Gilles Peterson's label Brownswood is in something of a purple patch in 2015, releasing an array of outstanding talent: Eska, Owiny Sigoma and now the fourth album by London production duo LV.
Ancient Mechanisms was sparked by a live session with the Armenian jazz/folk pianist Tigran Hamasyan for a 2012 Maida Vale Session (for Peterson’s radio show). Though a mixture of Armenian jazz and London electronica may sound like a recipe for something a little obscure, this is far from the case. Simon Williams and Will Horrocks have conjured up an album which is at times delicate and emotional ('Dar Souri'), and at others very danceable ('Transition' and 'Jump and Reach'). Sensitive transitions between the two ensure that listening to the record feels like a single and singular experience.
The fact that the material has come from painstakingly sampling old pianos and Belgian streets gives you an idea of the thought and effort that went into the album and gives rise to the central theme – bearing witness to the internal organs of old instruments.
Past records have involved London poet Josh Idehen and journeys to South Africa for kwaito-infused productions with Johannesburg MCs. It seems that experimentation and collaboration is in LV's DNA. R$N fired over some questions in an attempt to decode that gene sequence;
Despite this being your fourth album, for many people you're probably still an unknown quantity, how have you managed to slip under the radar?
It depends what you mean by ‘under the radar’. With the way music is distributed digitally now you can be discovered by small numbers of people in large numbers of places around the world. So you remain under a lot of peoples’ radars but your music still gets heard by many people around the world. Being able to have that kind of reach makes us happy but of course we’re always up for having more people discover us.
Your new album is said to be inspired by a live session with the Armenian jazz folk pianist Tigran Hamasyan in 2012. What is it about the pianist and his music that had such a powerful impact on you that day?
We first met Tigran at the live session – we had no rehearsal and only very limited contact before we met. That the session worked out so well is a testament to his musical flexibility and flair, and to the fact that we just click musically.
He has this ability to play very complex music while communicating clear ideas. Often technically gifted musicians will play impressively but without direction but that’s not the case with Tigran. Basically we really like the way he plays and how his playing combines with our productions.
The album takes a lot from recordings of different piano sounds – what is it about these sounds that made you want to take the time to record them?
Sonically they are part of the musical spectrum we enjoy – unpredictable, warm and ineffable. There is so much variation in the character of different pianos and we enjoy the sound of a shonky old upright that’s drifted out of tune as much as a gleaming new grand piano. There’s a whole world of sound to get lost in with pianos…
How would you say it compares to your last album 'Islands'?
It's different but since we made both, there are stylistic similarities. Islands is part of our project with Joshua Idehen though so it is much more about our musical relationship with him. Ancient Mechanisms is focused on other things, partly Tigran, partly those instruments as well as what we're doing at the moment, where we are and what's interesting us.
Do you begin an album with themes and meaning in your mind or is it more making something that sounds interesting?
A bit of both, generally starts of the latter and then themes start to develop and you either go with them or undermine them.
What influenced you growing up? How did you come to like the music you do?
The usual combination of parental and peer group interests. We both learned instruments at school and have been making music for a long time so I suppose that too plays a part in how our interests have formed. We've both always been pretty obsessive about music so have actively sought out new and interesting music.
Did you take music lessons growing up?
Yeah, both guitar with a bit of piano.
Would you rather be in the studio or touring?
Studio generally but playing out is important too.
How have you found the life of a musician? Has it required a lot of mental willpower to stay on the right track?
It’s not the life for someone who values stability highly! But it provides you with wonderful experiences and when they come around it feels totally worth it.
As to staying on the right track, it’s like any walk of life – you choose your direction and hope it leads somewhere good.
Favourite album of recent times?
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly.
Favourite album of all time?
It’s too hard to pick just one album!
What is in the future for LV?
More making and playing music for the love of it.
Ancient Mechanisms is released on 9th October via Brownswood – pre-order your copy here.