In 1913 Russian Futurist painter Natalia Goncharova created a painting depicting the figure of a man riding a bicycle. It’s clear that the outline of the man’s body is repeated, giving the illusion of infinite motion and dynamism. This avant-garde work of art was entitled ‘The Cyclist’ and over a century later it impressed a youngster from Northern Ireland so much that he picked it as the alias for his own musical output.
As we chatted over Skype in early April, Andrew Morrison protested against the idea to call him an art aficionado and hinted that his brother was always more of an art-head. The young pharmacology student from Derry, Northern Ireland – known to the public as The Cyclist – remains quite a mystery man with his music foreshadowing any details about his personal life.
I came across Andrew’s music thanks to his exceptional album ‘Bones In Motion‘ published as a collaboration between Leaving Records and Stones Throw in the spring of 2013. Logged in from his bedroom Andrew seemed like an amicable but also serious person. This was just before his Hot House EP premiered on Music Is For Losers – a low key London-based label that previously released Sun Glitters and Irish producer Jape.
At the beginning I tried to draw a parallel between The Cyclist and Caribou whose memorable album Swim was also released in April, but three years earlier in 2010. The dates of these two premieres made me remember both LP’s as the sounds of spring. Similarities in the calendar are obviously only details here, but what I found significant is that both artists followed a similar aesthetic of warm melodic house – often detuned and accompanied by saturated bass. They’re both scientists with Dan Snaith boasting a PhD in maths from Imperial College. Andrew remarks – “I try to separates these two worlds. When I talk to people about my pharmacology studies I never mention The Cyclist and with my conversations about music – it’s vice versa.” At the same time, he admits that the unquestionable rigours of academic work provoked him to search for a different realm where he could express himself freely without the need to act by the books.
The Cyclist had been Morrison’s lengthy work-in-progress and dates back to 2011 when the Irish producer debuted with a cassette on American label Crash Symbols. ‘Bending Brass‘ flaunted Morrison’s ability to fuse left-field techno with post-punk frenzy. The artist himself speaks out about this release very candidly – “Back then I was still in the process of of forming my ideas. I didn’t know yet what I wanted to do. I don’t think I could make that music the same way today.”
Interestingly, his track called ‘Grayscale‘ was remixed by Ryan Hemsworth, the Canadian DJ and producer who’s become a big name in the beat scene. I hint at the similarity of The Cyclist’s output to Minimal Wave, the respected NYC label curated by Veronica Vasicka. You can hear The Cyclist’s affiliation with the taste of his musical authorities that include Cabaret Voltaire and Suicide. They impacted not only Morrison’s original work but he also paid tribute to the industrial and new wave scenes by casually remixing a wide array of German artists from Can to Einstürzende Neubauten.
In his teens Morrison was fascinated with post-punk and similar scenes, but later gravitated towards American club music. As you listen to Heart Of Stone – the super groovy opener on the Hot House EP, you may also connect the dots between The Cyclist’s style and figures like Larry Heard AKA Mr Fingers. Morrison’s chords on the track bring back the dancefloor oriented vibe of seminal Chicago house anthems like Can You Feel It. Andrew confirms that’s the sort of sound that inspired his methods in the studio. Having said that, The Cyclist doesn’t resort to the idea of revisiting the past. On title track Hot House he samples a reggae vocalist and returns with his idiosyncratic style well-known from the Bones In Motion LP. It’s a trademark Cyclist sound with his favourite tape hiss and a great feel for grooves that truly touch the soul.
During his university days in Liverpool Andrew engaged in the local club scene. These experiences inspired the Hot House EP. “I remember some of the raves that went on until it was getting sunny. We spent the nights in these dark dingy places and then hanged out during the day in sun-filled parks. Back then I heard a lot of dubby jungle stuff and house.” This certainly corresponds with the craze and versatility of The Cyclist’s new EP. Whereas most tracks feel like upbeat bangers, the wining violin and heavy kick drum of Upward Spirals could score the worst hangover. It really feels like the music of the end of the world. Andrew takes the base for his sound from a huge collection of four-track tape recorders but also uses drum machines, samplers. He has a soft spot for synths too. As a professional studio remains the luxury of only a handful of people, Morrison stores all this gear in his flat. That’s where all the magic happens, there he crafts his underwater grooves.
1. Heart Of Stone
2. Hot House
3. Aurora (Shortwave Mix)
4. Upwards Spirals
5. Spirals Onwards
6. Higher Volumes
> STREAM HOT HOUSE EP ON SOUNDCLOUD
Artwork by Natalia Goncharova ‘The Cyclist’ (1913)The Cyclist100% SilkMusic Is For LosersApril 2015ElectronicHouseLo-fi