by Grady Mitchell | “My head exploded,” says Mathew Griffiths, half of the team behind More Than Human, a Vancouver-based record label diving into the world of experimental electronic music. He’s talking about moving from the north of England to Brighton as a teen, encountering what he calls the “second summer of love” — the rise of house music.
Gareth Moses, the label’s other half, grew up in London listening to Tubeway Army. “This is utterly new, utterly alien,” Gareth remembers thinking. Having had a few decades to think about it since then, he’s gotten closer to what it is he loves about electronic music. “I think you can deconstruct rock quite easily into its constituent parts,” He says. “Electronic music, even now that I have some idea of how it’s made, still sounds like it’s beamed in from somewhere. It’s not very tactile in that sense of someone strumming a guitar – I understand how that box makes that noise. I don’t understand when someone’s twiddling knobs on some strange computer how those noises are being generated. So it always sounds otherworldly, it always sounds different.”
Gareth and Mathew champion those different sounds, and the weirder, the better. Although both British, the friends met in Vancouver, both working in the film industry. They began getting together to play and discuss records “as an excuse to get together and drink,” Mathew jokes. They released those conversations as a podcast called Free Movement To Music, named after some hippy-loving free association music classes that became popular in the 70s.
After five years Gareth wanted to make the show more official, so he took the training courses at CiTR. He pitched the station on a show about experimental electronic music. That was two years ago, and More Than Human is closing in on its 150th episode.
The label began after Gareth and Mathew saw Passenger, a local electronic artist named Jesse Creed, play at the now-defunct Zoo Shop on Main Street. After the show, “in a moment of drunken sincerity,” Gareth asked if Jesse was interested in putting out a record. That became the Negative Object EP.
Since then More Than Human has released six more records. They’re always looking for artists on the fringe, the most experimental. “A certain outsiderness” is how Gareth describes the label’s sound.
The physical releases are only vinyl (although each record comes with a download code for the digitally dependent). Primarily that’s for the sound quality, best serving the often subtle and nuanced music, but as an added bonus the packaging leaves more room for artwork, which Gareth says is essential for the label.
He’s created a sci-fi-inspired backstory for the label. He imagines a gargantuan library of music, an automated, robot-run archive of ancient sounds. He calls it “future nostalgia,” music for future’s that will never happen, parallel timelines. The label’s series of EPs follow the same design style, a minimalist, clean aesthetic created by Bedow, a Stockholm-based design agency. Gareth likes the collectible aspect of the unified look, comparing it to the Criterion Collection for film buffs or Penguin Books for bibliophiles.
As far as Vancouver is concerned, the two say electronic music is flourishing. They point to artists like Sinoia Caves, Sarah Davachi, Ramzi, Mood Hut and 1080p. Shops like Pacific Rhythm and Selectors’ Records stock experimental electronica, and venues like The Fox Cabaret support the scene with regular shows.
Next, More Than Human will release a second-pressing of Jon Brooks’ Walberswick, and brew albums from Seattle’s Boreal Network and Pye Corner Audio. You can catch their radio show on CiTR Sundays at 7pm (or you can stream past episodes on iTunes or their Tumblr), and see their monthly DJ sets at The Projection Room in The Fox Cabaret. To learn more, visit More Than Human’s website.