Pye Corner Audio/Not Waving – Intercepts
There’s something rather fitting about the concept behind this split LP from brothers-in-electronica Martin Jenkins (AKA Pye Corner Audio) and Alessio Natalizia. As the title suggests, it was inspired by the world of espionage, and more specifically the spy rings that criss-crossed the World during the Cold War era, with bed-hopping, double-crossing agents meeting at dawn to exchange information in dark alleys, non-descript cafes and hush-hush safe houses. It’s an era that has already provided ample fodder for authors and scriptwriters, so it makes sense that it would provide inspiration for a pair of producers whose instinctive takes on electronic music more often than not veer on the claustrophobic.
Certainly, there’s always been something clandestine about Jenkins’ Pye Corner Audio releases. His now legendary Black Mill Tapes series – originally self-released, but gathered together for vinyl editions by the acclaimed Type label – was full of droning sketches, half-heard compositions and dark analogue explorations. Moody, densely textured and atmospheric, his work has always had something of the night about it, as if he was secretly passing messages to agents out in the field through the use of curious melodies and long-forgotten analogue synthesizers.
Natalizia’s work as Not Waving has generally been equally as evocative, though his recent album for Emotional Response, Human Capabilities, was as stunningly beautiful as it was dark and morbid. Natalizia’s love of darker, weirder sounds is well documented, though – he compiled a collection of largely bleak early ‘80s Italian electronics for Strut last year – and his krautrock and darkwave influences are clear. Drawing inspiration from the obviously murky world of espionage is no giant leap.
On Intercepts, each producer takes a side each and does their thing. Surprisingly, there’s no actual collaboration. In many ways, it doesn’t matter; their styles, while distinctly different, share enough similarities for Intercepts to make perfect sense. Think of it as two sides of the same coin, or the same story being told from two different standpoints. In many ways, Jenkins’ side is the bleaker of the two. It begins with “Perfect Secrecy Forever”, a perfect scene-setter whose chugging low-end throb, rising and falling electronics and skuzzy tape hiss evoke thoughts of illicit trysts between agents on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. The idea of passion beyond the call of duty is arguably a fitting one, given the track’s orgasmic build towards a dizzying, breathless conclusion. There’s a sparser feel to “Twisted Wire Pair”, with tipsy electronics and bubbling melodies wrapping themselves around a low-key drum machine rhythm and druggy analogue bass.
“Shared Secret Key” is – somewhat surprisingly – strangely beautiful, with hallucinogenic chords and drowsy melodies riding a particularly fuzzy, undulating groove. It’s particularly beautiful when compared to “One Time Pad”, a seriously moody and atmospheric composition that seems particularly fitting once you understand the title’s meaning. Anyone who listened to the landmark Conet Project compilations of the 1990s – recordings of illicit shortwave “numbers stations” will get it straight away; it’s a one-time pad spies used to decipher seemingly meaningless lists of numbers read out over the airwaves at random times of day and night. Jenkins’ interpretation of the phenomena – dark, spooky, fluid and chugging, with just the right amount of industrial grit – fits its obscure but fascinating history.
On the flip, Natalizia takes a slightly different approach. As with Human Capabilities, there’s a distinct interplay between light and dark. He shifts between moods throughout his four tracks, none more so than on stunning opener “Protect The Revolution”. After opening with two and a half minutes of deeply melancholic chords, droning electronics and long, drawn out memories, the Walls member introduces a tough Italo groove – all twisted, looped electronics, thunderous kick-drums and fistfight energy. It throbs, surges and pulses for the next six minutes, building towards a breathless climax.
Elsewhere, more becalmed moments – the gentle melodies and crystal clear ambience of “Two-Way Mirror”, with its glistening but loose guitars and Land of Light style atmospherics, and the deliciously immersive, otherworldly “Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel” – are interspersed with more pulsating darkness. In this case it’s “Enemies of the People”, which layers drifting, yearning chords on top of a chugging analogue groove that sounds like it was pinched from an old industrial or EBM record. It’s typical of Natalizia that even his more anxious, panicky moments come laden with beautifully simple melodies and crunchy, krautrock-influenced guitars. It might be moody, but there’s hope for the future. After all, even double-crossing spies can change their ways.
A1. Pye Corner Audio – Perfect Secrecy Forever
A2. Pye Corner Audio – Twisted Wire Pair
A3. Pye Corner Audio – Shared Secret Key
A4. Pye Corner Audio – One Time Pad
B1. Not Waving – Protect the Revolution
B2. Not Waving – Two-Way Mirror
B3. Not Waving – Enemies Of The People
B4. Not Waving – Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel