BAFTA-winning director Kieran Evans shoots a set of dance routines that can be performed both backwards and forwards for Erol Alkan and Richard Norris’ psych pop project
Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve is a psychedelic project helmed by Erol Alkan, the famed London DJ/producer who taught rock kids how to dance and dance kids how to rock, and sparring partner Richard Norris, an artist who amongst other things released an early UK acid house album with Genesis P-Orridge and sold a million records with The Grid.
Despite having been releasing remixes under the Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve name for the best part of a decade now, the duo are only just getting around to releasing their own album. The Soft Bounce trips through psych rock, dream pop, krautrock, and spaced-out dance music, with guest vocals provided by the likes of Euros Childs (of cult Welsh group Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci), Blaine Harrison (of past Alkan collaborators The Mystery Jets), and, on new single “Creation”, the lush tones of Jane Weaver and Hannah Peel.
The video for “Creation” is actually the third part of a series of five shorts that make up a And So To Sleep, a longform visual accompaniment to the album devised by BAFTA-winning director Kieran Evans. “The track has a great twisted psych/calypso feel to it topped off with wonderful vocals from Jane Weaver, and I immediately started thinking about some kind of weird dream dance sequences that could fit the rhythm and tempo of the song,” Evans explains, “Drawing on strange music and dance numbers that appeared in a few French New Wave films from the 60s and the photography of Arthur Tress, we came up with the idea of seeing characters in an unusual space moving in a peculiar way whether it be a reversed movement or choreographed gesture.”
“We approached choreographer Alexandra Green with our ideas and she loved the challenge,” he continues, “So over a few weeks she and her dancers devised a series of dance routines that could be performed backwards or forwards. Two weeks later on set and as soon as we started shooting the dancers we knew we had something special and very trippy – which was Erol and Richard’s only request.”
Watch the video for “Creation” below, and read on for a short interview with Alkan and Norris about their album.
As two artists often associated with dance music, what was it like working on ‘songs’ together on The Soft Bounce?
Erol Alkan: It was natural. My background is in songs – that goes back to being in bands from the age of 16 and usually being part of the songwriting process, so it all came quite easily. I’ve always enjoyed writing. I have hard drives full of songs and other music that I just never got round to finishing, or never found the right way of getting out there.
Richard Norris: It was a lot of fun. It’s always useful to have a great voice to work with, and we worked with some of our favourites. You need melody in most genres; it’s to the fore here, though.
Tell us a story about one of the songs from the album.
Erol Alkan: The title track from the album went through various incarnations across six years, before being completed in a few hours after throwing away all of the electronic parts and just plugging a guitar through all my old cheap guitar multi FX units from the mid 90s – stuff that a lot of people would probably not find attractive. But the sound that came from them was inspiring and helped finish the track in no time at all. Before that, all the expensive rare synths had been used, and it all sounded wrong. One of my production and creative mantras is to keep a healthy balance of high and low-end equipment, as you may sometime need those rubbish FX pedals.
Richard Norris: The last track features the voice and words of the writer Jon Savage. It was a joy to record his dulcet tones. He seemed very taken with echo in the studio. I got the feeling he would have liked to be in the recording booth all day – just him, the headphones, and the echo. He then recorded us a bunch of unbroadcastable announcements, which was nice.
“One of my production and creative mantras is to keep a healthy balance of high and low-end equipment, as you may sometime need those rubbish FX pedals” — Erol Alkan
How did you choose your collaborators?
Erol Alkan: They were chosen for different reasons. It really depended on each song and what it needed. I’m a huge Gorky’s (Zygotic Mynci) fan, so working with Euros Childs was a bit of a big deal for me. ‘Door To Tomorrow’ was influenced by our love of The Left Banke, and it made perfect sense. Blaine Harrison is a very close friend and it was great to work with him again – had totally forgotten that he is a bit of a one-take wonder. We liked Jane Weaver’s last album and felt the backing track of ‘Creation’ could be a good juxtaposition. In fact, most of the collaborations began with a ‘Wouldn't it be nice, if...’ idea.
What sort of things did you talk about with Kieran Evans when it came to making the films?
Erol Alkan: Nothing. We gave him complete control. We read the treatments, which we loved, and just told him to do whatever he wanted. I went to the edits for feedback, but other than that we agreed it was Kieran’s vision and he should be left to get on with it. We are really pleased with the result.
Richard Norris: We discussed certain films and influences Kieran wanted to bring to the project – Judex, Last Year At Marienbad, etc. It was great knowing we were working with someone with such clear vision and the ability to realise it.
What can you tell us about the video for “Creation”?
Erol Alkan: It’s my favourite video along with ‘Door To Tomorrow’. I'm quite in awe of how the girls learnt their moves in reverse, and I love the choreography.
Richard Norris: It’s the inside of Kieran’s brain made manifest.
‘Psychedelia’ is a word that’s often used and abused. What does it mean to you?
Erol Alkan: Going beyond your own limitations.
Richard Norris: Open-mindedness .
Phantasy Sound release The Soft Bounce on July 1