Electronic dreamer digs into the past for his new album as Archangel.
US-born, Berlin-based producer Steven Ford has been making deep, disorienting dance music under the name Bruno Pronsato for more than a decade, developing his own skewed and jazzy take on minimal techno on two acclaimed albums (2008’s Why Can’t We Be Like Us and 2011’s Lovers Do) and numerous singles and EPs, including the stunning, Nico-sampling one-track meditation, The Make Up The Break Up.
Late last year the former drummer adopted the alias Archangel for the two-track Metal EP (featured a Gary Numan cover alongside a live recording), which paved the way for The Bedroom Slant, the full-length released this week on foom.
Drawing on a youth spent listening to pop, rock and post-punk, Ford filters his experimental approach to dance music through “the one time romance he had with the radio” and, for the first time, contributes his own vocals. Inspired by records both genre-defining (Gang Of Four’s Entertainment!) and unfairly maligned (Roxy Music’s Avalon), The Bedroom Slant is “a commentary on youth”, as he tells FACT in the Q&A below, and features a host of guest musicians such as avant-garde disco veteran Peter Gordon and Caro, AKA Randy Jones, boss of Orac Records.
Stream The Bedroom Slant below and buy the vinyl and digital formats via foom. on Bandcamp. The Archangel live show will also debut at Berghain Kantine on August 13.
Why the name Archangel?
I can’t exactly place why I chose that name. I do know that there was a moment when I realised that what I was working on was straying from the typical Bruno path. I was becoming incredibly nostalgic in the studio, revisiting a lot of the stuff I listened to when I was younger. I recall a moment where I felt that what I was working on reminded me of some of the tracks from Brian Eno’s No New York (this is probably very abstract and not at all the case). Mind you, I know that the tracks I eventually made are not at all similar to those on that compilation. It was more of a feeling, I guess… and somehow, in my mind, I felt that ‘Archangel’ had that sort of in-your-face ’78 punk shock to it. I think we all know that such a name now is commonplace and doesn’t quite have the impact that I suppose it would have. As I write this, I feel the name is even more absurd, imagining myself as a middle-aged man going by the name Archangel on some stage somewhere, singing abstract love songs.
The album and track titles are very intriguing – what ideas and thoughts lie behind some of the words and lyrics? Is there a particular narrative running through the album?
There is definitely a theme running through the album. It’s a sort of commentary on youth. But from the perspective of an older person reliving it, reliving it with a bit more wisdom. It’s an odd place to be. In some ways, I have always been a private person – we all are as electronic music producers. Our music, for the most part, exists without any commentary. Nobody knows where we stand. In some ways that’s great because you don’t really have to open your entire person up for commentary.
If I wanted to truly embrace an age, say a teenager, then I’d really have to be a bit more flamboyant and I’d have to say something. I think here, particularly in some tracks, I am saying something, or at least trying to. Not that I have a message, or that I am trying to make a point… I guess it’s really just theatre in the end. Me as an old teenager.
You’ve said the record is influenced by pop, rock and post-punk – the music you grew up with. Which albums from those genres have had the biggest impact on you?
I hate to be cliché, and I might be hated for liking the ‘wrong’ Roxy Music album, but Avalon sticks with me. I would say that it’s my favourite album of all time. To me, it’s just incredibly perfect. It has all of the perfect moments in music: there’s the delicate underrated funk, the cinematic beauty and the very gentle abstraction. I have found very few records that have all three qualities.
Another one that immediately comes to mind is Gang of Four’s Entertainment!. On that record there’s so much groove, so much amazing musicianship. Not to mention the spot-on political commentary. For a more up to date band, I’d have to say Jonathan Fire*Eater’s Tremble Under Boom Lights. Stewart Lupton’s lyricism and vocal style are unrivalled and just phenomenal. Of course the band is also great (now known as The Walkmen) but it’s his chutzpah that’s the driving force to me. I’d love to make an album with him.
You’ve used Max/MSP and Logic previously, but the Archangel project is more like a band – what was the recording process like? How did you recruit your players?
After I met Benjamin from Foom and we discussed doing the album, I began to think that I’d like to do something different from what I’d done in the past. There was this Louche Podcast I had done about a year prior to that conversation and when we spoke we agreed that it should be something like that. In that podcast I’d already been using my voice more and had already begun incorporating elements that I hadn’t before, but going into the album I knew that I didn’t want to make another Bruno album. I knew that there would have to be a more acoustic element.
The drums stuff was all done by me and laboriously edited. I finally got my brother on board for some bass stuff. We’ve been working in bands and playing together since we were 11 years old. It’s been a good 20 years since we’ve sat down and really worked together. We were actually at my mother’s house in Abu Dhabi when we came up with some of the stuff. So that was pretty nostalgic, reliving our childhood again as adults making some music.
And through Benjamin I met Peter Gordon who I’d always admired and was thrilled to work with. On the track with Peter I enlisted Caro aka Randy Jones for vocals. I always have Randy on one track on an album, he’s just an immensely talented person and actually the reason I’m even doing music professionally. I initially wrote Randy for some vocal advice, and decided in the end I just couldn’t pull it off, so he laid down the vocal track along with Peter Gordon on the saxophone. It came out much better than expected with those two talents on there.
I also had the great pleasure of working with Yonatan Levi who’s a very experienced double bass player who used to play with Jimmy Cobb. We have been meeting at clubs all over the world and talking about music for a few years. It was finally time we sat down and did a track. We’re actually working on a some music now that should be finished soon.
And last but not least, another friend who I’ve run into in Chicago a few times, David Powers. The last show I played in Chicago we talked about some of his tracks. He sent me a couple and they were just amazing. I knew that I had to invite him in for a track. So, David, Yonatan and me did the track ‘L.A. Teen (Live)’ together.
And are there plans to perform live, with a band?
We are actually having the first Archangel show at Berghain Kantine on August 13. It will be Yonatan Levi on bass, keys and electronics and Uri Gincel (from Bonaparte) on keys and electronics and myself on vocals, keys and electronics. I’m excited to actually work with a group again. These guys are amazing musicians so I’m in pretty good hands. In addition to this there’ll be a London event at the end of July to mark the release of the album, which will include me and Benjamin DJing some no-wave stuff, as well as a laptop and drum machine set of Bruno Pronsato & Archangel tracks by myself.