CARBS [Robert Ames & Ben Corrigan]
When Robert Ames and Ben Corrigan started crafting the seven tracks on their debut album as CARBS, they were having fun. Corrigan, a composer and podcast host, and Ames, a conductor, composer and curator, are often the people who bring other artists’ music to life. On CARBS, they had the opportunity to explore their voices as music makers, taking inspiration from their robust history of collaborations and passion for electronic and classical music to create sound that’s both cinematic and danceable, built on lush harmony, catchy patterns and driving rhythms that form an outer space trance.
Corrigan and Ames first met three years ago when Ames was a guest on Corrigan’s podcast, excuse the mess. The podcast is a place for creative collaboration: When an artist comes on to be interviewed, they’re also challenged to write a piece in a day with Corrigan. For Corrigan and Ames, working together on that first song was easy. They shared interests in classical and electronic music and music that finds ways to bridge those genres. “I’ve always loved dance music,” Ames says. “I was growing up listening to the Warp artists and dancing to Drum and Bass when I was a student in London at a time where it was really at its peak, and that’s when I was studying at music college. So I had a very even love for both of those worlds.” “We were eating at the same buffet for a while” Corrigan continues “and that’s maybe why our tastes have a lot of similarities. There’s quite a nice crossover, a lot of the kind of darkness and some of the intricacy and that kind of thing can be found in both those worlds. And I was drawn to that.”
From there, they’d go on to work on other projects, like the Manchester Camerata’s performance of William Basinski’s seminal work The Disintegration Loops. Corrigan and Ames began to imagine CARBS while they worked on those other projects, coming up with bits and pieces of the album’s tracks in their spare time. Towards the end of 2019 they had time to focus solely on their duo work, hunkering down and shaping the threads of music into an album. The music the two artists made together seemed to grow from those outside collaborations: sweeping like the film music they compose and conduct, electronic-based like recent collaborations with artists like Actress and Rival Consoles. When writing music as CARBS, Ames and Corrigan complement each other. Ames finds himself drawn to glistening melodies and brilliant harmonies, while Corrigan enjoys working with intricate rhythms:
“I’ll geek out all day on snippets of harmony. I’ll go into the depths of time to pilfer stuff and rework it and play with it,” Ames says. “I rarely start with harmony or melody, I often start with something rhythmic or a sound design experiment,” Corrigan says. “There you can see a clear reason why [CARBS] works.” CARBS features both of these elements in spades, balancing reverberant, transportive harmony with crunchy beats and toe-tapping rhythms. The material on the album is all original, crafted using a mix of Logic and Ableton. On some tracks, like “Space Hopper,” Ames’ viola peeks out of the lush fold, echoing into cavernous electronics. Every track presents these kinds of sonic layers, letting meticulous details unfold across the music’s cinematic plane.
When writing the music on CARBS, Corrigan and Ames weren’t driven by an overarching narrative or theme. Instead, they were driven by spontaneity. “It was a very joyful, pure music making process. And it was just fun to, without any barriers, just make some music and see what came out of the other end,” Ames says. “We were just enjoying sound, just enjoying bouncing ideas back and forth,” Corrigan says. “It felt like a sanctuary, a little pocket to just have a good time and really get stuck into writing some original music.”
As the tracks came together, though, they started to hear it as some kind of otherworldly fantasy. (“We accidentally made a little bit of a sci-fi dance album,” Corrigan notes.) The eerie, wondrous quality of the music felt like roaming through outer space, and they started thinking about extraterrestrial travel and spaceships. There’s a starry-eyed feeling to the music, too, driven by it’s effervescent and sprawling atmospheres. “It ended up sounding, in my mind, like something kind of trippy,” Ames says. The feeling of joy and unbridled exploration are perhaps the strongest undercurrents of the album, all pulled together by its dreamy, psychedelic album cover by Filipino-Australian visual artist Mark Constantine Inducil. The cheeky song titles draw reference from everything from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall to the cosmos; the pulsing sound of the music instantly makes your head bob. There’s a lightness to the music, despite its full-bodied sound, that drives the album continuously forward. Ames and Corrigan set out to enjoy the music they made, and for us to enjoy it, too.
About Robert Ames
Robert Ames is a conductor, curator and composer. As a conductor, curator and arranger, Robert Ames has been a key exchange agent between the classical tradition and contemporary music. Robert works closely with many of the leading figures in new music including Philip Glass, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Bryce Dessner, Mica Levi, Nico Muhly, Richard Reed Parry, Meredith Monk, Terry Riley, Jonny Greenwood, Anna Meredith and Steve Reich. Recent collaborations include Vivienne Westwood, Nike and Alexander McQueen from the world of Fashion and with musicians who inhabit the pop/ electronic and film music world, including Taylor Swift, Actress, Frank Ocean, Jonsi, Little Simz, Alex Somers, Thom Yorke, Justice, Kelly Lee Owens, William Basinski, Jed Kurzel, Jamie XX, Olafur Arnalds, Owen Pallett, Darkstar, Radiohead, Rival Consoles and Labrinth. Recent Conducting engagements include performances at The Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Centre, Royal Opera House, De Doelen, The Brooklyn Academy Of Arts, Philharmonie De Paris and The Sydney Opera House, as well as four appearances at the BBC Proms in the last three years. Robert has worked with many of the world’s leading orchestras including the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, L’Orchestre National De Lyon, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Scottish National Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra, Manchester Camerata, Moscow New Music Ensemble and Aarhus Symphony Orchestra.
About Ben Corrigan
Ben hails from Carlisle, Cumbria in the North West of England at the foot of the Pennines. A teen metalhead, he came to London in 2010 to study composition at Trinity Laban in Greenwich. At music college he discovered the joy of electronic music and experimented with ways to combine that with acoustic forces. Ben has worked with Robert Ames and the London Contemporary Orchestra, orchestrating and arranging for films (Honeyboy, True History of Ned Kelly Gang), concerts (Riceboy Sleeps, Erased Tapes X LCO, William Basinski) and recordings. In TV, he’s done additional composition for Isobel Waller-Bridge, sound design and synth programming for her Black Mirror score, and more recently been the music editor for composer Anne Nikitin’s score on the BBC Pale Horse series. Ben has a music podcast called excuse the mess (which won Bronze in the Best Arts & Culture category at the British Podcast Awards in 2019) -where he interviews other composers and then writes a piece together using just one instrument and electronic manipulation. The listener follows the whole composition process.