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2020 in music

Yeah, I know: publishing an end-of-year review nearly five months into the next year is kind of daft. And does the world need another recap on the mess that was 2020?

But, in the spirit of my end-of-year wraps of the past, this is more for my own personal posterity, and I’d like to controversially suggest that there were actually some good things that emerged from the maelstrom of 2020 — at least in terms of music. Specifically, and yes, totally selfishly, I want to document my own music and the output of my label, Unknown Movements, in the year that everyone hated.

The label’s first compilation, ‘Coping Strategies for Progressive Persuasions’

March was the month the pandemic properly became a thing for us in the UK, but it was also the month that kind of felt like the start of the year for me, musically. I put out a compilation called ‘Coping Strategies for Progressive Persuasions’, which was meant to signify a new start for the label. Up until that point, it had only released some stuff from me in my Other Form guise back in 2017. The compilation came out in digital formats, obviously, but also as a cassette. Yes, cassette! My motivation was to provide people with a physical artefact to own, and the cassette format offered a great opportunity to do that at a minimal cost and super-quick turnaround time (as opposed to vinyl).

You can stream the compilation from Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Deezer, etc., or buy it from iTunes, Beatport, or — better still — Bandcamp.

April was the month they took mer jerrrrb, but on the music front, things were pretty good. I had a little more time on my hands, and started doing some Zoom-based music theory and production lessons with berlin-based musician Hüseyin Evirgen — AKA Magna Pia, or one half of Cassegrain.

On Instagram, I posted: “This morning I had the pleasure of taking my first remote music theory and production lesson from the awesome @magna_pia_cassegrain — not only a lovely guy, but also a personal techno hero of mine.”

Zoom music lessons taught by Hüseyin Evirgen

A mix I’d recorded for the SeekSickSound podcast was published…

… and I put out the second release of the year on my label: an EP from Manchester-based Rowka.

Stream: Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer. Buy: iTunes, Beatport, Bandcamp.

On a non-techno note, we watched a Facebook livestream from Smoke Fairies’ house and they gave a shout-out to my eldest daughter Thea. 🤩 Sidenote: their album, ‘Darkness Brings The Wonders Home’, was my favourite album of the year.

Thea watching Smoke Fairies’ livestream

Not much music-y stuff happened in May, but I recorded a mix for Leipzig’s 45 Minutes of Techno podcast.

In June, I put out the debut EP from Alternate Current — a fellow techno producer whose music I’ve really enjoyed recently. Tom and I became internet friends and had the chance to meet for a beer during one of my frequent London trips in 2019, and started collaborating soon after. Like the Rowka EP from April, we went with three original tracks plus a remix from me. I think that remix might’ve been one of my favourite musical outputs of the year.

Stream: Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Deezer. Buy: iTunes, Beatport, Bandcamp.

Also in June, the Italian label Dissonanze put out a compilation called ‘Voices from Isolation I’, and my track ‘Togetherapart’ opened the release.

‘Voices from Isolation I’ on Dissonanze Records

August! Tom and I released our two-track collaboration ‘Explorations I + II’ and got some amazing feedback on it from some big-name artists and DJs like Laurent Garnier and Charlotte de Witte. 🤯

Stream: Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Deezer. Buy: iTunes, Beatport, Bandcamp.

What else? ‘Unterwegs III’ arrived! Unterwegs is a Berlin-based label run by The Lady Machine and Decka, and I do their artwork, branding, etc. (I also had a split EP with Decka on Unterwegs in 2018.)

Unterwegs III

In September, I received a beautiful piece of artwork from Adam Morse, the magician behind Components AI. I’d used the website to generate the Voronoi patterns used in the art of the V/A I released back in March, and Adam’s generative artwork was plotted with an ink pen. I love that: the idea of a digitally generated bit of art rendered with a fountain pen and all of its beautiful fragilities and imperfections.

A gift from Adam Morse

As a little present to myself, I released my second solo EP, ‘Each to Our Own Divide’, on 2nd October — my 39th birthday. It contains three original tracks and a remix by Shifted (another one of my musical heroes). The EP landed some decent support, too, including from techno legend Ben Klock.

‘Each to our Own Divide’ by Other Form

Stream: Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Tidal, Deezer. Buy: iTunes, Beatport, Bandcamp.

I also bought myself the Arturia MicroFreak with some birthday money from my family. Gwen loved it.

Also in October, I did another podcast mix, this time for Erevos Athens.

In November, I tweaked the otherform.uk website, which runs on Persona. The site’s okay. It could do with some love. When I get the time, I’ll probably build a ‘proper’ site with Kirby.

A new otherform.uk

In December, as the entire world collectively looked toward the light at the end of the 2020 tunnel, I had a track open the latest compilation from Hamburg’s SOPTIK.

And, just before Christmas, I put out Unknown Movements’ final release of the year: a compilation called ‘Survival Strategies for Progressive Persuasions’ — something of a sibling to the first V/A — and it was the first thing from my label to which I didn’t contribute any music (every other release had at least a remix from me). Somehow that therefore felt like the label had grown up somewhat. Awwww. I also used a photo of the artwork Adam had sent me for the cover.

Unknown Movements’ final release of the year: a compilation called ‘Survival Strategies for Progressive Persuasions’

Stream: Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer. Buy: iTunes, Beatport, Bandcamp.

Releasing music can feel like shouting into the ether at the best of times, and never more so than during a global pandemic. So I organised a little Zoom beer for the artists on the release. Not everyone could make it, but it was lovely to celebrate virtually with at least some of the folks involved.

Release day Zoom beers

And that, my friends, was pretty much that. Our first release of this year comes out next month, so keep your ears peeled. Or maybe lend us a ‘follow’ on Bandcamp?