London-based producer Ryan Lee West, better known under the name Rival Consoles, is notable for making synthesisers sound human and atmospheric. Over the course of a critically acclaimed fifteen-year career, his music has diversified from the challenging electronic output of his early EPs, to gradually becoming more conceptual and metamorphic with his albums.
Kieran Hebden’s Text Records is proud to announce Bolts, the debut album from British-Armenian producer Hagop Tchaparian, set for release in autumn 2022.
Hagop’s debut album Bolts features ten tracks of hyper-personal rhythm music that mixes techno with field recordings of his travels through Armenian and Mediterranean culture. Early DJ support has come from Four Tet, Gilles Peterson and Nikki Nair. The artwork for Bolts was curated by skateboard, music and sports photography legend Atiba Jefferson.
The 10 tracks on Bolts, combine the audio evidence of a life’s experience, with the notion that lo-fi techno can be the right canvas for conveying that experience. Hagop’s been gathering these sounds and vignettes for almost 15 years, having begun accumulating them before the smart-phone in his pocket included a “record” function. He would isolate sounds from videos that his friends sent, like the Armenian wedding clip that showed members of the party jumping over a fire while a drummer played in the background. He would stop street musicians to ask if he could record their playing, like the women playing the qanun, a harp-like Arabic string instrument; or he would record with professional musicians playing specialist instruments like the zurna. He visited places important to his family, like the Lebanese village of Anjar, where his father’s family took refuge after being driven out of the Armenian- Turkish town of Musa Dagh in 1939, documenting his own steps on the gravel roads his father once walked
The result is the sound of a man chasing his heritage around the world, while sprinkling clues of his everyday life amidst the manipulated folk instruments of his ancestry. There are aspects of tactile remembrances in between these rhythms, at times the result feels explosive. From its title down to the incessant bleating of the zurna, “Right to Riot” is like a punk techno that cries for the disaffected. Whereas “Timelapse,” which features a loop of the music that accompanies the fire-jumping wedding ritual sews together what seem like connected images in a photo album that may be physically decomposing, but whose power remains.
Hagop’s past is the precursor to him creating something meaningful with these recordings. In his teens Tchaparian, played guitar in Symposium, a 90’s post-grunge punk band. Symposium had a few years of success, big enough to visit the States on Warped Tour, play on the main stage of Reading and open for Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Metallica; just long enough to become disenchanted with the music business, and split up debt-ridden.
After Symposium, Hagop contributed to a 2000 comp called Hokis, which collected music by Armenian artists — but mostly got drawn into London’s club scene, where he became friends with Hot Chip and later a tour manager to both Hot Chip and Four Tet.
“After wanting out of guitar bands and with a massive interest in all things dance music, my first job (mainly due to being broke) was flyering outside many of London’s clubs. I would stand outside all of the main clubs starting at around midnight in East London, ending up outside the Ministry Of sound around 9am. I would hear the sounds from outside and see the people coming out and really wished I was inside! I began to get inside finally and was checking out as much of it as I could and by a huge stroke of luck, ended up helping out people like Hot Chip and Four Tet on tour. I got to travel and observe them and many others at festivals, clubs and shows creating these special unforgettable moments.”
Hagop would make the occasional remix that friends like Kieran would play in their DJ sets, but working on original new music wasn’t foremost on his mind. He kept gathering these little snippets of rudimentarily recorded sound. There was an emotional resonance in continuing to fit these samples together into a storyline that made sense to him. On their own, the rhythm tracks could successfully power an underground dance-floor, but the elements surrounding the beats were the undercurrents that helped push the music beyond party rituals. When he played some early bits and pieces for Hebden, the veteran musician encouraged him to continue, and turn it into a full body of work.
“I love synthesizers and music gear but there are some sounds that I hear around me as I go about my life that make me sit up and really pay attention. I try to capture as much of them as I can and have used them as the main building blocks of the album. I need music to mean something to me otherwise I’m not as interested. It’s a bit like younger days where I would just gravitate to certain inspiration like oxygen – I just really need it.”
The album’s bangers offer an almost secondary, magnetic purpose. “Come for the beats,” they imply, “but stay for the emotional content.” With this in mind, great though these beats are, they’re not easy — Hagops’s globalized narrative complicates this party’s soundtrack beyond the margins of ethno-cultural chill-out comps. The beauty and the storytelling here are beyond obvious genre or form: ‘Bolts is a very particular and this is Hagop’s excavation of his Armenian heritage through a lifetime’s worth of remote recordings.
As Hagop began to consider what he was making as more than a handful of bangers, more insight arrived from inside his own community. Ryan Smith, best known as the guitarist in Caribou (who also produces dance music as Taraval), assisted with production and mixing. Old London compatriot Dennis White, who engineers music for progressive house godhead Sasha and BBC One mainstay Pete Tong, also added a few production touches. Whilst visiting his sisters, who live in Belgium, Hagop worked with Michel “Shelle” Dierickx, a legendary old-school producer, all helped Hagop technically achieve what he heard in his head.
Hagop’s first show will be at Finsbury Park in London in August.
“To me, the live set is an opportunity to not only weave sounds but to try to lead myself on a journey with the intention to try to hopefully recreate some of those moments that have meant so much to me. I really want it to be special.”
It’s Hagop’s sounds, memories and experiences that we’re navigating. But they end up as signposts to a shared past. We can, and should, employ them to map the dancing of our cares away —an honorable use for music and one we can revel in this Summer when Hagop begins performing the music from Bolts live.