Stormfield and Nonima are two producers we’ve been following for many years here at Skirmish towers. Known for the intricacies of their sound and meshing the likes of IDM, Acid, Electro, Techno and Ambient, they ar ealso responsible for promoting some of the most forward-thinking underground producers, through their respective labels Combat Recordings and Section 27.
Combat has established itself as a label constantly pushing boundaries with releases from Scorn, Monster X, Blackmass Platics, Cursor Miner, King Cannibal and ScanOne to name a few and is a staple of the underground UK electronic scene. Likewise with Section 27, ever since I discovered it years ago it’s been a treasure trove of quality IDM, Glitch and Experimental sounds all released for free.
Collaborating together the past few years, 24 April sees them drop the Expanse EP, their latest release on Combat Recordings. We are delighted to have the opportunity to an interview them to find out more about the release, production techniques and chat about Comabt and Section 27. They were also kind enough to send us a wicked exclusive mix full of their tunes. Happy days!
Firstly, how did the collaboration between you guys come together?
Nonima: Stormfield approached me for a remix in 2013 and I’ve been happy to swap ideas since.
Stormfield: Since then, aslong with the latest EP and Stratosphere EP, we’ve collaborated in various remixes over the years, there were a couple of tracks from the 2013 Collapsing System 12” that came out on Combat and Section 27, also Dissensus, Gazprom and Antifacid.
How do you think the Expanse EP differs from Stratosphere EP?
N: Different place in time so a little different approach. Since Stratosphere I’ve worked with Stormfield on a couple of reworks for other projects like Scald so there’s been a few years to test the waters with other ideas.
S: Workflows have sped up.
How did the production process work with you both being in seperate locations?
S: On this side it usually begins with a short jam, if it sounds interesting, it get’s saved. Sometimes the track takes shape out of that, or, more often than not, it sits on the hard drive while I get sidetracked with life stuff, then forgotten about and opened much later, by which time I don’t even remember making it. It’s like collaborating with someone new but weirdly familiar.
Or Tam might send some stems and I’ll see if they pair up. There’s been a couple of times this happened and resulted in full tracks.
While Monster X was still living in London, we’d sit in for long recording sessions and come up with some nice bits, that became the project Fausten.
With a collaboration such as this, are you generally happy with each other’s ideas or is there a back or forth, such as ‘maybe change this part’ etc…?
N: I have that conversation with myself more often than I would suggest to change their ideas to be honest.
S: It’s been pretty smooth so far, we’re quite fortunate that our tastes sync up.
The release has a very ‘hardware sound’ – was it mainly out of the box or was software involved?
N: Hardware-wise I use an NI Maschine on some of the tracks, but mostly it’s Reaktor or software synths on my end. A “friendly-neighbour-donated/borrowed” Elektron Digitone was the foundation of the EP at least.
S: So yes, the trippy detuning arpeggio in Caesura was basically the Digitone being tweaked live in one take. It deliberately drifts up and out of tune but still makes musical sense somehow. There’s also a TT303 in there for the acid, especially on Airlock and Void.
The hard noisy snares on Void are actually a spitting onto a contact mic via the Soma Pipe, which is a crazy instrument that converts human voice to synth sounds. I got it mainly for Scald Process, to improvise with at gigs, as I’m not musically trained. Some of the strings are “sung” through the pipe as well, but it all ends up inside the computer for arranging and editing. The drums are software, fattened up.
What bit of gear is currently front and centre in your studio?
S: Ableton always – you can use it for most things. Was skint for many years so learned to get by purely on software.
Inside the set will sit stuff like Reaktor, Sonic Charge and Max4Live and hardware feeds like the Machinedrum, Digitone, TT303 and Soma Pipe.
I’ve become accustomed to working and saving progress in small increments, which you can easily do in digital. I find it’s the best way really when there’s so much different stuff on the go and spare time is fragmented.
I usually try to jam stuff out in one take, so as not to get stuck in a million options every step. To get a vibe sorted, the instinctive-level stuff. The more boring admin/left-brain processes can be laboured over later, even when tired or not in the mood.
