Impulse Array brings us this month’s mix and he has infused it with blankets of ambience, drones and lo-fi techno. Mark Burford has been recording in one guise or another for nearly 20 years and has kept electronica at the heart of what he does, creating atmospheres and ambiences with his soundscapes. He has two projects; with Impulse Array he creates idm and techno and as Field Lines Cartographer the sounds are stretched, warped and mutated.
His first release as Impulse Array, the brilliant Beneath The Scattered Disc was inspired by the deep-space transmissions of Voyager 1 and 2 as they left the solar system and throughout the album we are privy to the squelch and flutter of radio signals as the craft pushes its way through the heliosphere and beyond. Tracks such as “Jovian Approach”, “Dark Moons” and the sumptuous “Heliopause” are haunting, languidly paced and slowly arcing layers of textures and samples, echoing the cold vacuum of deep space. Contrast these with the rhythmic and alien beauty of “Gravity Slingshot” or the spectral density of “Beyond The Far Orbit of Eris” where sounds echo and dance about the great vaulted space. This is one hell of an introduction to Impulse Array and really drives the need to hear more.
The Kardashev Scale followed in 2015 and further demonstrates Mark’s instinct for sound construction. Arpeggiated trance, dark techno and acid-flecked sequencers conjure hypnotic spirals of echoing electronics. 2016’s Deep Cold Environments EP shows Impulse Array developing his sound into colder and icier mechanised deep techno. Aphex vibes phase in and out of the tracks giving the EP an overall spooky and darker feel.
Thousand Year Voyage, his most recent release, is dark and swirling with an industrial undercurrent running through it. Textures are dense and opaque while the beats are seismic, charging the tracks onward with the beat of its ruined heart. Unafraid to explore dissonance throughout this album, Impulse Array charters the backwaters of unsettling soundscapes, often abrasive and confrontational yet unafraid to play with space and quiet. This is intricate and detailed music.
Impulse Array is more than a techno producer, he is a sound artist, a master of sonic collages that draws you in as a listener and then folds the sound around you, encasing you in a warping and humming cloak of jarring rhythms and reverbing ambience. If Tangerine Dream‘s masterpiece Phaedra had a thumping backbeat this is how it would sound.
Also, explore Mark’s other project Field Lines Cartographer and his album Magnetic Anomalies for eerie electronics that ebb and flow. This is an album that sounds ancient, like a long-buried artifact transmitting from a dying space station. Spectral textures and sounds are released as if sublimating, chasing darkened corners with their shifting waves and hypnotic pulses. Listen closely and you can discern disembodied voices and snatches of chatter ghosting in and out of the mix, trance-like and feral, hinting at something ancient and restless. These are the drones you are looking for.
It’s such an honour to feature Mark on the show and you can find out more about the man himself in our Q&A:
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Mark Burford, a musician from Lancaster & I’ve been writing, recording & performing all sorts of electronic music since I was about 16. After a bit of a hiatus doing other things in my life I got back into making music seriously about 5 years ago & I’m currently focused on producing techno as Impulse Array & droney, atmospheric electronica as Field Lines Cartographer.
What is the sound and ethos behind Impulse Array?
The idea is to make music that takes you on a bit of journey…melds the raw energy & power of techno with more atmospheric textures. For the Field Lines Cartographer stuff I try to distil these atmospheric elements even further without the structure of techno music to frame it, it allows me to explore the other, less dance floor-focused side of electronic music that I also love.
What is your earliest musical memory?
Wow – that’s hard. I grew up in a really musical family, so there was music around all the time. Probably my dad playing the piano or Hammond organ – he’s a jazz nut & if he wasn’t playing keys he’d be blasting Miles Davis or Art Blakey or something like that out on the hi-fi.
What did you grow up listening to?
Well as above: I grew up in a house where jazz rather than rock n roll was the main influence…But I have a sister who’s a few years older than me, so I used to listen to her records : she was really into Ska & then also stuff like The Cure, Joy Division, Hawkwind…then she bought me a copy of “Blue Monday” & my life changed. I just sought out pretty much anything with synthesizers in it – & as is this was the eighties I was in luck! I became a massive New Order fan…Depeche Mode, OMD, Thomas Dolby… I finally traced all these things back down to the ‘root’ I guess & got into Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream etc. … then acid-house happened. ..
Where do you draw your inspiration from, both musical and non-musical?
I guess musically you hear things all the time from artists you love & are into: that must feed into your own creative thoughts I suppose, but I think as I’ve got older I find that less of an influence possibly. I love films & film scores… ideas in both science & science fiction are constantly inspiring me & I’m a space buff – I usually have a set of images in my mind’s eye when I’m writing music, especially for Impulse Array. Field Lines Cartographer projects tend to be inspired by things I’ve read about unexplained phenomena, cold war psy-ops, mind-control… I’m fairly sceptical, but I find all that stuff fascinating & it’s a great ideas base for music. I love documentaries & will watch a doc about almost anything really.
When is your favourite time of the day or night to write/record?
