As a cultured mental health support worker and aspiring pioneer of the region’s digital arts diaspora, it comes as no surprise that distinctive Liverpool producer LING is nose deep in R. D. Laing’s watershed existential work of 1960, The Divided Self. By arguing that psychosis is not a medical condition but an outcome of the “divided self”, Laing aimed to make madness comprehensible, and in doing so revolutionised the way we perceive mental illness.
“Why is this relevant?” you might ask. A symbiosis of academic interests and artistic output is integral to understanding the inner workings of LING’s sound design. The Merseyside-based producer has just released his debut EP – Attachment – on CODES, a joint-venture label and offshoot of the venerated PAN imprint. Attachment reboots the hyper-explorative sound design to which LING has dedicated his existence, while hinting at our near-metaphysical relationship with the datascape. The effect is a holistic and wholly hyper-real plunge through found sound and the decision-making cortex of a creative brain.
This sense of continuity is of great conceptual significance to LING, if not for the sake of his own “ontological security” then for the greater good of his art. “I like the idea of being able to merge my work and creative practice,” he muses when pushed on the subject. “The more transparent I can be with my interests, the less negative interference will seep into the recording process.”
LING initially moved to Liverpool as Jacob King, to pursue a degree in Audio Production at the pioneering Sound, Audio and Engineering Institute (SAE). The sound-centric course focused on abstract theory as well as a heightened awareness of how signals are processed and enhanced in production. It was during his studies at SAE that Jake developed the golden ears that guided the aesthetic choices under his esoteric producer alias LING.
Further to his artistic development, he shared a hall of residence with (soon-to-be) Music Producers Guild Award winner and long-term collaborator, Chris Pawlusek. Jake also co-founded the envelope-pushing avant-pop ensemble Ninetails; his role in the band’s colourful and cathartic releases, such as 2014’s occultish Quiet Confidence, inevitably shaped the creative impulses that course through his productions today. Yet, it was conspicuously apparent that Jake possessed the capacity and emotional ingenuity to explore his own creative agency. His first release under the LING moniker – a masterfully decimated, penumbral grime number – was enough to capture the imagination of the cream of subverted clubland.
Though it would be nigh-on impossible to paint an accurate portrait of the label’s many sonic facets, the near-universal high regard in which PAN is held points to a growing audience for music that is both inventive and enigmatic, even if that necessitates the listener venturing towards the challenging side of the musical spectrum. With releases ranging from the beguiling musique concrète of Helm to the complex modulations of Keith Fullerton Whitman, PAN exposes a diverse audience to seminal inspiration.
In 2015, Kouligas revealed he was teaming up with PAN resident Visionist (aka Louis Carnell) to a launch a new sub-label named CODES. Building on the work of Visionist’s grime-focused imprint Lost Codes, the subsidiary has released Interference from key discoveries Acre and Filter Dread, as well as Demonico by Chilean-cum-South London producer Kamixlo. On Friday 5th February, LING became the third artist to be anointed by the revered offshoot.
LING initially caught the attention of Louis Carnell with his 2014 release Anthracite – an aggressive, instrumental icebreaker that was primed to appeal to the purveyors of outsider grime. Carnell is, of course, well acquainted with moody melodies and nocturnal atmospheres: his own 2015 PAN release, Safe, is a static-crushing ode to anxiety. LING’s new EP Attachment is a similarly brooding collage of therapeutic production. Constructed from a collection of both field recordings and web audio, Attachment is an experiment in decision-making that makes loose connections between data manipulation and habitual mental tendencies.
“It’s super introspective,” explains LING of his jarring debut. “I became obsessed with the decisions employed throughout the creative process. I was questioning why I made things and gradually deconstructing what had informed these choices.”
Examining past projects has evidently afforded LING a stronger idea of his own instincts: the heavily processed sample material was compiled from recordings collated over the last four years. Attachment, in this sense, takes on a wider meaning, referring to recurring choices that didn’t necessarily resonate in the moment, but somehow remain engrained in creative compulsion.
“Found sound is important. I always have the idea that I want to incorporate a natural element to the track, but then I never commit to that,” LING elaborates. “I like playing with effects and warping too much. With the browser recordings, I’m usually looking for something subtle that can function as a timestamp.”
Attachment’s opener, Thuril Whir, is indicative of these found sound inclinations. Vapours of glacially drenched futurism are peppered with familiar glitches and tonal nods to the computer literati. The ubiquitous influence of Oneohtrix Point Never is present, as the crushed descent of metallic sounds evokes the vision of a Bitcoin downloaded and gyroscopically deposited through the fabric of the internet.
44 Blue is the most striking impasse on the EP; a playful yet melancholic composition that swirls with dynamic sound design and teases a broken melody of defiance. LING hopes the track creates “a specific shade of sorrow” that connotes an effect of disorientation through overload.
The granular odyssey continues through the EP, as Jezmonite brings reconstructed references to UK dance culture, while EP lynchpin Canthem indulges in a grapple of intelligent grime abstraction. The result is a soothing discombobulation that tangibly induces an out-of-body club experience.
Attachment proves an organic addition to the extended Lost Codes family, the focus of which has been to shine a light on undiscovered conceptual artists on the fringes of the experimental nexus. If you’ve ever been enraptured by the remarkable high fidelity of MESH or Visionist productions, LING now stands alongside them.
Attachment is out now on CODES, available to buy from p-a-n.org.