Just like some folk see the world from an alternative perspective, some hear music in a different way too. Attuned to different frequencies than the rest of us, these people are unafraid to explore the more esoteric, outlandish aspects of rhythm and sound – the collisions and dissonances as well as the more familiar contours.
Hrdvsion – aka Nathan Jonson - is one of those people. The 29-year-old DJ/producer from a wholesome part of Victoria, Canada is part of a lineage that includes musical mischief-makers like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher and even beyond, to the majestic musique concrète veterans Schaeffer, Henry, Varèse et al.
Hrdvsion’s experiments began with exploring his blues-loving father’s midi keyboard at the age of eight. His mother nudged him towards classical piano and he tinkered with the washtub bass from time to time. But it was the keyboard he always went back to, stubbornly wrenching tune after tune from its limited 127 sounds, even while his older brother Mat (better known to the world of techno as Cobblestone Jazz’s Mathew Jonson) was bringing home fancy bass synths and TR 909s.
These early musical trips were formative to say the least. Nathan still spends most of his studio time with his head inside a computer, searching for strange sounds and mysterious glitches. “The programs are so complicated these days, they just can’t test them to their limits in every direction,” he enthuses, “so you can still find all these hidden sounds and bugs.”
Also influential were the two LPs Nathan received for his 17th birthday. From his brother - Squarepusher’s Big Loada; from his mum (that’s right, his mum) – the same artist’s Hard Normal Daddy. Soon after, he was immersing himself in the white heat of mid 90s rave culture in abandoned Salvation Army buildings and starting his own music nights, including one called “How To Build An Airplane”, an ambient-experimental night held in a hostel.
A smattering of Hrdvsion releases followed, mostly put out on his brother’s up and coming Wagon Repair label and friend Spencer Drennen’s Itiswhatitis imprint. Then came an album in 2002, which Nathan released as a short-run named 25 Cents after the fact the CD cases he’d bought still had 25c stickers on them. While the frantically arrhythmic contents mashed a multitude of minds, many of the songs were still being released as singles a couple of years later.
“That midi keyboard was really the start of my interest in experimental music,” says the DJ/producer. “I was trying so hard to make a limited range of sounds into something different every time. Then I heard stuff on Warp, Rephlex and Planet Mu, and realised people were doing the same kind of thing. At some point Plaid played in Victoria and I gave them a track of mine called “My Rotten Teeth”. A few weeks later they were playing it on a radio show. After years of giving my CDs away to no response, that was exciting…”
Despite finding himself part of a burgeoning international scene, Nathan (as Hrdvsion) maintained his own style, refusing to compromise or worry about what people thought of his music. In the last eight years he’s released a bunch of unique and lauded twelves and EPs, remixed everyone from Dominik Eulberg, Filterwolf and Inkwell (amongst others) and spun sick sets at London’s Fabric and Glasgow’s Arches as well as festivals like Mutek (Canada) and Sonar (Barcelona).
“My work has always felt more like a personal journal, than art,” he explains. “I wasn’t trying to be an artist, I was just expressing myself. I became so wrapped up in it that I became really kind of “fuck you” to the techno and dance scenes and wrote these really challenging songs that veered away from the instant gratification thing. I ended up going further than I would have, more radical and unfriendly, because I grew worried that I might somehow lose control of my vision.”
Nowadays, Nathan has chilled a bit. He resides in Berlin, where he has spent the last year or so putting the finishing touches to his “real” debut album - the formidable Where Did You Just Go? - for the now firmly established Wagon Repair. While the record offers more conventional house, techno and electro structures than previous works, it maintains the Hrdvsion obsession with glitches, distortion and general circuit-mashing.
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