‘Ancient Mechanisms’ is the fourth album by globetrotting London production duo LV. It traces a train of thought that was sparked by a live session with Tigran Hamasyan back in 2012: two and a half years down the line and a trip to Belgium later, the finished record is as much about the workings of musical artefacts as it is about putting the virtuoso pianist into new contexts.
The duo, made up of Simon Williams and Will Horrocks, found the insides and mechanisms (hint) of the instruments they were working with to be of increasing interest as the project developed. They found a discarded, portable piano in the former’s new flat and spent hours painstakingly recording its notes, creaks and noises. This left them in possession of a MIDI keyboard that sounded like something from “a bar in a wild west movie” and featured heavily on the album. ‘Ruiselede’ makes reference to the town whose piano museum in which they were able to record Hamasyan playing on its collection of antique grand pianos.
LV have always thrived by working with new collaborators and environments. In the past there’s been joint efforts with London poet Josh Idehen and journeys to South Africa for kwaito-infused productions with Johannesburg MCs. It was from working with Hamasyan that their attention began to shift to the piano itself. “We got into the sound that instruments make themselves, not just the production of the sound,” says Williams, “We got into the actual sound of keys being hit.”
Anyone who heard the Maida Vale session that laid the foundations for the album will know how exciting it was to hear delicate jazz musicality at play with UK-tinged dance rhythms. ‘Jump and Reach’ builds on that potential, with circling piano going toe to toe with rolling drums and stabs of bass. But Hamasyan wasn’t just providing pretty riffs for them to work with, he also fed into the process of how they worked. As Horrocks says, “His musical interests are much more broad than perhaps people would expect,” something that’s on show in ‘Infinite Spring’ where his penchant for looping pedals has produced a wash of sound easy to fall adrift in.
The exploration of what lay inside the instruments in front of them is the thread holding this unique record together: strands ranging from foreign surroundings to the darker corners of London’s club lineage are channelled into exploring that idea. There are field recordings of Belgium’s streets along with snare hits in ‘Transition’ that nod to the studio where a nascent dubstep’s sparse aesthetic was born. As an album, it draws together disparate interests in a way that feels compellingly coherent.