“There’s so many things that can inspire you. Any noise that makes some sort of rhythm,” says DJ/producer Breach, the alter-ego of musician Ben Westbeech.
The sound in question is the grouting scrape of urethane on coarse concrete, and made by skater Lucien Clarke as he rolls back and forth. Ben shuffles alongside him as he skates, pointing his recorder at the trucks in the hope of capturing the sound waves for use in a new piece of music.
“With skateboarding, there’s a lot of different noise elements, and so as an artist it’s really interesting for me to work with that,” he continues.
Ben, a keen skater himself, has been commissioned to create the soundtrack for a new video short directed by long-time UK skate filmmaker Winstan Whitter, to help promote Sony’s new generation of 3-in-1 Walkman WH Series headphones. But the setting is far from the usual skate spot, we’re here at the much-lauded sound mirrors in Dungeness, Kent on the south coast of England.
Sitting on a small island in Romney Marsh, these ‘sound mirrors’ are giant concrete structures that were built in the 1920s as a method of listening out for approaching enemy aircraft. Despite being made obsolete by the invention of radar shortly after their construction, their curious shape and the sheer size of them have seen them preserved for historical and architectural posterity.
“It’s a pretty crazy place, and acoustically very interesting,” remarks Ben, walking up to the largest of the sound mirrors, a seventy-metre concave concrete wall. To demonstrate this, he stands at one end while we stand at the other. As he speaks, his voice resonates along the concrete and seems to appear to the side of you, full and thick in timbre as he was standing next to you.
It’s an exceptional place to visit for this audio trick alone, yet the island is shut off from the mainland by way of a swinging bridge, and only opened to the public three times a year – or when a film production company pays for the privilege. However, the lack of human visitors means that the local wildlife flourishes, slugs sliver along the paths, dragonflies buzz around incessantly and a choruses of crickets linger around the bush, not to mention as well as the thousands of birds that swim in the surrounding marshes, creating a tangible hum of tranquility. This rich audio is something that Ben thrives off.
“Atmosphere is very important, you know? Behind the beat in a lot of my records, you’ll hear just really subtle things,” says Ben, whose currently putting the finishing touches to his new album under the Breach moniker. “Sometimes I just go out and sit in a field with a recorder, or even in public spaces like train stations, malls or just put a mic outside my house in Amsterdam. Then you can chop that up and it really adds something special and unique to the music.”
To hear Breach’s exclusive track and watch Winstan’s film, check out the film on Sony’s YouTube Channel.
‘Everything You Never Had (We Had It All)’ feat. Andreya Triana is out on November 10 on Ninja Tune / Atlantic.