Guest Playlist: Leafcutter John

Guest Playlist: Leafcutter John

SEPTEMBER '17

Photo: Rosie Reed Gold


John Burton, aka Leafcutter John, is an electronicist of the highest order. Since the late 90s he's been exploring the possibilities of recording and manipulating sound on a journey that's included award winning releases on Planet Mu, collaborations with a host of the finest in electronic music, and inventing his own light controlled musical interface. If that wasn't enough, he's also a key component of the twice Mercury Music Prize-nominated band, Polar Bear.

John started developing his light driven musical interface in 2010.  Since then he's performed extensively with it, including playing to a sold-out Roundhouse in support of Imogen Heap in 2014. John explains that he designed it "to make playing electronic music more gestural and fun. There is a board with sensors, which you play with light. It's lovely to play with other musicians this way because you can react quickly and everyone can really see how you're making sound."

Leafcutter John will be bringing his unique musical live show to Dalston's Cafe Oto on 24th September for Compositional Constructs - part of the mind-bending ten days of artistic innovation that is Unconscious Archives Festival. Compositional Constructs is an event that's set to showcase the vibrant systems of artist made technology and performance interventions.

Ahead of the show John put together a playlist full of personal stories of musical discoveries through friends and a genuine passion for sound recording, manipulation and experimentation. 


Bernard Parmegiani - Incidences / Résonances

Aphex Twin gave Mike Paradinas a minidisc of this and Mike played it to me sometime in 2000 on a London tube train. It was one of those ‘Ah ha!’ moments. It is all made with recordings of wineglasses and sine tones, sped up, slowed down and edited on magnetic tape. It sounds simple, but to make it back in ’76 was not a trivial task. Academic electronic music can still be beautiful!

Sebastian Rochford & Brian Eno - Dream Nails

Seb and I (along with Pete - see next track) have been in a band together for years. He’s an absolutely amazing drummer, writer and friend. I’ve learned so much from him about music and life over the years. He’s got an incredible sense of calm and wisdom about him and it seeps into his music in fascinating ways.


Melt Yourself Down - Fix My Life

I love the energy of this band live which is why I ended up producing and mixing this record. They are all incredible players but never get too fiddly which is rare and wonderful. Pete wrote some fiendishly infectious melodies which are delivered with wild abandon here. A super good band to go out and see live!

James Holden & The Animal Spirits - Pass Through The Fire

James' previous record, the prehistoric sounding The Inheritors re-ignited my desire to make electronic music. This new one was recorded live and it’s got a pagan trance feel to it. James always manages to make sort of musical equivalents of breathing or walking - deeply familiar without ever sounding like anyone other than him. May his music shuffle ever forward - magnificent!


Jade Rose - Public Library Modular Synthesizer Jam

I came across this video randomly. It’s made on a modular synthesiser which is owned by Lawrence Public Library in Kansas. I love what Jade is doing with it, really great sound choices and texture. What she’s creating here stands out from most other modular youtube vids because she’s creating wonderful music which happens to be on a modular rather than being all ‘look what I can do with this!' And….. What a great library eh?!

Pavement - gold sounds

If I don’t think about them, I know exactly what Pavement's lyrics are all about. Stephen Malkmus’ can create meaning just through delivery and tone. As soon as I try and think about the lyrics the meaning totally disappears. Isn’t that how quantum physics work?!

Beck - Cyanide Breath Mint  

I loved this album when I was in my 20’s. Sounds like it was recorded in a mouldy motel on a Playskool tape recorder. It's marvellous melody line and lyric fits the sound perfectly; ‘I’ve got a funny feeling, they’ve got plastic in the afterlife.'

eMMplekz - The Square Quill

Kai from Mount Kimbie pointed me to this and it’s just brilliant. Sharp, funny, dark, and totally filthy. Budding poets take notes.

Gold Panda - In My Car

This song is really good to listen to when you go running. Especially if you’re a slow as me. It’s gently encouraging without making you try and go too bonkers. The video is absolutely beautiful.


Leafcutter John plays Unconscious Archives Festival on 24th September at Cafe Oto.

Tickets and more information here.