Victorian Hardware: Muckyland (Victorian Hardware)
Conor Bradley, the man behind Victorian Hardware, gives Louder Than War the lowdown on his brilliant new album Muckyland.
Conor Bradley, aka Victorian Hardware, is a Wrexham-based artist who originates from the Athlone area of Ireland. He’s just launched his second album and took time out to give Louder than War the heads up on Muckyland and his musical pedigree.
Muckyland is an emotive and hugely impressive piece of work, a sinister, yet strangely reassuring trip into the dark recesses via the electronic output of this hugely promising artist. First track Liferaft sets the scene with a gentle but ominous beat that draws the listener into his imagination. Conor takes up the story of “a dark and wet coastal setting, waves crashing, distant lights dotted around the shore, clanging of ropes against masts and the faraway sound of cars stabbing through air. Out to sea I could picture danger. The adventure would begin when a local lifeboat captain would risk all to save someone’s life.”
Track two, Mudbath, may be inspired by the place that gives the album its name. “This was the nickname we gave a wooded swamp close to the primary school I went to in Ireland. Under a canopy of trees, it was dark with paths between pools of black murky water. Lots of adventures were had there and lots of school uniforms destroyed.” This trip back in the mind leads into a meandering collection of almost hypnotic tracks. There is the pulsing beat of the outstanding Purple Arithmetic, the Lake Vostock-inspired Sub Aquatic Whale Dance and the faint menace of Under The Walnut Floor. Chapel Izod references an area of Dublin, The Bullet and The Window are compellingly enigmatic while the album concludes with the dangerous allure of In Satin In Motion.
There is a more ambient feel to the tracks on Muckyland than anything that Victorian Hardware may produce live due to the challenges of performing that type of set in pubs and clubs and holding a crowd’s attention from behind a bank of synths. As he explains, Conor was drawn more to the rock scene. “Slotted in between rock bands there is a ready-made atmosphere where the mood is raw and hungry. I like the challenge of maintaining this and taking listeners further into a darker side, more so than the idea of playing to a dance floor. I’ve supported the likes of Ulrich Schnauss, Death in Vegas and Dreadzone but my favourite gigs have always been with up and coming acts. There’s a certain quality to a band that’s recently formed. They reach the point where it sounds like it’s all going to fall apart then rescue it just in time, it sounds raw and unrehearsed, fresh and interesting.”
There are a range of influences on Victorian Hardware as diverse as The Orb, My Bloody Valentine, Jah Wobble and Leonard Cohen. Conor is also keen to reference an obscure Irish act from the early-90s – The 4th Dimension. “They were a crazy electronic outfit from the back end of nowhere that came up with crazy, sometimes ridiculous tracks but there was something in there I hadn’t heard before. They made what they could out of what they had. That’s what I like in music.”
He also shared a fascinating insight into the mixing process of Muckyland. “My mother was 90% deaf all my life, she encouraged us all to learn music but she could never hear it properly. A few years ago she had a cochlear implant. The process of tuning it was similar to sound engineering – the implant was connected to a computer with similarities to electronic music. EQs were adjusted to boost/lower different sounds. Now she can listen to music. There’s always a reference required when getting the right mix on music, I’ve learned through playing my mother music directly into her implant which sounds can overpower and which don’t come through.”
The impact of this approach is clearly evident as the sonic charms of Muckyland envelop the listener. Without the reference point of lyrics, images race through the mind, a fact that Conor is keen to stress. “Being an instrumentalist I find it very important to choose the right track titles. I’d be lying if I said I always write music to match an image. This happens sometimes but often the image comes early into the process of writing the tune. Once the image is found the rest follows. I like to think of each track as an adventure, some sort of escapism. This can be quite dark but balanced with beauty.“