Fact Mix 836: Sockethead
Sockethead stitches together a smoked-out selection of his own productions in a loose sonic narrative.
Central to the contemporary explosion of unbridled creative energy currently reverberating around Manchester’s electronic and experimental music scenes is artist and lecturer Richard Harris. Working across painting, collage and sound with the same expansive approach, his Sockethead project sees him folding found internet media, live instrumentation, field recordings, as well as both analogue and digital technologies, into his source material, sculpting a loose, exploratory sound that draws as much from outsider folk and DIY noise as it does from Detroit techno and DJ Screw. From sparking up against FUMU and Turinn as part of the Return To Zero collective to drifting in and out of the ever mysterious Michael J. Blood’s cult tape series, Harris’s ragged production techniques and somnambulist vocals are threaded through this new Manchester sound, breaking out into idiosyncratic, mutant forms on his singular debut album, Harj-o-Marj. Released during the pandemic but recorded back in 2018 alone in a caravan on the west coast of Scotland as part of an artist residency, the album stares bravely into the void of the psychological torment and self-sourced melancholy of isolation, wrenching back a well-worn set of makeshift tools for navigating the headfuck anxiety of lockdown.
Tracing a similar vein for his Fact mix, Sockethead stitches together a smoked-out selection of his own productions. “This mix is a journey into my practice of storytelling through sound,” explains Harris. “I have included examples of film scores that have been made in response to moving image, experiments in synthesis and wandering spaces. Performing live has influenced the sonics of this piece for Fact, harnessing chaos and moving constantly. It’s a letter home, to myself, and to my angels.” At once formal and iconoclastic, these cut up compositions demonstrate a reverence for foundational US and UK dance styles while always turning towards the rougher and weirder enclaves of club sonics, flitting between surging drum machine rituals and yearning, wasted soul, stretching skeletal dembows into peals of feedback squall and contorting the exhumed remains of grime instrumentals and screwed hip-hop into twisted, ouroboros sound design. But it’s in Harris’s lyrics that we might pick out his fractured narrative, which returns to themes of isolation and oblivion explored on his debut, shot through with situationist anguish and urban existentialism.
“It’s cold in the city when you’re on your own,” he intones. “It’s cold in the city when you’re loved ones are gone. It’s cold in the city when the night turns black. It’s the neon lights that kinda save me from that.” Blurred vignettes and snatches of dialogue gesture towards Beckettian cycles of surreal frustration and entropy ( “You didn’t need to do that / Why did you do that?”), pitch-shifted mantras suggest a creeping religious weight (“all good souls”) while Harris’s own crackled croon hints at sacrifice and desire (“love comes with its prices”). Ultimately Sockethead seems to exist in a liminal space between the quotidien drudgery of tough, neglected environments and moments of fleeting, narcotic transcendence, playing the songs of the in-between: “It’s cold in the city when you’re awake at night. It’s cold in the city if you keep getting high. It’s cold in the city when you want to escape. I tried it many times but the fear doesn’t shake. But instead I’m here flossing my teeth away.”
‘Improvisation_1’ (Score from a collaborative film with Joe Whitmore)
‘Well Of Gratitude’
‘Practicing Karate On Swans’
‘Fear Of Failure’
‘We Keep Moving’
‘My Teef Hurt’ [Feat. Baby Teef]
‘Cold In The City’
‘The White Hotel’
‘Priorities’ (Sample provided by Arli)
‘Yeah, The Healing Powers’ (Sample provided by Metal Preyers)
‘I Wish I Knew How To Get Rid Of This’
‘Lost Boy’ [Feat. Baby Teef]
‘3 Times A Week’
‘A Knife Is A Silent Weapon’ [Feat. Cloudboi]
‘Next to You’