The Return of Larry Jefferson
It’s been quite a while since Larry Jefferson appeared here with his soft Detroit techno. It’s good to have him back. He’s returns, after a couple of years gap, with a new album, the curiously entitled Ashray and the search for Nereid. Let’s see what’s been happening in the intervening period.
1. How the devil are you?
I am good thanks, in a lot better place than I was last year.
2. It’s been a while. What you been up to?
I have basically been getting over a nervous breakdown. I have decided to be open and honest about this, as the only thing that gave me hope when I was at my worst, was that I was aware of someone that this had happened to and they managed to recover. Therefore I want people to know that you can recover and fully.
I have always had dark periods but never thought that this could happen to me and I never saw it coming.
It robbed me of my love of music for quite a while but this is all in the past now and I am now back listening and making music again.
I have also spent quite a lot of time away creating my own synth patches.
3. Why return with an album not a single?
The patch used on Manta ray was one of these new patches and as soon as it was formed it gave me the idea for a complete album based around the sea.
4. The album’s called Ashtray and The Battle for Nereid. Why name it after a classical monument at the British Museum?
Both Ashray and Nereid are mythical sea creatures and the whole album is meant to be an underwater ’techno journey’ in a sub to search for Nereid. I wasn’t aware that there was a monument in the British Museum. I hope this doesn’t sound too prog rock. [It does]
5. The album’s again out on cassette. I know you said the sound of cassettes was “lush” but surely today it’s only a fetish?
There are several reasons for the cassette release;
1) I have failed to get any real record label interest and don’t really have the will to do all the hustling. I know I am not a cool or marketable individual that makes it even harder.
2) When I have had label interest it either falls apart or they have peculiar ideas about artwork or naming of tracks and it always feels like a compromise too far.
3) I am done with soundcloud. Anyone can put up a track without any commitment. If I could afford it I would put out vinyl put I just don’t sell enough to cover the cost. I don’t think people realise that even pretty established acts with a history of vinyl releases sell less than 500 twelve inches worldwide. You just can’t put out a 12 if you are going to move less than 100. This has never been about making money but I can’t afford to loose money. Cassettes are a good way to ‘put something out’. You still get a digital download but you also get the care and attention and love put into the design of the cover and the on body stickers. Particularly for albums these are important. For this one I upped my learning and designed all the artwork. I have also found out that if you put something out nice into the world good things happen. My first cassette Journey was invited into the British Libraries National Sound Archive.
6. Where do you think your music’s going from here?
This I know. From day one I have been trying to combine wall of noise psychedelia, reggae and jazz. But so far I have not been able to do it successful. With each passing year I get a step closer. I can now make authentic sounding reggae but I can’t nail the other two elements. So for example track 10 on the new album ‘Onit’ is what I call ‘modal techno’. It takes the improvisation of jazz and frames it electronically and within techno. But I would like to be able to fuse this in a wall of sound noise and dub reggae elements. Of course there will need to be 303’s in there somewhere.
While I try to get this right I guess I will keep going down the path that I am on but i need to take some time out to repair my 303 as it’s switches are on their last legs and you can’t program it properly.
And so to the album. Opener Radio Transmission offers 38 seconds of techno weirdness and a sample before the start of the album proper and the start of our journey with Submerge. This has a sense of the misty foreshore before the acid weirdness comes in. Really excellent piece of Detroit techno. The equally lovely but softer Siren follows. A bubbling piece of ambience.
Battle for Nereid is a slight shock of change of mood as it marches in likes a techno chip tune on acid. For me, Engine Drain is the album’s solitary misstep. A big fat hard techno tune that stomps all over you. Manta Ray re-centres the album, with its classic Larry Jefferson sense of pastoral acid. Unerringly beautiful. Sonnet follows that vein with disembodied vocals and a woozy sense of chill. Quality tune.
The bleeping acidness returns with Neid Chorus which gradually winds itself up to the dancefloor over the course of its five minute journey. Corking. Return Home is another goodun with what sounds like an acid xylophone. Properly danceable. Hardly one to return home to. More like one to stay out for. The album closes, slightly perversely, with Onit. Despite the title, this offers the come down experience the previous two tracks require. A bunch of Rhodes chords, some dubbiness and relaxation for an expanded mind.
A fine album, far fom the tech house or EDM template. A return to proper techno and acid values. Do go and offer up your £3 for a download.