Tom Furse sat down recently with The Boiler Room for an enlightening two-hour flick through his vinyl collection. He played and talked about formative records: crude garage-punk nuggets like Suzy Creamcheese by Teddy & His Patches; twanging surf instrumentals; the epic psychedelic soul of the Undisputed Truth; widescreen, Ennio Morricone-infused Bollywood soundtracks.
Playing these records in near autobiographical order not only served to highlight that Furse has always had hip, impeccable taste, but emphasised how his tastes have changed and matured over time. Each new obsession – the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 2AM & FM’s astonishing Poison Dart, J Dilla’s meticulously intricate cut’n’pasting – would change the way he thought about music and how it could be made. Certain garage records he used to love feel coarse to him now, he said; he’d far sooner listen to exotic lounge music while cooking at home. For him, the most exciting sounds currently being made are being made by electronic artists such as Four Tet and Dreems.
If anything links the disparate styles and eras of Furse’s selections it is a feeling of questing, of musical discovery – a quality present too in the work of his band The Horrors. And since changing from bass to synths post-Strange House, he has played an increasingly prominent role in the evolution of The Horrors’ sound, from Primary Colours’ smudged shoegaze to Skying’s artful take on stadium rock to the electronic gleam of 2014’s aptly-titled Luminous.
As well as presenting a radio show on NTS, Furse has curated a sublime collection of library music, Tom Furse Digs, and released a series of EPs experimenting in cosmic electronica. His latest experiment is Interludes, “made in one week with one synth”; the “one synth” in question being the Teenage OP-1 synthesiser, a new piece of technology with apparently more in common with a video game than a typical recording device. Ten years of experience working with synths essentially went out the window, as Furse was forced to work in a different way and commit to “simple loops and keyboard passages” with little editing. Originally intending these short pieces to be used throughout his radio show, Furse soon realised he had enough material for an LP-length document. Interludes presents these tracks – simple, yes, but effective – in the order they were recorded.
When old ingrained methods are rejected, all that is left is instinct and influence, and throughout Interludes, the genres that Furse loves shine through. Flesh Tunnel and Always Hungry, Never Full pound and oscillate with the futuristic steeliness of Poison Dart. The fragmented track structures and the soulful, chopped up vocal sample on No-One Cries No More recall Donuts. Dream Wave is a gorgeous Krautrock floater that wouldn’t sound out of place on Musik von Harmonia, Drone On drones on in effective drone-rock fashion, while Ethiopaque suggests he’s been digging recent reissues on Awesome Tapes From Africa. The whole endeavour – working within the limitations of technology to create music that’s functional but also so much more – isn’t a million miles away from what the BBC Radiophonic Workshop were doing 50 years ago.
Interludes, by their nature, are short – only one track here goes over the four-minute mark – and there are moments which would have benefited from being longer (A Matter of Increased Density’s mission is aborted just as it’s about to achieve full euphoric lift-off; Ethiopaque deserves more than two minutes to work its lurching, alluring magic) or more fleshed out (Cluster Bombs could and should have bloomed into a Blanck Mass-style banger). Furse has expressed his admiration for Four Tet’s Morning/Evening Side, which consisted of two 20-minute pieces, and it’s hard not to wonder what he might create if he pursued something similarly long form. For the time being, however, this LP is an enjoyable interlude in his journey of musical exploration.