Howes’ debut album infuses swirling soundscapes, muted beats and nebulous bass into 43 minutes of forward-thinking electronic music. 'I used to struggle making stuff on a computer, but there's nothing the computer gives back' explains John Howes; 'I started making my own software to make tracks on, then I got into modular stuff and building my own bits of proper kit'. This is the genesis of John Howes aka Howes’ sound.
There is an admirable micro-trend of producers returning from software to modular synths. One such is 22-year-old Mancunian John Howes, whose debut album exemplifies the rewards of exploring such kit.He once dabbled in dancefloor-aimed material, but '3.5 Degrees' veers into gloopier, mistier territory. The 4/4 beat is there, but slowed down and faded out, so tunes such as the Pole-ish 'Source 000535' have a ghostly abstract power.
Delicate, sparse, occasionally transmogrifying; the debut album from Manchester-based musician John Howes is both back-lit and fugue-like, riffing upon solitary, nocturnal notions in 8-bit configuration, rather like that Commodore 64 you left running for so long it attained sentience. Fans of the Third Eye Foundation and Aphex Twin’s more intimate moments will recognise the sense of loose, bleached-out disquiet that comes with such articulate electronica; on tracks including OYC and the almost kinky Zeroset, it’s as if you can visualise the trails of modular synth experimentation, Howes trying out different ideas to see which best fits. Overt beats don’t appear until the sixth stanza, bass conspicuous by its absence pretty much throughout, yet whilst the themes can occasionally run away with themselves through lack of definite direction or concrete dénouement, 3.