Angel Hunt & Lou Venturini – Amphibious London sound
Through their swampy, odd-slanted approach to psychedelically-charged motorik music, the duo behind last year’s outstanding HomeBase Extracts EP are bringing their own weird dreamworld to the underbelly of London’s music scene. Bella Spratley tapped up the GreenBelt duo to find out more.
Like a hopeful flower amongst the cement mass of London, GreenBelt was born to “carve out pockets of cosy muzak”, to retreat to from the pressure of inner-city life. The label’s sound is a little beacon of home amongst the urban anonymity. Behind it is Angel Hunt and Lou Venturini, who met over a mutual crush on someone at a house party and a shared love for music. 10 years ago, Lou posted a jazzy tune by either Wally Coco or Sun Ra on Facebook and Angel quickly got in touch. The breathless exchange of tracks that ensued concretised a budding musical relationship that has given way to their so-called “amphibious” sound.
HomeBase Extracts was released in September last year. It marks the second drop on GreenBelt – an experimental and psychedelic EP nodding to the traditions of dub-minded UK dance music, synth pop, broken beat, UK funky and 70s rock. London itself looms as inspiration too. Like a deeply loved but sometimes hated older brother, the city is inspiring, guiding but also threatening and monopolising.
“It’s non-stop, it’s claustrophobic, it’s ruthless and disgusting; but somehow all of that is precisely what makes it so loveable and beautiful,” says Venturini.
“It can be a pretty overwhelming, hotwired day-to-day, and it’s been essential to carve out pockets of cosy muzak time,” adds Hunt. True to its intentions, the EP is wildly escapist whilst keeping a foot on the ground of its inspirations.
HomeBase Extracts is a continuation of their first album GBOOI, whose tracks were all named after stops on a monorail the duo made up connecting the conceptual garden city of HomeBase with its neighbouring settlements. The recent EP poses as a set of souvenirs or postcards from the same place, including ‘Glassay Froot’ inspired by real glacé fruit found in a market in Lyon, France that “taste so sweet and look so cute,” as the lyrics describe. Sure enough, the saccharine, elastic textures and cute 60s vocal refrain invoke a joy much like the candied delicacies that inspired them. Highly imaginative in its execution, the project dreams up ‘Morse Toad’, ‘Heavy Pets’ and ‘UtiliTotality’ as other souvenirs ranging between “dry, terrestrial stuff and sloppy, subaquatic treatments.”
Contemporaries include Peter Rocket, Dome Zero, Lewi Boome, Elijah Minelli, Terror Peaks and the extended Accidental Meetings family. On how they connect and keep in touch, Hunt explains, “there are lots of great forums for smack chatting – evenings on the Bermonda triangle (Ormside, Avalon, MOT) and Tuesdays at Kindred (love to Scar and Jojo) especially.” Venturini admits the scene could feel closer, though, saying “I wish I could say I’m part of a strong community of musicians[…] One of those difficult things about London maybe!”
Their self-described “amphibian slomp” is certainly unique, apparently sharing characteristics with “those duck buses that plop into the Thames.” Synthetic in a goofy, diesel-powered way, their sound stretches and womps beyond the restrictions of genre or musical terrain.
Idiosyncratic though they may be, Venturini and Hunt aren’t in a total stylistic vacuum. The Dublin-based Wah Wah Wino crew also share a similarly elastic style that stretches across genres in a chaotic expression of musical freedom. Slipping between electronics and live band elements, underpinned by groove-based structures, the labels are bound by their commitment to charting new territory. Unashamedly weird but powered by a kosmische, guitar-driven sound, ‘Happy Highway’ by Davy Kehoe of Wah Wah Wino comes on as if it could be part of the HomeBase journey, despite his physical distance from the Londoners. Likewise and looking North, Glasgow’s Cru Servers on 12th Isle similarly plumb the depths of instrument-tooled experimentation and psychedelic world building. Just dip into ‘Bogged Embrace’ on their 2022 album EEL – there’s an amphibious, bubbling quality to the track which comes on like we’re snorkelling six feet from the floor through a club scene pitched down to minus eight. It’s that otherness which chimes with the slippery tendencies of the GreenBelt crew, where the component parts all spill into vivid, evocative fuel for the imagination.
A building block of HomeBase Extracts is of course also the titular DIY behemoths, ringing out inspiring 80s pop through the tannoys during Hunt’s childhood trips amongst the aisles of wallpaper and light fittings. “I got a lot from hearing ‘Purple Rain’ and Madness squashed into submission in that huge hangar. Maybe we should get a couple field recordings of that for the next one,” he mused. Yet on the other side of the equation, nature is just as much a part of GreenBelt as a label.
“I’m into Ayurvedic medicine (my other life),” adds Venturini, “and I feel like that’s somehow influenced us a bit? Just the earthy unfamiliarity of it all.”
Balancing the metallic storage space feel of the paint-smelling home improvements store with the mossy, organic appeal of nature manifests in iron-sounding cracks and echoes softened by squelchy noises on a repetitive loop. Easy to lose yourself in, a loop is to Hunt a “return to the core theme,” particularly on prog-rock sounding ‘Heavy Pets’ that holds sway over our attention with its insistent minimalism.
“Repetition is probably what I like the most about music. It’s what allowed me to access what music has to offer beyond sound at such a young age just through sending me in these crazy trance states.” ethuses Venturini. As a label, their next aim is to create an ensemble and ensuing live show. It’s a natural next step for a project teeming with organic qualities and the impulse of instrumentation. That on-stage feeling of the EP is what Venturini and Hunt stand out for. The world-building on the record feels close to tangible and sweaty like a dancefloor.
Doubling down on the sonic codes laid out in their work to date, GreenBelt live promises to be as dynamic and untraditional as their sound on record. Danceable as they are bizarre, the unique stew cultivated on GBOOI and HomeBase Extract is primed and ready to usher dedicated shufflers, bobbers and weavers towards their conceptual city of dreams.