Langham Research Centre – Felix Carey, Iain Chambers, Philip Tagney and Robert Worby – came together in 2003 with the purpose of using a studio as their instrument, a studio with microphones and also, crucially, several 1⁄4” tape machines.
From the start they were interested in manipulating sound on tape and in focussing on one sound source (or a small number of sounds). The earliest piece here (Doors) consists entirely of a recording of one door.
They soon moved on from this stark counterpoint to a more frenetic jump-cut style, heard here on Money, Nudge and Executive Balls. Gradually, the group started to develop longer structures, partly inspired by writing radiophonic works designed to fit 30 or 40 minute broadcast slots. These longer pieces tend to be modular, with a number of discrete sections or movements. On this album there are sections from two long-form works: Muffled Ciphers and The Dark Tower.
Muffled Ciphers is inspired by J G Ballard’s most experimental novel, The Atrocity Exhibition (1970). This book is a cut-up cubist sequence of moments portraying the mass media landscape invading and splintering the private mind. Langham Research Centre immersed themselves in the book, harvested descriptions of sounds from the text, and collaged elements in the same spirit as Ballard’s text. The scratching of a matchstick and the clatter of a helicopter, kitsch TV adverts and the rush of cars and passenger jets melt into a dystopian sonic dreamscape.
The Dark Tower was inspired by the life and work of Nicola Tesla, a scientific genius of the early 20th century whose main achievements were in the development of electricity. The Dark Tower is imbued with a requiem quality, combining a celebration of Tesla’s brilliance and visionary optimism, with the dark realities of his later life – failed experiments, loss of backing and eventually a lonely death in poverty and neglect.
On a lighter note, LOL was composed entirely from sounds of laughter (mainly human but also including kookaburras) – but this piece also delves into the darker aspects of this peculiarly human act, which is not necessarily the sound of happiness.