Circuits & Wires - A Map of UK Electronic Music
Coming up with a snappy title was difficult enough for this post. What am I trying to map? Electronic music, hauntological electronica, folk-electronica, Intelligent Dance Music, electronic drone? Electronic music cover so many bases and evolves constantly. It ended up being all of these things!
I've always loved synth/electronic music from my early days of record buying. A bit too young for punk's year zero I began to buy music during those astonishing post-punk years of the late 70s and early 80s. The first two singles I ever bought were Turning Japanese by The Vapors and Messages by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - two releases from different parts of the post-punk world. It could have gone either way but for reasons I couldn't at the time decipher I was drawn inexorably towards electronica and synthpop. Maybe I was just a 'Kevin' who would rather listen to the 'art school boys'.
Just how much I am enthralled by it became apparent around a decade ago when I stumbled across an incredibly cool record label called The Great Pop Supplement (little did I know that I would end up living a mile or so away from its founder). That now defunct label covered a wide range of genres and largely released 7" singles often in beautifully artistic packages. A break from the norm was with GPS72 which was an LP release by Brooklynites The New Lines. Something about the Death Star-esque sleeve and review descriptions of electronica stirred something that had lain dormant in the musical part of my brain for nigh on 30 years. I had to have it! Panic ensued when I realised I'd missed out on the last copy at my go-to mail order record store Norman Records but thankfully Piccadilly Records were able to come up with the goods. I immediately loved this album with its psychedelic-tinged music and yearning, dreamy vocals. That was 10 years ago and was undoubtedly the gateway to the amazingly fertile and diverse world of electronica in which I am currently immersed.
The next step along the way was afforded by A Year In The Country, a blog concerned with all things hauntological and regular curator of wonderful compilation CDs themed around ghosts of lost infrastructure, soundtracks to imagined lost movies and so on. These CDs, alongside releases from another record label discovery Polytechnic Youth (coincidentally the successor to The Great Pop Supplement) introduced me to dozens of artists making fascinating music with vintage synths and lots of tech wizardry.
The thing that began to strike me about a lot of the music was that much of it was being made in the spare rooms and attics of the artists' homes and that those homes were quite often in, what might be politely termed, less-heralded parts of the UK. As much as the big cities were represented so too were places like St Leonards-on-Sea, Doncaster, Biggleswade and Oswaldtwistle. This dispersal of electronic activity demanded to be mapped.
I hadn't worked on anything other than topographical maps up to this point but the creativity at work in the attics of small town Britain needed to be reflected in something creative in my Geographical Information System software. Being pretty conversant with the UK's rail geography I set about mapping the rail network topologically as a circuit board. Its rules are similar to those of the classic Harry Beck London Underground map in that all the lines are horizontal, vertical or at 45 degrees.
Artists are represented as solid yellow circles and labels as green circles with a yellow rim. Where clusters start to appear I have added a hub in the form of a green-bordered square. I deliberately left the map unlabelled as I want the user to enjoy exploring and discovering the locations as much as the artists and labels. I also imagine most people have a good working knowledge of where the major cities are in the UK.
The map is seeded with artists and labels of which I have become aware over the past few years, mainly those associated with the following labels: Castles In Space, Polytechnic Youth, A Year In The Country, Disintegration State & Woodford Halse
On the basis of the artists and labels I discovered during the course of making the map I know there are a lot more artists out there that I haven't yet discovered. Furthermore there are a number of artists on the above labels that I haven't been able to locate geographically.
An interactive version of the map is hosted at: mappermonday.github.io/electronicaUK . I hope you enjoy your wanderings around the map. Do get in touch if you can point me towards artists or if you are an artist yourself and want to be added.