composers John Metcalfe and Simon Richmond

John Metcalfe + Simon Richmond

This week's playlist offers an eclectic mix from the vanguard of British electronic classical composition - John Metcalfe (Morrissey, Blur) and Simon Richmond (REM, Pulp)...

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 6 Jan 2017
  • min read
Composers John Metcalfe and Simon Richmond are well known for their eclectic creations, so it figures their new joint album, Set In Stone, follows an equally nonlinear form.

Having individually already worked with the likes of Blur, Morrissey, REM, Peter Gabriel and Pulp, they've pooled their influences and experiences into a mesmerising double record inspired by ancient stone circles in and around Dorset.

It skirts around the foggy borders between contemporary classical composition and warm electronics, exploring the textures and timelines of the South West’s spiritual relics.

With orchestral sequences recorded at Abbey Road and a live performance in situ at a stone circle, their first collaboration piles on the ambience and authenticity.

Intrigued by the music they were listening to when they created the record, and the sounds that have informed their careers so far, we ask them to let us in on what’s shaped their tastes…

Square to Check - Ground Lift from the EP ‘Stir Fry’
Slightly guilty space prog-rock pleasure this one. Straight from the school of Ozric complete with guitar facials it’s a well disciplined instrumental wig-out of a high order.

Ludwig van Beethoven - Grosse Fugue op.133
I don’t think any additional description from me is going to help in any way.

John Zorn – Cobra
‘Composed’ free improv piece. Can’t recommend a recording as that’s not really the point I guess...

The Meters - Cardova - not currently available on Spotify
Some very funky music.

Burial - Come Down To Us
Heard this on an Adam Curtis film recently and had it on repeat for a disturbingly long time.

Bill Evans - Symbiosis 1c. Moderato - not currently available on Spotify
From the album 1974 Symbiosis, composed, conducted and arranged by Claus Ogerman. I first had this on cassette in the eighties and I have been listening to it obsessively ever since. I still find new things in it every time I play it. Worth it alone or Claus Ogerman’s sleeve notes, which include this quote from Stravinsky: ‘Theory in musical composition is hindsight. It doesn’t exist.’

Rhythm and Sound - Distance 
Off the 1999 Smile EP. Another piece that continually opens up to me on successive listens, but for totally different reasons. This is electronic ambience stretched to the most beautifully bleak and sparse limits. The layers of hiss and crackly rustle are the kind of textures that I am always reaching for to combine with more traditional melodic content.

Jonsi and Alex - Sleeping Giant
From the 2003 LP Riceboy Sleeps. This record brings together gorgeous orchestral swells, choral ensembles and raw and indistinct noise collages. What’s not to like?

De La Soul - Dilla Plugged In - not currently available on Spotify
Off their 2014 free mixtape Smell the D.A.I.S.Y, this mixes unheard J Dilla beats with re-worked De La Soul vocals. Dilla’s beat is a masterclass in how to create emotion from a few cut-up snippets and a well-turned loop. When I’m trying to create cycles of stuff in tunes I always come back to the hip hop geniuses and how they make groove and compelling repetition seem effortless.

Al Green - Take Me To The River
From Al Green Explores Your Mind, 1974. It’s The Reverend. What’s not to like? A moment of perfection coming from restraint and stripping back the music to its simplest form to let the soul come out. I love how the chorus seems never fully sung or expressed, which makes it all the more powerful and lasting. Another good reminder not to overwork themes and to step back to let something come through.

Set In Stone is out now on ECC100 Records -