The Selector: Hookworms’ Ecstatic Synth-Rock Mix Celebrates Cosmic Minimalism

01.30.18 9 months ago

Hollie Fernando

The Selector is a new regular series where we commission a continuous mix from an electronic artist and then talk to them about what inspired it. There are no rules. Each artist can base their mix around a theme, around a feeling or sound, or just whatever music they’re excited to share.

The first installment of Uproxx’s exclusive mix series comes from the ecstatic synth-rock band Hookworms, whose album Microshift comes out this Friday. It’s been three years since the Leeds-based outfit’s previous album, The Hum, and their latest is a proper return, further blurring the distinctions between live urgency and pre-programmed restraint. We were so excited about news of a new Hookworms album we named it one of our most Anticipated Albums of 2018.

Ambient music factors heavily into Hookworms’ sound, whether in the form of drone music or cosmic minimalism, and the mix bass and synth player MB (all members of Hookworms go by initials/monograms) made offers a glimpse inside his own head-space, providing some insight into his synth-fluences and what was running through his mind during the recording of Microshift. Have a listen to the mix below while you read our short Q&A with MB on his reasoning behind his song choices and about how the band approached their latest album.

Uproxx: Is there a specific concept for this mix?

My love of transcendental synthesizer music.

Was there a particular song that you knew you had to have on here? Tell me about it.

I think that second Subway album is a lost classic, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard it before when I discovered it 3 or 4 years ago. The last track is so good I named one of my bands after it.

What’s the ideal environment to enjoy this mix? Are people going to want to party or kick back?

It’s definitely one for lighting a candle, sipping a tea and having a lie down. It picks up a bit at the end though, maybe time for a little dance once you’ve re-energized?

Were any of these songs in the back of your mind when the band was writing and recording Microshift? If none of these songs played a part, what was the band listening to when you made the album?

I doubt they were for the others, but I always have Ashra and Terry Riley at the back of my mind when I’m playing with synthesizers, which I did a lot of on the new album. I doubt those two come across much on the new record, though. Emeralds were definitely one of the groups (along with Oneohtrix Point Never) that introduced me to a lot of old and contemporary New Age and synthesizer music when I first got into them about a decade ago.

We never sit down and discuss who we want our records to sound like, but off the top of my head some of the bands that were referenced fleetingly during recording and mixing were the likes of Talking Heads, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Gang Gang Dance, Animal Collective, Stereolab, New Order, Hot Chip etc.

How did you approach the making of Microshift differently to your previous albums?

The last album was very “live,” we wrote it quite quickly together in the practice room, and then recorded all our parts as we play them at shows, with quite minimal fuss (for us), so naturally, we wanted to do something a bit different this time around. It ends up being a very studio-led record, using the computer to make lots of short loops, and then writing songs around those. I think all but one of the songs on the album started off with either a synth part, a sample or a drum machine pattern which we then looped and pumped through the PA in the practice room and jammed around for hours.

After we’d done that for a while we went away and listened to the instrumentals we had, came back and self-edited, stripped away any unnecessary parts until we were left with something resembling a song that MJ could write vocals around. It was a very different but rewarding way of working. I’m sure we’ll do something completely different again next time.

Tracklist:
1. “Sunrain” — Ashra
2. “Flow” — Elodie Lauten
3. “Science Center” — Emeralds
4. “Anthem Of the Trinity” — Terry Riley
5. “Xam” — Subway

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