Enigmatically enshrouded in silhouette and provocatively lit in cyberpunk neon, the Manchester electronic duo Overrider have had a significantly productive year given the circumstances. Not only did the atmospheric instrumental collective release their nine track record Cyc|er in May, the group have just recently dropped another offering in the form of concept EP Re:ntegration. Composed via lockdown late night productivity, Re:ntegration saw the band document the secretive dynamics of sleep in a rapid but detailed manner, with the record dynamically mirroring itself with repeated melodic motifs and clashing electronic mantras. “We had planned to take some time off after the last EPs. However, a fever dream of a dead friend resulted in a reassessment,” State the two piece as a collective. “We got thinking about dreams, recall and grief, which tragically coincided with the passing of another friend. The EP came together quickly after that, over a series of late nights, although it was a pain to mix because of the complexity of some of it. We'd planned on taking some time off, but it just appeared - the composition process was surprisingly painless.”
With the catalyst of the record’s creation originating from a chance encounter with a passed loved one within the realm of dreams, the record carries an unprecedented sense of emotional heft and gravitational levity, something not stereotypical seen with alternative electronic music. Encapsulating this is both the frantic drum contributions of Cleft’s John Simm and the full bodied production courtesy of Alpha Male Tea Party’s Tom Peters, inclusions that created a contrast when compared against the more downtempo and cold synthetic feel of their May release. However, whereas this resulted in a more ‘heavy’ and rock orientated sound, this wasn’t an initial decision. “Because of how quickly some of this came together, it didn't have as many hands on it to guide it as the first two EPs,” explain Overrider. “Everything started on guitar or drums, unlike any of the material before or since, which can start in code, on keyboards, whatever.”
"Losing somebody during the writing process definitely made it more raw and immediate.”
“As soon as we had basic demos, we got John involved. After that it was just a process of refining and reacting to his contributions, which in some cases completely changed the vibe of the material. Due to when it was written and mixed - late at night - it had a different energy. We knew John's drumming would work on all the tracks, so he got involved early. It became quite a collaborative process.“It probably has been a cathartic experience. Some of the people we had in mind when writing - and in particular from the dream that kicked it all off - have been gone a decade. Losing somebody during the writing process definitely made it more raw and immediate.”
Another aspect that makes the new record so urgent and impactful is the cinematic concept of the record. Probing human cognition, the mechanisms of sleep and how the recall of dreams can ignite hormonal changes, each track within the record’s five track listing sees the band addressing a different aspect of the sleep process and its relation to human emotion. To be laid out simply, ‘Running Hot’ documents the surge in productivity and creativity that‘s synonymous with the dead of night, ‘Gridsleep’ probes the nature of normal dreams, ‘The Thaw’ addresses our brain’s ability to recall dreams and ‘Awakening’ - much like it’s namesake implies – is about the cortisol spike that occurs when one wakes. However, at the centre of the record lies ‘Voices In The Dark’, a minimalist and translucent reflection of the dream that inspired the EP.
“"Where do we go when we sleep?" was kind of in the background of the writing process. As the initial inspiration was a dream, that made us straight away want to contextualise it. We had thought of a 3-track EP, but just sleep, dream, waking didn't quite fit. When the other two tracks appeared almost as a mirror image, that fitted with where we were already going with the theme. We're night people and had done some research into why you're more creative at night and went down that rabbit hole a bit.”
Despite the record being a fantastic EP in itself, the greatest way by far to experience it is via the accompanying short film. Titled after the EP itself, the film elaborates and intensifies the record in a contemporary cinematic fashion, with the visual experience showcasing the band’s enigmatic nature, the record’s deeply human emotion and the cyberpunk aesthetic that underpins the bands output. Inspired by “Cyberpunk fiction, some horror, and a dreamlike, old-school sci-fi ambiguity”, the video adds an additional layer to Overrider’s already deeply multi-textured work, elevating their meticulously detailed and substance craft to new visual levels.
“Your mind is uncluttered as you wake. It's that process of recall that fills your cup back up"
Much like their sonic amalgamation of undefinable human emotion and quantifiable electronic, the video itself dabbles with a myriad of inspirations and topics. An urbanite, almost dystopian, atmosphere glazes the film, something the band details with great precision. “In Running Hot there's a bunch of nods to the spectre of fascism, and that has lots of callbacks throughout the film. It's quite sparse in terms of human figures, though there are some motifs of the city, that carry through. These are all humans in the abstract; movement, traffic patterns et cetera. Crowds rather than individuals.”
“Working backwards from our intuitive process, the dense city motifs are a reflection of the flâneur. That is, an outsider observing the city as they walk through it. The video is sort of that experience of aimless strolling, but through psychological space. Wandering at night is a natural thing for introverts to do, and of course physical space is an extension of the psychological space of our society. How people inhabit that space, and how the observer moves through it is important."
“Personally, I remember walking through Hong Kong over several nights with a bout of fever-induced insomnia more than a decade ago. Given the dream and fever motif, that experience was a strong inspiration to guide the decisions made. It's also why there's an explicit nod to the suppression of pro-democracy protestors there.”
“There's a rising tension in Gridsleep that resolves cathartically with Voices In The Dark. By the time you get to The Thaw, it's very sparse. The narrative elements that carry over as the main themes from Gridsleep to The Thaw are sometimes quite fleeting when first seen. They're only revealed as much more important in The Thaw.”
“Your mind is uncluttered as you wake. It's that process of recall that fills your cup back up, which is why Gridsleep, representing dreaming, is so much more dense.”
Despite the lingering shots of ambient dystopian landscapes and rapid movements of hivemind human activity, some regular faces feature prominently within the video. The finale segment of ‘Awakening’ features both footage from the jubilant Cleft tribute set from last year’s ArcTanGent Festival and select shots from the ceremonial final Oceansize set from almost a decade ago. On the surface, it may seem these are merely homages to two acts that proved highly influential, but much akin to anything related to this act, there’s a plethora of meanings behind these inclusions.
"When you recall a dream often it's only the emotional resonance that you can really get a sense of when you wake. It hits you hard."
“The whole piece is a reaction to loss and grief, but in the flow of a sleep cycle. You only see what's real and what's been lost when you wake. The concert footage is juxtaposing the joy of performance and how alive it makes you feel with that motif of loss.”
“Dan (from Cleft) was a friend too, so that footage was a natural fit, threading Oceansize - a mutual favourite - with other footage through to that tribute set.”
“Finally, going back to the theme, when you recall a dream often it's only the emotional resonance that you can really get a sense of when you wake. It hits you hard. At the crescendo there's a return of the vocal part that represents our friend that passed. In the film and the track, the way it builds to the return of that theme was important. It's this big, cathartic moment, and it fitted using live footage of concerts that were emotionally resonant to us.”
In all, whilst it may sound hyperbolic, Overrider’s new record and accompanying new video is more than just a standard release and a way to quell isolation based boredom. It’s an urgent form of catharsis and a multimedia based narrative pondering an aggregation of interconnected topics presented in a way that’s concise, fulfilling and ponderous. Whilst Overrider may be an act from the shadows of hyperspace and one that works in quantifiable calculated ways, this year has proven that Overrider are far more human than the majority of their peers.