Published Oct 26, 2017In the three years since the release of KOCH — his third in a series of hazy and mutated electronic albums released on the cleverly obtuse PAN imprint — London-based DJ and producer Lee Gamble has been ruminating on the role of the artist in today's surreal world. Through his lens, our society seems to be searching frantically for a past that was somehow better than our current existence. The media surrounding the Brexit movement promised that "we'll have our great place back" and the current leadership in the United States vowed to "make America great again" as part of their platform.
Gamble took all this in and decided that it was senseless to repeat what he'd done with his PAN records, seeking to move in a new direction. "The other records for me sounded much further away," Gamble tells Exclaim! "They felt to be very much like signals from deep on the ocean floor or high out in space. They felt like something that wasn't necessarily here, they felt very distant.
"It's always been the role of the artist to make the world seem a bit more strange and wondrous and odd, because the world [has been] so pragmatic. Now, the world seems to have become very strange and very dream-like and odd, so I wanted to think of the artist's role as sort of being a pragmatist rather than being this person to have this music in some kind of weird space that's already very weird. It's like trying to make a strange documentary about the news — you can't get any weirder than the news right now. You can't really make it any weirder than this."
With this in mind, he strove to shift gears musically, even jumping over to the London-based Hyperdub label, which to him felt like a not unnatural fit. The body of work that became the Mnestic Pressure LP is far more straight in nature, more grid-based and more melodic than his PAN LPs. These "pressured memories," which were ironically far more challenging for Gamble to produce than the music on his earlier records, are substantially cleaner and fuller sounding, as Gamble looked to change his production methods so his music would sound better live in a practical sense.
Gamble didn't necessarily want to start from scratch, however, because he sees his catalogue as a continuum. "I wanted it to be much more colourful, less washed out, but not completely change it so you wouldn't know that it's me. I still wanted to sort of drag a bunch of ideas from the other records, but then add another layer to them, which lifted them or changed them somehow." The resulting album is laden with recognizable dance forms: classic jungle, garage and techno are all represented, albeit with Gamble's signature spin.
The accompanying live show, for which Gamble hired Optigram (who developed the artwork for Mnestic Pressure) along with a lighting engineer, sound engineer and a programmer, is set to feature flashing strobes, scanning lights and optographic images to be burned onto the mind's eye of its audience. This burn-in is the producer's way of impressing one of the core ideas of the album onto the crowd.
"It's kind of analogous to the idea of this pressure, you know," he explains, "where someone can just say something to you, some politician or something can just repeat stuff at you and it kind of goes into your head without you wanting it to or not. That's the kind of 'mnestic pressure,' if you like."
When asked as to whether he feels his audience will be prepared for such an intense, almost interrogative, experience, he sets expectations by pointing to the stark album art, with its high contrast black and white lines and its bold type that's "kind of almost like some crappy Fox News headline or something: 'this is what you should be thinking…'"
Mnestic Pressure is out now on Hyperdub.