UK’s ambient producer, Robert Swords took some time to introduce himself on Hear Me Out. His Zen-influenced tranquil sound-scape is absolutely breathtaking. The artist kindly offered us the new track “New Years Bells” for exclusive streaming. Don’t forget to listen to the track below.
Hear Me Out: Robert Sword
Introduced by himself
My interest in composition started when I was six, around the same time I started learning piano. I would write down little tunes with titles like ‘I Wish I Could Swim In The Sea’ and ‘The Sad Story of Ben The Engine’, which I consider my Opus 1 (I can’t remember what the ‘sad story’ was, but the piece was a pastiche of beginner’s piano exercises). I also transcribed the theme tune from Tetris by ear and tried to pass it off as my own composition! I started seriously trying my hand at composition from the age of about 14 onwards.
There’s a bit of minimalism in there, melodies inspired by folk music, some unusual harmonic progressions and clarity of texture. I’m aiming for something that’s evocative and moving without being oversimplistic or evangelical.
When I was younger, we used to pop into a New Age shop in my hometown. I always listened to the samplers of the CDs from these specialist catalogues they used to have- music for meditation, whale sounds and such. A lot of it was quite simplistic, using out of date sounding synths and stuff. When I was about 13, I found a CD in one of the catalogues called ‘Zen Garden’ by the Japanese American musician and composer Masakazu Yoshizawa and his group Kokin Gumi. The album captivated me with its beauty and intricacy. The album’s been a huge influence on my own music and I’ve been trying to find or compose something like it ever since!
The late electronic composer Nujabes has been quite a big influence on me in recent years- I’m mesmerised by the way he brings in all kinds of disparate samples to create such a beautiful and rich tapestry of sound.
John Adams’s music has also inspired me greatly- particularly Phrygian Gates, Dharma At Big Sur and Tromba Lontana. There’s something otherworldly about the harmonies and structures he uses, and what really gets me is that I can never quite work them out from listening.
Also, it probably doesn’t come across much in my music, but indie and rock music had a pretty prevalent role in my musical upbringing.
Artists You Like
I really like artists and bands who aren’t afraid to switch up their formula and surprise people, while retaining a core musical identity. Neil Young is probably the ultimate representation of this ideal for me. I’m also a huge fan of Bombay Bicycle Club who are great live and on record. My favourite album at the moment (and it has been for a while) is One Way It’s Every Way by a little-known Australian gem of a band called Clue To Kalo.
I’ve been trying to start a band for the last 2 years or so, but it’s never quite reached the live stage! Maybe one day…
Hear Me Out
This one’s called ‘New Year Bells’. At the end of a year where pretty much everything seemed to go wrong at the same time, I was sitting with my grandmother, my cousin and my brother, listening to the distant church bells ringing to announce the beginning of 2005. I remember feeling a mixture of apprehension and hope and wondering about how things would progress from there. Over five years later I wrote the piece with that moment in mind (admittedly with the benefit of hindsight!).
Anything you want to add?
I run a soundtrack composition company called Contour Chromatic with my long term collaborator Giles Thomas. Get in touch if you’re making a film, directing a play, creating a videogame etc and we’ll hit you up with a soundtrack. You can find our portfolio and news at www.contourchromatic.co.uk