Cathode

The story of Cathode begins in a wobbly hired van on the M6 somewhere in the lake district in 1999. I was moving from Oxford to Glasgow, which presented a few problems for the band I played guitar in, Cody. We continued to wilfully thumb our collective nose at geographical scatter as guitarist John Johnson moved to Italy, by recording exclusively through the post (long before The Postal Service had the same idea, I’d wager), but it left me with the sudden possibility of indulging a rather obsessive drive to control every aspect of the sound, by making music solo. Cody had developed a strain of cautious, melodic electronic pop (somewhere between Stereolab, Spring Heel Jack and My Bloody Valentine) a few years too early, and as we scattered and our own tastes developed, I became more immersed in pure electronica, and after a revelatory Pan(a)sonic gig around the same time, Cathode was hatched.

Several shaky demos, a thousand glitch samples and one year later, another move to Newcastle-upon-Tyne (this time to train to be a clinical psychologist) coincided with the first outside interest in Cathode. Static Caravan and Unbearable records both agreed to releases, which resulted in a remix on the Unbearable compilation and the first Cathode vinyl – “Exh Cat” c/w “From And Inspired By” on Static Caravan. This tickled the ears of John Peel for a few precious minutes, which was enough reason to keep making music in itself. I’d also been in touch with the estimable Stewart Anderson of 555 Records (then of Leeds, lately of Flagstaff, Arizona) who came good with the second proper Cathode release, an EP named “The World And Back”, in April 2002. This EP featured more of a feedback-laptop-rock angle, including our tribute , Queen Street Station (gateway to the tenements, I like to think), in “Glasgow Suburban Electrification”.

The steady guiding hand (and blind faith in Cathode) of the Static Caravan brothers remains important in our world (we wouldn’t be where we are today etc etc…) and around this time, they happily agreed to a second 7″ single which followed in August 2002. “Chad Valley” was an attempt at glitch krautrock, which almost ended up being used in a TV ad for the French national railway (I’m not making this up, you know). “Sundowning”, the b-side, generated a collaboration with Rob Kennedy, who made a beatuiful synaesthetic video for the song, which you can see elsewhere on the site. Rob’s messed-but-beautiful work seemed to kick most of the highbrow AV stuff that goes with electronica well into touch, and soon afterwards we took part together in a night at the Side Cinema called C90, taking our collaboration live (check the C90 site for Rob’s work with cathode, and Cineside’s spirograph-tastic work with Posset, and also Spoonbender & view my source code on the zeros and ones).

Oddly, all this local activity seemed to meet with people’s approval, and buoyed up by the continuing support of promoters no-fi and writer Ian Fletcher, work started in earnest on the first Cathode album. Pausing for breath via a split single with Awkward Silence, the search began for a suitable home for the album. Expanding Records, based in London, was begun by Ben Edwards as a home for his beautifully wonky analoguia, recorded under the name Benge. I’d bought and admired his “Meme Tunes” album, which prompted me to harangue the label with a collection of rough mixes, and a few breathless emails later, Cathode had a new home with Expanding. The label had begun to blossom with a global collection of electronica-merchants including Vessel, vs_price, Stendec and Holkham, all of whom seemed to share an attention to microscopic detail and evident love of melody, while steering well clear of sounding generic, and right away, Cathode felt at home there.

The album, “Special Measures”, was released in March 2004, largely the product of desperate attempts at work avoidance in the latter stages of the clinical psychology course. It came housed in a beautiful sleeve depicting the Thames estuary WW2 sea-fort defences, photographed by Mus Mehmet. These hulking, pseudo-industrial beasts, stranded and gently withering in their natural environment, seemed to provide just the right mixture of brutalism, technology and reflective melancholy to suit the tunes inside. And they provide Cathode’s second most Frequently Asked Question: What on earth are those things on the album cover? It’s still outrun by the winning question, common to all laptop musicians, I would guess: What software are you using?…

Web Site: www.cathode.org.uk/

Tracks:

  • Exh Cat
  • From And Inspired By
  • Chad Valley
  • Sundowning
  • Afterchord
  • Known Undesirables
  • The World And Back
  • Glasgow Suburban Electrification
  • Chronophobia
  • Economic Growth
  • Stabiliser City
  • Dream Feeder
  • Another Wish
  • Control And Restraint
  • Structure Hunger
  • Without Memory Or Desire
  • Piper Alpha
  • Brockenspectre
  • Nightly Builds
  • Be Red Or Yellow
  • While Making Other Plans
  • Spincycle
  • Hayling And Brixton
  • Roxburgh
  • Basic Assumption
  • Lewy Body
  • This Just In (C90 Mix)