'Suburban Relapse': The House of Bedlam Goes Punk

14th May 2021

Features NMC Recordings

Composer Larry Goves gives us an insight into how a post-punk song came to inspire a track on his most recent release with The House of Bedlam

Larry Goves is a massive fan of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Or at least, he used to be – he hadn't listened to them for a while until lockdown hit in March 2020. Like everybody, Larry found himself at home, with "not more time on his hands, but different time on his hands", turning to his music collection for normality and nostalgia when the world outside was in turmoil. 

One song by the post-punk pioneers resonated as particularly topical for Larry as he delved into their back catalogue from his home on the outskirts of Manchester. Released on their debut album in 1978, Suburban Relapse is a jagged, fizzing portrait of provincial frustration: 

I'm sorry I disturbed your cat-nap
But whilst finishing a chore
I asked myself "what for"
Then something snapped
I had a relapse...a suburban relapse
I was washing up the dishes
Minding my own business
When my string snapped
I had a relapse...a suburban relapse

In an interview with Mojo in 2014, singer Siouxsie Sioux spoke of suburbia in terms of being "stranded...left alone to create your own environment and use your imagination…we were all marooned on the outside." It was in similar creative conditions that Larry was putting together the music for what would become Enclosurethe latest album from his musical collective, The House of Bedlam. Forced apart by lockdown, the album reflects on what it is to play together and to play apart, and this post-punk meditation on isolation was source material that was too good to resist.

As well as being thematically inspiring, Larry found himself being influenced musically by the punk banger. "They’re a great band, really tight, but the song's also kind of rhythmically all over the place – partly because they’re a punk band and partly because it’s just a really organic recording. It’s everything we weren’t doing, the opposite of a click track, it ebbs and flows and breaths..."

To create the album in lockdown involved a lengthy and labour-intensive process with each member of the ensemble recording their parts remotely from their homes, and sending their tracks to Larry to edit and mix. Larry found himself experimenting with the control this way of working gave him, manipulating the sound. This in turn found its way into his composition of the music itself which explores "playing in obsessive unison, playing entirely independently, composed after the sounds were recorded, and in one case downplaying the importance of the instrumentalist entirely."

Larry experimented with harnessing the raw energy of the Siouxsie and the Banshees track, playing with the polar opposites of the precise accuracy involved in recording to a click track, and the chaos of punk. Taking the opening chords of the song, he scored aggressively played unison chords that gradually pair off, before leaving everyone on their own, or "stranded".

"I didn’t really make it obvious how long each note should last, and the players are choosing their notes – the score is a cluster of notes and they’re choosing from within that. When it breaks apart, the music is still really careful and co-ordinated, but they just get on with it and do their thing. Everything on this record was done in post-production essentially, which was a bit of a joke. And that kind of felt like it was a bit of a punk thing, they could just let go and do their thing."

Enclosure by The House of Bedlam & Larry Goves is available from the NMC Shop and across all digital platforms

Enclosure by The House of Bedlam & Larry Goves

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