He creates celestial music on the periphery of ambient, techno and electronica; this month's Guest Selector Daniel Ruane presents ten choice tracks from beyond the solar system
"Science fiction is always a good pairing with electronic music," explains Manchester newcomer Daniel Ruane, ahead of the release of his new EP Incandescent. "They share a common component – technology and the desire to continually advance that technology."
"The attempt to create something so unique that no one has heard anything like it before - to convince us of its advanced or alien origins - has permeated the outer reaches of electronic and computer music for decades," he continues. "Sonic narratives depict alternate worlds or dimensions and the fear of the unknowable. With all of this in mind, my selection tries to focus on music that employs these concepts and how they have informed my own creations."
The Orb – Earth (Gaia)
[The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, 1991]
When I was growing up, my dad was obsessed with this album and used to play it when we were driving back from visiting family. We’d be driving through dark hills where the only lights were either the cat's eyes in the road or the reflective bollards infrequently placed at the side which lit up as you drove past. You can imagine the feeling, floating through darkness with an occasional blur of light contributing to the sci-fi nature of our setting… This tune manages to capture that feeling of being a small entity within a vast construct.
Vangelis – Memories of Green
[Blade Runner OST, 1982]
The piano and synthetic bleeping during the intro are like little signals that feel as though they’re being aimlessly projected throughout the vacuum of space. This intro, for me, is the coolest bit of the tune, as that short section conjures the most intense sensation of loneliness away from Earth that can be found on the soundtrack. The subsequent piano textures sound more human but for that brief period during the first 20 seconds, my mind truly feels lost within space.
The Future Sound of London – Cascade
This tune is one of my favourites and again, introduced to me at the age when I was too young to fully appreciate it, I had to re-discover this later on in my life. The process was genuinely worth it. The alien noises and soundscapes as the main features of the music signal a change in attitude towards more abstract styles and combine them with dance-floor sensibilities. While many have gone further still, it’s more the coherence of the generated sounds that inspire me; everything you hear sounds convincingly like it came from the same alien planet.
Orbital – Out There Somewhere (Part 1)
[In Sides, 1996]
This one’s all about the analogue sound – it’s minimal and dark and, like the FSoL tune, everything sounds like it's being made by a spaceship or something. I love how a lot of the percussive elements are also contributing to the melodic lines of the track as it gives it this organic, liquid feel – like the whole track is alive, moving as one despite the little parts doing different things. The pitch-bending melody is exactly what you want to hear when the tune peaks and it almost gives a screeching voice to the whirring alien creature.
Amon Tobin has been a long-time favourite for his sound and sonic sculpting. This sounds like an angry space ship destroying things and constantly winding up an even bigger weapon. It stands out in particular for its undulating density and extreme granulation, keeping its distance from the more easily located forms of dubstep by maintaining the essence of ‘the cutting edge’ with his adventurous approach to form. I think this album has been an inspiration for me in terms of compositional form and arrangement, but also a lesson in avoiding a formulaic approach…
Roly Porter – Mass
[The Third Law, 2016]
Another track that utilizes the ‘bouncing ball’ effect, only a lot more rigidly than some of its counterparts such as Aphex Twin’s Bucephalus Bouncing Ball tune, which is a lot more sporadic. Mass has, more or less, all of the rhythms and even the reverberated pulsing locked with the bouncing rhythm which creates this bio-mechanical mess of bass and noise. Eventually this long, droning synth gradually fills the space outside the bouncing followed by this grinding melodic interval that just KILLS it for me, and then everything becomes a massive wash of huge, melodic sound design. It still hasn’t ceased to impress me on every listen.
Oneohtrix Point Never – I Bite Through It
[Garden of Delete, 2015]
I chose this one to represent the more sporadic, less predictable side of my concept and because it’s powerful and fairly tense. It’s also very unique in terms of how it approaches rhythm, in that it sounds like it could be mashed in on a midi keyboard or something like that…either way the ‘synth’ intro is huge and sounds very intergalactic. The whole texture to me sounds perfectly alien and futuristic, like the amazing flanged out vocal thing that hits during the larger sections.
Sigur Ros – Takk
Sigur Ros have one of the most ethereal and rich styles that I’ve come across. To me, this track is like the sun rising on a planet that we’ve never even heard of yet. Or some alien plant or life force blossoming. The droning-pad-like texture roots the piece throughout, subtly growing in intensity as more of the sound-world opens up around the listener. A beautiful example of un-recognizable textures being tempered and presented in a familiar way to invite the imagination to travel.
Boards of Canada – Gyroscope
Gyroscope was selected for the impact it had on me when I first heard it, back when I was first getting in to electronic music actively. The sounds appear to be made from field recordings of everyday objects; predominantly Velcro, I think. The textures and rhythms seemed so natural yet evidently electronic, creating this connection based on uncanny recognition – something horror films take advantage of quite regularly. For myself, that feeling of almost being able to recognise the universe presented, but not to the point of familiarity, is what gives this track its slightly unnerving sci-fi edge.
Akira Yamaoka – Black Fairy
[Silent Hill 2 OST, 2001]
Ending on a very dark note, the otherworldly nature of this piece focuses not on interstellar science fiction, but rather on the type of science fiction/horror from creators like HP Lovecraft, where the beyond was not another solar system but a plane of existence fuelled by the terror of the unknowable. The metallic clanging sounds that introduce the piece create the industrial, filthy space for the dissonant harmonies to rise up and clash with each other, all the while trying to emulate a simple chord progression we think we’ve heard somewhere before but can’t recognize through the anxious distortions. This tune makes me feel slightly queasy – I think that’s why it’s important.
Listen to Daniel Ruane's Incandescent EP here:
Incandescent EP is released via Canadian label The Silent Howl on 2 Dec