WORDS

Ross Tones has a work ethic that suggests he’s a secret test case for transhumanism. In addition to releasing dozens of polished, pensive and powerful electronic compositions as Throwing Snow in recent years, running multiple record labels (including the superlative Left_Blank and taste-making A Future Without), Tones has diversified into collaborations and side- projects at every opportunity, leaving any budding completists wishing they’d chosen a less prolific artist to try and keep up with.

Despite having published several albums’ worth of material already, this June sees the release of his debut full-length Mosaic via fabric’s imprint Houndstooth. It’s an absolute scorcher, ploughing the same epic, emotionally resonant, and potentially peak-time furrow as Jacques Greene or even SBTRKT before him (while sounding not particularly like either). From the eminently remixable vocal lines, to the juddering crescendos and rhythmic crunches, Mosaic has crossover hit written all over it. But the self-effacing and charmingly enthusiastic Tones seemed to be feeling jittery about its release when Crack caught up with him.

“I view the album as a sacred format”, he explained. “Collecting enough songs for an album was never something I’d wanted to do until now. When I signed for Houndstooth, the whole deal was that I’d do an album, so everything’s been written from scratch. I’m incredibly nervous about it.”

He needn’t be. Shape-shifting lead single The Tempest is a pretty good aperitif for the Mosaic main course: unshackled by genre, unafraid to shift gear mid-song, and sprinkled liberally with soaring vocals. “Yeah, the album’s got loads of vocals on, which I never expected” says Tones. “But that’s what I mean about starting the project from scratch. It so happened that I worked with loads of really good vocalists, and I didn’t want to let the idea of there being ‘too many vocals’ get in the way of whether a track was good enough to be included on the album.

Once the album drops in June, the major Throwing Snow live date on the horizon is at the world-renowned Sonar Festival in Barcelona. But while the variety of vocalists on Mosaic add to the sense that it’s an album which has been crafted from the choicest possible components, translating this to a live context has proven tricky. “I’ve always approached playing live by saying I don’t want to have a set that’s static. There has to be an element of improvisation all the time, and working with vocalists has been a bit of a problem. For a vocalist, you often have to have a strict format, and I’m struggling with that a bit.”

The vocal contributions have also raised interesting questions about when a guest becomes a collaborator, and whether exchanging track components over the internet is really collaborating at all. “With internet collaborations, you often only speak by e-mail”, Tones admits. “One tune was almost finished and then I decided I liked the vocal but not the song, so I wrote another song to go with the vocal. I don’t really agree with that way of working because collaboration should be about working with somebody, if you send them the song back they should be able to critique you too because it’s their vocal, they’re not just a guest on your track. But this type of collaboration is a new thing… I guess maybe there were a few recordings where people sang down the phone in the 60s, if people were across the seas when they worked together.”

Mosaic is not an album easily defined by genre – something fans of Throwing Snow will be accustomed to by now. It’s not that there aren’t melodic themes, familiar sonics, or coherent ideas, but as Tones explains, the thumbprint comes from him, not the genres he inhabits.

“A good producer should be recognisable whatever genre they’re creating – the sound comes from them, not the style of music. And that’s something I’m passionate about: the sounds come from me, it’s personal. I concentrated on making every bar exactly how I wanted it. A lot of it builds to unexpected drops, so you get this epic feeling, but then something that you didn’t expect happens next, almost lulling people into a false sense of security. I guess that could alienate quite a lot of people! But the people I admire the most have really eclectic music tastes. Music is totally, 100% subjective – that’s something that’s almost forgotten.”

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