Global Communication’s 76:14 was an album that helped set the template for ambient electronica, and following its reissue last year on Warp Records, the Tom Middleton and Mark Pritchard-led outfit is making a welcome return, this time as a solo effort.
Middleton has recalibrated the concept as GCOM, and is set to release his debut album under that moniker, E2-XO, on October 29th on !K7.
A decade in the making, E2-XO is being described as an ‘audio movie, a space opera, a psychic investigation of the human mind in space’.
The album has been preceded by a single, XO 4 (Wolf 1061c), which you can listen to below.
As Middleton himself puts it, the new album is defined by “sci-fact meets sci- fi – a stepping stone for curious cosmologists.
“I’ve been a star gazer since I was a child. Transfixed by the visible shape of the Milky Way in the night sky and its infinite profundity, or images of the pale blue dot floating in space we call Earth. Struck with awe, wonder, humility, gratitude and reverence, I have learned this is called the ‘Overview Effect’.
“I grew up on an audio, visual and literal diet of classic and vintage Sci-Fi books, comics, TV, movies and music, and in particular Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series, soundtracked by one of my greatest music inspirations – Vangelis. There is a clear space theme and influence in most of my work.”
The concept for the album commenced in March 2011, he explains, the day that the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, resulting in loss and devastation on a grand scale.
“Witnessing the unpredictable and devastating power of nature made me think about how fragile we really are, irrespective of how smart we are becoming,” Middleton says. “And of our irresponsible treatment of the natural world we are clearly polluting, depleting and destroying.
“We are in the Anthropocene, the geological epoch in which we have ‘caused significant human impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change’. There’s still time to join the regenerative renaissance – to re-wild, replenish and renew – and give Earth a chance to heal.
“So where next? A base on the Moon and a colony on Mars is looking increasingly possible in the next two decades, particularly with Elon Musk driving the vision. But looking beyond with our space telescopes; is there anywhere else out there that could sustain life? We speak of ‘No Planet B’, but we do know of around 4,338 current exoplanets, of which some have an Earth Similarity Index (ESI) close to our Earth’s. Some are even super-habitable paradise exoplanets – so called because the environmental conditions could be even better than ours.”
This is the soundtrack Middleton has imagined for E2-XO, tracking the journey from Earth to Exoplanet – a musical exploration of the cosmos.
“I began exploring alien sonic textures and sound design in 2011, avoiding as many of the perennial cliches as possible such as known drum machines and synths,” he says of the music contained therein. “Instead using found sounds and field recordings to craft what I had in my head. I became obsessed with trying to create liquid metallic sounds and textures and experimented with digital processing to achieve them.”
There’s also a ‘back to basics’ approach with some of the tracks – Tracks 3, 4 and 5, for example, are generated from the sounds of a flute, with the addition of some ambient field recordings and human voice.
The album is dedicated to the late electronic artist Thomas Denis aka Qebrus – “I was immediately taken by his peerless ability to sonically articulate the unknown, alien, otherworldly and multidimensional,” says Middleton – while Dr Lucy Ann Rhodes, who helped compile the original Global Communication manifesto back in 1994, has written a short story to accompany the album. Artwork is provided by designer Paul Nicholson (who designed the iconic Aphex Twin logo), while the album is backed with an extensive array of artistic and educational references.
“It’s time to transcend, embrace duty of care, compassion and kindness not only for our planet and all living and growing things but crucially, how we must evolve in consciousness to become caretakers and stewards for whatever new moons and planets we might end up inhabiting,” says Middleton.
The album’s first single, XO 4 (Wolf 1061c), is named after a potential inhabitable exoplanet, and is backed by a Qebrus remix, recorded before his death in February 2018.
For more information, visit tommiddleton.com