Electronic producer duo – Space Afrika – have been reconstructing Manchester’s harsh city noise into ambient techno since 2014. Hailing from Preston, Rainy Miller is a vocalist, producer, and founder of the music label Fixed Abode. Alongside Space Afrika, he has become an integral voice in the Northwest experimental scene, which has flowered out of underground clubs like The White Hotel and SOUP. Together, they present the collaborative album, A Grisaille Wedding.
The album creates a chaotic sound: dizzying drum patterns, booming bass channels and warped 8-bit samples that sound like Netflix is buffering. However, to anyone who’s walked through Piccadilly gardens after 15:30 on a school day, the scene is familiar. A choir of synthesisers mimic Manchester’s raindrops; dissonant acoustic instruments pan the background like the buskers of Market Street, and the rattling drums are the metronome to the city’s incessant construction. If you have a migraine, maybe opt out for some more traditional ambience. Space Afrika creates music that reconstructs the city centre’s chaos, instead of escaping it.
On track ‘121’, a snippet of conversation acts as another instrument. An American voice muses about the importance of ‘letting go’. The song feels like you’re on the 143-bus overhearing someone’s conversation amongst the chatter and mechanical thunder.
The production appears to offer little space for a vocalist to breathe. However, Rainy Miller fights for his voice to be heard. On ‘00-Down / Murmansk, 12’ Miller’s lyrics affect the despair of an individual lost in a city: ‘Trying to feel my ground / on a road that withers under my heels’. The vocals are lacquered with autotune and sometimes feel buried in the industrial choir. However, Miller refuses to ‘drown amongst the static’.
On ‘Sweet (I’m Free)’, Renzniro and Iceboy Violet cite self-expression as a form of freedom from the city’s darkness. Renzniro delivers the grime-style bars, ‘Breathe through the pain even though it hurts / What can I do, life is absurd’. Without taking a breath, he asserts, ‘got to be active about my verbs / I can’t ever waste a word’.
A diverse array of guests also feature on the album. Bobbieorkid’s soft hyperpop, Richie Culver’s spoken word and Coby Sey’s enchanting vocals all thrive on the decadent style of A Grisaille Wedding.
The album is a successful marriage between the genre-bending acts of Rainy Miller and Space Afrika. Its grey, archaic palette and proclivity for chaos is fitting for a Manchester-based album.
A Grisaille Wedding is the ideal listen for a walk through the city on a rainy day.