Who knows? They’re certainly in no hurry to tell us, but Old Apparatus have impressed more than enough to attract the interest of Damon Albarn (presumably he does know who they are), who sold the Zebulon 10” EP through his Honest Jon’s record label shop. If you go by the EP cover – and plenty of their imaginative album artwork – Old Apparatus are a collective of suited individuals with chunky, old-world machinery (sewing machines?) in place of their heads. We have been able to garner a fraction more than that unlikely factoid: there are four of them, three producers and an artist, one’s called Dan, and since Albarn’s interest they’ve started their own platform, record label Sullen Tone. So now you know…
Sullen Tone is actually a pretty good description of the kind of stuff Old Apparatus serve up. Despite being tied in with dubstep through their early associations with the Deep Medi Muzik label, the sound is a sometimes fuzzy, often haunting downbeat electronic fusion with the oddest and most enthralling of tribal grooves layered over the top on tracks like Dourado. This is certainly the kind of stuff that’s unlikely to find mass appeal: the extended moments of static that litter parts of the tracks and slow-building rhythms alone would rule them out of anything approaching mainstream radio-play, but there’s just about enough of an ambient, muffled beat on most tracks to captivate.
In parts, this is real ‘movie soundtrack’ stuff, fiercely moody but a little plodding in pace and pointedly distant in its layering. Aside from the odd hollered scream – more emotionally pained than urgent, of course – you could easily be inside a dying electronic device,which probably goes a long way to explaining the name. Schwee’s wavy static has a lot in common with the work of similarly anonymous Dublin producer Hunter Gatherer. Dark, enthralling stuff.
If you’re not already into ambient electronic styles, this could wash over you like the sound effects from a horror movie: essential to the atmosphere but not something you’d listen to in its own right. If you are a fan of the genre, though (and its emotive depth really does warrant a look), Old Apparatus are the kind of band full of intense, subversive effects that creep up on you over time, and hold an incredible amount of intrigue with repeated listens. That, and Andy Cairns – vocalist with Northern Irish metal act Therapy? – recently cited them as a major inspiration.
And the flip side?
Lack of commercial appeal. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Gigs are sporadic at best, and the best way to catch wind of a show seems to be through the Facebook page, linked below. As far as we can tell, there’s no Irish date on the horizon. I for one would very much welcome one.
Up & Comers is jointly produced fortnightly by Goldenplec and