Global Communication — 76 14. Story behind the best ambient album of the 90s
They met in Taunton where Middleton was studying graphic design while Pritchard would come as a DJ for friends’ parties. At one such party, Tom approached the turntable and expressed his respect for the DJ’s taste. Back then, Middleton worked with the almost unknown Aphex Twin and, at the next meeting, he brought a bag with cassettes of new stuff by the eccentric Irishman. Tom preferred a melodic sound while Mark enjoyed something more industrial.
But they were united by a love for the new music from the key cities of the US: Detroit, Chicago, New York City. Each had a significant musical background. Pritchard had been a guitarist and a drummer in garage bands before electronic music came to England. Middleton had received a classical education and could play the cello and the piano. They were united by their collection of records by European veterans: Vangelis, Brian Eno, Jarre, Kraftwerk and, especially, Tangerine Dream (8 03 and 5 23 are a homage to Love on the real train)
Together and separately, without constraining themselves, they would realise themselves in deep house, drum‘n’bass, breaks and electrofunk, Detroit techno, British garage and different sorts of ambient music. In the early 90s, there was a slow growth in demand for slow music. A small movement was spreading in British clubs, where rooms were open for those who were extremely tired but still awake. Tom and Mark were interested in everything and, after listening to Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ, they started thinking about how they could tell the story through sound.
Then the first ideas of Global Communication appeared: emotion through sound. They approached their main work slowly. The turning point was their appearance on a compilation of the Guerrilla label, which glorified the new trends in electronic music. Another prologue to 76 14 was a remix of an album by the shoegazing band Chapterhouse, who were being promoted by their record label Dedicated. The contract with the band was terminated but the request for a remix was still there.
They approached the album with a beautiful idea: to abandon its name and the names of all the tracks. 76 14 is the total duration of all the tracks, and the same thing was done to each one of them. It’s not a coincidence, perhaps, that the album sleeve depicts the human ear. And the GC logo has a similar style. Why do you need words, prejudice, an examination of the sleeve and excitement before pressing play? You just need to listen. “Use your imagination. Numbers are chosen to identity separate tracks because ‘names’ tend to bias the listener
12″ publishes a guide to ten tracks with one of their authors, Mark Pritchard, from FutureMusic magazine.
“The studio was called Evolution in Crewkerne, Somerset. I had it in my parents place. In the mid ’90s I moved it out into own places in Devon and Cornwall. To be honest my parent were really supportive. A friend of my Dad’s was a carpet layer and he soundproofed the room. He put carpet on the ceiling—it just gave it this really ‘dead’ sound.
The sampler I was using at the time was
I had a Studiomaster mixing desk—a
Here I used a Kawai K1 synthesizer
We decided to open with this—it had a Classical feel to it. It felt like the beginning of an album. And it goes into the next track quite well.
This was also called
Looking back on it, it was a mad way of working. Instead of putting stuff in places like 32 bars, things came together in a natural way. It was more about letting it build. I could record in song mode, and make things mute and punch things in live and build it up. That was the main way of sequencing.
This was actually a remix for Sun Electric, a band on R&S Records. We changing their chords and made a track. They loved it but agreed that it wasn’t really a remix, but a whole original track. So we didn’t get paid and we ended up keeping it for ourselves. It was quite cool that they said they liked it. A lot of our remixes were like that. We didn’t end up using a lot of the original track. For me, it sounds a bit dated now. The drum loop make it sound like it comes from the era it was made it.
It would just be triggering reverb. We did that quite a lot. It made it sound quite atmospheric. It would just bled the edges. It was about playing low octaves and using the reverb to disguise the fact that it was a dodgy loop
This was rhythmically inspired
That track was a weird one. We did a version of it that we put down to cassette, which we lost. So we are trying to recreate that. It never sounded as good as the original demo, but nobody knows that but us. The main
Juno-106 pad,we couldn’t get it the same. It’s close, but there was something about the original that was perfect in a way.
Through DJing and playing around, we’d met loads of people from all over the world. With this track we wanted to get them all together. We had the idea of getting them to say something on a theme in different languages. The English translation is “Global Communication, communication through the medium of sound.” I had this digital answering machine, so I got people to phone up and leave messages. I got the Russian one when we were DJing in Russia and I think Tom had a little dictaphone. My managers’s wife was Indian so she did that one. One of Tom’s friends was studying Italian so he did that one. We were asked to do some remixes for Japanese bands so the lady behind that did that one. It was mainly recorded off the answering machine so that’s why it sounds quite radiophonic. There was a French one too that we got from our Parisian booking agent.
It was a nice little skit. It breaks it up a little bit. There is a child’s voice in there too. That was Tom’s flat mate’s kid.
This and the next track are basically the same track. Kind of part one and part two. That was called Maiden voyage, which came out after the album on a 12 inch. The guitars are from a band called Chapterhouse who we remixed. They gave us all the parts off their album,
Two of the members of the band came in and did the guitar parts on this in the studio. They also sang some notes that we made a choir pad out of the recording by layering them up. The white noise is a percussive element that came from
By this point I had an Akai S3000. Our sold S950 was monophonic, unless you are using the stereo outs. But were using the mono separate outs. With the S3000 yo cold make chords out of the sounds. We’d signed a deal by now and I bought an S3000, which was fucking expensive (laughs). I bought extra memory for it, so we had loads of memory to work with. With the S950 there was like 40 seconds of sampling
This is the one that we finished at four in the morning, the day before we had to hand it in! It had guitar notes from a volume guitar pedal. You play the notes then put the volume up by hand to get an almost
It’s got a Korg 01/W for the looping percussion riff in the background, and the high line is a guitar note that was a sample, using loads of reverb. The track is quite simple. It’s one of my favorite tracks off the album.
It’s some choral work off a choir sample and I’m looping up single notes and adding reverb and adding hiss. Again it’s choir parts all layered up, using the S3000 to play chords of single note choir hits from Classical pieces and tuning them down. Then adding Qudraverb. Quadraverb chorus/reverb—that’s the sound of that album. I would actually like to get that back. I lent my unit to someone and never got it back. If I see one for sale again I’ll probably buy it.
That’s why the album doesn’t sound as dated as it could have done — we were used unorthodox techniquies at the time. Tuning stuff down — no presets. We were editing these synths to get the sounds we wanted instead of using their sounds and working tracks around them.