As producers I’d be interested to know what’s the biggest challenge you face with putting an EP like this together? Is the creative process a struggle or does it just flow?
S: It kind of just flowed in this case. One thing that helps is having different projects on the go. So, if a track gets particularly dark and brutal, it becomes Fausten, if it’s stringy/noisy/dark it becomes Scald, and if it’s acidy electro it becomes Stormfield, which is where the sound overlaps with Nonima a fair bit. The main thing is not forcing a tune to be one thing or another, rather just make tunes sound natural to what they are, and then slot them here or there later.
N: I’ll second the having different projects, one for each hemisphere.
Tam, Section 27 has been going for over 10 years now, what was the ethos with setting it up? Did you think it was going to go for so long?
N: Definitely not. It still doesn’t really feel as long ago as that to be honest. It was started an imprint to put my own tunes with a mate who I’d been collaborating with a lot around 07-09, we’d collected quite a fair amount of material from jams and thought it’d be fun to put them online. This was back in the Myspace days and that.
I was into the DIY aesthetic of net labels like Monotonik who’d been putting out some quality electronic stuff out for free and I had put out a few earlier tunes out on other online friends labels. It was like a “community” of people all sharing their ideas, so you could say that ethos of releasing music for gratis has been the spirit of S27. I’ve met some very talented people through it as well, and that is its own reward.
Derek, similarly with Combat Recordings, what’s the biggest thing you look for when putting something out?
S: Vibe-wise it’s usually sombre/angry, syncopated, detailed, bass-bin friendly. Most Combat stuff is meant to be played out on a big system, and be interesting enough so you could listen to them on the headphones or at home. I came through DJing electronica and jungle, so most Combat tracks try to avoid the four-to-the-floor, even if they might have a techno tempo. The selection is sound-led, so I’m pretty open to new artists. Combat 01 happened after randomly seeing ScanOne perform an electro night in Hackney for the first time.
Generally if a track moves me to the point where I can’t shake off that nagging thought to put time and cash into mastering, promoting and releasing it, then it happens.
Any plans to do live shows together?
S: We’ve chatted about it, with so much material it shouldn’t be difficult at all putting a show together, and to also make it an audiovisual show. It’s mainly down to coordinating time and work to be honest.
Any current music that’s blowing your mind that people should know about?
People already know about Mick Harris, Autechre, Milanese, Ontal, so i’ll mention the less well known ones.
Jesse Woolston. Really great stuff if you like Deaf Center / Pale Ravine, he’s taken it further with even bigger production. Sublime stuff that manages to bring time to a standstill.
Metalogue, a friend in London who co-runs the Towards Collapse parties. His music stood out in it’s similarity to Gridlock, a band on Hymen Records that strongly influenced me. Beautifully orchestrated stringwork, intricate frenetic drumbreaks and deep sound design. We ended up working together via him remixing Scald Process:
Death Qualia – An American producer based in Berlin, intense and intricate production. Especially like of his remix on Jezgro:
He did a great remix of Scald Process as well:
Parallax is a DJ/producer I met at Mugako last year – she mixed up 2 hours of broken beats, hardcore breaks, Autechre, Gescom, techno and electro seamlessly, one of the standout sets of that festival. Turns out a couple of the standout tracks in that set were her own. One to watch:
Swarmm is an experimental techno alias of Liam who plays violin in Scald, he makes great tracks and is constantly evolving new skills. He’s pne of the few people I know who can improvise with a classical instrument, program Max 4 Live, work a modular synth and make awesome visuals.
What does the rest of 2019 hold for you both?
S: Survive Brexit and make, release and perform more music and visuals.
N: New Mitoma stuff, a few remixes to release at some point, S27-X compilation around June and a load of radge grenades.
Big thanks to Stormfield and Nonima for the interview. Expanse EP is out on April 24 via Combat Recordings and can be pre-ordered now through Bandcamp.
Check out their awesome Skirmix below which Nonima put together full of all their collaborations.