Using the basic building blocks of analogue generated loops
and minimalist drone, The Fractal Skulls weave subtly evolving patterns of
hypnotic sound to produce kosmische music that transcends the sum of its
deceptively simple parts. The man behind the Skulls is 24 year old High Wycombe
based Chris Smith, a studio engineer by day, whose recorded work first emerged
on a brace of limited edition cassette/CD-R releases in 2010-11.
His father’s job in the RAF meant Chris spent much of his
early childhood in Belgium and Germany, which maybe informed the Continental
drift of his later musical development. Eventually settling back in the UK, he
became involved in making music with various garage/psych bands at school,
before attending music college, where a free-thinking tutor turned him on to
the work of John Cage and Steve Reich, encouraging his compositional
experiments with tape loops and transistor radios. After leaving college, Chris
spent some time working with modern classical composer Marvin Ayres, before
landing his current day job, working (and living) at a studio ensconced in the
bucolic but isolated heart of the English countryside.
Drawing influences from the classic Krautrock of Cluster and
Harmonia, as well dub pioneers like King Tubby, The Fractal Skulls also bear
obvious comparison to some of the more recent artists who have done so much to
put analogue electronics back at the top of the agenda – names like Oneohtrix
Point Never and Peaking Lights inevitably spring to mind.
Key to The Fractal Skulls’ music is the use of repetition to
create an immersive and all encompassing sonic environment. While careful to
avoid grinding any axes against digital production, Chris is single-minded in
his adherence to analogue sound sources, with his musical setup currently
revolving around a core of synths, phaser pedals, echo unit, drone commander
and 707 drum machine. The Fractal Skulls is all about exploring the maximum
creative possibilities within a limited set of boundaries, relying on the
elements of chance and error that are inherent in analogue equipment to open up
new directions in the music.
“Sometimes I find records these days are too perfect –
being too obsessed with perfection means you lose the emotion and the humanity.
For me, there are always some mistakes you can almost write around, and after a
while they become central to the music.”
Early Skulls tracks that have already staked a claim to some
kind of indispensability include ‘The Transitional Phase’, on which ebbing and
flowing patterns of phased electronics are backed by an imperceptibly swelling
bass drone, and ‘Foreign Bed’, whose irresistible organ riff feels like a
perpetual motion device, pushing ever forward while somehow possessed by an
For Chris The Fractal Skulls is all about creating sonic
snapshots of moments in time, weightless and preserved for eternity, reflecting
the environment, circumstances and mood that produced the moment. Throughout
the recording of his forthcoming album, he has been documenting his ongoing
efforts by taking daily Polaroids of his work, equipment, and surroundings,
which will eventually form an archive of everything that went into the project,
each picture to be distributed as a one of a kind insert with early limited
edition copies of the record.
Chris is buzzing with ideas for future directions. He has
recently remixed some tracks for Croatian post-punk acts Hemendex and We Can’t
Sleep At Night, and intends to explore the possibilities of the remix further.
He’s also developing his live material, and is working on putting a band
together to expand the possibilities for The Fractal Skulls as a performing
unit. Other ambitions include recording a project entirely produced for
headphone listening, delving into the world of film soundtracks, and expanding
on the use of field recordings in his music – “I love the idea of using the
repetition in everyday objects and sound phenomena.” He has recently fixed up an old Roland
SH101 synthesiser, loaned by the studio where he works, and this is likely
to feature significantly on The Fractal Skulls debut album, due out in early
2012 on Subexotic Records.