Through intense introspection and a DIY approach to sound, Richie Culver taps into the loose, potent energy of the afterparty, capturing the feeling of discovering worlds thought impossible in cigarette smoke and shitty speakers.
Richie Culver is responsible for some of the most quietly devastating music of recent years. Already infamous for his visual practice, which has been described as “squat art” (a label the artist is more than happy to stand behind), in recent years Culver has turned his attention to music. Between Post Traumatic Fantasy, an EP for Italian label SUPERPANG, A Change Of Nothing, a collaborative release with Pavel Milyakov for his own label, Participant, and his debut album, I was born by the sea, last year, Richie Culver announced himself as a musician with an unmistakable voice, shining new light on the themes of his work and in ways both excruciatingly raw and singularly evocative. While his visual works portray autobiographical vignettes of outsider observations and macabre parables scrawled and sprayed across canvas, walls and cardboard, fleeting and fraught glimpses of a difficult past captured with a crackling, transient urgency, with his music, his words are set adrift on threadbare loops worn raw and ragged, spray paint rendered as synthesis, glacial swells of ambience, industrial throbs of noise and dark insomniac drones exhaled together as thick melancholy haze. For Culver the transition from visual art to music is hardly surprising, he came up in the rave, developing his outlook on both art and life in the thick of the free party scene in and around Hull, a period so formative that the spirit has never left him. “I remember when I first got introduced to rave culture and then, shortly after, club culture, instantly deciding on the spot that I was going to dedicate my life and soul to this,” he explains. “With no tools, talent or links I rolled the dice.”
“This mix gently echos the underbelly of a desire or obsession to be part of something that doesn’t really exist,” he continues. “Maybe it was a myth? It can’t have been because I saw people succeeding, getting paid to do something they would do for free. Was that too much to ask? That was always my goal.” Moving through a choice selection of tracks from the year past, remixes, re-edits and a trove of unreleased material, Culver chases the ghosts of dance music through the atmospheres and ambiences of his formative years, like sifting for ecstasy in the cold waters of the Humber. “I remember watching Boyz N The Hood when I was around 12 or 13,” he recalls. “Laurence Fishburne’s character, Furious Styles, always stood out to me. He was my secret idol. I never mentioned it to any of my friends at the time when we would watch it on repeat. None of us had great male role models but I figured we were all thinking the same thing. This was my first glimpse of what I thought a man should be. Someone to look up to, someone to give you good advice at those critical stages of life. Someone who cares about you. Even though it was through a TV screen. He gave me hope, some kind of a blueprint to turn to when those life-changing, crossroads moments should appear later down the road.” It’s this hope that pervades much of the new material presented here, like Rainy Miller’s reverberant, avant-drill rework of ‘Daytime TV’, taken from an upcoming collection of remixes of tracks from Culver’s debut, which threads skittering hi-hats and queasy bass surges through the original’s sombre ambient cascade, or the staccato synth stabs of ‘We got to be,’ heralding distant crashes of percussion, evocative of breakbeat and hardcore, only heard from miles away in the distance.
The mix is littered with crossroads moments like these, an unexpected burst aquatic surf guitar warble, courtesy of Pavel Milyakov, signalling an onslaught of new sound, the unreleased ‘Scream if you don’t exist’ unravelling in hiccuping piano licks and pitch-shifted exhortations, an unhinged mantra spiralling off into the void. The deadpan delivery of ‘Afterparty stranger,’ a stark spoken word piece, splits the mix in two, finding Culver viscerally inhabiting the creeping paranoia and low self-esteem of an addled memory, his worst impulses echoed back at him, his desperation relived with unflinching clarity. In the mix’s most poignant moments, Culver pulls focus from his own voice to the voices of others, wrenching open the ribcage of his own experience to make space for a new polyphony. ‘Oh my god they’re gone’ sets bright, looping chimes against an etherised monologue from Culver’s wife, who draws from her experiences working as a death doula to work through the transcience of life and the permanence of grief. As the mix draws to a close, Culver exits the stage to let a text-to-speech tool play him out, as though breathing artificial life into words too painful to be spoken, too painful, even, to be scrawled. What we’re left with is a retrospective of sorts, both of Culver’s recent releases, instant cult classics, inscribed messily in the canon of outsider music and experimental electronics, but also of the full circle that brings Culver back, through art, to music. Through intense introspection and a DIY approach to sound, the artist is able to reproduce the loose, potent energy of the afterparty, capturing the feeling of discovering worlds thought impossible in cigarette smoke and shitty speakers. “At age 15 I left school early as I got a good job offer on a caravan site,” Culver concludes. “At age 17 I left that job and decided to dedicate my life to rave in whatever way the genre would accept me. A decision I made on my own. I never did find a place in any kind of genre.”
‘Dream about yourself’ (Re-Edit)
‘Daytime TV’ (Rainy Miller Remix)
‘We got to be’
‘It’s hard to get to know you’
Pavel Milyakov & Richie Culver – ‘Track 2’
‘Scream if you don’t exist’
‘Create a lifestyle around your problems’
‘Underground flower’ (Rainy Miller Re-Edit)
‘Oh my god they’re gone’
‘A victim of my own thoughts’ (Nuno Loureiro Re-Edit)
Blackhaine & Richie Culver – ‘I’m not gonna cum’
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