By Dylan Bowker
Improvisation is a game of chance but it’s a game Bradford Reed is all too willing to play.
His latest record under the pseudonym Ohmslice came out of a lot of improvisational playing. Conduit is an album that was born in the moment. Bradford described the musicians involved as passive pathways for the magic to materialize. Ohmslice has been the project Bradford has wanted to do for a while. It wasn’t until he finally went out and got that modular synth that he began to set the wheels in motion on the musical outfit. There’s a percussive root in all instrumentation for the record. Most things are electronically connected with the drums and synth being married together. The feedback looping into itself in a purposeful way captured the human aspects while playing digitized music. This was consciously done so Ohmslice’s effort didn’t come off as rigid or quantized. Even the vocalist involved with the project improvised her contributions.
Modular synths emphasis bass notes and drums undulate through the sonic wall. This inventiveness isn’t restricted to composition considerations for Bradford. He also extended that to his efforts in making instruments. Reed created his own instrument called the Pencillina. With ten springs and two necks, the instrument utilizes both a guitar and bass. It also has touches of slide guitar. Strings are woven through sticks and sticks strike the strings to elicit notation. It offers a wide sonic pallet and showcases another instance of melody dove tailing with percussion to create Bradford’s music. Drummer Josh Matthews provided drums for Conduit and has been performing for years with Bradford.
Josh and Bradford were in the Blue Man Group years ago. Josh provided percussion and Reed played the electric zipper for the avant garde outfit. Bradford pointed out how maintains lengthy friendships with the few musicians he is able to connect with. Jamming with others wasn’t always the easiest thing for Bradford to do. He described it as being protective of his energy and wasn’t as eager to play with new musicians. Bradford often busked the streets and often times had fellow musicians approach him wanting to play together. Reed has since gotten better with this and is more open to collaborating. Other collaborative outfit of his was King Missle III. Yet another collective with the theme of using improvisation to keep things free flowing. Too much structure can be restrictive and stifling. Bradford was not afforded these same kinds of freedoms when scoring for cartoons and film.
Reed didn’t exactly care for expressing himself in this sort of way. It was calculated to the point that mechanical precision was required. Nailing cuts to the millisecond and performing the vision of someone else with a rigidly faithful adherence. Bradford was able to learn from the experience though. Scoring cartoons allowed him to let go of his own agenda and not over think the situation. Reed described certain preoccupations with doing something different than the last record, overly scrutinizing new compositions, etc. The nature of the freight train style deadlines in cartoon scoring eliminated this time/ energy wasting practice.
Reed has also delved into the world of producing music for other artists. Bradford consciously aims to serve the material and tailor the process to the artist. Sometimes these efforts can inform his own processes as a performer but this isn’t always the case. The more hats one wears in the music creation process, the multiplicity of interpretation increases that much more.
Ohmslice’s name references electrical resistance but the band is represented through iconography. In most press releases from the band, the group will often use symbols to represent the outfit. Bradford sees the cryptic and mysterious element to the symbols used in press material. It’s inherently eye catching and creates a curiosity surrounding what this group could possibly sound like. Many unsuspecting music fans are unwittingly guided towards a multi-layered wall of sound.
Despite the rich nuance in the sonic detail of his music, Bradford doesn’t exactly romanticise vinyl. He certainly enjoys the physical medium but described himself a format agnostic. Conduit will get a vinyl release though Reed will distribute the effort in a few different ways. Reed feels the album will take a couple listens for things to really sink in. Certain things aren’t right away recognizable or accessible. Repeat listens will reveal the multiple layers of the effort. It’s the beautiful end result of multiple personalities coming together in an organic way.
As far as future projects go, Bradford already has something on the docket. Anthems of the Void is described as a “pretty bugged out” effort he is set to drop. Reed spoke excitedly about this though there’s no concrete timeline on that album’s release. Bradford still maintains his fandom despite his mounting success as a musician. He spoke warmly of Sonic Youth and Tuxedo Moon as being super influential to his own creative efforts. Maintaining that fanatical energy from early on while being informed through years of personal experiences/ learning. Much like his music, Bradford maintains a core theme through surroundings that could seem discordant at times.
The only parting thought Reed had was for musicians to find what’s idiosyncratic about their sound and to own it. A sentiment that can be extended to how we all endeavor to live life and to all creatively fueled avenues of social engagement.