If the image of a rhizome, in which any point is connected to any other, emerges in Tom Knapp’s productions, it does so for an instant only. His productions enter into an uncertain space, between a network of roots and arborescent order, producing works energized by nomadic quality.
In more ways than one, Tom Knapp has been active in the United Kingdom underground music scene since the late 1990s, as a DJ, musician, label owner and promoter for the Leeds-based electronic music night Vector. In 1998, near a high point in post-digital music, Tom along with Alexander Peverett, Joe Gilmore, Paul Emery and Ed Martin, formed Vector to showcase new developments in sound in Yorkshire. As Vector, the collective were resident DJs at the Sheffield-based Lovebytes Festival in the early 2000s for events that featured Autechre, Richard Chartier, Haswell & Hecker, and Oval, to name a few.
The chance meeting of - and collaboration between - Tom and Alex also opened up a new configuration for both to explore their interest in programming, remixing and sampling as the two formed the Mortal & Chemist duo. Together, the two released recordings, including ‘Supermechamaximegamegablast’, for the seminal Skam Records label, marking a place among Tom’s earliest audio works. The leftfield duo was perhaps best known for performing live at the Autechre-curated ATP 3.0 in Camber Sands, in 2003.
In 2008, following a stay in Japan, he began the Icasea label with Satoshi Aizawa and Alex. Like Vector, Icasea was initially conceived as a collaboration that featured its founders as core members around various configurations of external collaborators, though in time, it morphed into a label and extensive blog. Icasea became the nodal point in the development of Knapp’s solo audio works, providing a framework for him to experiment with digital synthesis driven by hardware sequencers. He adopted the Skeksi moniker, under which he released a seven-track compilation of recordings from live performances for the Feral Tapes label. Icasea announced a hiatus in 2014, prompting Tom to start the Meds label with Anthony Locke.
Knapp has collaborated with Chris Douglas (Dalglish), Joe Gilmore (3.14.., Plank), Kouhei Matsunaga (NHK’Koyxeи) and Alexander Peverett (Team Doyobi). He is currently in PKKT, an electroacoustic improvisation duo, inflected by tape edits with Kieron Piercy (Spoils and Relics). He has performed live alongside the likes of Rashad Becker, Pimmon and SND, among others.
Tom Knapp’s Ge-stell debut ‘Mophoc Rez’ unfurls through hard edit juxtapositions and morphological destablisations, combining the nuances of free-time electroacoustic improvisation with well-tempered granular tactility. In each computer based composition, various planes of spectral gradation intersect with otherwise dormant frequencies. ‘Mophoc Rez’ produces intricate reticulations, recurring digital malformations and an asymmetrical topography, in which a decisive event might occur anywhere in its borderless terrain.
Text: Cameron Shafii
Photo: Mat Steel