So, you’re trawling through this site or that, casually clicking links in search of song (or tits, or pictures of kittens). And because the internet has democratised music distribution, there’s a hell of lot of song out there, blowing about like so much sonic confetti.
In theory it’s wonderful, having at your fingertips this wealth of global endeavour. Here’s Bob from Oklahoma City; he’s about as musical as gonorrhoea, but that’s not going to stop him from whacking out the ukulele, then uploading his cover of ‘Comfortably Numb’, or maybe that heartfelt ballad he’s always had in him. And there-in dwells the problem; there’s some wonderful stuff, but it lies buried beneath the volume of self-obsessed garbage untouched by quality control. You need serendipity (or a firm recommendation) on your side in order to make sense of the braille.
I mention all this due to the track beneath the words; ‘Noise Drums’ by Orange Crate Art, from the recent oca EP. A serendipitous discovery; one that demonstrates the ritualistic, fetishistic textures that underpin the relationship between record and listener. It’s about lying on the floorboards and closing your eyes. Headphones on, the music washing over you, embracing you, intimate and all encompassing. It becomes a craving, and the ecclesiastical dimensions of a track such as ‘Noise Drums’ are exactly what is needed.
For what Orange Crate Art do is to intricately layer filaments of sonic verisimilitude, channelling a depth and density through granite rhythms. Think John Barry scores, Roy Budd’s Get Carter soundtrack, Kevin Shields guitar. The momentum of Krautrock, the punctuation of Spiritualized; three EPs and one album have so far surfaced, and each radiates an implicit beauty, but ‘Noise Drums’ in particular is the type of cerebral electronica to blow your head clean off, its train track beats subverted by hazy guitar loops, remote synth cadences, and a bass line that evolves into the monster under your bed. Eight and a half minutes of grinding, usurping energy; a track to get lost in.
Info on the artist responsible is scarce, and it’s difficult to know if this is intentional, or simply the side effects of recording name requisitioned from the title of a Brian Wilson / Van Dyke Parks album triggering all kinds of investigative, search engine dead ends. Probably something similar to searching for Lazer Guided Melody online, I’d imagine. Hmm.
So, in true music hack fashion, the urge to discover more had me tracking down the artist responsible to Malmö in Sweden, where Toby Bernsand has been recording as Orange Crate Art for years – and has only just started releasing it (which to my mind is akin to Rodin keeping all of his sculpture in his garage). “I’m not intentionally trying to be obscure. Just not really that interested in talking about myself,” he told me, before confessing to eight or nine albums that will be released “one day”.
“The oca EP was written, recorded and mixed in December 2014 for the sole purpose of proving myself that I could actually begin and finish and release something really quickly. I didn’t spend a lot of time on it. I’m quite happy with ‘Noise Drums’, which seems to be the song that people listen to the least from the EP.”
In fact, Toby was extremely generous with his time. A touring member of Swedish shoegazers LKWRM, he gave LGM a wonderful peek into the creative process:
“There’ll be another EP and a full-length album, Exploding Head Syndrome before the summer. They’re all recordings from the last couple of years that originally weren’t intended for one particular project. It’s more different ideas, sounds and emotions rather than one big feeling. More Isn’t Anything than Loveless in that sense. But after that, I will definitely finish a guitar-y, song-based album that I recorded in 2013 this year. The vocals need to be recorded. After that? Trying to finish more old stuff… put everything out on vinyl, or if some label wants to collaborate on a release. Might begin doing gigs again this year too, although it will probably be just myself, at least initially.”
“I always go back to the same records (Jimmy Webb, John Barry soundtracks, Burt Bacharach, and so on), even though I like a bit of everything. These days, most of my music is made up on the spot, sort of in a semi-trance-like state, not knowing what the end result will be, as opposed to earlier days when I composed and planned everything from scratch. It’s like the music you hear in the hypnagogic state, or just before you’re falling asleep, and it’s the most beautiful narcotic symphonies you’ll ever hear… that’s a bit like how the song-based guitar album I mentioned above feels like. It’s pop music, but half of it is in another state of mind at the same time. Melodic but not “really there” music… guitars through glitchy Devi Ever fuzz pedals and envelope filters. That’s the basic sound, and the sound I keep returning to. You hear bits of that sound on the Bandcamp EPs, I guess.”
“As for performing live again, it can be any constellation: alone, together with one or all members from LKWRM, or with a larger ensemble. In my head, I’ve always wanted to play music live that is half-written, half free form, sort of Pharaoh Sanders noise jazz combined with heavy noisy hip hop beats, but essentially within the parameters of a guitar-bass-drum-sampler band line-up. Maybe a few horn players. In the near future, though, it will probably be me alone, or with one or two others. I’ve recently half-recorded music to be performed live, so I’ll probably go with those songs initially, as opposed to play stuff from the EPs. I definitely prefer playing live with other musicians so I will at least have sequenced music that I can move around and change spontaneously. 20 years ago, I was quite obsessed with early jungle and drum ‘n’ bass music and there’s still an element of that in what I do now, and might play live in the near future. Still, there’s nothing I enjoy more than playing my Jazzmaster into the Vox amp, so it will probably be a big confusing mess for me and the audience.”
And with that, Toby stole back into the night – probably to write and record another album’s worth of delicious aural goodness that may get released in 2025. The fact that only a small proportion of his material has leaked into the outside world is both curious and enticing, the temptation to break the piggy band and launch the Lazer Guided Melody record label, with oca as the first vinyl release, has pulled at me ever since that first, serendipitous listen. I’ve a long history of crying foul of compressed, digitized music contorting (and even cheapening) the quality of sound; that a track such as ‘Noise Drums’ still sounds fantastic despite travelling down the wires is proof of its indefatigability, and I’ll be first in the queue when the vinyl is released. But until then, there’s the Orange Crate Art Bandcamp pages. Visit. Spend money. You’ll thank me for it.