Dollars To Pounds: Spring Tides

March 06, 2008

It’s all too rare that a CD arrives in the post and turns out to be so totally incredible that you become obsessed with finding out everything you can about it to the point where you forget to even reshuffle your Fantasy Football squad. This happened last week with an EP called Hostile Takeover by Spring Tides on Blank Tapes a label that has previously put out a trombone-heavy dubstep album by Bass Clef. Hostile Takeover contains four sparse but thoroughly assured and distinct tracks of scorched afro-krautrock and electronic folk that they’re calling “Unreal World Music”. Ghanaian vocalist Afla Cey fires up “Burnt Out Moons” while Hot Chip are on board for the beautiful “No More Mornings”, closest relation: UiLab’s version of Eno’s “St Elmo’s Fire”. Then the EP concludes with a woody psych-folk piano improv jam called “Fuck The Situationists, Fuck The Wildlife.” Far out.

There’s no names, no MySpace, and photos came with faces obscured. But it didn’t surprise me too much to eventually discover that Spring Tides are mostly refugees from the fertile Bristol lo-fi/avant-pop scene of the ’90s that gave us such unjustly overlooked bands as Flying Saucer Attack, Movietone, Third Eye Foundation and Bronze Age Fox. I’m thrilled to hear some of those fine fellows making tough, thirsty music again, so I emailed Spring Tides to find out more.

Hi Spring Tides! Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? Or are you being deliberately elusive like Burial?

There's four of us and we live in different parts of the UK: Sarah, Sam, Frank & Richard. My name's Richard (King). Sometimes we rehearse for weeks on end then other times don't see each other for a while. It's sort of a bingey / bulimic approach to being in a band. But we record live in the same room though, we don't do that emailing files to tweak the mix stuff.

What were your motivations for forming Spring Tides?

The feeling of playing music, the way you interact as a band and feel like something else is going on you can't control is amazing. It's like when you see the brass section at a Carnival—the exuberance and sense of unknown purpose, if you can mix that with your own psyche and neuroses you end up somewhere else.

How have the places you’ve lived informed your music?

We don't live there anymore but Bristol looms large in our musical consciousness. We're often in London but some of us live in quite a remote part of Wales as well. We're lucky that we get to experience the burst tire in the mud, madness in the rain, animal bones in the field side of nature not just the holiday / sunshine / berries / idyll stuff (which is also part of it of course).

What were your musical epiphanies?

These things renew I guess. The depth and space of sounds is something that registers a lot. Like the opening bars of “Bring The Ruckus” on the first Wu-Tang album took me somewhere I'd never been. And the first time I heard “Schizophrenia” by Sonic Youth I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Then sometimes you know you're in the presence of something intangible like listening to Congo Ashanti on “Heart Of The Congoes”, or side one of My Goal Is Beyond.
I'm a sucker for context as well, so hearing Anne Briggs singing
“Standing on the Shore” and knowing it was written whilst hallucinating for some reason makes it resonate more. But you know yesterday I heard a track on the Neon Neon record that was, in its deliberately plastic way, unbelievably beautiful.

Who is Afla Cey and how did you get to work with him?

Afla is a singer from Ghana and a friend of ours. He's singing about when you see the sun and moon in the same sky.

What is Unreal World Music?

That phrase is a kind of a mission statement. Just recognising how things need codifying and labelling and being overt about it in an abstract but direct way that maybe also points out how dumb it is… plus of course it does also feel like a pretty unreal world sometimes.

How did you get Hot Chip to do a remix?

Some of us have known some of them for a good while.

There's a gently seditious tone to the EP. Who are you rebelling against?

Sedition is a seductive position isn't it? The status quo is always deserving of analysis I guess, but I like the Mark E Smith spectral approach, sort of Vorticist trade unionism. I think we're in trouble when the avant garde is located in Britney Spears records, not the production so much, but the way people can construct arguments for and against, that just means irony has triumphed and has taken control.

You run the Blank Tapes label too, right? Is there a philosophy behind the music you put out?

There's no philosophy. Music is so beyond fragmented now that any scene gets rationalised before it’s even really evolved. We like bass music and obviously music where you can hear contradictions that somehow work but just as much, we like music that you can get off on. That sort of dusty but modern sensation you get like waking up when you've been asleep on a bus or a plane and you're travelling past something that’s prefab but gleaming in the sun, the realities of utopia sort of thing, some kind of soundtrack to that feeling.

What else should we look out for from the label this year?

We're very excited about the next Bass Clef LP, real music of the spheres from what I've heard so far. Also Thee Stranded Horse has made an amazing record with Ballake Sissoko the kora player from Mali. There'll be more Spring Tides. And we've signed a band from Bristol called ZunZunEgui. They're really international, their singer is
Mauritian and the keyboard player's from Osaka – they make a kind of Boredoms / Fela / Bootsy & Parliament go introspective sort of riff groove. I think they'll be recording with the dude who put the Tinariwen record together.

Posted: March 06, 2008
Dollars To Pounds: Spring Tides