloud account he’s been very busy recently. His Bandcamp page includes ten releases since we last spoke to him, including acoustic tracks and film soundtracks.

Rance Garrison

Covered back in August 2013, when he was between albums, he seems to have released three new albums in the last few years, all of which are available on his Bandcamp page.

Jonteknik

We first covered Jon’s debut album in November 2012, and when we visited him again the following year, he had just released another album. He’s now part of a label that I need to look into further called The People’s Electric, and recently released an album called Skylines.

Kyma

Introduced to this blog back in November 2012, this UK-based act was still busy a year or so later, including proudly posting one of his songs that was played on BBC Essex, but he hasn’t pushed much to his Soundcloud recently.

mindXpander

An old favourite of mine from the mp3.com days of the early internet, I first covered them here back in 2013. Things seem to have been quiet for them for a couple of decades now, but you can still enjoy their back catalogue at Soundcloud.

Movement Ten

This Brighton-based duo were first covered here back in December 2012 when they had just released their debut album. The following year when we looked again, they had just released another album, but things seem to have been quieter since then.

Subculture

Featured on my radio show in 2005, unfortunately I don’t have any record any more of who they were, how they got in touch, or where they are now. If you know, please ask them to get in touch!

Devin Tait

First covered in August 2013, then revisited later that year when he was in the middle of touring, this flamboyant LA-based artist is now working on his next solo album The White Tomato. More at his official website.

Finally, I think a few more people had filled in the form on the website and asked for coverage. I’ll sit down and actually read those messages and do a feature on them very soon – apologies for the lack of responses if you’re feeling impatient.

Introducing mindXpander

Kicking off our second batch of unsigned acts is mindXpander, who I first came across an extremely long time ago… They are Patrik Rydberg and David Lijia, who met in a boys’ choir almost 25 years ago. Here’s a picture of their current album Triumphant Return, released last year:

mindXpander-TriumphantReturn_300px

For my part, I originally came across them about fifteen years ago, back in the days of the original mp3.com, and I thought they might be well placed to kick off this series of unsigned acts. They’re a pair of computer and music nerds who love sound design and modular synthesisers, and also seem to be very good friends too. The three tracks they selected are all from Triumphant Return. First is Hoshi No Koe:

My first thought was Vince Clarke when I heard the squelching backing and rhythm on here, but it quickly builds into a sort of Euro-Pet Shop Boys. As far as I can make out, the title translates as Voices of a Star, and seems to be taken from a Japanese anime film.

Northern Lights is the second track they picked, and it’s tagged with things like “laserdance”, “koto” and “Italo disco”. I’m not sure I can really add anything to that, apart from that it’s excellent and the title is very apt.

Finally we have Ad Astra, a trance-flavoured track with a few echoes of the tracks that used to be on mp3.com. It’s been a few years since I was last in the kind of club that plays this sort of thing, but I can see it going down a storm!

As always, I sent a few daft questions to them so that we could understand them a little better, and as is often the case, they answered them extremely well. Normally I edit these, but these are just too good – here are their responses in full…

What’s your source of inspiration?

David: A lot of different things. Can be everything from an artist, a certain sound or a demo of an instrument. I like to dive through presets on my favourite synths. I later change everything to patches we’ve programmed ourselves to get that certain mindXpander sound.

Patrik: Can be a lot of different things. I tend to be influenced by the music I’m listening to. I mostly listen to music in other genres than the ones I’m active in, and even though it’s hopefully not very obvious (I think so at least. Don’t think most listeners will hear metal influences in mindXpander tracks for instance…), I can often listen to music I’ve been involved in making, and hear what other music I was listening too at that time. Also, sounds and messing around with synth, my modular, and studio tech. It’s like a form of meditation to me, or a drug if you will, so even if I’m not inspired to make proper music, I often just play around in the studio, testing out sounds, techniques and ideas, and sometimes those sounds spark inspiration and evolves into proper songs.

At what point during a typical day would I listen to your music?

David: I’m listening to Triumphant Return while commuting to the office and back. It’s a great way to shield yourself from all the noisy commuters on the underground. But I guess it can be enjoyed during a nice car drive along the country side as well. Or with your friends. But preferably when we perform live – which has happened three times since 1998. Yeah, we’re swamped.

Patrik: Well, I don’t think our music is intended for any specific time of day. I’d say anytime you need a bit of added energy in your life. That said, the music is mostly created (and pretty much without exception finished) late at night, so to get that most authentic first listen feel, I’d say 3.30 am.

How did you pick the name you record under?

David: Patrik made it up back in the days and I simply just loved it. I had a couple of other suggestions which we tossed around but he nailed it with this one. He’s in fact really good at making up artist, album and track names.

Patrik: Ah yes! The next album will be named It came from the giant space toad’s left nostril, or possibly the right. Has a nice catchy upliftedness to it.

David: See? We have a winner. Let’s put some donk on it!

What ringtone do you have on your phone?

David: That was actually a happy accident when I was patching my Eurorack modular. I think it sounds like a futuristic phone. My phone’s on silent mode 99% of the time so I never get to hear it though.

Patrik: A small arpeggiated sequence I once created on a DSI Evolver, complemented by distorted drums.

What’s your definition of a bombastic groove style?

David: Cinematic drums are my first feeling. Like the drums in any of the Juno Reactor tracks written for the Matrix movies.

Patrik: A Booooombastic grove is, like, in cinematic music when you have gigantic drums drenched in huuuuuge amounts of reverb, so you have these BomBomBoorrrooomBoBOOOOOOOOM <rattle, shake, sub-bass ending>. An Ooompastic grove on the other hand relies on a combination of brass instruments, predominantly tubas, creating the classic and much loved OmpahBompahOmpahBompahOmpahBompahPomPomPomPom. Bombastic? I don’t know…

David: Yeah, like the track Selecta by Infected Mushroom. Oompah oompah! We should have more of that in our mindXpander tracks!

You can find out more about mindXpander via their official website here.