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Bass Clef, the production alias of east London’s Ralph Cumbers, is a name that was heavily involved and close to the Bristolian dubstep affair. Working under various guises and collaborating on a handful of side projects, he is also the co-owner of Magic + Dreams, a cassette-only label that he started in 2011 with Mr. Brown to release intriguing music by artists like Ekoplekz (who is also an important member of the Bristol music landscape), Pipe Dreams, and Some Truths – which is Cumber’s own undertaking under a different production name.
‘Reeling Skullways‘ – his latest, which is also his first album on Punch Drunk, stands out not only because of its heavy use of modular synths and drum machines, but the adoption of a stylist approach closer to the Chicago jacking house and Detroit techno in the more soulful guise. Offered on the album is a switched up and remarkable side that the multifaceted producer hasn’t revealed before. Following last year’s ‘Rollercoasters Of The Heart / So Cruel’ single, his second appearance on Peverelist’s label is an endearing output, full of textural ambience where bountiful supply of melodies meet glossy 4×4 drum patterns and raw, downtempo, chunky synth composition. The long-play, much like his Idle Hands debut ‘Dawn Chorus Pedal’ that came out last week, distinctly departs from the murky, unhinged, and sample-and-bass-heavy sounds, marking a different and exciting direction that moves a step further away from what Cumbers was usually associated with.
To further explore this theme for our latest mix series, Bass Clef has thrillingly paired acid house with experimental and permanently skewed tracks. He was also kind enough to answer some questions that we sent him over email.
Hey Ralph! How’s it going?
Hey! Well, I’ve been grumpy most of the time, but let’s not get into that. I’ve been having a lot of fun playing in and making an album with a great band from south London called Snorkel.
Can you tell us more about this mix?
It’s a psychedelic acid house mix. Unreeled and re-skulled. Make sure you take it in a safe environment with people you know well.
Please can you highlight a couple of tracks included and why?
There’s several that are re-edited and/or remixed versions of tracks from ‘Reeling Skullways’. A lot of those tracks were 20-odd minutes long originally, so it’s fun for me to do new versions, using some of the different elements and sections I left out of the album edits.
I like ‘Reeling Skullway’ a lot. Can you tell us more about the making of it?
Most of the tracks arrived in a crazy burst that lasted a fortnight or so, after I hadn’t written anything good for months and months. I pretty much didn’t sleep or leave the house for those two weeks, I had to remember how to talk to people and stuff afterwards. Good times.
You run your lo-fi label Magic + Dreams, why release only cassettes?
Well, I love them obviously, I record my tracks direct to cassette in the studio. They were the first format available to me I when I was a kid and I got obsessed. I’d love us to move into doing vinyl too, but we just don’t have the money to do it properly right now. We made the decision to go with no distributor initially, and it’s very hard to do vinyl that way. We do some CD-Rs as well though! They’ll be a cult obsolete format soon enough.
How do you find working with Ekoplekz? I know you two collaborate on various projects like Ekoclef and Coseph Jonrad. How do you find collaboration in general?
Making the album with Nick was great, it came together very easily and I think we pushed each other into different and strange places. Playing live together I’m really enjoying too, because we’re really still figuring out how to make it work. After many years of working strictly solo, I’m slowly starting to collaborate more. I find it hard because I’m a bit of a control freak…but part of me feels I’m a bit like some kind of Jimmy Cauty who just hasn’t met his Bill Drummond yet…
What is exciting you at the moment, musically and out of music?
Musically I’m heavily into the Well Tempered Clavier and The Art Of Fugue just now. I want to start a night called ‘Rum & Bach’. Non-musically I’m excited by the onset of autumn and winter. Longing for cold and sharp sunny days.
What’s your favourite animal?
Crows. They are super intelligent and have very complex social behaviour. They make a lot of great sounds too.
What’s next for you?
A bunch of dreamy shows – one with Hieroglyphic Being at the Royal Albert Hall, then one with Raime and Mount Kimbie at The Purcell Rooms, and then onto Unsound festival.
00:00 Bass Clef – Switched-on Monastic Trio
03:11 Bass Clef – Walworth Road 5-Me0-DMT Re-skull
07:35 P&P – Jack Your Ripper
11:59 Bass Clef – Electricity Comes From Other Planets (Oort Cloud edit)
16:07 Bass Clef – Hackney-Detroit-Pluto
21:34 Ruby Regnbue – 0h 2 B In Love Again
25:24 ECHT? – Dromen Stromen Onder De Maas
27:51 Limehouse Crew – Hawksmoor U Know The Score
32:39 Alcázar – (Going To Give You) Magic
36:52 Happamat Ystäville – Ilman Sinua Kauan Kova Talvi
40:44 Bass Clef – Fluorescent City, Shining City
44:51 László Diablo – Cumbia Para Un Corazón Roto