Talking to Steven Rutter, we discussed the decision to set up the new platform. This “singular vision” is without his age old partner in crime, Mike Golding, and “out of respect for him” the “choice was to start something fresh and free.”
Peru. Not a place known as a hotbed of electronic music, but it’s where I managed a good vinyl haul. Ok, the records were sold on eBay; but the sender was in Peru! The records? A load of old B12 originals from their label in the early 1990s. I’d already a healthy B12 collection, having scavenged them from now dead stores, but the Peruvian mix of Musicology, Cmetric. albums from Warp was a welcome addition. In short, I’m willing to go to the ends of the world for a ‘bitta B12.
So you’re in for some decent impartial writing? Well I’ll try. I covered their return in 2007, which was a little hit and miss to be honest. I also reviewed their recent return on De:Tuned, which sees Steven Rutter working solo. And I’ve been lucky enough to catch up with him about the latest project; FireScope.
Talking to Steven, we discussed the decision to set up the new platform. This “singular vision” is without his age old partner in crime, Mike Golding, and “out of respect for him” the “choice was to start something fresh and free.”
It becomes immediately obvious just how candid and honest Rutter is about his music. He reflects on the revival of B12. “2007/8/9 we released more music that was met with mixed reaction. I received lots of feedback how it was not the same and didn’t sound like B12 / B12 Records. I do agree, but we were evolving. It is no secret that Mike has hung his laptop up for a while.”
And FireScope is another break from their original sound. Rutter mentions how he has changed, becoming “far more open” and this is mirrored in his music. “I now write music straight from the soul and my universal connection—I try to not allow my head to get in the way and muddy the waters. I am not saying it was not from the soul before but this time I have something else guiding me and when I can accept it the outcome ‘for me’ is wonderful.”
The first EP, BrokenUnBroken, continues in the line of Orbiting Souls and Transient Life. Ambient techno in nature, drum patterns are a fragile foundation from which weaving notes and cascading chords drift and shift. There’s a softness to the composition, sadness and sorrow ebbing and flowing in echoes and whispers; something the B12 man can relate with.
Rutter notes the hurdles he has faced with depression. “On the darkest days I can’t do anything but sit and stare at the walls, actually this could go on for days.” When not in “ that place…writing music” keeps him grounded. The space and stardust of early B12 works is present, but there is definitely a less otherworldly aspect; a tethering to mankind, to our world and our society.
Another factor that is a definite influence is the fact that Rutter “stopped buying electronic music around ’97.” His opinion of most modern music is just as surprising. “At a recent gig which I stayed till the end I did not know one of the tunes that were played.” Within the joking tone is sincerity. “Another thing I notice is the sheer volume of music that all sounds the same to me—I am showing my age…but I genuinely believe it—tracks people tell me are great; when I hear them they all are built around the same boom tss boom tss boom tss.”
Despite the musical stasis, nudge nudge, Rutter has embraced modern technology in his music. A blend of software and hardware has been employed for the solo B12 sound with some echoes of the past making their way into the present.
The second 12”, Deceased Unknown, is fresh from the pressing plant and some of those swirling synths of Electro Soma, those space themes of Time Tourist, come to the fore. Blips and bleeps orbit lonesome drums, recalling BrokenUnbroken in many way. This melancholy is not outright, it is tempered but always present. Deep notes, cast in shade and shadow, pricked by percussion. This is best heard in the stand out track of the 12”, “Minor Decay.” Pain streaked keys simmer on a bed of bubbling beeps, beats bolstered to give the track some extra girth and accentuate the haunting harmonies.
And it’s to the past that I finally turn. Rutter still has a very close relationship with Golding and very fond memories of the early 90s. “Those early days were such an amazing time for music we all knew what was out and by who.” But his thoughts soon turn to this day and age. “It seems that there is an endless supply on music so I don’t understand how it is possible to keep up.”
B12 were part of my formative electronic music education, they were for many. I’ve always been amazed by their humility. There aren’t interviews of them boasting about their impact or jabbering on about rubbish. This gift, the gift of the subtle and understated, has always been a feature of their style and sound and continues into this latest incarnation.
If you’re after the 90s sound of B12 you’re not going to find it with these opening releases on FireScope. If you’re after something new from one of Britain’s machine music pioneers you will. Heartfelt electronics from a true trailblazer.
Visit www.firescope.co.uk for more.