The news that Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones were going to release an album as Sunroof, a name the pair had previously used for remix collaborations, caused much excitement when it was announced earlier this year.
The pair’s influence on electronic music really needs little introduction. From the release of Daniel Miller’s first solo single as The Normal, the debut release on his legendary label Mute, he has shaped the perception of electronic music in Britain and, with his guidance, bands such as Depeche Mode and Erasure have become genuine superstars. It was with Depeche Mode that Miller and Jones first worked together when Jones was brought in to work on the band’s landmark 1983 album Construction Time Again. The pair then produced the band’s next two albums, Some Great Reward and Black Celebration, creating a trilogy of works that gave Depeche Mode a platform to become multi-million-selling recording artists.
Gareth Jones has produced and remixed countless bands, and his innovative production work has stood the test of time and occupies a lot of space in many people’s collections, mine included. Jones released his first solo album, the wonderful Electrogenetic, in 2020, and the release of the debut Sunroof album less than twelve months later is an ideal companion piece to that release.
Electronic Music Improvisations Volume 1 was recorded in 2019 following a series of improvised sessions using modular equipment. The pair were keen to keep the sessions under control:
We decided to get together to do a bunch of improvisations,” explains Gareth. “We said we’d work in a number of different physical spaces but always together, in the same room. We were keen to do shorter pieces because we were both very inspired by Chris Carter and Martin Gore’s electronic music projects, where the pieces were very concise and compact.”
Key to their manifesto was a distinction between improvisation and a jam session. “With modular systems, you can go on and on forever and never actually complete anything. Sometimes that’s okay – part of the joy of a modular is that you can keep going indefinitely. But with this, we were keen to actually finish something, so setting that timeframe became a really important rule for us.” adds Daniel.
These strict rules have been of great benefit to the album. While the pieces are improvised, each of the album’s eight tracks are focused and in each one, you can feel the sense of kinship Miller and Jones have come to the fore. They react to each other’s improvisations and produce an album that feels experimental yet has a warmth that gives the album an atmospheric feel that grips you from the beginning.
The standard is set from the opening drone of 1.1 – 7.5.19, and the album maintains that standard to the end. 1.2 – 30.5.19’s sparking electronics bring to mind Kraftwerk’s Radioactivity album, as does 1.3-30.5.19, albeit at that album’s darker, outer edges. 1.4 – 18.6.19 is perhaps the track you might have expected from this album, a bold electronic piece with a distinct nod to the more experimental early 12” remixes on Mute. The feel of early electronic experiments fills the album, and these masters of their craft succeed in making this album a powerful, quite wonderful record.
This album promises a lot, given the reputation of the two men involved, and it is no surprise that they deliver a release of this quality. Let’s hope Sunroof continue to collaborate and that volume 2 is not too far away.