Nature is capable of more than we apprehend. We take for granted many things because they have originated outside of our understanding—they simply have always been. What if they began to take on new forms, sought new molds to fill? Would we take action or watch what we know evanesce?


Musical Eyes: Birkwin Jersey on Lo-Fi Photography

UK sample sculptor, Birkwin Jersey (or as his parents call him, Graeme Coop) has been hard at work this past year, releasing both an EP and LP on rising digital label Absent Fever. His sound is deceptively honest—organic, self recorded samples that twist and reverse under the precise influence of electronics; it’s a formula that’s setting him apart from other young producers. When I asked Graeme to share with us some of this visual inspirations it came as little surprise that toy camera photography was up his alley. His vision is clear.

In addition to sharing some insight into his sound, which includes some of his own photography, Graeme has gone above and beyond and composed a new track for this feature aptly titled, Think or Smile.

Birkwin Jersey – Think or Smile "Birkwin Jersey – Think or Smile"

Aesthetically, what attracts you to lo-fi photography?

For me, the imperfections really make the images. There is a certain honesty to them, really capturing a moment that otherwise would have passed in a way that couldn’t be replicated. The colours, even if they have been purposely manipulated, still have that element of chance which really brings the images to life.

Many of the images you’ve selected are double exposures, layering man-made with nature. How does this idea translate to your music?

I’ve always loved that juxtaposition of man and nature living beside one another like tolerant neighbours, like when you see the roots of a tree force it’s way up through the pavement. In that way I like the idea of combining acoustic instruments and found sounds with electronic production. Opposing the natural sounds of acoustic guitars and banjos with constant kicks in a regular pattern with some sloppy recordings of me hitting various objects, but set out in an almost mathematical way, l think it makes a nice balance sometimes.

Light leaks and color aberrations account for some of the ‘look’ of lo-fi, there’s beauty in the randomness. You’ve used many unconventional objects as instruments (lampshades, books, glass) which no doubt behave unpredictably, how important is the element of chance to your creative process?

It plays a pretty big part, so many ideas have started from accidentally moving a bunch of samples or playing a wrong note! In terms of sampling a lot of the sounds I use as percussion on tracks have been offcuts from other takes, like the noise of putting an instrument back or someone knocking on the door, everything has a sound, it’s just a case of recording it (intentionally or otherwise!).

I once sampled my cat purring with an idea to use it in pieces as bass hits in the percussion of a track, but the recording came out totally different, more like slow thunder, which gave the whole song a different feel and a whole new direction. I enjoy that unpredictability, going off on musical tangents gives the process an organic feel, if I actually managed to make the kind of track I originally have in mind it might not be so much fun!

With an overabundance of photo apps and the prevalence of easily accessible recording programs it seems it’s never been easier to get started in the arts, visual and sound alike. What advice do you have for someone just starting out, someone who may still be in search of his or her voice?

I’m still starting out myself so I’m not sure I’m qualified to advise, but I’d say listen to loads of different genres of music, and experiment!

If you’re not sure what kind of direction you want to go down, play around with combinations of styles to see what fits – you may only make a few tracks and then move onto something else but each time you’ll be learning different techniques and developing your sound.

With certain artists I like to think about what it is that really makes them stand out and what makes certain tracks feel the way they do, and try and learn from it. I used to try and avoid using constant kicks in any tracks as I saw it as being kind of obvious or lazy, but listening to the way Four Tet uses them in his tracks to give it a driving force made me realise that as long as it sounds good and fits with the song well there’s no reason not to do anything.

It does seem to be super easy for anyone to do anything creative now there’s an app for everything, but hopefully it will inspire people who enjoy making music or whatever to get involved and make something from scratch.

Thank you Graeme!

You can download Birkwin Jersey’s latest Old Hands EP and his full length Time Doesn’t Exist, Clocks Do for free on Absent Fever’s bandcamp or explore demos and older material on his soundcloud.

Images from top down:

  1. Graeme Coop – “Leaves”
  2. Graeme Coop – “Poles”
  3. Graeme Coop – “Houses”
  4. ina nasovich - ”Dryviaty Lake”
  5. Amy Fichter - ”deer, landscape”
  6. Semen Penya - ”science x art”



Free Music Collection: February 2012

Again it is time to bring our collection of specimens in from the cold, and collectively generate enough heat for them to bloom and cross-pollinate.

If you are a regular to this garden you’ll notice a plot missing. Nada, of Friends With Both Arms, has found herself with a bounty of new opportunity that needs her love and attention. Her presence here will be missed but I know she has nothing but good things on the horizon. Follow her progress or say hello @fwba.

Free Music Collection: February 2012

  • Lay Bac – Shortcuts: Deep cuts, and dancy vibes will cut you right to the core.
  • PORTALS Mixtape #1: Full of so many good jams you’ll wonder if good music super novas really do exist.
  • Beat Culture – Tokyo Dreamer: If beats could be friends, then this album would be full of some of your best. Oh an did I mention there’s enough Beyoncé samples to make you want to put a ring on it.
  • Flights – Anywhere But Where I Am: Sounds so sweet for the winter months. These folk introspections are meant for quiet nights and thoughtful mornings.
  • Magical Mistakes – Special Friends EP: Birthed in a small village in Japan, and drawn together by the power of the internet, this is some of my favorite electronic sounds around.
  • easily suede – Signalling: Drifting in and out of consciousness, these are some experimental sounds that touch the soul.
  • Handbook – Nomadic: The prolific producer is back with another album full of some of the sweetest hip-hop inspired beats this side of the internet equivalent of the Mississippi.

  • IN INDIA: Almost a year old, this meditative psych-soul set seems to have floated by without reaching nearly enough ears (or minds). Thanks for sharing, Tonje.
  • Birkwin Jersey – Old Hands: Graeme Coop’s second release with Absent Fever is another flurry in a very distinct snow globe of electronic.
  • Green & Gold: This is the first entry in a monthly No Fear of Pop column curated by Holly Friedlander Liddicoat of Australian blog East To West. Stream and read up on a number of promising artists from downunder, and leave with them all in a zip.
  • Coma Cinema – Stoned Alone (remastered): Stoned Alone ages well (it was an S&S favorite of 2010 and remains a very dear and isolated listening experience). Matt Cothran decided to remaster the album “with the intention of preserving the lo fidelity that it was recorded under while making it more vibrant”, so Stoned Alone has now literally gotten better with time.
  • Gem Drops Two: 20 forward thinking producers from the west coast beat scene get compiled into “an electric melange of uptempo and downtempo jams, hazy dream melodies, and space station future-flights.” Yes free, but any donations go straight to the American Cancer Society.
  • Zebra Katz – Ima Read EP: Ima Read Ima Read Ima Read, in five trance-inducing varieties.
  • Software – FADER Mix: Joel Ford and Dan Lopatin showcasing all the progressive sounds their label stands for in one long heady flow. Megafortress, OPN, Airbird, etc…

Support music you love. See shows, buy physical releases, show love.

Note: Due to bandcamp’s terms of service artists are required to charge a minimal price after a certain number of free downloads. If that’s the case after our posting you can always stream it and if it moves you, support them with a purchase.


Think or Smile | Nathaniel Whitcomb © 2012