When I first stumbled across the online radio show ‘Adrift’ I was immediately intrigued by its premise; that of creating late night listening music using a collection of eccentric and beguiling titled acoustic and electronic noise making boxes. Names such as Leaf Audio Microphonic Sound Box, Assam Bells Horror Cinematic Noise Generator, and a Cometogetherasone Noise Box provided an irresistible draw. What I found inside though was sounds from another world; ambient with unexpected bursts of radio static, chimes and spacey sounds, all erupting with random unearthly tones and adding up to a genuinely organic and, yes, dusty sound (perhaps generated through the wonderfully named Finegear Dust Collector effects box) that has few parallels. Tracking down Adrift’s instigator, former Monochrome Set guitarist James ‘Foz’ Foster, I asked him what on earth inspired him to do this?
“I’ve been using the name Adrift over the past few years for performances that take place in unusual spaces where you wouldn’t normally expect a performance. Often the music is in response to, and includes sounds from, the location. The nature of the music is often, but not exclusively, ambient. It can sometimes get very noisy and atonal, mostly melodic, and is always a mix of electronic soundtrack with acoustic instruments (the odder the better); Musical Saws, Water Phone, Bull Roarers, Handbells, Shruti Boxes [eds note: I had to look that one up!] and Whirly tubes often feature. The performance is often durational, lasting several hours and the audience can drift in and out of the space when they choose (I’ve had people sit around for hours at festivals). The performance always includes interaction in some way. I’m very interested in the idea that music-making is something anyone can do (and if they put the practice in even better!). The aim is to break down the barriers between audience/performer. It is usually a free form musical journey. It could be described as soundtracks to the surrounding environment”
I just had to ask him too about those wonderfully named noise boxes and gizmos. The names are something else and are almost enough in themselves. He explains “The Leaf Audio Microphonic Sound Box, Assam Bells Horror Cinematic noise generator, Cometogetherasone Noise box, Waterphone, and home-made spring with plunger are all small boxes made of tines - springs and wires attached to a box with a built-in pick up. There are also small synths and effect boxes made by small (mostly one man) companies such as the Resonant Circuits Ouija Lab and Empathy Generator, Meng Q Wingie 2 and Wing Pinger, Blow studios hornet Pro, Error Instruments Cloud Buster and Sky Scraper and a Hyve Touch, all put through a Finegear Dust Collector analogue multi effects unit. You can buy many of these on Etsy and through their own websites. I have also used a Koma Electronic Field Kit - a small mixer with a built in Low Frequency Osillator and radio tuner with inputs for motion, light, sound and Magnetic sensors.” All of which sounds positively Steam Punk and terribly technical but once connected together and set in action, the result is a magical set of random and almost uncontrollable etheric interactions between these various boxes, almost as if they had formed their own band!
Adrift is not all that Foz keeps himself busy with either, having previously toured or recorded with Shock Headed Peters, Dave Howard Singers, Simon Fisher Turner, Hilmar Orn Hilmarson, David Tibet, Flux (OPI), and Gillie Bloodaxe amongst others. He has composed film and game soundtracks including for the game Lucius and the film ’The Bystanders’ (which has just won the audience award for best feature at Sci Fi London 2023), alongside outdoor soundscapes and experimental music performances, the most recent of which was in the County Mall Shopping Centre on 21 June as part of Crawley’s ‘Making Music’ festival.
As artistic director of Sawchestra, a band of musicians and artists using saws and other unusual instruments, he has also orchestrated numerous live and multimedia performances for the Barbican Bite/ Shoreditch Festival, Assemble (as part of the Create London Festival), London Sci-Fi Festival, Suspense Festival, and the Science Gallery London/ Frequencies festival, along with soundscapes, immersive sound walks, and installations for Our Place, Brighton Festival, Grist to the Mill, and Copperdollar outdoor arts company and has composed soundtracks for numerous films and for radio.
It is safe to say then that Foz is a multi-talented and highly original musician, but the only way to really appreciate what he is creating with all those insanely named and constructed little boxes is to tune in to the Adrift show (it’s available on replay on Totallyradio.com) and just let it run and run, or maybe even keep an eye out for a performance in your local shopping mall or outdoor arts festival!
Tune in to Adrift at https://www.totallyradio.com/shows/adrift