Switched On – Andy Bell: Strange Loops & Outer Psych (Sonic Cathedral)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Described as a ‘technicolour companion piece’ to last year’s Flicker album, his second release, Strange Loops & Outer Psych is a collection drawn from the EPs he has released in the intervening period.

To quote Bell himself, “Influences, stripped down acoustic reworks and remixes by my friends, comrades and heroes all hopefully help the listener see where my head was when I made Flicker, but also it stands up as a decent listen in its own right.

What’s the music like?

Bell is absolutely right – this is a really effective standalone piece in its own right, thanks to some judicious placing of extra tracks and quality remixes.

Maps in particular turn in an excellent contribution to the second category, James Chapman’s take on It Gets Easier presenting a starry-eyed throwback towards Hacienda days that complements the opener, David Holmes‘ dreamy rework of The Sky Without You. Richard Norris, meanwhile, uses a walking-pace beat to bring good vibes to Something Like Love. Claude Cooper adds a winning break beat to Sidewinder, while bdrmm bring sparkling treble and dubby bass to Way Of The World.

Meanwhile the original tracks find Bell in really strong vocal form, too – as good as at any point in his career. Listen, The Snow Is Falling is an evocative piece, while The Way Love Used To Be is unusually tender and affecting in its outlook. Bell’s voice is unforced in a similarly touching acoustic versions of She Calls The Tune, Love Is The Frequency, Lifeline and Something Like Love.

Countering this is the ‘psych’, a pulsing mix of World Of Echo from A Place To Bury Strangers.

Does it all work?

It does. An ideally named and appropriately dreamy collection.

Is it recommended?

It is. Andy Bell is in a particularly creative phase of his career, even for him – and whether it’s his instrumental GLOK project or this hazy, slightly retrospective workout, he is on fine form at every turn. Strange Loops & Outer Psych is a blissful, uplifting listen.

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Switched On – Pye Corner Audio – Let’s Emerge! (Sonic Cathedral)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This is the first album from Pye Corner Audio – aka Martin Jenkins – for the Sonic Cathedral label. It is a wholly logical move, given the producer’s work with Ride guitarist Andy Bell on Social Dissonance, a live recording he made at a Sonic Cathedral night at The Social back in 2019.

It was the first meeting for the pair, and it ticked a lot of musical boxes which lead to the collaboration on this album, where Bell plays guitar on five of the ten tracks. The impetus for this long player is markedly different from Pye Corner Audio’s last in 2021, which was inspired by the underground fungal pathways where plants communicate. This one reaches for the sun, bathing in the summer heat – which makes its release into the middle of a UK heatwave all the more pertinent.

As a bonus, Let’s Emerge! is fronted by vibrant artwork from Marc Jones, consciously drawing on sleeves from LFO, Spaceman 3 and early Stereolab in his vivid colouring.

What’s the music like?

As warm as the cover suggests it should be. Jenkins’ slight adaptation of his music for Sonic Cathedral does indeed take it closer to ‘shoegaze’ if we are looking for a musical label, but it means the music he produces is full of rich colour and dreamlike possibility.

De-Hibernate acts as an awakening, introducing the big sonic backdrop with which Jenkins operates, but also showing how closer inspection reveals studied details in the work of Andy Bell. Broad brush chords from the keyboards, then, are complemented by more intricate guitar work, a blueprint that works extremely well as the album progresses.

The wash of sound on Lyracal confirms the temperature, bathing in consonant harmonies and shimmering textures, while Does It Go Dark shifts to lower pitched drones, its woozy outlines gradually revealing a chord progression of poise and power.

Haze Loops is a rich tapestry of warm sounds, more of a poolside chillout number, before some slightly smaller tracks link seamlessly together as part of a bigger suite. Let’s Emerge Part One breaks like a wave into the ears, retreating to the deeper colours of Saturation Point. Sun Stroke (so appropriate as I type this on the hottest day in UK history!) is thick with humidity, and then after the brief Let’s Emerge Part Two, Luminescence harnesses more rhythmic drive, synths bubbling just below the surface. Finally Warmth Of The Sun, the musical culmination of the album, brings the guitar to its greatest prominence yet, shimmering on the surface with fuzzy vocals and supportive percussion.

It says much that Andy Bell’s contributions are subtly integrated into the music. Not for him the posturing of a typical ‘featured guitarist’ – he gets the mood of Jenkins’ writing and adds his own subtleties to complement it, rather than going for standout melodies each time. It is to his enormous credit that the two work as equals and achieve something far more meaningful.

Does it all work?

It does. Music evokes time and place better than almost anything, and Let’s Emerge! certainly does that with its hot weather soundscapes.

Is it recommended?

