London trio Strobes are somewhat of an avant-garde supergroup with member credits from the likes of Three Trapped Tigers, Troyka and Squarepusher. Their extreme genre-bending 2016 album Brokespeak is a journey in experimentation and improvisation through math, jazz, electronica, time and space.
Somehow, through all the complexities of instrumentation and arrangement that Strobes present, Brokespeak retains a rhythm that us lesser beings can comprehend; a gift from the wizard gods of technical foresight. It’s a truly rewarding listen, suitable for dancing like a weirdo in your kitchen, or staring at your carpet thinking; ‘how?’.
Keyboardist Dan Nicholls kindly provided some insight into the formation of Strobes and the creation of Brokespeak.
A sonic triangle of electrified polyrhythms, spaced-out synth jams and off-kilter beats’ is how three-piece Strobes attempt to describe their music.
Formed of keyboardist Dan Nicholls (who has worked with Squarepusher and Matthew Herbert), drummer Joshua Blackmore (Troyka) and guitar and synth man Matt Calvert (Three Trapped Tigers, Heritage Orchestra) – this band has created sound that eschews genre and feels free from time-stamps. They are an intensely high-octane group that fire off frantic tempos and intricate complexities, yet they also retain an accessibility through fluid grooves and an engaging sense of melodic intuition. “Our music seems to have naturally moved towards making something simple out of something complex – whether it be a lop-sided beat which is somehow danceable, a combination of patterns that form a melody, or improvisations where the instruments seem to blend into one another.”
Matt Calvert – Guitar, Electronics
Joshua Blackmore – Drums
“Big beats and warped electronica… offering a glimpse of future of improvised music.”
– The Arts Desk
“Head-swirling polyrhythms and electronics gone wrong, and more than a hint of Flying Lotus style mutant jazz.”
“Strobes want to challenge you, to rip the trousers off the status quo and to reach places of your brain that would make your cat do cartwheels.”
– God Is In The TV
“The venn diagram between a trio of vastly experienced – but hugely distinct – musicians… the sheer volume of ideas on show is staggering.”
ON THE WEBBandcamp Soundcloud Spotify Facebook YouTube Brokespeak vinyl
Congratulations on Brokespeak. Can you tell us about the making of the record?
The album was about as DIY as you could get, the only thing we outsourced was the mastering. We just got together in Joshua’s studio and started recording, adding new ideas as we went along and forming what you now hear on the album and on gigs. In that way it felt like a really creative process.
How did you guys meet and decide to start this project?
The band originally started as a duo with keyboards and drums, trying out ideas from West African music (which Dan has had some involvement with) and electronica. Dan wrote a lot of material for this line-up and then Matt came along and added his own production style and playing to what we had already started.
With such a unique sound, can you share some of the influences for Strobes; musical or otherwise?
It’s hard to pinpoint where inspiration has come from, but along with West African rhythmic and structural ideas and an interest in the rhythmic phrasing in Indian classical music, we’ve been pretty heavily influenced by Tim Berne (Screwgun Records) as well electronic/dance music from Squarepusher and Aphex Twin to Actress and Autechre. We’d also have to mention the Craig Taborn album ‘Junk Magic’ which brings together electronics and live/improvised music in a pretty amazing way. When I first heard Junk Magic I was convinced that these two areas of music were totally compatible.
Do you have any tour plans in the near future?
We’re off around Europe later in the year with gigs in Paris (30th April), London Rich Mix (May 1st with Mutiny on the Bounty and Mouse on the Key), Belfast (March 11th, Brilliant Corners Fest) and more later in the year.