Liverpool’s Mike Sweeney has had a remarkable start since launching earthborn visions last year. Principally a solo project (he credits “occasional, ad-hoc collaborators”), Sweeney has seven LPs and three EPs on his resume.
This new disc will make you want to dig into that back catalogue. It’s beautifully composed and skilfully produced. Featuring elements of traditional ambient, drone and challenging electronics, Sweeney has produced a minimalist showpiece packed with multilayered grit.
“My first exposure to minimalism came via loving The Velvet Underground (which led me to John Cale’s work with La Monte Young, etc.) and seeing the film Koyaanisqatsi when I was in school,” Sweeney told me. “From the film’s Philip Glass soundtrack, this journey led me to Steve Reich, Morton Feldman, John Cage and many more. I was lucky enough to see John Cale last night at a concert in Liverpool – his viola work on ‘Heroin’ with its minimal/drone-like feel was amazing.”
Sweeney’s respect for masters like Glass, Young and co. adds depth to his work. It’s perfectly fine to climb up onto other artists’ shoulders, as long as you know where you stand.
“I like the idea of simple music with subtle/evolving changes,” Sweeney said. “I did try to avoid obvious melodies/harmonies.”
The result may be simple. But his process is hardly that.
“With the exception of field recordings and some (heavily disguised) guitar parts, pretty much all of the album was done in the box using Logic and my MIDI keyboard,” he said. “There was a heavy reliance on Kontakt and Logic’s Alchemy synth, probably accounting for around 80% of the instrumentation. I tended to work out simple chord progressions on my guitar and then mutate the sound by adapting it using strings or other pad-like sounds. A few of the melodies are derived from generative software. I love the idea and sound of semi-random/indeterminate melodies, although I did tweak the notes to get them in the same key and to get them sounding right.”
This album sounds a good deal better than “right.”