Transparent Sound first came to my attention when Helena Hauff included the original acid mix of their 2016 release ‘No Call From New York’ – released on Billy Nasty’s Electrix label – in her Essential Mix two years ago. Becoming a staple in Hauff’s festival sets, it was only a matter of time that videos of her playing the record stormed the ID Facebook groups and subsequently, the Discogs price of the vinyl-only release has skyrocketed (there’s currently only one copy for sale at a price of £57). This face-melting production is only a glimpse into the work that one half of the project, Orson Bramley, has released over the last two decades – making him one of the UK’s longest running electro acts.
Growing up in Bognor Regis, there wasn’t much accessibility to electronic music, however, that didn’t stop Orson from immersing himself in the world of hip-hop and electro. A member of the legendary UK hip-hop/breakdance crew Severe Carnage, Orson also grew up on the wave of acid house during the late 80s, early 90s. With his two labels, Orson Records and Transparent Sound, Orson is very much a staple in the UK’s electronic music scene. Both platforms have become a go-to for the finest electro cuts and after an eight-year hiatus, Orson Records is back with the first EP from innovator Carl Finlow and more recently a tasty four-tracker from Mesak.
With so many exciting plans in the pipeline for both projects, we catch up Orson Bramley to find out more.
You relaunched Orson earlier this year with an EP from Carl Finlow. After 8 years of inactivity, what made you decide to relaunch now? What inspired this decision?
I’d taken some time out after Martin Brown’s heart surgery and him departing from Transparent Sound. I’d also moved to Brighton. I wasn’t excited about only releasing music digitally so I waited for the vinyl market to creep up and it did. Now I feel like it’s the right time to put out vinyl. More and more people/DJs want that physical experience with music, you can’t compare vinyl to a digital download.
Launching in 2004, how have you seen the landscape of record labels change over the years? Is there anything you’ve needed to do in order to keep up consumer trends?
To be honest I’ve never followed trends. I just put what I feel is good music.
How did the idea for Orson come about?
I kept on receiving demos and mixes from artists when I was touring. This made me want to set up a label for new artists and Transparent Sound releases. I wanted the Orson label to release all things electronic, not pigeon-holed into one genre.
Creating a tight-knit community within Orson, you aim to concentrate on a few producers and DJs – how do you decide who to release on the label?
Really for me, it’s all about the music. I find it hard to find music that doesn’t sound generic though. I like music where the artist has their own signature sound.
How do you differentiate between Orson Bramley and Transparent Sound?
Orson Bramley has a wider range of electronic music genres and Transparent Sound is more Electro/Techno driven.
Now when I think of Bognor Regis the only thing that comes to mind are family holidays to Butlins when I was a kid. What was the scene like there growing up? Any notable parties or collectives?
I used to DJ and rave at ‘’INTERDANCE’’ held in Worthing, the closest place to Bognor Regis. Wasn’t a lot to do in Bognor Regis, couldn’t wait to get out and move to London.
Growing up on both hip hop and electro, with the likes of Egyptian Lover playing a part in both worlds, why do you think the two genres work so well together?
Back when it all started the people of the scene were heavily into break dancing and two genres just worked together with the movement of what people were into. Since then the two genres have gone in different directions musically.
Who have been key influences over the years?
It’s hard to mention everyone who has inspired me along the way, here’s a few …. Plaid, Boards of Canada, Kraftwerk, Dre. Dre, Simulant, Drexciya, Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Claro Intelecto, Anthony Rother, Matthew Johnson and many more.
When it comes to your production process, do you have an ideal environment that you like to work in?
A clean and tidy studio is KEY without distractions such as phones, social media, and TV.
When it comes to releasing on other labels such as Electrix, Anecdote, Memory Box and Skull and Bones, how do you select who to release with? Do you usually have a relationship with the label beforehand?
I have to be into music the label is putting out, with all the labels I’ve released on, I felt that my music fitted well with each of the label’s vibe. The relationship doesn’t always happen beforehand, it’s a mixture.
Having been in the industry for 20+ years, have you ever experienced the ‘burn out’ and lost the drive and motivation for your label and music? Do you have routines to prevent this from happening?
Yes, I have felt burnt out, especially after an album. Long periods of listening to the same sort of music can cause ear fatigue so I like to break up my day by doing other activities such as exercise, cooking, getting away from the studio. Balance is key.
What have been some of the biggest changes you have seen over the years?
The biggest change for me was the shift of vinyl to digital. The use of analog gear to software synths. It’s constantly changing and flipping back. People dancing in clubs instead of fields. The commercialization of dance music. The millions of sub-genres that have been made. The list goes on.
Your last Transparent Sound release ‘No Call From New York’ is now £57 on Discogs with only one copy available, I was lucky enough to buy my copy last year before the price skyrocketed. But what are your thoughts on Discogs resellers? As you predominately release on vinyl, do you ever try to repress to avoid fans being robbed by resale platforms?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong in Discogs resale market but the only issue is the artist doesn’t get any of money. I did a repress on Pressure Trax for ‘’PUNK MOTHER F***ER’’ as that was going for £150. Anything will go up in value if there is demand and little available. It’s human nature. Vinyl is expensive to manufacture in large amounts and there is no guarantee it will sell out. Collectors will all pay over the odds to have an original first press copy regardless of a repress. Also, there is no guarantee the repress will sell out so it’s a bigger risk to make.
What are your thoughts on vinyl only releases as there’s been quite a discussion talking about the exclusivity of them and how listeners often feel that they’re entitled to a release?
I think the artist should be able to choose what format their music is released on. I believe that music has become too easily available and not valued which has a detrimental effect on artists and the scene. Today we live in a disposable society, releasing on vinyl only helps people move away from that mentality and back to appreciating good music.
Going back to Transparent Sound, we hear that you’re bringing the project back too, what can we expect?
New album coming soon, expect all kinds of heavy, light, spacey, weird electronic music….
‘Sata’ by Mesak is out now on Orson – buy here.