The troubled troubadour accompanied on some journey by a melancholic guitar makes for a very vintage and romantic image, but it’s also a bit passé and no longer so uniquely analogue. Not that guitars are, or ever will be, out of fashion, nor that artists and musicians should ever even care about what’s fashionable, but the age of travelling devices and laptops has given us a new breed of electro-bohemians. They too have found freedom from the geographical limitations of a studio and relief from the financial pondering that hiring one presents, especially in cities like London.
Thus Ben Crook, with the light and graceful companionship of his laptop, cuts off his umbilical cable and starts on a trip as ADSL Camels.
Having left his band, Eaux, he has now set off on the solo path: “Through my experience with Eaux I was constantly creating my songs that are now coming out in my solo project. It is more to do with sampling and using my own device, something you cannot really do with a band.”
He tells me “[playing live] is a bit different. Like going to the gigs, I feel like I have everything with myself, all my instruments. I can fit everything in one bag. But then also yes it can be a bit lonely… Not in a bad way.”
I wonder whether the secret to creating such evocative music lies within these sometimes-lonely-yet-very-productive periods: “I work in film and I also work as an video editor. Me alone on my laptop means I can be more true to that. I do not like overly polished things. I like to keep it all quite improvised and [when playing] live, I like it quite loose so it’s more feeling-led. If you try to arrange things in chorus or as a group in a studio, you have to go back to things a lot for everyone to adjust. I think it is more fun to just present the idea and play with the noise. More improvised noise stuff is more fun. I try to make my laptop as ‘improvisible’ as a synthesiser.
“Most of the stuff off my latest EP has been recorded on my laptop whilst on holiday!”
I ask him whether the mundane handiness of laptops makes electronic music more popular: “Yes, it seems to be more popular. Along with guitar music. But, of course, as new software is available, people tend to use it and it depends on how you use it. Good music is usually made with things that you are not meant to make that music with. All instruments can get great at making things that they are not meant to make. Like the 808s and 303s were not created to make dance music with and they were turned into Acid House and Techno instruments…”
I like the approach and I like the result. At Peace with the Universe and Ready to Fight is one of my favourite tracks on the EP. Ben tells me: “It’s for a film I did …I don’t want to talk much about it until it is out. It does not so much narrate a story; it is almost like a soundtrack to accompany a feeling to describe a very singular moment…”
The film is still a work in progress. Despite my curiosity, questions on the subject would now feel indiscreet and I would not want to add a note of indiscretion to the intimate and suggestive soundscapes ADSL Camels produces. So, eager to see him support Autolux the same evening at The Dome, I wrap up and shut down my own laptop.
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