Mr. Chop’s debut EP for Now-Again in 2009, Lightworlds, drew together anthemic synth-rock, the jagged sound of Italian prog monsters Goblin, and musique concrète, with surprisingly accessible results. Since then, the artist known to friends as Coz Littler has rid himself of the Mister and returns with renewed focus for his debut album Illuminate known simply as Chop.
The path that took him here was winding indeed. Isolating himself in his Cheshire, UK studio in late 2009, Chop decided to try his hand at the nearly fifty year old – and rarely successful – quest to musically merge the organic and the electronic. Three years later, surrounded by a host of musical material and reeling from the passing of his father, his music started falling into itself and Chop found himself in the center of the spiral.
Enter his friend Joe Fearon, A&R for the likes of Liverpool bands The Coral and The Zutons. With Fearon’s help, Chop whittled down hours of recordings to a selection of the most inspired moments. It became clear that while each stood up on its own, they lacked a unifying theme. Chop discovered a solution in the mutated sound of his own voice – at times processed through a WWII-era bomber pilot’s reconditioned microphone, at others deconstructed via an early Texas Instruments computer. And then everything fell into place: Heliocentrics drummer Malcolm Catto’s rhythm tracks were edited off-the-grid until they became more Neu than James Brown, more driving than syncopated; Bill Ryder Jones from The Coral stepped in for the lead guitar parts, which lent a powerful psychedelic 60s rock sound to the proceedings; Chop repurposed a range of obsolete musical gear to renewed ends, in line with his desire to search for a future imbued with the innocence of the past.
The result is Illuminate, an album equally inspired by the retro-futurism of the still-sputtering 19th century power station in Northern Wales, across the estuary from Chop’s studio, the events of his life, and Chop’s collection of hip-hop, disco, new wave and minimal synth records. A record of extreme personal significance to Chop, the creation of its music conversely helped him to silence the chaos of an increasingly neurotic world and soothe the pain of his loss of his father.
Unsurprisingly, Illuminate traverses a number of moods. The jackhammer pounding of ‘Building Blocks’ segues into the moody but serene ‘Picture Box’. The futuristic soundscape ‘Arcane Future’ takes an uplifting melodic turn, revealing Chop’s hopes for a more perfect tomorrow. Tape loops and effects, field recordings and drum programming all play a role in Illuminate, and as the majority of the tracks were assembled far away from a detailed Pro-Tools grid, in what Chop calls a “mutant modern way of editing things,” This approach gives the songs a life of their own – equally electronic and human. Though it’s the most intellectual approach Chop has taken with his music to date, it retains a spontaneous feel throughout, and despite its technical accomplishments, Illuminate is Chop’s most intimate and personal album yet.
Buy: Chop Illuminate on Itunes
Download: Chop “Building Blocks”