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:

Switched On – GLOK: Dissident (Bytes)

What’s the story?

Ride’s Andy Bell has pulled together all his solo recordings to date under the GLOK alias. GLOK – the German word for ‘bell’ with a crucial letter missing – has been an undercover enterprise until now, an anonymous project brought to life by Bytes chief Joe Clay, a Ride fan himself.

As this story suggests Bell is modest about his side project, but now he has been ‘outed’ as a one-man band, expect to hear a lot more of this music as the year progresses, even allowing for a new Ride album due in August.

What’s the music like?

Dissident unwittingly taps into the success of recent TV series such as Deutschland 83 and 86, where the pleasures have been as much about the music as they have been the plot. Yet as Bell looks back to the 1980s and further, he brings in the influence of Krautrock luminaries such as Can, Neu! And Bauhaus. He does this without compromising his own skills as a guitarist and his credentials as a much-loved ‘shoegaze’ producer.

Keith Tenniswood has remastered the whole album, which unfolds at a very natural pace. The title track clocks in at nearly 20 minutes, but is one of those productions you can completely lose yourself in, the main riff turning away in the background while running through a series of filters, the drum beats receding and then coming back with extra depth.

Bell expands his outlook with the subtle groove of Kolokoi (the Russian word for ‘bell’) and the airy textures and firm kick drum of Pulsing, which has a tempo suitable for dub-infused house. Cloud Cover adds a reminder of his first known discipline as a guitarist – a nice acoustic meander here – while the closing Exit Through The Skylight introduces chattering beats and a more processed feel.

Does it all work?

Yes. Bell has equal headspace for the past and the present, setting the mood perfectly with tracks that are suitable for both ends of the day. ‘Dissident’ on its own shows he can master big structures with durable ideas, while the shorter tracks teem with melodies, subtle humour and a refreshing lack of pretence. The album repays both foreground and background listening, preferably in a hotter climate!

Is it recommended?

Yes. Ride fans will love it, but the recommendation extends to anyone with a love of instrumental music and synthesizers.