Spheruleus is UK-based artist Harry Towell. His work has been released on various labels such as Under The Spire, Hibernate, Home Normal, Eilean Rec. and Time Released Sound. He also runs the Audio Gourmet netlabel (which also used to be a blog once upon a time), Tessellate Recordings and recently launched the highly promising whitelabrecs. Sometimes he still blogs over at Irregular Crates. We have no idea how come he had some time to prepare a rather special vinyl-only ambient mix for Sounds Of A Tired City, but let him tell us what he’s been up to these days.
If we look at your music-related activities, we gotta say you must be a rather busy man! You’ve been prolific with Spheruleus and you’ve been running the Audio Gourmet netlabel for six years now. What can you tell us about these projects?
Indeed, I have no idea how I manage sometimes as I have two jobs too! What I’ve done more recently is slow down a little, take my time with work as Spheruleus and the labels too. Followers of Audio Gourmet will notice that releases are very much few and far between these days, but we’re still going – slowly! I think a lot of artists, labels etc. get to a stage when everyday life ‘gets in the way’ or becomes more important and then they decide the logical thing to do is to just stop. I’ve just made a decision not to be rushed, pushed to deadlines or stress about any of it – as this whole thing is supposed to be enjoyable at the end of the day. So I tend to self-release a lot of my own work these days, or with labels I know well so that I can go at my own pace.
I also suffer from a condition that many artists have – I’m not sure of its name, but it’s basically when you are working on a project and decide to start a new project… so I have 4 labels and a few recording aliases as well as a blog.
I think the main thing that motivates me is making music available to the world, without worrying about what will ‘sell’. This gives me a chance to work with new or unknown artists and if I can move them one step further forward, then the labels are a success.
You have the soul of a curator. What are you looking for when you release or write about other people’s music? There is so much to discover constantly, what is that makes something for you more special, different? How can something stand out these days?
For me, when curating it’s best to keep an open mind and listen to lots of different styles of music. Whenever I receive a demo I’ll listen to it with positive thoughts – I tell myself, I want to like this record. If I just can’t, then I have to leave it there. I also try to listen to a record in different contexts: I’ll listen in the morning on the way to work in the car or I’ll listen last thing at night – it’s amazing how much the listening environment can influence on how music is received. For Whitelabrecs, we’ll specialise mainly in ‘Ambient music’ I guess, but I’m more interested in ‘sound art’ – how people express themselves with sound.
The great thing with that, is that this allows for artists who want to do something different – maybe experiment with beats, something dark, a little noise or minimalism. So it’s all about giving new ideas a chance and then packaging them into something that listeners will enjoy or ‘get’. I believe that the sound is only really 80% of the story – good mastering, track titles, artwork and a write up helps bring everything together and can enhance a listener’s experience overall. When I write a press release, I’ll ask the artist a load of questions to get them thinking about their work, their ideas and how they approached the work. Then I’ll put together all the most relevant points. I hate this part of releasing a record but it’s so important
You’ve recently launched your new label called whitelabrecs. What do we have to know about it and what are your plans with it?
Yes, yet another project! I guess Whitelabrecs is the label I’ve always wanted to run – it is influenced by my love for vinyl, there are no set rules although the packaging takes a steady format: vinyl effect CDrs inside a vinyl style sleeve, rubber-stamped text and cover artwork as a polaroid photographic print. Everything is hand-stamped, burnt by hand so again, it takes a bit of time but to keep it all manageable I’ve capped the editions at 50 copies for each release. That way, there’s a bit of a collectible impulse from our listeners which means that each release should sell out quickly, meaning I can keep on going! I’ve got loads of demos confirmed and ready to go – I think we’re up to the 15th release behind the scenes, which is fantastic. Genre-wise, I’ve not settled on any particular style and plan to just keep evolving it – who knows what sounds we’ll put out. At the moment everything is pretty much within the Ambient scene with modern classical, drone, field recordings, glitch, folk and electroacoustic music being represented. I’d love to put out some jazz, post-rock, dub techno or trip hop someday! Who knows where we’ll go.
Could you tell us a bit about the selection of tracks in your mix?
I have quite a large vinyl collection covering all different styles of experimental music and I basically just pulled out my ‘Ambient’ section and selected records that were based around modern classical, drone or electroacoustic elements. I mixed the records using my Technics 1210 turntables through 10 year old styli that are as good as useless – they are worn and tired, so there’s lots of extra crackle and lo-fi texture in the mix that wouldn’t be on there otherwise. I’ve recently purchased some new needles and this mix is the last thing I’ve recorded with the old needles.
When buying vinyl, I only really buy albums that I feel are going to stand the test of time – records I’ll still want to hear time and time again. This is simply down to the sheer price of vinyl these days so I have to choose wisely when buying!
For me, Peter Broderick’s ‘Float’, Richard Skelton’s ‘Marking Time’ and Christoph Berg’s ‘Paraphrases’ are absolutely phenomenal records and these are perfect examples of the ‘quality control’ methods I go through when buying vinyl.
SOUNDS OF A TIRED CITY #52: SPHERULEUS
Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer – Cloudline
Willamette – At Length And Dead Horse
Field Rotation – Swayed By The Wind (Awakening)
Goldmund – Getting Lighter
Wil Bolton – Blackpoint
Scissors and Sellotape – It’s A Long Slog
Jared Smyth – Burnout
Simon Bainton – Porlock
Willamette – Images D’uneLongueur de Cheveux
Peter Broderick – Another Glacier
Greg Haines & Wouter Van Veldhoven – On Waiting
Lowered – Lattitude 33 Degrees North, Longitude 40 Degrees West
Richard Skelton – Heys
Olan Mill – Amber Balanced
From The Mouth Of The Sun – Color Loss
Christoph Berg – Quiet Times At The Library