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Tim Giles

Bovine Mindstate

by Ian Mann

October 12, 2023


Iit makes for fascinating listening as Giles brings the two sides of his talent – drummer and electronic musician – more closely together than ever before. Absorbing and often compelling listening.

Tim Giles

“Bovine Mind State”

(Not Applicable Records NOT066)

Tim Giles – drums, electronics

“Bovine Mind State”, a title that is also being applied as an artist name, is the first solo project from the drummer and electronic musician Tim Giles.

I first heard Giles play back in the 1990s when he was the precocious teenage drummer (sometimes going under the name TG Fly) with pianist and composer Richard Fairhurst’s band The Hungry Ants. Signed to the Babel label the group recorded three excellent albums, “The Hungry Ants” (1995), “Formic” (1998) and Myrmidons (2001), all of which still sound good today.

In 1999 I enjoyed a performance by Hungry Ants at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, an afternoon show at the Subtone basement venue, that saw Fairhurst and Giles joined by regular group members Rob Townsend (saxes) and Tim Harries (bass).

By 2003 Hungry Ants had disbanded but Giles was part of a sextet led by Fairhurst that featured at that year’s Cheltenham. This group also included saxophonist James Allsopp, a musician with whom Giles has collaborated on many occasions since. 

In 2006 Giles and Allsopp were back at Cheltenham as co-leaders of the extraordinary international punk jazz aggregation Fraud. An incendiary performance at the Pillar Room venue saw Fraud’s regular line up, including drummer Ben Reynolds and the German keyboard player Philip Hochstrate, augmented by the extraordinary Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus. This line up (including Westerhus) toured the UK in 2007 in support of their eponymous debut album, also released on Babel, and I was able to catch them again at Warwick Arts Centre.

Despite the buzz that they had created the international nature of the line up meant that Fraud was a difficult band to maintain on a long term basis.  Allsopp and Giles re-grouped as the trio Golden Age of Steam alongside organist Kit Downes and appeared under this name at the 2009 Cheltenham Jazz Festival. GAOS has continued to work intermittently over the years with the line up extended to a quintet with the addition of Alex Bonney (trumpet, electronics) and Ruth Goller (electric bass). The group has released a total of three albums “Raspberry Tongue” (2010), “Welcome To Bat Country” (2012) and the Ivor Cutler inspired “Tomato Brain” (2020).

Even during the Hungry Ants days Giles was experimenting with electronics and electronic percussion. This aspect of his playing has since been brought to the electro-improvising trio Leverton Fox, which teams Giles with trumpeter / sound artist Alex Bonney and electronics specialist Isambard Khroustaliov. This group has recorded regularly and their 2022 album “In The Flicker” is favourably reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann.

Giles and Allsopp have recently been working with the electronic musician Ed Dudley under the collective name Well Hung Game, releasing the album “Exit The Feedlot” on Not Applicable in September 2023.

Giles’ electronics are also a key component of the music of vocalist Brigitte Beraha’s Lucid Dreamers group and he appears on the albums “Lucid Dreamers” (2020) and “Blink” (2022), both of which are reviewed elsewhere on The Jazzmann.

As a drummer Giles worked with (among others) vocalists Sara Mitra and Norma Winstone, bassist Dave Kane, pianists Myra Melford, Matthew Bourne, Andrew Button and Tom Hewson, trumpeters Art Farmer, Ingrid Jensen and Kenny Wheeler and saxophonists Iain Ballamy,  Charles McPherson, Peter Brotzmann, Bobby Wellins, John Martin and Ed Jones. He has also ‘depped’ for Martin France as a member of Perfect Houseplants.

He has also been an integral part of several long running ensembles, including saxophonist Tori Freestone’s trio with whom he appears on three albums for Whirlwind Recordings, “In The Chop House” (2014), “El Barranco” (2016) and “El Mar de Nubes” (2019).

The bassist in the Freestone trio is Dave Manington and Giles is also part of Manington’s sextet Riff-Raff and appears on the albums “Hullabaloo” (2012) and “Challenger Deep” (2018).

Giles was a key member of saxophonist Stan Sulzmann’s Neon project and was a member of both the Neon Quartet (alongside Sulzmann, vibraphonist Jim Hart and pianist Kit Downes) and the large ensemble Neon Orchestra. He appears on the Neon Quartet albums “Catch Me” (2010) and “Subjekt” (2012), both released on Edition Records.

Giles has also been part of bassist Riaan Vosloo’s Examples of Twelves group, trumpeter Robbie Robson’s Dog Soup and guitarist / producer Ben Lamdin’s Nostalgia 77.

“Bovine Mindset” sees Giles continuing his experiments with electronics, an aspect of his music making that has informed his work with Hungry Ants, Golden Age of Steam, Lucid Dreamers and particularly Leverton Fox.

