Elliot Jay Stocks — designer & musician

2021 in review

A little late, but at least not four months late this time, it’s about time for another year-in-review.

2021 was a weird one. Again. But, by and large, it was a pleasant and relatively stable year in our household. We were very fortunate: the challenges of lockdowns and homeschooling aside, my family avoided the worst effects of the pandemic. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with my kids, I worked for the entire year on Google Fonts Knowledge, and I released a healthy amount of music, both my own and, via my label, from others. Sadly, we also lost some friends and family. But I’m going to keep this post focussed on the positives and, much like last year’s post, mainly the positive outcomes of releasing music.

The year started out relatively quiet, and mostly locked-down. Gwen turned three. My record label, Unknown Movements, published the ninth episode of the Unknown Movements podcast with LA’s Psychic Health:

Things ramped up in April. Thea turned six. Craig Mod and I spoke at Stay Curious, the online event organised by my dear friend Marc Thiele (the man behind Beyond Tellerrand). Stay Curious is one of the only online events I’ve attended or spoken at to retain some of the atmosphere of the in-person version. Hats off to Marc, and also Vito.

Stay Curious promo banner

At a previous Stay Curious event I’d attended in 2020, I watched a great talk from Ulrike Rausch, and April 2021 was the month I bought her book and officially dipped my toe (ever so gently) in the world of type design. More on that next year.

Designing Fonts

Okay, so, April in music! We published the 10th episode of the Unknown Movements podcast: a live set from Paris’ Roam (the duo of dc11 and Kerst).

Then in May we put out our first release of the year: a collaborative EP from Italy’s Nothing is Real and Andrea Cossu.

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube / Beatport / etc.

Also in May, a remix I created for Canada’s Stereo IMG came out on Barcelona’s Diffuse Reality.

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube / Beatport / etc.

In June, in honour of juneteenth and Bandcamp sending their profit share to the NAACP LDF, the label matched all sales on our Bandcamp and Formaviva stores over that weekend with a donation to Black Lives Matter UK.

In July, Unknown Movements put out an EP of hardware techno from Paris’ dc11. Lucas and I had been chatting for a while (see also: the Roam live set, above), and I just love his modular walkthrough videos. Consider supporting him on Patreon if you’re also into that sort of thing.

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube / Beatport / etc.

The Make Noise Strega joined my own hardware synth setup in July, and has been making horrific / heavenly noises ever since.

My interview with Adam Morse went live on Components.ai. This came out of a very nice Zoom beer Adam and I had earlier in the year, which had come about via me using tools on Components.ai to help create some Unknown Movements cover art (and, later, Adam’s own artwork that he’d sent me).

In August, genuine bonafide superstar DJs Charlotte de Witte and Enrico Sangiuliano opened their ‘Age of Love’ livestream with my track ‘Further Still’, taken from my 2020 EP ‘Each to Our Own Divide’.

It was such an amazing and surreal feeling to have my music — created in my garden studio in Somerset — exposed to all of their fans. And, beyond the exposure, this single video continues to result in monthly royalties from YouTube. Money has never been — and never will be — a motivation for me to make music, but this was a nice little bit of affirmation that I’m not entirely just shouting into the void.

Also in August, I made mixes for two podcasts: Tech Clubbers and Diffuse Reality. The former got some radio play on Fnoob Techno radio, too.

Oh, and we published the 11th episode of the Unknown Movements podcast, as well, with Glasgow’s Kairogen:

September brought with it the release of my EP ‘Release, Change, Rift’ on Observant. As I wrote at the time, it was a big deal for me, as — apart from some remix duties, a few appearances on compilations, and my split EP with Decka on Unterwegs — this was the first ‘full’ Other Form release on a label other than Unknown Movements.

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube / Beatport / etc.

September concluded with Sam finishing a 72-mile running challenge to raise money for the British Red Cross’ ‘Miles for Refugees‘ campaign. Go, wife, go!

In October, I hit 40 and celebrated it with a small group of friends at Newtown Park Brewing Co., and finally got round to posting photos of our new(ish) studio setup here on the blog.

Photograph of Elliot’s home studio

Music-wise, I made a mix for Bristol’s 1020 Radio — which is sadly not embeddable — and I also started using Tell.ie as a hub for all of my Other Form stuff.

Oh, and DVS1 played one of my tracks in Berghain!

November saw in my (and the label’s) final release of the year: ‘Mirrorpath EP’. Three original tracks and remixes from Polygonia and Quelza, plus mastering by Temudo — three of my current favourite producers.

Bandcamp / Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube / Beatport / etc.

Ahead of the EP’s release, I did an interview with the LA-based techno blog 6AM Group, and then followed the release with an interview for Mexico City’s Club Furies. The photos used in the interviews were taken by my long-suffering portrait photographer, AKA my wife.

Portrait of Elliot Jay Stocks

On Black Friday, in the wake of the channel crossing disaster and the behaviour of Priti Patel, we donated label profits to Care4Calais.

Another thing happened in November that I was really proud of: I decided to take an entire day to get as far away from civilisation as possible in the woods of the Mendips. Even though we live in the countryside and spend a lot of time outdoors as a family, being totally alone in nature — and in a part that’s particularly quiet (for Somerset) — is something I rarely get to do these days, and it’s something I’d like to do more regularly going forward. Maybe it sounds silly to say, but I honestly felt renewed, mentally, after that day.

Lost in the woods

December rolled around surprisingly quickly, and with it, the release of Google Fonts Knowledge. Getting it out there in the wild felt fantastic, and we’ve been amazed at the response. This is just the beginning, though. There’s so much exciting stuff coming to GFK in 2022.

Google Fonts Knowledge

On a totally different note, I watched some great films in 2021. Some favourites: The Night Eats the World, Pig, Eighth Grade, Last Night in Soho, Song of the Sea, The Skin of the Wolf, Promising Young Woman, Another Round, The Last Duel, Encanto, and of course the universally adored Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

However, the standout had to be Bo Burnham: Inside. I watched it at a friend’s house for the first time in August, then watched it again with my wife just a few days later. I cannot recommend it enough. Come for the technical brilliance; stay for the internet-bashing, meta-upon-meta, concept album-tastic layers of artistic brilliance. At some point I should probably write a post about just how great this film is. For now, I’ll just keep the album streaming on repeat.

Lastly, and unrelated to anything I’ve written above, one of the most positive decisions I made in 2021 was to buy a year’s subscription to Calm, and make meditation an almost-daily practice. Although I was initially skeptical, setting aside 10 minutes a day to be present in the moment has probably been the best self-care move I’ve ever made. It’s also further proof that if you pay for something, you’re far more likely to invest the time in it. I’ve applied the same thinking — and seen the same level of results — to Duolingo, although, well, that’s a 2022 thing.

HNY, kinda, for now.