Complex Methods: Icarus and Vaexth

It is common for electronic artists, such as Icarus and Vaetxh to use their music to disguise themselves.

Trebuchet’s Sofia Ilyas seemingly caught them at the right moment and opening up they discuss their use to create their ultra-complex sound worlds and why they love the aesthetics of glitch, jazz and broken beats. 


Vaetxh is youthful Bristol native Rob Clouth, raised on a steady diet of mathrock until a chance exposure with high intensity electronic music led him down the digital production alley. The result is something refreshingly unique in today’s hyper-saturated sonic landscape – intricate, engaging and emotive scapes incorporating the aesthetics of dubstep, glitch, IDM, ambience and field recordings.

Trebuchet: Tell us about how you came to be called Vaetxh.  

Vaetxh: I came up with the name in GSCE Maths and just liked the collection of letters visually. I obviously wasn't thinking about how anyone else would actually say it (I didn't think many people would have to) or I wouldn't have picked such an awkward set. 

Trebuchet: What appeals to you about the glitch and step aesthetics?

Vaetxh: I love it when things go wrong. With complex systems, it's usually only when fuck-up that they reveal to you how intricate they actually are. An example of this the data-moshing thing that doing the rounds at the moment. By tampering with the compression algorithms you can see the lovely optical flow stuff in action: when you get the movement of one series of frames but the image from another. When it's all working proper you don't see this. That's the reason why I love glitch. 

The steppy aesthetic is easier to explain: it's everywhere, especially in Bristol, and so its influence is difficult to avoid. I do love it though, especially the more swung stuff. I like swung rhythms because it’s so easy to slip in and out of triplets, another of my favourites. Oh, and bass is really nice. 

Trebuchet: Do you find it increasingly difficult to create a unique sound?

Vaetxh: What I reckon is hardest part is making something unique to myself. I often find myself settling into certain formulas when I do things. For example when I lay down a kick drum I almost automatically EQ and compress – once upon a time when I didn't really know what those did, I would experiment a lot more with the basics than I do now.

That said, I do think there's too much focus on sounding unique. Yes it is important, but the pressure can sometimes lead to artists getting stuck in their sound. You can end up being someone with a load of tracks that sound pretty similar. I used to be really concerned about what my 'sound' was, and I think that has in part lead to these formulas that I find hard to break from.

Trebuchet: Your website is littered with weird and wonderful bits of digital hackery. What are you working on at the moment?

Vaetxh: There are always about 10 projects battling it out for my attention, but recently I've been working on my live setup, trying to make it more flexible so I don't have to rely on pre-made loops. It's really fun actually. I'm using a pitch detector to control a synth and a voice-to-drum patch I made in MaxMSP, all that going through an auto-quantizing loop-recorder bank for endless editing. 

Alongside that I'm working on a sequencer based on physically-modeled balls dropping down an infinite chasm that trigger MIDI notes whenever they hit obstructions. It has a lookahead feature which shows you where the balls at each beat in the future, so it's easy to build up fairly clean beats. But then because everything is simulated in realtime, you can blow the rhythm away with a gust of digital wind, change the direction of gravity, change the mass of the balls – it's interesting how it effects the sequences/ melodies.

Trebuchet: What other shows and releases do you have coming up? 

Vaetxh: I've got a track coming out this week on Tigerbeat6 as part of their Andale series, and I've been chatting to Miguel about possibly doing an EP with them which is exciting. I've also done a remix of a Cex tune which is coming out soonish. 

Gigswise, I'm supporting Icarus at The Cube in Bristol on the 16th which I'm pretty nervous about actually because I'm using my new (slightly unstable) live setup for the first time.

vaetxh – Clipper by robclouth



Icarus: Icarus an abstract electronica duo with a long history of live performance and software development, releases on labels like Leaf, Rump and Domino and shows around the globe.

Trebuchet: Tell us about how you came to be called Icarus. 

Icarus: In the early days we had various ridiculous names which hadn't really become us. We made a track which we called Icarus, can't really remember why we called the track that. The track and the name seemed to suit us more than all of the music we had previously made. It was a breakthrough. We adopted the name of the track as our band name.

Trebuchet: What appeals to you about the breakbeat and jazz aesthetics?

Icarus: We are very driven by complexity and both forms have this amazing capacity to be manipulated to varying degrees of complexity. On the other hand they could be arbitrary orientations acquired through late night radio listening in our youth.

Trebuchet: Do you find it increasingly difficult to create a fresh sonic palette?

Icarus: I think the older you get the harder it is to listen with fresh ears. Naivety can aid creativity and awareness can hinder it. The sheer mass of music being produced these days also means that every niche is being explored to its limit. But freshness can be found in the tiniest details, many great musical innovators did very normal things a tiny bit different.

Trebuchet: If you could make a music video what would it be about?

The ones we've made so far generally seek patterns in the natural and built environment.

Chuck D / Eclectic Method – Outta Sight (audio mix by Icarus, video mix by Weirdcore/Andrew Benson) from weirdcore on Vimeo.

Trebuchet:  What other shows and releases do you have coming up? 

Icarus: A series of shows in the UK and Europe, a split EP with Danish electronica duo Badun, due in May, a highly experimental album which will come in 1,000 variations. We're spending all of our time working on that now.  Maybe a couple more remixes, we like remixing!

Icarus and Vatexh play Bristol's Cube Cinema on Saturday 16th April 


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