Ex-Golden Silvers frontman Gwilym Gold has invented a new format called Bronze to play the songs from his new project. Bronze is the name of Gwilym’s clubnight and, telling, a very famous alloy.
Basically, all the music you have on your computer or record shelves is originally recorded as individual parts (or as groups of “stems”) – drums, vocals, bass and so on – which are then “mixed” by the artist, or someone the artist trusts, to create the piece of music you buy, download and play. A remix is a different ordering and placing of these stems, but apart from that, the track, any track, is a static object.
What Gwilym, and the team at StrangeLoop who he worked with on Bronze, have created is a player and a format that mixes these stems in a different order on each play. Gwilym’s idea for Bronze keeps the “vital organs” of each song intact, but structure and arrangement details vary from one play to the next, meaning that you never actually hear the same piece of music twice. We use the words “song” and “track” interchangeably, but this is a device that pulls the two ideas apart – the music written is not the same, ever, as the music you hear. It reminds one of Cage’s ideas of chance music, Eno’s things about accidentalism, as well as jazz and remix culture, obviously, and there are a few other ideas floating around at the moment connected to this – from auto-degrading MP3s to the resurgence of warp-friendly flexidiscs – but Bronze is, without over-stating the case, actually that rare thing, a new idea.
We were immediately interested, but a little cynical about the results (as admirable as formatic experiments are, the “good song” factor often lies by the wayside), but from a few plays, it works very well, with _Flesh Freeze_rendered sometimes as a pastoral, Syd-Barrett-y lullaby, sometimes as a full, rich soft-rock gem, sometimes as a bare, Marianne Faithful-circa-‘Broken English’ love song.
Download the format here, accompanied by the song Flesh Freeze, and read Gwilym’s thoughts below.
Can you explain a bit about the Bronze format?
Bronze is basically a new format we created while working on my record which we built to facilitate how we wanted my new music to work…. It stemmed from the desire for the final piece not to have to exist in a static form…. But to be in some kind of motion on every play…
How did you compose and the songs for the format?
Initially the songs were composed in much the same way as they would have been but as we began working with the format it began to turn the process on it’s head a bit… As we realised that Bronze could bring out permutations of the songs which we had not yet imagined.. I had to really try and define the core of the songs….
Was this process any different to your usual process?
It was different for me in the sense that a lot of the songs were built around or rewritten around sonic ideas….
Is the player completely random, or does it play set ‘new’ songs?
It is neither completely random nor plays ‘set’ new songs… Every sound you hear is to some extent at the mercy of Bronze… It manipulates multiple streams of sound generating a whole in real time as you listen… No version or even section is ever ‘set’ but subject to varying degress of ‘randomness’ depending on how you farm it…..
What came first – the songs, the process or the format?
The idea for the format was very much born out musical ideas… Processes we were using to put arrangements and ideas together around songs became the inspiration for the idea of the format… Ideas created while working with Bronze in mind, then became inspiration for songs…. Things grew off each other….
Can you explain how the format came to life – what technically is happening, and who did you work with on this?
After I presented the idea to Lexxx, (who is the producer I’ve worked closely with on this project) he built a prototype for Bronze… It was then taken on from there by Dr Mick Grierson and his team Strangeloop…. To describe what is technically happening would be boring and feel a bit revealing but it is essentially applying laws to multiple streams of sound simultaneously, generating a unique whole in real time as it is playing back…
What was the inspiration for the process? You mentioned Brian Eno when we spoke, any others?
The inspiration was really just a yearning for a stronger feeling of motion within the music as it was playing…. Brian Eno was actually not really a direct inspiration for the idea… I actually delved into a lot of the things he’d done along similar lines in much more depth after the idea for Bronze had been born… The idea itself actually popped into the head quite unexpected… It wasn’t born out of some endeavour to find a new way to present my music… It actually presented itself and then we started building the music around it….
It’s a very new idea in the tradition of indie rock, but are there any other traditions you were inspired by?
Before I started writing songs I used to play a lot of Jazz… A lot of focus in Jazz seems to be on the soloist when really a huge part of it is how the other musicians interact with the soloist within some kind of structure… I think that it has quite a few parallels with Bronze as in a sense the machine is generating a unique accompaniment to a song each time in a similar way a band of musicians would…
What have been some of the most interesting results of the Bronze format?
The thing that has struck us most is how vital music in Bronze feels when compared to multiple listens of a static bounce of the same song…..
Bronze is both player and format, right?
Bronze is the format which currently needs to run in a Bronze player…. Ideally Bronze files could [one day] play in existing players….
The music itself is actually very good – how did this come about, and what was going on for you to make this?
Thanks…. For a period I devoted myself to learning how to write songs and closed the doors on everything else… When I started working on this project it felt like the gates had opened again and everything was flooding back through… It felt like there was a huge amount of things which had been left at the wayside which were now available…
“At the moment it’s your format – but would you like others to use it?”
Yeah definitely… We would see it as hopefully paving the way for another way of making music rather than this album been some kind of definitive article… We would love to see what other people would do with Bronze…
If so who?
We’ve spoken to a few friends like Micachu, Wild Beasts and The Invisible who have all expressed interest in using it at some point… It would be fascinating to see what people like Brian Eno or Aphex Twin would do with it….
What are the future plans for Gwilym Gold and the Bronze Format?
Finishing off the album as we speak…