Switched On – Sunroof: Electronic Music Improvisations Vol. 2 (The Parallel Series / Mute)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones are the electronic music equivalent of London buses. After spending the best part of four decades on their first collaborative album of improvisations, released under the Sunroof umbrella in 2021, they have knocked up the second round of musical trades in a matter of months. The instinctive musical understanding the pair have is brought together in a series of eight improvisations. This time they opted for more space, and allowed their ideas to either knock against each other or to get carried along with the flow.

What’s the music like?

Always intriguing, and with a spirit that carries the listener right back to those first collaborations in 1982. Miller and Jones find that the instinctive approach bears fruit, as does the decision to give their ideas more space.

At times their music evokes a busy beehive, or semi-repetitive industrial processes. The feeling is that of constant development, the pair able to bring forward interesting motifs, rhythms and textures in a spirit that recalls early electronic invention from the likes of Cabaret Voltaire.

January #2 concentrates on small fragments, moving together or against each other like tiny life forms squeezed into a small space. These are set against a longer drone, before shrill sounds from a triangle-like percussion begin to dominate. The music of July #2 suggests a series of codes, with voice-like fragments and bleeps put into the mix. November is a broader canvas, initially darker with more acidic sounds before panning out to reveal a more industrial landscape.

July #3 buzzes only briefly in comparison to July #1, which is a hive of activity and incident, its voice given a disconcerting Dalek edge. Meanwhile October brings in the most obvious rhythm, reminiscent of a game of ping pong but with accompanying synth arpeggios that bubble with activity. January #1 explores bell-like sonorities and acidic timbres, expanding to cavernous reverb in the process.

Does it all work?

It does, though sometimes the feeling is that Sunroof could have gone even further with their ideas, for their imagination is certainly fertile enough.

Is it recommended?

Very much so – a compelling set of improvisations that offers a ready complement to the first volume. Hopefully Miller and Jones are just getting into their stride, and we will hear the fruits of more Sunroof collaborations in the near future.

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