Effortlessly blending orchestral atmospherics with stepping drum & bass, Bristol-based Circumference have uniqueness at the core of what they do. Finlay Freshney-Lee (Freshney) and Kit Jones, who make up the duo, have been steadily building up a following since their first release in 2020. There is a deep level of maturity to their music which incorporates the energy required to create a vibe on the dancefloor, as well as a solid flair for experimentation and diversity. With their new four-track EP Ambivalence due to out on Flexout Audio this month, we caught up with them to discuss their history, influences and current sound.
What is your musical background?
Fin (Freshney) – I suppose my musical background probably dates back to what my parents were listening to (and still do). They’d always play stuff like Joy Division, Public Image Limited, Killing Joke etc. My dad also plays the guitar so I’ve always been surrounded by the creation and performance of music to some extent. Strangely though, some of the most important musical backgrounds for me is the 2012-2015 era of dubstep and general bass music. That’s what got me into music production for sure, although it’s not so much what I’m into these days. I also play a tiny bit of piano, not very well though. I’m still very much learning.
Kit (Bones) – For me, it definitely stems from my dad’s CD and vinyl collection. I think in 2010 I discovered Daft Punk’s first album ‘Homework’ whilst rifling through all these CDs. My nan was extremely musical as well, always trying to inspire my mum to start learning the saxophone and even bought her one for her birthday, it remained under her bed for many years until I claimed it (I’m still an awful saxophonist).
How did you get into the drum & bass scene?
Fin (Freshney) – I think it came from the fact that I was already into bass music before I got into drum & bass. I’d say Noisia was really what kick-started my interest in drum & bass. They had been weaving between different genres for years, so naturally, I had stumbled across them, but it wasn’t really until I started digging into their discography that my tastes really started to shift towards drum & bass.
Kit – I only really discovered the drum & bass scene at the start of college in 2017, so I’m quite a newcomer. As college progressed I started to discover more influential artists such as Culprate, Phace and Mefjus, which in a way helped develop a more eclectic taste in electronic music.
Who would you cite as influences?
We have quite a few influences between us but most notably would probably be Noisia, IMANU, Radiohead, Jon Hopkins, Floating Points, Visible Cloaks, Disclosure… You can check out our Spotify playlist that we curated for Flexout for more!
If you had to classify your current sound, what would you say?
That’s a hard question. We know it’s quite cliché at this point, but we try quite hard to not box ourselves in, so trying to classify ourselves is quite tricky. In a nutshell, I suppose you could say we make strange and musical electronic music, but we’re still not sure that quite cuts it, haha!
Okay, talk us through the tracks on the latest Flexout offering.
Ambivalence came about from us wanting to explore how an orchestral track would work in a Drum & Bass context. It originally started from us trying out making a cello oriented piece, inspired by the work of Hildur Guðnadóttir. This soon developed into a much grander sounding piece when we started to figure out how it would work in the context of a drum & bass ‘drop’. Further down the line, we added in the Armenian Duduk, tying the beginning of the EP to the end.
Chum derives from us wanting to pursue a slightly more stripped back, ‘clubby’ oriented track. We wanted it to be a sort of exercise in the use of empty space and seeing how little we could get away with. We decided that it would be quite a natural direction to incorporate some silly ad-lib-y vocals. All of the ad-libs were just us saying random words into our phone microphones. For some reason, the word ‘Chum’ resonated with us, don’t ask us why. Given the nature of the track, saying stupid stuff into unprofessional recording gear seemed totally appropriate. At the time of making it, we were feeling inspired by tracks along similar lines to ‘Mr. Robot’ by The Sauce. We were really impressed by how simple it was whilst managing to have such a catchy and memorable musical idea. We went into making ‘Chum’ with the same ethos and we are really happy with the result!
Submerged revolves around a dystopian use of chords with slight pitch bends which slowly evolves into a halftime end section. This track is the oldest within the EP, it was started around 15 months ago and we only picked it back up around December 2020, reworking some elements to make it more musical which fits our current style of production.
Finally, then, there’s I’m Warm. Funnily enough, ‘I’m Warm’ was originally just a working title. We were working on it with the intention of giving it a proper name, but we actually ended up warming to it (excuse the pun!). For some reason, it just felt entirely appropriate, we’re not sure why. The development into the second section of this track is probably our favourite, again in the last segment the Armenian Duduk returns, layered with warped vocals and dissonant muted trumpets.
So, what does the future look like for Circumference?
We’re up to quite a lot at the moment, as Circumference and with our solo projects (Freshney & Kit Jones). Now we’ve completed the Ambivalence EP, we’re making a start on our next batch of tunes. It’s a bit too early to mention exactly what our next projects will be but we can certainly say that there’s lots of new music in the works!