HOW TO BREATHE
RICK PIKE'S PARALLEL UNIVERSE
"Falling Out Of Buildings"
Directed by James Medcraft
As a singer, guitarist and synth aficionado Richard Pike has skirted the pure electronic world over a varied career. As producer of shape-shifting Warp-affiliated act PVT (aka Pivot), his downtempo project Deep Learning, and now as an now award nominated drama composer, he has always sought to avoid genre and expectation.
Richard Pike's new release is How To Breathe - a 'lost album' that took shape during a period of great change.
The album faces the transformation, displacement and acceptance of moving to a new phase in life. Other themes involve facing trauma of a loved one, making peace with death, and connection to a city environment - the psychogeographic effects on one's inner life.
An Australian in London, he felt the creeping ache of distance from across the world. “The album process was elemental, simple,” Richard says of the recording. “Lo-fi but elegant”. The lyrics of the immersive title track give a hint to his thinking: “When you leave your hometown, you gotta re-learn how to speak....When you leave the atmosphere, you gotta re-learn how to breathe.” The result is an album of bubbling analog nostalgia and richness, of wonky drums, and a voice which searches an almost absurd inner monologue. As with all his past work, here he balances experimentation and functionality.
The recordings began over 7 years ago, as a collaboration with drummer Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), where they recorded in London, Sydney and Los Angeles, during a tour together. Initial sessions were recorded with Cherif Hashizume (Jon Hopkins’ engineer) in Bow, London. Other sessions included Warpaint’s rehearsal space in Downtown Los Angeles and an office block next to the casino in Sydney. The songs were later mixed in England by producer Ben Hillier (Depeche Mode, Blur, Nadine Shah).
Richard tried to grasp what he calls a “zen approach to sound" and "not labouring anything”, and also wanted to touch upon “something cosmic” which in this case means plenty of nostalgic analogue synths, tasteful drum takes and bare vocals.
How to Breathe opens with Falling out of Buildings, a seductive contemplation about making sense of change, coupled with an absurdist video based around planking and fruit. It then moves on to songs like Flicker of Light, Don’t Hide in Your Heart Tonight – as well as MH370, an almost improvised ambient meditation finding peace with some unlikely source material. Golden Hours is a song exploring rejection and political power play, which was mixed by Norwich producer Luke Abbott.
The fastest track, the fever-dream of Memory Circa, is a metaphysical exploration of the impact of modern screen-life upon our reality and our desires. It features collaboration with Brighton dance producer Ital Tek, and a video by Jon Hopkins collaborator Dan Tombs.
The penultimate track Case Is Closed is about an accident that left Richard's partner hospitalised, where he became the primary carer, and the person responsible fled the scene. With hundreds of people watching on a busy London intersection, like characters in Will Self’s How The Dead Live, the man was never found, vanished into the urban milieu.
“The songs generally are about the void,” Richard says. “The unremarkable places you pass on the street. The big city looking down at you. It’s about the spirit of a place, the way it talks to you."
He settled upon the artwork by the incredible Nicholas Law, as it seemed to be a perfect representation of change and mutability. "Something you thought was solid could unexpectedly melt away before you. But it's essentially the same raw material. It's just mutated... and you have to go with it.”
Richard Pike was nominated for an AACTA award in 2018 for his first TV score for Romper Stomper (Stan TV, BBC Three). He has toured with PVT supporting Arctic Monkeys, Gary Numan, Warpaint, Sigur Ros and Gotye. Richard has also worked on sound design for London innovators United Visual Artists.