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electronica esoterica

“ Some would argue that the success, or otherwise, of a person's activities can be measured by their influence upon others.

Others would have you believe that the true measure of success is how happy your bank manager is to see you.

I am not convinced of the validity of either argument, am of the opinion that the outcome of any given pursuit is beside the point, the point being the pursuit itself. ”

Anthony Manning was first introduced to electronic music while studying at the Falmouth School of Art, Cornwall, 1989-1991. This first introduction was not an immediately successful one; he was fascinated by the sounds and production values of dance music, but couldn't see the appeal of its excessively repetitive nature. One night he found himself standing in front of a bank of very large speakers with strange chemicals running through his bloodstream. In the weeks and months that followed he discovered that he was developing a new list of 'favourite' tracks and artists, and that maybe there was something in this that was worth investigating.

While still at college he bought an old 4-track cassette recorder from a friend and set about constructing his own experiments in sound from samples of radio static, Camberwell Green tunes and dictaphone field recordings. It wouldn't be right to describe these first efforts as music. At around the same time he started to sketch out illustrations of structures that looked like they might describe what music felt like in the early hours while in a particular state of mind.

These sketches developed into a series of scrolls, metres in length, very accurately drawn onto graph paper, visualising the development and reorganisation of elements. He was still collecting odd bits of electronica on irregular visits to the legendary Fat Cat shop in Covent Garden, but was becoming increasingly bored and frustrated with the music's general lack of progression.

One day during the first few months of 1993 he visited a music shop that sold conventional instruments, but which occasionally stocked second hand electronic gear. They happened to have a Roland R8 drum machine.

This was at a point when Manning was thinking about buying something to make music that would hang on the structures he had been drawing. Funds were tight, he didn't really know much about the classic electronic instruments that most aspiring dance producers were buying, and so was bewildered and frustrated by the variety and cost of the gear available. However, while testing the R8, and fiddling with the pitch slider in particular, an unusually vibrant light bulb burst into life and the sale was made.

An intense few months followed, during which it became very clear that the structures he had drawn were too prescriptive, that the machine he had bought allowed itself to be played and improvised on, much like a conventional instrument. These improvisations formed themselves into a collection of four chaotic but satisfying pieces.

During the same few months Manning had been looking into the possibility of setting up his own label. When these four pieces were complete he sent demos to a number of distributors to guage the business viability. It was made obvious, through the complete lack of, or bemused, response, that he was not onto a winner. However, one distributor, Kudos, suggested that one of the labels they handled, Irdial, might be willing to publish the music.

A telephone call was made, a tape was sent, another call followed, a studio was booked, a record was pressed, and Elastic Variations was born ...

Anthony Manning went on to produce a series of releases during the mid to late '90s. Most compositions were created on either a single, or very limited set of instruments that were being used by most electronic artists to create 4/4 2-note dance music.

The most extreme examples are his first two releases, Elastic Variations and Islets in Pink Polypropylene, both of which were notoriously composed on the Roland R8 drum machine.

Chromium Nebulae introduced a couple of keyboards, the first incarnation of the Novation Bass Station, and an old Yamaha DX7. The pieces originally started out as an attempt to create a more standard dance product, but very quickly morphed into something that was anything but.

Chromium having taught him that he'd never be able to create a standard dance track, Concision saw him dive into computer sequencing with the aid of an old Atari ST, the end product being a collection that made it onto many independant music journalists' albums of the year list. A couple of weeks after mastering Concision in 1997, most of his gear was stolen.

Meanwhile, life took a new turn, and it wasn't until a few years later that he was able to find the time to start producing again. Liquid Quartz was created on a Roland MC505 Groovebox, a grey tin that is often used as a painting-by-numbers tool to create slammin' beats.

2021 Update : after many false starts, new material is finally starting to appear. Stay tuned ...