Something wicked this way comes. Something dark, menacing, fathomless. Shadows within shadows. Electricity from other planets. This is the heavy weather sound of Minibus Pimps: a perfect storm of crystalline chimes, low end rumbles and slow-blowing galactic hurricanes.
Minibus Pimps is a duo featuring the legendary John Paul Jones – former bassist in Led Zeppelin – and prolific electronic musician, improviser and producer Helge Sten (Deathprod, Supersilent), which has existed since its first performance in 2011. This unique and unconventional UK/Norwegian collaboration is named after a track discovered on a compilation of Chinese experimental music (a street recording of people who work the crowd to fill taxis in Beijing), and both members connect the dots between the progressive rock of the 1970s with the exciting developments in Norway’s new music scene since the late 1990s.
The debut album Cloud To Ground contains seven tracks all recorded live at different venues, from London’s Café Oto to venues in Norway and Denmark. The secret of Minibus Pimps’ colossal sonic gas giants is their use of the Kyma computer system (created by Symbolic Sound). Instruments such as guitar, bass and violin are fed into the system and radically transformed by self-designed digital instruments and processors until their sources are barely recognisable. This method continues John Paul Jones’s experiments with computer music which began as far back as the late 70s.
‘I would say that the music contains composed and improvisational elements on an equal scale,’ says Helge Sten of the pieces on Cloud To Ground. With titles referencing what scientists call ‘remarkable luminous phenomena in nature’, the tracks are scintillating exercises in bending timbres and refracting sound signals. ‘Black Aurora’ is an electronic suite in four movements, pulsing and hovering like some collapsing dark star. The title track is a monstrous duet for icicles and cathedral organ, and the other pieces are masses of sound and noise explored in different densities.
John Paul Jones played as a session musician with Donovan, Herman’s Hermits, Jeff Beck, Françoise Hardy and many others until co-founding Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page in late 1967. He remained the band’s bassist and keyboardist throughout their existence. Meanwhile he has collaborated or produced a range of artists including Diamanda Galás, REM, Foo Fighters, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney and many more. His most recent group is Them Crooked Vultures with Dave Grohl and Josh Homme.
Helge Sten has been making electronic music since the early 90s, both under the name Deathprod and, since 1997, as one of the improvising group Supersilent. One of Norway’s most innovative and uncompromising artists, his ‘audio virus’ has spread across the music of many collaborators including Motorpsycho, Susanna, Biosphere and more. Supersilent first teamed up with John Paul Jones at the Punkt festival in Kristiansand in 2010, a fruitful meeting that eventually spawned Minibus Pimps.
Cloud To Ground is a giant step by two fearless sonic cosmonauts.