Yes – a rather special addition to Martin Jenkins’ work until now as Pye Corner Audio, taking him in the direction of sunnier climes while reminding us of his capacity to evoke images and moods through his electronic music. Andy Bell’s guitar work is the icing on the cake.



Switched On – GLOK: Pattern Recognition (Bytes)

What’s the story?

There is a sense that Andy Bell was pleasantly surprised by the success of Dissident, his first album as GLOK. Until then it seemed he was happy to let the project simmer beneath the surface, but as soon as that first album made its presence felt it gave him the confidence to spread his wings and spend more time in the studio.

Pattern Recognition builds on that success, taking the building blocks of Krautrock-influenced instrumentals and running with them, adding more nuances and possibilities. That means several vocal tracks for the first time.

The Bandcamp guide to the album reveals that it ‘has a loose thread which takes in a week of life, from weekend to weekend, with each of the vinyl’s four sides capturing different mind states across that transition. Each side has a distinct feel that’s different to the last but inherently cohesive – much like the changes an individual goes through over 7 days.’

What’s the music like?

Pattern Recognition has a greater breadth of styles than Dissident did, and now it has the vocalists to add extra depth and variety. The guests are all excellent, especially punk poet Sinead O’Brien on Maintaining the Machine, where her words dovetail beautifully with the GLOK synths and loping beats. Entanglement, featuring Chloé ‘C.A.R.’ Raunet, is cut from similar cloth, with more guitar in the mix and a really full, solid wall of sound to back it up.

Shamon Cassette is a brooding presence on the nocturnal Process, which bubbles atmospherically, while his wife Shiarra’s voice works really well against the pulsing figures and fat bass of That Time Of Night.

If you are already familiar with the music of Dissident you will appreciate the broad scope of the brilliantly named album opener Dirty Hugs. On it Bell gives himself nearly 20 minutes to unpack a throbbing groove in thrall to Krautrock and containing a lot of good things, which unwind at a really satisfying pace. It serves as a form guide for the rest of the album, as Pattern Recognition is a very substantial piece of work.

Closer nods a bit more to the techno of Mr Fingers in its square beat and bass line, but in contrast Memorial Device has an improvised piano line drifting past. Kintsugi is lovely, with its wide open sounds, while the woozy Day Three cuts to Invocation, where Bell’s sonic blender works a treat as part of a monotone and hypnotic groove, spun out again to more than 15 minutes as a track the listener can really immerse themselves in.

Two edits of Dirty Hugs and Closer complete an attractive bonus package.

Does it all work?

Yes, making it two out of two for Bell. Pattern Recognition does everything you would want from a follow-up to Dissident, and even accusations of it being too long would be brought up short. There is ample evidence of just how much Bell is enjoying his electronic incarnation, and the well-chosen vocal guests are the icing on the cake.

Is it recommended?

Heartily – as long as you already have the first installment of Bell’s GLOK incarnation!

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Switched On – GLOK: Dissident Remixed (Bytes)

Reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This time last year Ride fans – and electronic music devotees – were both surprised and delighted at the appearance of GLOK, the self-titled instrumental album from the band’s guitarist Andy Bell. Bell had kept his electronic alias relatively under wraps until then, but he revealed himself as an accomplished producer harnessing the influence of Krautrock into some strong, beat-laden grooves.

With a talent for expanding his music to fill bigger structures, Bell also recognised the flexibility of his recordings for the remix treatment – which is what we have here. His enviable contact book has resulted in remixes from a number of sources including James Chapman (Maps), Richard Sen and the late Andrew Weatherall with one of his last studio contributions.

What’s the music like?

Remix albums can be substandard affairs and stopgaps when an artist’s inspiration is running dry, but there is no danger of any of that happening here.

Franz Kirmann impresses greatly with his two versions of Kolokol. The first has added squiggles and a dogged beat that presses all the right buttons, while the second has murkier textures and a stripped back, dubby beat. Timothy Clerkin delivers a remix of Projected Sounds with head nodding goodness, while Andrew Weatherall‘s mix of Cloud Cover is underpinned by characteristically dark bass line and fluttering atmospherics.

On the downtempo side of things there is a nice, woozy take on Weaver from C.A.R., and a lovely hazy dub version of Exit Through The Skylight from Jay Glass, with rich instrumental colours. Bell himself turns in a brilliant extended version of Pulsing. Stretched out to 15 minutes, the track turns subtly from a laid back, dub-inflected tread to a dreamy breakdown in the middle, before extra bleeps and bass are introduced.

One of the most striking inventions comes from Minotaur Shock, bringing analogue beats and warm synth colours to Weaver, twisting and turning the source material. It is immediately complemented by another excellent remix of Pulsing, this time from MapsJames Chapman reaching for the stars with a typically wide panorama.

Does it all work?

