Switched On – Craven Faults: Standers (The Leaf Label)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This is a big year for the elusive minds behind Craven Faults. On the horizon is a debut live show in September, where their modular synthesisers, cables and organs will be extracted from the old textile mill where they work, and presented to the public.

Part of that presentation will surely include Standers, the outfit’s second album. A large scale piece, it moves towards a large scale approach that sees four of the six tracks clocking in at more than ten minutes each. Their approach is self-described as ‘a self-contained analogue electronic journey across northern Britain, viewed through the lens of a century in popular music.’ This time around the perspective around the landscapes they create in music is shifting, looking at how their outlines have been shaped by the elements and by human settlers. The interaction between the two provides plenty of raw material for composition.

What’s the music like?

Rather like the artwork. Craven Faults make music of the exquisitely shaded black and white variety, with a combination of panoramic drones and detailed foreground work that makes a lasting impression and keeps the listener coming back for more.

The longer form of composition definitely suits Craven Faults’ music, as it allows each scene to be set, subtly shaded and crafted.

First track Hurrocstanes – which appears to be a historical name for Haddock Stones, in North Yorkshire – makes a striking start. Over the course of a quarter of an hour it emits a regular, tolling chime that is equal parts foreboding and comforting, as the musical landscape beneath pulses with activity, subtly shifting from the root note and back again.

Even more impressive is Sun Vein Strings, a blast of light from its massed banks of keyboards but also with plenty going on elsewhere. The 18-minute epic becomes a series of twisted electronic moves, the lines expanding and contracting with hypnotic regularity, and with the syncopation throwing the listener off the beat.

The shorter tracks are equally concentrated. Severals rises impressively from the depths, its synthesizer lines gaining in stature, while Odda Delf gains a probing piano line.

Descriptive writing is at the heart of Craven Faults work, and the outdoors certainly beckons on a track like Meers & Hushes, describing nature’s efforts to cover the trails of human industry. Its regular pulse suggests past activity, while the drones are highly descriptive. The music rises to a higher pitch, slow riffs playing off each other.

Does it all work?

Yes. Craven Faults have the ability to make music indoors that very clearly portrays the landscapes around them, and the blend of natural and mechanical elements feels just right.

Is it recommended?

Yes. On this evidence the live material will be fascinating to chart – but taken as a standalone work, Standers represents a very fine achievement and a cornerstone of this year’s British electronica.



On record – Craven Faults: Erratics & Unconformities (The Leaf Label)

Written by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

How refreshing to find an artist that keeps their self-promotion to a minimum. That said, it would be good to know more about Craven Faults at some point! The elusive biography on his record label site describes his moniker as ‘half-remembered journeys across post-industrial Yorkshire’.

In fact Craven Faults has been a thing for a while, with his well-received Lowfold Works EPs containing electronic music that shows off an ambitious grasp of musical structure. He is capable of stretching out his approach to minimal music into tracks of 20 minutes or more, using the barest of elements like Philip Glass does but building them up with oscillating synthesizers and drones.

Erratics & Unconformities is his first LP.

What’s the music like?

The Yorkshire reference is helpful, for as first track Vacca Wall establishes its shimmering content it feels like a look across the brooding landscape of the North Yorkshire Moors – but gradually opens out like the wings of a darkly shaded butterfly. This is music supported by a constant bass line, which tolls out like a deep bell, and a percussion track that never extends beyond a single kick drum, if at all.

The instruction from The Leaf Label to ‘put a 17-minute window in your diary and watch the video for Vacca Wall is worth following. In their words, ‘the rest of your inbox can wait, you need slowly unravelling analogue synthesizer arpeggios right now’:

With the mood set for the album, the next five tracks spread across nearly an hour, revealing different but often darker shades. The shorter Deipkier has a kick drum too, while Cupola Smelt Mill has sharper definition to the synthesizers and a bassline off the beat. Picking up the more industrial theme, Slack Sley & Temple is even darker, its brooding outlines giving the impression of a machine. This is the biggest track on the album, an expansive number of austere beauty.

Hangingstones regains some of the mood of the opening, while Signal Post has a more soothing drone at its base.

Does it all work?

Yes. Craven Faults has a distinctive style, and repeated listening brings out the rhythmic invention in his music, which is greater than you might at first think. It explains why he doesn’t need anything more than a kick drum.

Ultimately this album works best as a single unit in which to immerse yourself, drawing the listener in with its textures and spatial effects.

Is it recommended?

Yes, because there is some very fine music here – though it does come with the health warning that its dark nature is not necessarily ideal for the oppressively cloudy January days where it barely gets light!