Switched On – Sunroof: Electronic Improvisations Vol. 1 (Mute)

sunroof

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Sunroof is surely the longest running collaboration in electronic music yet to have released an album….until now. The duo, Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones, have long traded Improvisations in private using modular synths, a practice dating back to 1982 when the pair worked together on Depeche Mode’s Construction Time Again.

Miller, who has run the Mute label for four decades, and Jones, a prolific producer, engineer and artist, used Sunroof as a remix project from the 1990s onwards but now, with their friendship about to begin its fifth decade, we finally hear the fruits of their original electronic labours.

What’s the music like?

Timeless – in the sense that this is music borne of the 1980s but feels like it was only made yesterday. The easy style in which the two composers work leads to music that unfolds naturally but still has a keen structure.

Each title is marked by the date of its inception, and the eight tracks vary between deep, moody drones (1.1 – 7.5.19 and 1.3 – 30.5.19) to flickering lights of treble, which we get in 1.2 – 30.5.19 and 1.6  – 7.5.19.

The drones have a little interference around them with white noise, but the harmony is generally consonant. The lighter tracks have more wandering melodies and move on a whim, 1.6 with a motorised movement that becomes more probing and then vanishes into thin air. 1.7 – 30.5.19 a Star Trek like noise on a loop, burning a trace on headphones, then.
1.4 – 18.6.19 is really excellent and could develop into a powerful club track twice its length, while 1.8 – 2.3.19 is the closest we get to a drum beat, a squelchy thud beating moments in time, underneath a bubbling bass and busy treble.

Does it all work?

Yes – and the more you listen, especially on headphones, the more you appreciate the expert layering of parts and intersection of the musical motifs.

Is it recommended?

Yes, enthusiastically. It is great to have Miller and Jones committing their friendship to record in this way, and the musical chemistry between them is clear. Hopefully this will lead to further installments!

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