Having just released his debut album and in search of fresh inspiration after months of world travel, Melbourne’s Lower Spectrum is relocating to Perth. ANDREW NELSON catches up with the man behind the music to discover the origins of his stylish brand of electronica.
Speaking to Ned Beckley – the self-effacing electronic producer better known as Lower Spectrum – a quote from Charlie Parker, the legendary American jazz saxophonist comes to mind, ‘Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.’
With the exception of the horn part, Beckley has followed this rationale to the letter. He started off being influenced by those around him and then packed his backpack and set off travelling the globe seeking inspiration for his music. “I travelled for six months around the world and predominately the whole album was made whilst I was travelling. I took a laptop, a bunch of mics and other things that I could carry with me and pretty much just put it altogether whilst I was travelling.”
The result is Little Appeal, a debut long-player that shows the maturity of someone with many more releases under his belt and all through the album, the experiences of his travels are there. Take Erasing Form, for example, “That song was predominantly produced while I was in America,” he recounts. “There were record stores that were the size of supermarkets; I managed to pick up loads of percussive vinyl that had really interesting African sounds and cowbells. So I came up with that rhythm and stretched it out from there.” The ensuing track is a schizophrenic soundscape shifting from ambient beginnings to manic drum patterns, undercut by a memorable bassline.
Estuary, however, was conceived thousands of kilometres away in Tuscany, Italy. “We managed to stay in a castle up in the hills. There was a winery there that we worked at that had a grand piano. I managed to record it with the mics that I carried around. It sounded amazing so it found its way onto the record.” The result is consequently a very different sound – epic pianos, soaring operatic vocals and sculptured drum beats.
To produce quality electronica of this standard obviously requires more than just a flash of inventiveness, it takes hard work and natural ability and Beckley seems to have in spades. Though not classically trained he has a knack of picking up anything and getting the right sounds out. “I can’t formally play any instrument,” he says casually when asked, “I just dabble with a lot of instruments and pick them up by ear. I can often just work my way around it to get the sound I really want.”
He’ll be showcasing his skills at Slanted & Enchanted at The Bakery on Saturday, December 7 as well as his upcoming live performance at The Bird to promote the album using sounds he’s literally built from scratch, “Sometimes I bring a harp into the live show which is pretty interesting,” he explains. “I built it when I was growing up in the country. There’s a harp guru there and we spent five days in the bush building it.”