Rian Treanor‘s music twists the explorative complexity of software-driven sounds with artistic flair and an unapologetic appreciation for underground soundsystem culture.
The son of installation artist and musician Mark Fell, Treanor’s work offers up a similar listener experience to the work shared by his dad. Rich in references and playful hues, releases such as his debut The Death of Rave white-label ‘A Rational Tangle’ nod to both his visual art background and his Northern upbringing, demonstrating his club-driven approach to computer music in soundbite snippets. Treanor shared two more projects on The Death of Rave (‘Pattern Damage’, ‘RAVEDIT’) as well as an EP on Warp sub-label Arcola (‘Contraposition’).
Away from music, the Yorkshire-born producer previously flexed his artistic prowess working with the likes of Enjoy Art Space in Leeds as a curator. He also hit up Berlin’s Dubplates & Mastering to study alongside Andreas ‘Lupo’ Lubich. It was ‘Lupo’, says Treanor, who taught him the “importance of reduction”.
Throughout his career he’s travelled globally for live performances, installations, DJ sets, residencies and more. In fact, Sheffield’s Hope Works recently locked in Treanor as a 2019 resident. Elsewhere in 2019, Treanor signed to Planet Mu to release his debut album ‘ATAXIA’. The intrepid full-length has been described as “more focused and stricter, in terms of the track selection and the rhythmic structures” in comparison to Treanor’s earlier EPs. It sees Treanor offering up a conceptual record that keeps an electric current of excitement running through its core – an LP that will delight everyone from front left ravers to armchair appreciators.
How important was growing up around Sheffield in terms of developing your style and your ear as a producer?
It was definitely important. When I was younger, a lot of my friends were really into music. We all had quite weird taste, but a lot of kids were into metal. I was never in bands or stuff, but when I started going to more free parties and things like that I got into electronic music, and luckily there were some quite crazy parties going on around here at that time. There were still parties in warehouses in the Peak District and things like that so those were my first real concerts in a way.
For our readers who aren’t aware your dad is Mark Fell. When did you find out more about the work he was doing with music and art and technology?
I knew he made music, but it was probably after I were going to these parties, when I started collecting records and learning how to mix. I was getting into more techno, ravey stuff and thinking, ‘Oh this is related to what my dad's doing’. I started researching it a bit more, listening to all his records and stealing all his records. He’s got loads of music, weirder music, and I wouldn’t have come across it otherwise.
Clearly when you were younger you were influenced by what you listened to if you were stealing his records. Do you think as an artist yourself now that influence is still there?
Yeah for sure, he's had a big influence and it comes across in what I do. I think the things we make are an extension of our influences and my music's a reflection of that context I guess. It’s a part of what I do.
You have quite a multidisciplinary arts background. Are you keen to keep your different interests separate or do they all work together?
They're not necessarily together, it usually ends up being that I'm more focused on some visual art for one point in time and then it ends up being music. But recently, I've been focusing more on just music and collaborating. I've not done anything that I would say really ties the two together. I grew up just doing art and making things. Like I was saying earlier, all my friends were in bands and I was just always doing visual art. It wasn’t really until I was a bit older that I got into music and then thought, ‘Oh actually this is something I'm interested in and something I could learn about’. I always felt like I was catching up because I didn't learn how to play bass guitar or something! I'd like to do something in future where it's maybe more linked, I have done the artwork for my releases, but right now it’s kind of separate other than that.
Can you tell me a little bit about your process when it comes to making music and some of the influences that you tap into when you're starting to write a track?
I'm into making software and interfaces, weird rhythm sequences or pattern generators, and building things from that level up. I usually get more ideas from that method, but I also do it completely opposite sometimes, just bashing keys and trying to make a beat that way. Both ways can be rewarding.
Did you teach yourself how to make them or is that something that you had to go somewhere else to learn?
I'd make music using some kind of normal software like Logic that anyone would really at first. Then some drum machine and things like that but it's always quite a solo…it's hard to work collaboratively when you've only got one mouse pad! I make music on my own for DJing or whatever but then I started messing about making music with people and I actually needed to do something a bit more improvisational.
I knew my dad used the software Max/MSP to do a lot of his work and installations. A lot of the music I like was made on that too, but I thought, ‘God, I'm never going to learn how to do that’. It's just totally beyond me. I started messing about a bit with it for a few years, just learning about it, and got better. Obviously, I've asked my dad for a lot of advice, but it's possible to do it by just using online references as well. There are loads of built-in help files and all that kind of stuff, it's accessible. Just having the time, that's the main thing.
Moving onto the album, how did that all come together?
I didn't really expect to make an LP or anything to be honest. I was just making tracks, just collecting stuff that I'm making and sending them people and they were saying, ‘You should work on an LP with this’. I sent Planet Mu a bunch of things that I'd made, they said they were interested in it and then I sent them some more. It was good to work with them on it, I respected their advice and opinion, so they had a part to play in that definitely. I've grown up listening to Planet Mu.
I also read that you were eager to explore the concept of opposites on the album, can you kind of tell me what that means?
I guess I always think like that anyway. There are lots of contradictions that exist, but in this LP, I was exploring the physicality of opposing forces and dynamics. Something that has this intense energy, but also some kind of subtlety to it or fragile points. Having this really syncopated structure to something but then thinking, ‘How do you fluidly transform that or modulate it?’ Another thing is, how do you make something that's constant but always changes? In music, you want something to have this consistency but when it's boring, how do you make it move without detouring…I just also think that's how my brain works, in opposition.
Where do you think electronic music is going to go in the years to come?
Maybe for music in general, I enjoy listening to stuff on high quality soundsystems with dynamics so hopefully the production levels will go up. Another thing would be the social aspect of it, I think this shared experience where you all can build communities is an important thing that is constantly changing.
Do you think coding will become more commonplace?
Yeah, it definitely is. Obviously being in Sheffield as well, there's a big group of people here like Alex McLean who developed TidalCycles and runs Algorave, it seems like there’s a really good community of people invested in it. I guess it's going to develop more in terms of more people getting into it. The good thing about it is the accessibility, they make it an open platform and an open source thing. That's really what I'm interested in doing, instead of buying a synthesiser or something like that, I look up and research equipment and then think, ‘How can I implement that sort of interface or that methodology into my own work’. With open source platforms and communities becoming more widespread, that adaption and sharing of tools is really going to be exciting.Planet Mu will release ‘ATAXIA’ on March 15
Jasmine Kent-Smith is Mixmag's Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter
Read this next!
Brothers (Mix Gabi) — DAF
Atemlos — M.E.S.H.
Guarapo! — Forty Bangers from Barranquilla
El Raton — Clara! Y Maoupa
ネオ能 NEO NOH (Gorjuke) — Indus Bonze
Unreleased — Unknown
Things To Come — Contakt
Mimicore — АЭМ "Ритм–Каскад"
Shepard's Delight — hmurd
Kaffekanne — Terrorrythmus
160 YS (JUKE WORLD ORDER VOL. 3) — CONG VU
Calabi-Yau — KΣITO
太平簫(TAEPYEONGSO)TEK VIP — CONG VU
Somethin Bout The Things U Do — DJ Rashad
Jam for Sisso — Errorsmith feat Jay Mita
YazooDontGo  — Rian Treanor
Meme Booth — Kindohm
RAVEDIT A3 — Rian Treanor
Peach's Palace — Lloyd SB
We're Bomming — Matt Whitehead
Closer — CoH Plays Cosey
Duel — Propaganda
Head Rhythm 1 / Plaything 2 — Maryanne Amacher