South Walian Andydan has only playing the ukulele for just over 12 months but has many years of performing under his belt. An accomplished synth guitarist Andy set sail to transpose his thermionic talents to the uke and commissioned an instrument from Marshall Stapleton, fitted a hexaphonic pickup and plugged it into a host of electronic bleepy things. Influenced by a passion for Prog Rock, a splash of Kraftwerk and a healthy chunk of Gary Numan crafted with song writing leanings towards John Martyn, Tom Waits & early Elton John… well, we’re in for something interesting here!
Just to put the technical wizardry into context, thanks to Roland and their black arts creativity, Andy can control a synthesizer from his uke… what he plays on the instrument controls the sound. Effectively this means any digital instrument can be driven from his uke whether it be a delicate piano or a big phat synth bass. Add in a daddy of a loop station into this mix (an RC-300 to be precise) and you’ve got one giant palette of timbres to play with.
Rhythm & Sound then is Andydan’s debut release (even available on vinyl don’t you know!) and gives us eight eclectic electronic tracks. Starting with No Answer, I’m immediately put in mind of the forth mentioned Mr Numan, of whom I am indeed a great fan. I guess that means we’re off to a fabulous start! I particularly love the way this track builds over a rhythmic and unanswered telephone dial tone, a real doff of the cap to early pioneers of electronic music to my ears.
Townsend introduces vocals into the mix, the instrumentation led by an electric ukulele rhythm backed with a luscious arpeggiatored synth soundscape. That lovely ukulele sound is picked into Does In Rain, a moment perhaps where Andy’s relatively short time on the instrument is eclipsed with a feel and talent honed in years of guitar playing. After all the build up and hype of Andydan’s electronic leanings this track will perhaps throw your expectations a little wayward having a more country folk feel. Much more Martyn than Moog.
As the album progresses there’s some lovely fretless bass in Anonymity, a dip into the world of funked up disco in Rhythm & Sound which is fully layered with vocal harmony and a flirtation with overdrive in the goth reverb rich What Are You Running From. Long Drive Home adds a further twist, almost a dalliance with Trance leading us to the final track rounding off our experimental journey of synth-uke.
This is a great album. In all honesty I expected lots of electronic synth music and I would have been totally fine with that, I love synth based music. But the album goes much further and whilst it’s rooted in such sounds the song writing and uke playing go far beyond oscillating orchestration to present varying styles and eloquent writing. Unique, certainly, but nurtured from expertise and experience in wide ranging articulate creation.