I find that a lot of my raw ideas for things come together in that lovely quiet time late at night…But then when it comes to actually piecing stuff together, producing something into a ( hopefully ) vaguely coherent piece of finished music I tend to work in the late morning or afternoon & try to be more focused.
How does your live set-up differ from your studio set-up?
Well I have to pair my live set-up down as it’s just not practical so lug all the synths, sequencers etc. I use in the studio out for maybe a 30 or 40 minute live show…So
I’ll take a few choice weapons out with me & then sync up to Ableton Live on my laptop which can cover a lot of that in software: it ’s great – you can really improvise with it & with the added random-factor of whatever drum machines & synths I’ve taken along it means that no two performances are ever quite the same & I’ve a lot of scope to take the set to different places, which is sort of the point for me. I’ve only played live a couple of times as Field Lines Cartographer so far, but I can do that completely on hardware as it’s much more stripped down & basic really. I am toying with the idea of doing some really stripped down & raw Impulse Array techno sets purely with hardware, old skool style though, if I can make it work.
Do you compose quickly or do you spend hours tweaking and finessing your tunes?
That really breaks down into two diametrically opposing positions depending on which ‘hat’ I’m wearing at the time : I find I can write & record Field Lines Cartographer stuff really quite quickly when I have an idea or am inspired. It’s pretty much recorded all live via hardware, with a few overdubs & a tiny bit of mixing etc at the end… It’s almost muscle memory music, I don’t really ‘think’ about it that much.
But Impulse Array stuff feels like it uses a totally different part of my brain. I find techno requires a lot or precision…both in terms of rhythmical feel & also the sonic landscape generally, As such, whilst I may get the initial feel of something together fairly quickly, getting that to a finished 8 or 9 minute arrangement & mix that I’m happy with can take days. Or weeks. I’m still nowhere near to getting it right either.
Tell us about the mix you’ve done for The Jupiter Room.
It’s a blend of things that I’m currently enjoying & listening to at the moment, some things that I find I often go back to time & again & a few all-time, desert-island-disc type tunes. I guess the mix encapsulates the sort of musical journey I like to go on, from slow atmospherics to fairly full-on techno. And the thing that excites me are the little bits of hinterland that often exist between these two places. Obviously being a self-promoting narcissist like most musicians, there are a couple of my own, new, things in it too.
What are you listening to at the moment/who should we be checking out?
I’ve been finding the stuff from people like Rrose, Lucy, Sigha & Rodhad in the techno-world recently to be really superb. If you haven’t heard anything from Portland Vows – on Concrete Tapes – then you really need to check that out. Luke Sanger has just put out an album called Traversing Timelines which is just gorgeous & the Shift record from Worriedaboutsatan is tremendous. Bana Haffar is producing some amazing stuff too so I’d urge you to check her out.
Describe your music in three words.
Rubber dinghy rapids.
What’s your favourite sound?
It’s probably either a fairly big sea crashing against the cliffs (I’ve spent a lot of time in Cornwall over the years) or a Roland TR-909 in the hands of Jeff Mills in full-flight. They’re both expressions of the same thing, essentially.
If you could make music history, how would you do it?
I quite like the idea of first gig from the surface of Mars.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari, I’ve just started ‘Devil’s Day’ by Andrew Michael Hurley, but I need to give ‘The Lucid View’ by Aeolus Kephas back to Polypores – who lent me his copy – as I’m finding it really hard work & should probably just give up… Oh & I’m enjoying another non-fiction book called The Art of Fire by Daniel Hume. I was also just given a copy of Stand On Zanzibar by John Brunner, which is a new-wave classic which I’m ashamed to say I haven’t got around to yet , so I intend to remedy that.
What’s next for Impulse Array? Where can you see your sound developing? When are you playing live next? Any new releases in the works? Any collaborations or remixes in the pipeline?
Well I’m always fighting on two fronts as it were : so with Field Lines Cartographer I have a new album completed called Groundwaves which is coming out on Concrete Tapes very soon & also another new album which is a split tape with an artist who’s just brilliant, but I can’t say too much about that yet as the time of writing this. I also am signed up again for this year’s A Year In The Country releases, which I love doing – writing to a remit is really cool & opens up new ideas all the time. Oh, & I have a track on a compilation for Modern Aviation records, which I think is out at the end of April.
Then I’m working on brand new Impulse Array at the moment & I’m aiming for a little bit of switch-up stylistically on that… not sure if it’ll be an EP or whether I’ll just hold on for a bit & go for full album yet. Or I’ll maybe do what I often do : complete a load of stuff, decide I hate it & delete it all. I should perhaps stop doing that.
As for live, I’m next playing on Sunday May 6th at Concrete Techno Night, the Ferret Preston and I’m always open for gig offers when I get them so don’t be shy, people. I’ve done a few remixes for different people over the last couple of years & really enjoy that process, so again, hit me up if you’d like something mangled.
Many thanks Mark.
All photos from artist’s Facebook.
Impulse Array on the web:
This show was broadcast on Thursday 26th April on Fourculture Radio.