Yes. It works as a remix album should, building on the original and bringing out different elements of Bell’s music. The variety of talent on show is laid out in an appealing structure, using his acumen to craft another album that has an ideal ebb and flow.

Is it recommended?

Very much so. GLOK Remixed emerges as a companion to put alongside the original, showing off the flexibility of its source material and making some really excellent, alternative grooves from it. With Bell’s debut solo album as a vocalist coming up soon, there is much to enjoy from him this year!



Talking Heads: Andy Bell talks all things GLOK and Ride

As Arcana discovered only the other week, Andy Bell is a musician with several strings to his bow. Many will know him as a founder member of Ride, the Oxford group popular in the early 1990s and enjoying a creative renaissance capped by new album This Is Not A Safe Place, released as this interview is being written. Others will recognise the Ride genesis but think of Bell more as a sometime member of Oasis – where he played bass guitar – and Beady Eye. Add to that Bell’s time as front man for Hurricane #1, at peak Britpop in the late 1990s, and you have a pretty formidable indie discography.

As it turns out, this is only part of the story, for Andy also makes music in a solo capacity, under the name of GLOK. Here the keyboards take over, and a love of Krautrock and other weird and wonderful electronica becomes clearer – as does the sense that here Bell is really able to indulge his full portfolio of styles.

Last week we had the chance to talk all things GLOK – and to ask Bell that now he’s been ‘outed’ if he intends to make it a more full time piece of work.

Arcana: When you started making music as GLOK, was it your intention to keep it private?

Andy Bell: Originally I was using the name to hide behind. I didn’t want people’s first experience of hearing it to be tied to a mental image of me, or what they thought I stood for. A side effect of this was that the tracks barely got noticed, or at least it felt that way. But in a way that was what I wanted. Dissident got added to a pretty big Spotify playlist and that was cool. But after that none of the other tracks did much.

At the time the tracks were signed to a label called Globe. This was a couple of years ago. I’m still signed to Globe, myself, as a composer, that’s the nature of that deal. GLOK was just one way of getting music out into the world really, but after a couple of years, the tracks were basically sitting dormant on iTunes and Spotify, until I got a call from Bytes about doing a physical release. There were 5 tunes out at the time, from a group of around 10 or so GLOK tunes which I’d made and had mastered for Globe. By that time it was no longer a secret that GLOK was me, I’d done a few remixes under that name including one for Ride. When Bytes got in touch Joe Clay told me that he loved Pulsing way before he knew it was me, which was really cool to hear.

When did you start to realise the potential of making your own music with synthesizers?

I bought a Yamaha CS-5 after Dave Sitek had used one in the studio with Beady Eye. That was because I saw how easy it was to use and what great sounds you could get with it, especially using it with guitar pedals. Dave had brought over a ton of gear with him to London and I ended up getting a lot of things he turned me on to, for example that was the first time I came into contact with the Eventide Space Reverb, which for me now is like a member of my family or something. It gradually spread from there. I got a Roland SH 101 and a couple of things from the Critter and Guitari range, a little bit of modular, apps on the iPad like the mellotron etc. Initially I was buying this stuff to augment the sound of songs that were still in guitar world. The catalyst for me to start to get my head into actually making electronic music was kind of a side effect of the Music recording software Logic going from version 9 to version X.

I had been using Logic 9 – by trial and error, after Jeff Wootton showed me the ropes. Jeff was horrified that I was making demo’s on Garage Band! He was like “You’re using kids’ software man. Here’s the grown-up Garage Band, you need to be using this”. So then I was stumbling around inside Logic 9 but able to get ideas down. Then 9 kind of became obsolete and the next version, X, was totally different. I was completely lost by it so signed up to learn Logic X at a place called Sub Bass Academy, near Waterloo. I spent six months inside Logic X and it was amazing. The course started with sampling and went from there. As soon as I learned to use the onboard sampler I was away. Just like when I learned the guitar, I started off re-making tracks I liked (Mr Fingers‘ Can You Feel It, Underworld Rez, and A Guy Called Gerald‘s Voodoo Ray) and then moved on to coming up with my own stuff. And I was getting help from them along the way. So basically after that six months, I was OK at sampling, synthesis, all the stuff I’d been getting interested in but didn’t really know. Logic became the way I made demos, and therefore, a lot of the time, the way I wrote songs.

Was it a leisure activity to start with, or did you always see a single / album release as part of it?

Leisure, for sure. I don’t feel like I have an actual ‘job’ ever, except maybe when I’m doing promotional stuff. It built up into quite a collection of music over a year or two, and then through conversations with Marc Robinson at Globe, he told me he’d like to put some of the tracks out. It wasn’t envisaged as a conventional album at the time. I think they did one track a month, for five months. But I kept on making GLOK tracks long after Globe stopped putting them out. OK, so most of them are half finished, but so were the first seven until Marc gave me a deadline!

