James Heather - 3 Records - Four Tet, Daniel Johnston & Ami Dang

Following on from our last '3 Records' post from Loscil, Mr James Heather kindly takes up the VVV invitation to tell us all about a trio of records that have played a big part in his life. One record from his formative years, one favourite of all time from anytime, and one that has captured his imagination in recent times.

James has released one of our favourite records of 2022 so far - 'Invisible Forces es' a beautiful and hypnotic collection of instrumental piano compositions.

The record is available from our shop here pressed on 12" Purple Vinyl.

James Heather - Invisible Forces - Purple Vinyl LP

Without further ado... Take it away James!... 

Four Tet - Pause

Artists like Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada, DJ Shadow, Cinematic Orchestra and Four Tet really switched my musical brain in the 90’s when I first heard them. Before then my tastes were a bit more commercial, due to being a kid in a pre internet age, my Dad had quite a lot of rock music from the margins however, but this stuff was really when I felt I was finding an underground sound that me and my mates could call our own.

Music that was a bit more cerebral, and taking choice elements from all over the shop, be that choral, folk, jazz or drum and bass. I knew Four Tet a bit from 90’s compilations and his post-rock act Fridge but this album really blew my mind. I’d moved to London by this point to study Media and Criminology and was starting to get immersed in this scene that seemed non existent in Southampton in my free time.

A year or so later I was starting to work in the warehouse at the record label Ninja Tune and do the merch desk on tours for Cinematic Orchestra, when technically  I should have been studying. I remember being back home one hot summers day from London and bumping into a few old friends who were doing some landscaping work at Southampton Uni, they had this album coming out of the stereo and we all just sat in the grass, and just entered a parallel universe, it’s a magical album. 

Daniel Johnston - Welcome To My World 

I first came across Daniel Johnston like many of my generation because Kurt Cobain wore his t shirts and was a fan of his music. I found it interesting this mega star was such a fan of an artist who was so DIY and rough around the edges.

But it was after my road traffic accident that I really connected with his music in a deeper way. I was just out of intensive care, on a lot of morphine and in my new hospital room I had access to a tv. One night I switched onto a documentary ‘The Devil and Danial Johnston’ and a mixture of my own fragile state after nearly dying and not sleeping for 10 days and watching this documentary on an artist truly on the edge who made this amazing ramshackle music from his house was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

When I came out of hospital I started to become focussed on releasing my own music, and I did not feel I had to be anything other than myself, and It could be as DIY as I liked, partly due to the influence of his music. I did a few singer songwriter albums and some electronic stuff, but it was almost too raw and personal and part of my recovery, I was not ready to release it yet, but it led me to rediscovering my solo piano music and in many ways I can thank Daniel Johnstone for that even though my sound has gone into different directions.

Ami Dang - Meditations Mixtape, Vol. 1

Ami Dang is an ambient artist and performs experimental sitar, vocals and electronics. She is a first generation Sikh living in America and I really connected with this EP that came out in lockdown.

A big part of my own album ‘Invisible Forces’, and something I forgot to mention when promoting it, is the influence of Sikh Gurdwaras (Temples) on my new music. My wife is Sikh and I would go with her most weeks to the temple and sit at the back, taking in the deeply meditative music that would be performed there on harmonium and tabla. I was not comfortable directly taking any influence, in terms of of instrumentation or motifs from this music from a religion that I had been welcomed into but really was just a respectful bystander and new to it. But what I did take was the feelings and sensibility, the trance like repetitions of rhythm and the spiritual message of oneness and selfless service, the fact I knew it was being performed for wholly pure and non-commercial reasons. It’s maybe most noticeable on the track ‘Ancestral Future Now’ on the album.

I think music can be the thing that finally brings the world together more as one, whether that be in 100 or 1000 years time. Religion, philosophy and politics have done their best but I do think music is the true unifier (whilst realising it’s ok for people from different backgrounds and customs to get along) and a communication with something beyond our comprehension. Anyway, check this release from Ami Dang, it’s all kinds of deep.

Words by James Heather

Portrait photography by Ozge Cone

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published