To let the music do the talking… A holy grail for any artists, yet one that seems harder and harder to achieve as algorithms, short attention spans and industry standards encourage cruder and louder forms of self-promotion, selfies, memes and vacuous videos that have no relation to the music, culture or artform.
There are exceptions, of course. Acts who have managed to bypass current convention to ensure the music is the sole or primary focus. Calibre always springs to mind. Dawn Wall have done well to keep the focus on the music, too (although the quest to discover who they are is always in danger of outshining the music) Most recently, though, we have Heron Flow.
Six EPs deep so far, all flexing around the autonomic / halftime axis, smouldering with deep, dark, yearning soul: Heron Flow first emerged on Kid Drama’s CNVX in November 2020 with the evergreen Rolex Groove EP. No details, background or information was provided with the release, inadvertently setting a tradition that continues to this day… No words, no context, just music.
This year has been Heron Flow’s most prolific so far as three EPs have all landed on our laps. Beauty & Decay in March on CNVX, Dark Romantic in May on Soul In Motion Records and, most recently, Do 2 U, released last month on ThirtyOne Recordings. Each EP revealing more of the Heron Flow palette and their ever-expanding canvas; from the emotional, tightly-coiled spring of In Drag to the introspective shoegaze soul of Dark Romantic (to pick just two highlights) the sound is lucid, glacial and forever mutating yet fully consistent in its emotional weight.
“Heron Flow came to my attention during lockdown when I was doing my livestreams,” says ThirtyOne founder and jungle pioneer Doc Scott. “During the third hour I would play deeper, more abstract music, they sent some music that just hit a chord with me and fitted perfectly into that third hour mindset. It really resonated with the livestream audience, its deep but importantly has a groove, it’s mysterious, like the artist. It’s great to see a fresh take on D&B being received so well.”
CNVX bossman Kid Drama agrees: “For me Heron Flow feels like a continuation of the Autonomic movement. Back then we were mainly drawing inspiration from old IDM and Detroit into our productions whereas Heron Flow are reaching into a more modern R&B palette fused with indie. It’s an amazing project that I’m enjoying watching evolve.”
An album is the next part of this evolution but so far Heron Flow have yet to say anything publicly beyond their music. Until now… 1 More Thing was invited to ask the act some questions via email. This is what we learnt.
What can you tell us about your identity or the past or actual make up of Heron Flow? I think you’re a duo or a trio, but not entirely sure…
It wasn’t intentional to keep the identity of Heron Flow unknown, it just happened that way with the first release and the mystery it created. Heron Flow is like a hive mind, there’s always one starting point, an idea or concept and then the rest syncs. All the work is harmonious in that aspect.
Your Facebook page was created in 2013. Has this been a long time in the making?
Originally, there was a plan for this project but it took some time to be comfortable with the output, a lot of demos and early sketches to get to the first release. And to commit fully to Heron Flow without compromise. Timing is everything.
There are many different directions and ideas in the music. In one EP you cover so much ground. Now across multiple EPs you cover even more. Heron Flow is the sound of wings spreading, maybe? What inspires this broad palette?
Heron Flow combines a vast knowledge of music and art that reflects in the overall sound. You’re on the same page and know where the direction will go from the seed of a track over its full development.
But there’s a consistency too in the sounds… Do you use any outboard / analog stuff. What can you reveal about your tools?
Once the blueprint is down for a track, the theme has to be consistent, there’s a mix of Analog and Digital which includes the Kyma digital system for sample creation and manipulation, a mix of old and new hardware samplers and then most of it runs through a hardware tracking chain consisting of a Manley Compressor, a 500 series rack of pre-amps and EQs and that then gets fed back into the box.
You’re super prolific at the moment. Perhaps lockdown caused this, perhaps you’re a Richie Brains and there’s a lot of you so many hands are making light work. But come on… Three EPs this year alone now – Beauty & Decay, Dark Romantic, Do 2 U… That’s 12 tracks. Really good tracks, too. We’re lucky if we get one EP off some artists a year. How is this happening?
The music has accumulated over some time and never finished or mixed correctly until 2018 when it started to get sent out to DJs and labels. The music that is coming out now was signed last year or earlier so it’s a measured affair. Lockdown was grim for mental health. To exploit that and create was a gift.
I am intrigued by the name Heron Flow. There’s a lot of symbolism and traits associated with and around the heron – tranquility, determinism, beauty, agility. But I also learnt that it’s an old street name for heroin, too…. Where does your idea of the heron sit on that axis?
In some way it’s sanguine.
Autonomic is a strong shade on the Heron Flow palette. Especially tracks like Camino, Dark Romantic and Beauty & Decay. Did you ever release anything that could be deemed part of that movement? Or what was your relationship with it?
Autonomic is a big part of what influences Heron Flow. People don’t realise what Instra:mental did for the scene back then. They came with a palette of sounds that was outside of drum & bass and injected new life into it. For a small window of maybe two to three years the lines were blurred and subgenres born from the mix of autonomic, electro, dubstep and footwork.
I feel we could really benefit from a new movement that flips things like autonomic. What do you think about the need for another period of creative flux that like?
For it to work you would need a lot of producers making that style to fuse and move like a unit, all pushing and helping each other. It needs to be like a community again like how there were camps in the 90s with Metalheadz and Moving Shadow.
The problem we face today is that everyone is on their own mission and there are a lot more obstacles as an artist. If a collection of minds could unify and push a new movement it would probably work. There’s so much influence outside of music too. People need to go widescreen with their vision.
What is the feeling of anonymity like in comparison to your previous alias(es)? Is there a plan to reveal who you are eventually?
In a time where artists are fighting for popularity online and having to become online personalities and self-promote so hard, it’s nice to be able to just focus on what actually matters. At the core, it’s always the music. People in years to come will remember the music and not the relentless torrent of selfies and desperation of artists trying to sell themselves.
Actually how on earth did you perform at Fabric? Probably wearing masks? How did that go anyway?
It was a new experience for all at fabric.
Will shows be a frequent thing in the Heron Flow schedule?
If the right environment or event presents itself then we will see. It would be incredible to play the music out more often but performance isn’t the motivating factor of Heron Flow.
I understand an album is very much something on your schedule… What can you tell us about that? How’s it all going?
The album is close to completion, it’s there and could be formidable but it’s blurred. It needs more tension, less ego trips, a strong smell of stale smoke machines and a taste of dry blood on your teeth.
I think our work here is done for now. What else should we know about Heron Flow right now?
Do 2 U EP is out now on 31 Recordings. Dark Romantic EP is out now on Soul In Motion Records.