In a series called Sounds Northern, Paul Davies shines a spotlight on Northern musicians and bands to watch out for. This week it’s Liam van Ryn.
Based in Hull, Liam van Ryn makes experimental, mainly electronic music that challenges and charms in equal measure.
An alumnus of the Gilles Peterson Future Bubblers project (a grassroots talent discovery and development programme for left-field music), he was commissioned in 2017 by Hull City of Culture to write and perform a tribute to the pioneering work of visionary outsider Basil Kirchin.
Van Ryn echoes Kirchin’s penchant for sound manipulation in his newly-released debut EP, Serendipity, creating four tracks made up from studio odds and ends.
“I was interested in the way I could make the music sound slightly unnatural,” he explains. “Or like it couldn’t be played by a real musician, even though that was often the starting point.”
Opener Pitch 1 rumbles along like a train journey going back through memories, an unsettling soundtrack of warped pitches and fluttering sounds. There are lighter bell effects but these are also not as pleasant as they sound, conjuring up flashbacks that you wonder if you actually experienced.
Title track Serendipity begins with a glitched Geiger Counter-like beat with echoing dub percussion. It has metallic synths and a dark bass line at its core with a slightly choral feel where vocal snippets wrestle for space but don’t quite reveal their true colours. It’s like sitting in a house with all the doors open where different sounds come from different areas. The sonic components are very separate but they combine beautifully, rewarding a listen on headphones.
Three X Pence continues with the unpredictable, unsettling vibe. The track is full of ominous drones like industrial skyscrapers towering over a deserted city street. There’s a cold and dissonant air but it is also rich in emotional resonance.
Accident in Saga City has a more familiar feel; pulsing, robotic and heavy on analogue 70s and 80s sounds. While the main synthline loops repeatedly, the modulation changes and scurrying sounds in the background hold the attention. The breakdown in the middle suggests something epic is coming to end the EP and it doesn’t disappoint with an uplifting refrain and irresistible bass line.
This EP is a rewarding listen, stirring the senses with its atmospheric textures and paths into unexpected sonic territories. The result of several ‘happy accidents’ from studio offshoots coming together shows that there can be cohesion from disparate fragments and beauty in those things we may initially overlook. Almost an optimistic mantra for the world around us.
Serendipity is available digitally and on limited edition 12” vinyl