Hailing from Rotherham, England, the music project known as Random… (Random dot dot dot) creates multi-textured synthesized music that ranges from dark and politically topical to catchy EDM. Born Ben Ellison, the enigmatic Random… describes himself thusly: “Random… is reclusive, innovative and slightly insane. Those lucky enough to have met him will testify that his view of the world is warped, dark, but always entertaining.” Who am I to argue with that?
In May 2016, Random… released an EP Headspace, which featured spoken words by poet Wayne Dyson, and in April 2017 he released a remarkable full-length album Out of the Strong Came Forth Sweetness, an ambitious work released through Velvet Moron Records. The album was produced with contributions from two poets, Gav Roberts and Wayne Dyson, along with guitarist Mr Jiggs. I reviewed the album, which you can read here. Now, Random… is set to drop a new album Long Ago When Tigers Smoked Pipes, also to be released on the 20th of August through Velvet Moron Records.
The new album is once again a collaboration, this time with poet Gav Roberts. They explained their working relationship and creative process for the album:
“Random… met rather, well, randomly and they clashed heads from their two very different fields of creativity almost instantly. Having a mutual respect for each other’s work, Ben appreciating Gav’s poetic ramblings and Gav in turn enjoying the unique sounds that Ben creates. They are very much 50/50 doing their own thing and not interfering in each other’s work. Ben doesn’t like writing words and Gav can turn any musical instrument into something with the musical quality of your average Ikea table.
Indeed, the vast majority of what Gav records are poems that would otherwise grow old in notebooks, never to be opened, so he is overjoyed that Ben wraps them up in music. Both of them are neither precious nor pretentious about their work, both believing that creativity is an entirely selfish process that a human must go through in order to ease the mental passage through this mortal coil. ‘Long ago when tigers smoked pipes’ is the Korean equivalent of ‘Once upon a time’ and that is what Random… have created, a story, a journey through their lives.“
OK, so let’s get into the album, shall we. The first track “The Possibility of 0 or 6” opens with spacey, sci-fi sounding synths and a monotone piano chord, then a pulsating beat ensues. The instrumentals expand into a melodic soundscape as Roberts describes a scene on a platform of a train station, where a woman becomes fascinated with a man pacing back and forth counting. “To wait, on a platform alone with him she feels cursed. Just her and the crazy finger-counter, counting numbers backwards, forwards on his fingers he counts. / So on and so on, til the initial fear she had when she first saw him turns to passive intrigue. / Eventually, one cancellation and several delays announcements later, a full 45 minutes after fear forgot … she observes the pacing man. He’s a friend of hers now. / She’s totally transfixed with the possibility of 0 or 6.” It’s a fascinating and mesmerizing track that seems shorter than its 4:11 minute length, holding my attention from start to finish.
“Gingerbread” is a dark track about a doomed relationship in which the woman tried to make the man into something he wasn’t – the opposites that initially attracted them to each other now repel. The ominous synths beautifully convey the biting resentment expressed in the lyrics: “Within months, I was on a choke-chain of my own making. Wearing clothes that you had bought me, dressed up like some kind of mannequin… I started looking like a really ugly ken doll as the gingerbread-cutting phrases came thick and fast. ‘You drink too much, you smoke too much.’ So Julie I drank less, and I smoked less, but what you didn’t realize was that the opposites were attracting less and less.”
“Supernova” is a hauntingly beautiful and epic track, with dreamy, otherworldly synths. Roberts speaks of going against all common sense and good judgment, submitting himself fully to the passionate urges of love: “I am carefully turning supernova. Here, in the rain. For I have stood here a time or two, thinking of you with a wish or two, chanced away upon a fellow shooting star. I must congratulate you. And I must conclude that I am joining them in their letting go of the ability to hold on to anything, never mind, everything, never mind plans. The scientists have advised against it, and they have done extensive research and they have told me to stop thinking of you this time or two. But, I don’t want to. I’ve told them to fuck right off.”
The lively title track “Long ago when tigers smoked pipes” has a rapid EDM beat that has a sort of African jungle vibe, replete with animal-sounding synths – but of course! It’s predominantly instrumental, but halfway through Roberts says “This party isn’t over, it’s merely changed form.” Then, toward the end, we hear an echoed voice state “Long ago, when tigers smoked pipes, there was a world that lived in harmony. Without war, disease.” It’s a great song.
“We Occupy” is a hard-hitting protest song of sorts, encompassing many aspects of the human condition from suffering to triumph, and everything in between. Here’s a sampling of the compelling lyrics: “We occupy the shit jobs, the shop floor shelf-stocking rat race. / We occupy fragility in nursing homes and hospitals. / We occupy the uniforms that treat our dying loved ones with respect. / We occupy lives senselessly lost to war. / We occupy an education system manipulated to manufacture robot people with robot souls. But we will not listen anymore. We have given up on your promise of a house on the hill at 2.4. We occupy free thought, free religion, free love, freedom of any kind.”
Roberts assures a friend or loved one of his unconditional support on “Let Me Know,” a brief track with a languid beat and wobbly synths that feels more like a soothing interlude. Next up is “Sometimes making something leads to nothing,” one of the more unusual and arresting tracks on the album. The track begins with strange, sci-fi synth sounds, then the music settles into a synth-driven melody with guitar, strong bass, and sharp percussion, the eerie synths continuing throughout the song.
The equally unusual and engrossing video shows a man pushing a large block of ice for what appears to be miles through the streets of Mexico City. As he continues on his journey, the block of ice eventually shrinks down to a small chunk, which he nudges along with his foot, until it completely melts away.
The final track “It depends on YOU” is a dire warning about the growing trend toward authoritarianism now happening in many parts of the world, including Europe and the United States. The dark, sinister-sounding synths really make the disturbing words seem all the more chilling:
In our world, there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph and self abasement
The sexual instinct shall be eradicated
We shall abolish the orgasm
There will be no loyalty except loyalty to the party
But always, there will be the intoxication of power
Always and every moment there will be the thrill of victory
The sensation of trampling on an enemy that is helpless
If you want to picture the future
Imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever
The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one
Don’t let it happen.
It depends on YOU
It’s a pessimistic end to a album that at first glance seems rather pessimistic on the whole, yet there are several glimmers of hope and optimism to be found. Random…’s masterful synths are the perfect accompaniment for Roberts’ dark but poetic words, and together they’ve created an enthralling and deeply contemplative work. The album will be available soon on many streaming and download platforms. Random… will give all of the profits from sales of the album to charity and is currently talking to a local independently run charity that helps people with mental health issues.
- The Possibility of 0 or 6
- Gingerbread Man
- Long ago when tigers smoked pipes
- We Occupy
- Let me know
- Sometimes making something leads to nothing
- It depends on YOU