Giles says of the project;
“The album was recorded at home over a period of five years. Initially it was a project for my own experimentation. After trying computers and reel-to-reel tape I discovered that the 4 track cassette medium suited me much better. I could just improvise and try things and the time limit of fifteen minutes per cassette was a great help in focussing the process.”

He continues;
“After a while I had a lot of improvisations that I could then add other sounds to or use more like samples and collage them together with other bits of improv, or a drum machine beat or live drums. When I had the drum sound I liked, using only two ribbon mics, I recorded new drums onto a lot of the older improvs, which glued a lot of ideas together.
This is the first album I have made of my own music. I feel it’s different from any other projects I’ve done. It’s not jazz in any conventional way and it’s not an improv album. The closest thing I’ve done to this is the album ‘Machines of Loving Grace’ with Matthew Bourne and Nostalgia 77. The music on this album has longer forms than ‘Machines’ and the cassette format gave it more limitations in a way, but those limitations are what shaped the sound. The album is the start of a new musical journey for me that is shaped by all the jazz and improv and other music that I’ve played over the last twenty five years or so but puts the emphasis more on sound textures and beats as opposed to melody and chord structures. The sounds themselves are the focus”.

Helping Giles to realise his ideas is Sam Britton, his colleague from Leverton Fox who works in that outfit under the name Isambard Khroustaliov. As Sam Britton he mastered the “Bovine Mindstate” album at Coda to Coda in June 2023.

Giles’ brand of electronica mixes analogue and digital sounds and draws on a variety of influences including electric era Miles Davis, the dub of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry,  the music of pioneering electronic composer Daphne Oram and the industrialised synth dub sounds of bands such as Cabaret Voltaire. It’s a style of ‘old school’ electronica that should hold some appeal for fans of 70s Kraut rock and 80s synth pop. With the focus on atmosphere and texture it certainly isn’t rave music, techno or EDM.

The album commences with the track “Bovine Mindstate”, which contrasts slowly arcing melodies with electronic and percussive glitches to create an immersive electronic soundscape that somehow manages to be both calming and unsettling at the same time.

“The Cow Creamer” is more rhythmically focussed and takes inspiration from the German electro-punk duo D.A.F. Some listeners may also discern a Kraftwerk influence in the sounds of bubbling synths and electronic percussion.

“Buckley’s Dub” is named for the British saxophonist Steve Buckley, a musician Giles regards as a kindred spirit. This is another highly rhythmic piece with a skittering dub like groove topped by the sounds of joyfully bubbling synths. Former Loose Tube Buckley sometimes used to play penny whistle in that band and there are snatches of high pitched synth melody that sometimes seem to allude to that, at least to these ears.

“Water Feature” features beats imitating the sound of dripping water, these sounds being juxtaposed against other rhythms, variously generated via electronics or kit drums. Melodic motifs also emerge, floating above an increasingly insistent and dubby groove. The overall effect is to create a music that sounds variously aquatic or spacey.

“At Night The Day Is Done” has an appropriately nocturnal atmosphere with a brooding synth pulse topped by electronic sounds that simulate the chirping of insects. Later resonant, chiming sounds approximate the tolling of church bells, with Giles manipulating these ringing sounds and pulling them out of focus. The overall mood is disturbing and unsettling, but simultaneously strangely calming, much like the title track.

The title of “After Spiegel” pays homage to the American composer and music software pioneer Laurie Spiegel (born 1945), with Giles citing her 1980 album “The Expanding Universe” as an explicit influence on the music of “Bovine Mindstate”. There’s also a minimalist influence in the sequenced synth patterns and some listeners may also be reminded of the German group Tangerine Dream. The eventual addition of kit drums brings additional rhythmic heft as the piece continues to unfold, gathering a seemingly unstoppable momentum in the process as the rhythms become more dense and complicated. This is the lengthiest track on the album and the drums and percussion fade in and out as the piece passes through a series of distinct phases featuring contrasting dynamics, before eventually reaching an increasingly dystopian conclusion.

The album concludes with “Country Blues”, which introduces the sound of sampled birdsong, the bucolic qualities that this brings contrasting effectively with the chilly, alienating ambience of the accompanying electronica.

Despite Giles’ reputation as one of the UK’s leading jazz drummers this is emphatically not a jazz album.  Nevertheless it makes for fascinating listening as Giles brings the two sides of his talent – drummer and electronic musician – more closely together than ever before with the sounds of the drum kit expertly integrated into the electronic soundscapes. With the emphasis on sound and texture Giles and Britton have clearly put a lot of thought and care into these sound collages. It’s not music that will suit all ears, but I found it to be absorbing and often compelling listening.

“Bovine Mindstate” has also captured the attention of radio broadcasters and has received airplay on BBC Radio 6’s Gilles Peterson and Riley & Coe shows. It has also been featured on the Bandcamp Weekly show.

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