1995 – present (24 years)
London, England, United Kingdom
UK duo Elliot Morgan and Nick Woolfson make some of the most stunningly rich, dynamic, bass-heavy downtempo instrumentals on the planet. They are pioneers of ambient dub, an exotic style first championed by defunct UK label Beyond Records and then picked up and continued to this day by North American label Waveform Recirds. Although dub in its original form is the tripped-out instrumental flipside of reggae, there is quite often no overtly Jamaican flavour to Morgan and Woolfson's work. The dub element is more in the recording techniques (looping, delay, phasers etc) and lovingly produced basslines that rumble, slide, and snake their away around the room with enormous presence. Neither is the duo's take on dub the minimalist approach of modern purists. They concoct soulful, exotic and tuneful widescreen panoramas, wound together with muscular rhythms and big, crisp drum loops that sometimes have a tribal or ethnic edge. Rhythmic downtempo from the psychedelic trance scene owes quite lot to these guys: listen and learn.
Very rarely do/have the duo performed live, but should they ever be in the limelight, they have an arsenal of over 10 albums and several EP's worth of content to showcase, each with their own unique vibe and sound design.
The debut Kin (1996) immediately marks the pair as artists with extraordinary melodic gifts. Listen to Triangle as just one example of their ability to build and layer multiple lines with the kind of finesse summoned by Berlin's old-school ambient trance pioneers. Explorations of tones and melody seem to be at the centre of everything that Sounds From The Ground creates. This is not listening electronica that alienates - it seduces, humanises, liberates. What's more, despite rarely being over the 100 bpm tempo mark, it makes you want to dance.
Terra Firma (2000) shows the duo expanding their horizons - not that they were ever narrow to start with - and succeeding in everything they try their hand at. Marshmello is a piece of 21st century jetset lounge that wouldn't sound out of place in a James Bond film, while the electric piano groove and brass flourishes of The Cut suggest a nod to nujazz. The creeping grooves of Bodega Bay, Drugstore and Rye explore a kind of brooding emotional twilight that's neither happy nor sad and yet utterly compelling.
The female vocals of Natural Selection (2003) marked an unexpected and not particularly interesting attempt at a pop-orientated collection. Fortunately the duo's fourth album Luminal (2004) followed a year later and is a solid return to form. This time the dark side looms larger than on any other SFTG album, but depressing it is not. Tumbledown ropes in pedal steel player BJ Cole whose liquid guitar lines lift the crunching, snails-pace groove into a strange and beautiful realm. Move On proves that lyrics on ambient dub tracks are just fine, playing a filtered female vocal against shimmering keys and a slow techy groove and suggesting that (gasp!) trip hop is alive and well in 2004. As before, nearly every track on Luminal is a mini-epic and that's particularly true of the album's closer. The slowly unfolding London Fields is one of the best sunrise anthems Orbital never made, with ghostly looped chords that morph ever so gradually into a 120 beats-per-minute broken beat blissfest.
SFTG went on to release High Rising (2006) on Waveform Records. High Rising sees the duo experiment with more ambient longform tracks, creating an album with subtle grooves and a summer cityscape vibe. Notable collaborations in this album include renowned world-fusion & electronica artist Gaudi, and fantastic vocals from the likes of Juno Reactor vocalist Taz Alexander.
2008 saw another Waveform records release, Brightwhitelight focusing more on dub-centric sounds. The duo come through with classic bass oriented groovy downtempo. Shortly proceeding Brightwhitelight, SFTG released Thru the Ages (2009), a "from the vaults" compilation of unreleased works dating back as far as the Kin era.
The Maze (2010) followed; a Waveform Records release which has the duo reaching their hands into more psychedelic & acid soundscapes, layering them onto classic dub grooves. One further Waveform Records release follows, with the likes of Widerworld (2012) which has the duo stretch towards more varied styles including rhythmic experimentation and even the introduction of live acoustics on Fields Of Green And Yellow - Widerworld really showcases the diversity of styles that SFTG can fit into an album. Widerworld would be the duo's last release with Waveform Records as the owner, Forest, would go on to start further projects in Maui.
Simultaneously, SFTG also made headway with three EP's: In The Cool Of The Shade EP (2009), Spectral EP (2010), and Tonic Radio EP (2011). These EP's highlight the duos more subtle approach to the ambient dub style; a fantastic mix of straight dub tracks and ambient soundscapes.
The span of 2012 to 2017 saw 4 new albums and an EP on Upstream Records as well as a couple of remasters.
Ready, Steady, Slow (2012) sees the duo absorbed into smooth sultry chillout and atmospheric production, creating a beatless album filled with fantastic ambient landscapes. Followed by Tribes (2013), where the duo experiment with modern bass sounds and more punchy sounding beats. Tribes is a great example of modern, clean production from the duo. Alchemy (2015) sees the duo take a step back in time with the production, showcasing their technical prowess with analogue equipment reigning from the Kin era. Finally, Native Soul (2017) sees an interesting mix of the previous 3 albums' styles amalgamated into one place, taking the clean cut bass & drum sounds, analogue synths, and ambient atmospheres into one classic SFTG package.
This era also saw the remastering of Mosaic & Luminal, 2 keystone SFTG classics. Rhythm And Reason EP (2016) is a fantastic little set of diverse styles, incorporating energetic modern electronic sounds, analogue drum beats, and subtle ambient melodies.
2019 starts the next era for Sounds from the Ground, celebrating 25 years of their existence, the duo greet us with their forthcoming album Binary on the 25th March.
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