Fully electronic music has become something I do equally as prolifically as guitar songs, and it’s never something which I start with a release, or even an end product in mind. What it comes down to, is I would much rather start a track than finish one. I’m lazy and on any given day I’ll just start about five ideas, name them, and forget about them. They could be electronic or guitar-y. I’m always finding tracks that I have zero memory of making. I love that. Some of them are even half decent.

Was it enjoyable keeping GLOK a secret, and has your approach to it changed at all now it’s out in the open?

Maybe I didn’t need to use another name at all, but that just made me more comfortable with it at the time. Nothing has changed about the way I make music since then.

What other music using synthesizers / keyboards do you admire?

Everything from The Beatles onwards and outwards. Psychedelia and Krautrock opened rock music up in the ‘60s and ‘70s and from that point there’s no huge need to categorise. But if we are talking pure electronic music, then for me the biggest influence is Mr Fingers. I love the home made feel of his records. There’s a direct line there to Voodoo Ray which is another of my favourites, I bought that on 12” when it came out. Recently I’ve heard Harald Grosskopf – he’s an artist I think I’m going to really love. But my taste is pretty broad and I think I’m not that unusual in that respect. That’s how people listen now I think.

How did you get to writing much longer pieces like Dissident, and when did you realise you could write much more substantial tracks while keeping the interest high?

Dissident was almost that long right from the first demo. I’d set up an arpeggiator and started playing chords over it with a softsynth, and in essence the track hasn’t changed that much since then. I hadn’t realised how long it was, I was just noodling around with it. I think the first version was about 12 minutes, and I repeated a couple of sections along the way, and it ended up around 20, which feels like its natural length.

Have you ever considered writing in a more classical form – and has classical played any part in your musical development so far?

I have never had any interest in classical music, but Loz Colbert did get me into Minimalism, which I think had a lot of influence in the rock world, that’s something I’d never heard about, and it blew my mind when I started connecting the dots. Steve Reich is the man, and I especially like Come Out and Piano Phase. Phases and Music for Eighteen Musicians are two albums of his I play a lot the whole way through. I’ve also been to see two Philip Glass operas, Satyagraha and Akhnaten – they are incredible. A couple of hours passes in what seems like 15 minutes! I’m still waiting for a chance to check out Einstein On The Beach.

Do you think you’d like to take GLOK out as a live concern?

Yes, I’d like to but I have no idea how it would work. There’s a lot of scope for what a GLOK live thing could be, from a DJ set with bells on, all the way to a full live band. I don’t think it is going to happen anytime soon. I’m about to go around the world with Ride.

In terms of songwriting, how would you summarise the contributions you’ve made as a band member to Ride, Hurricane #1, Oasis and Beady Eye?

All those songs, even the GLOK ones, all come from the same source. There’s no rule as to the end point, whatever the starting point has been. I am quite instinctive and I don’t always know when I’ve written a really good, or really bad song. I’ve put out a few of both. It’s hard to tell at the time, weirdly. I know when a song feels special to me, but often those particular songs don’t mean much to anybody else. The ones people really like are normally the ones that took the shortest time to write. Those ones can feel quite throwaway to me until time passes and I can look back and see where the quality really was. I think it’s normal to associate effort with quality but it’s not always that way at all.

On the new Ride album (the band photographed above), the approach allows for more electronics. Was that your input?

No, not at all. I use bits and pieces in places. But I think Steve Queralt is the one whose demos are the most full of synths. When Erol Alkan came on board, I felt the door was open for us to make a fully electronic album. It’s still open. It would be cool to do. But Erol plugged into the band element. I think that was the braver move in the circumstances, and the better one for the big picture of the band.

It must be gratifying to see how Ride have developed over the years.

It’s great, it still feels like we have so much to do. I just mentioned an electronic Ride album. But a full on, “Daydream Nation” kind of Ride album is something I think we could do. I think that could be incredible. To go in and just turn up the guitars, jam out on open tunings, do some real long freeform songs, make like a mid 70’s Neil Young or late 80’s Sonic Youth album, would be fantastic.

What are your plans for the rest of the year – and do you have many beyond that?

The Ride tour will take us through into the middle of next year. But alongside that there are various other things I’ve been working on. GLOK is one of them, but there are a few other things in the pipeline as well.

Finally, could you select a Ride song (or any other) that you’ve had a big hand in that you’re particularly satisfied with?

Cool Your Boots is one of my all time favourite Ride records, mainly because of the last two minutes.

The Glok album Dissident is out now on Bytes…while the new Ride album This Is Not A Safe Place is newly available on Wichita Recordings. Both can be heard below on Spotify: