One of my favorite times of the day in Los Angeles is the earliest part of the morning, long after last call but still too soon for sunrise. It’s when there’s virtually no traffic to speak of and there’s as much silence in the air as you’ll ever hear. At Sinning in LA, we’re all nocturnal in nature and most times after some late night sinning at Miss Kitty’s or a massive musical festival takeover such as SmokeOut 2009, our minds need a soundtrack to slow down and relax to in this early hour. Countless times, the sounds of Alucidnation have proven to be the perfect fix. This ethereal downtempo project helmed by UK producer Bruce Bickerton, has moved, transfixed, inspired and seeped into my subconscious in every way imaginable.
I was turned on to Bruce’s first Alucidnation album, Induction through his association with the esteemed Big Chill Recordings, a UK-Based label that spun off of the massively popular Big Chill Festival, which for fifteen years now has offered music lovers a decidedly different and downtempo alternative to all the amped and massive “Coachella-esque” affairs.
“Pete Lawrence (original founder of The Big Chill) and a whole bunch of other people initially connected with ‘I’m Not Bad’, the single off of Induction, Bruce told us. “The Big Chill continues to support me as an artist even now that Pete’s left the fold, and I’m grateful for this. In the UK, which is saturated with music of every genre, I’m under no illusion that it’s important to have a platform, however small, to promote yourself from. As far as ‘understanding’ my sound, I’m not sure… music’s a very personal thing and one either connects with something or doesn’t. So to try and explain this rationally is beyond me, really!”
That’s because the sounds of Alucidnation are ever-changing but always lush, chilled, funky and decidedly downtempo. On both his classic debut, Induction and his recent sophomore release, Get Lost, Bruce has crafted full-album experiences for his listeners that are packed to the brim with spine-tingling melodies, endless emotion and of course, plenty of Alucidnation’s trademark layers.
“Well, I’m glad you think so! You’ve got to remember that I grew up in the age of vinyl records, and was also very much into the idea of the ‘concept album,’ said Bruce.
I’m really into listening to music on the move, and there’s nothing quite like a good ‘journey’ album!
He adds, “You know, a sequence of tracks that as a whole, make up one continuous piece that you can really immerse yourself in. I feel as though both my releases achieve this, even more so on the new one.”
Most of Alucidnation’s work is made up of rich, melody-lead instrumental tracks but occasionally, Bruce’s own, unique voice will lead a track or two, such as on personal favorites, “I’m Not Bad” and “Anywhere.” While Bruce will never rival Bono for vocal prowess, his voice acts as another instrument, or layer, for the song and is just as melodic as his music.
“Yeah, I suppose it is unusual,” Bruce laughed. “Layering up my vocals in the studio is one of the most satisfying things I do; it gives me a lot of pleasure to hear the harmonies coming together. I’ve always loved that early 70’s California sound – I’m talking David Crosby, Neil Young and the whole Elektra/Asylum records thing, where vocal harmonies were particularly lush. Lyrics don’t tend to come that easily to me, so when they do, I work quickly; most of what you hear on the finished versions are live takes, warts and all. The same goes with the music, really. I’m really not into spending vast amounts of time attempting to ‘perfect’ things, when what’s more important is that initial feeling and soul one gets when committing something to tape.”
Bruce is also a gifted photographer and his album artwork reflects pictures that he’s taken. Each photo in the linear notes for his album reflects the music that it represents perfectly. On Get Lost, the cover is the direct result of a late-night tale.
“Yes, I’ve been a keen photographer for most of my life,” Bruce admitted. “I’ve got a huge catalogue of work and so it’s great that I’ve managed to marry my music and my photography into one neat artform. As far as design goes, well that’s what I’m qualified in (he has a degree in typography) and spend some of my week working as a designer in Central London. I took the photographs for the cover of Get Loston a walk home very late from a friends house back in February. It was almost freezing and was very foggy, almost ethereal, so I stopped to take some pictures. I was also pretty drunk.”
After I told Bruce how much his work had influenced our own late-night adventures, he was compelled to compile an Alucidnation installment for our Sinning in LA mix series. Combining the best of the old and new, this is the perfect primer to introduce yourself to the sounds of Alucidnation or if you’re already believer like myself, this is a lovingly created compilation from the man himself.
Here’s what Bruce had to say about his mix:
Think of it as the aural equivalent of taking a long, leisurely, deep warm bath, with soothing candlelight…that should give you some idea of what my stuff sounds like.
The mix is so stunning that it further enhances our hope that Bruce will one day bring his Alucidnation project Stateside. For now though, you can enjoy all of the Alucidnation sounds through his albums and of course the host of rarities and remixes that are available on his website.
“It’d be nice to visit the States. I get a fair amount of mail from people over there so it’d be good to do some kind of tour. At this moment in time though, I’m ploughing any spare time and energy into re-developing my website and my online shopping facility, which is paying great dividends. I’m also writing new material when I get the notion – I’ve already written another album’s worth of new material so far this year. So I’m just carrying on as normal, really!”
The thought of another Alucidnation album to have for early morning adventures is incredibly appealing but for now I’ve got plenty more listens of Get Lost and even our own Sinning in LA mix to tide me over until then. For those that are new to these sounds, I’m now officially sinning because I truly envy your ears.