For Shelley’s on Zenn-La, Oliver Coates designs a complex of bending truths and reverse walkways to vernal states. Open ears can peer down hidden aux channel corridors, while melodic patterns present two-way mirrors to rooms of other retinal colours. An endless euphoria is just beneath the dance floorboards of Shelley’s, and an inquisitiveness unencumbered by the institution of knowledge surrounding its frame and inhabitants.
Shelley’s on Zenn-La was made between the Elephant and Castle neighbourhood of London and a future dreamscape. In this realm out of time and space, Shelley’s (Laserdome) - a once-legendary late 80s / early 90s nightclub in the industrial town of Stoke-on-Trent in the north of England - can simultaneously exist on the fictional planet of Zenn-La, and can house a devotional, alien ritual of early UK rave culture, pioneering IDM, and deep minimalism.
Much of the album’s construction extends from specific, self-imposed ambitions; particular palettes applied to individual creative ideas. These limitations become limitless manifestations of theme: two bass lines running in parallel (one cello, one synth), synthesized waveforms phasing with bowed acoustic drones and chords, synth sequences in nonstandard tuning sitting against folk melody in standard tuning. Coates made a lot of the music for Shelley’s in Renoise, composing drum sequences in hexadecimal numbers and pencil drawn waveforms and cementing specificity in the intricate, intelligent dance machinations.
Some of Shelley’s tracks veer into and across FM synthesis. “I like hearing how one tone is enriched by another tone modulating the first, resulting in gleaming sets of new harmonics,” says Coates, “I started thinking about placing live cello playing into a chain of antagonism resulting in sounds I found beautiful.” This instinct to poetically process sounds in real life (“sitting on the tube, thinking: I’d remove the low end on that, compress that, add reverb to that”) give Shelley’s an exploratory feel, both guided and unbound, autodidactic by undoing.
Shelley’s opens with “Faraday Monument,” matching the enigmatic precedent of the Brutalist box in London the track is named after. chrysanthemum bear’s vocals oscillate over “A Church” singing lyrics to melt metal and minds. Large spaces adjacent to small enclosed ones house the voice of Malibu reading poetry within “Norrin Radd Dreaming.” “Cello Renoise” is built upon the image of two drummers playing to one click track as if in different booths. The great flautist, Kathryn Williams, recreated midi parts to end Shelley’s as a “Perfect Apple With Silver Mark.”
Cellist, composer, and producer Oliver Coates has studied at the Royal Academy of Music, been an artist in residency at London’s Southbank Centre, and received the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award. Coates has contributed to the recordings of Radiohead, and collaborated with Laurie Spiegel and John Luther Adams. He has also been commissioned for string and electronic arrangements by visual artist Lawrence Lek, recorded with composer Jonny Greenwood on the scores for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Phantom Thread and collaborated with musician Mica Levi on the 2016 album Remain Calm.