Minor Science Wants More Joy and Less Overthinking
a.k.a. An interview with the British artist about his (mostly ambient) new album and how it fits with the unbridled club sounds and audacious edits he's embraced as of late.
Many words have been used to describe the music of Minor Science (a.k.a. Angus Finlayson) throughout the past decade, but until fairly recently, “fun” wasn’t often one of them. It probably didn’t help matters that the Berlin-based British artist had also spent many years working as a music journalist—we journos do tend to be regarded as overly serious and buttoned up—but even once he started releasing records on tastemaking labels like The Trilogy Tapes and Whities (which has since changed its name to AD 93), his output, much of which was aimed at the club, was more likely to be praised for its attention to detail and left-of-center orientation than its ability to light up the dancefloor. His 2020 debut LP Second Language, which dropped just a few weeks into the global Covid lockdown, was tellingly hailed by Boomkat as an “album of IDM and magpied rhythmic modernism.”
Finlayson is still capable of making nuanced, heady work—his just-released Absent Friends Vol. III album for Balmat is essentially a concept-driven collection of ambient and experimental constructions—but during the past few years, he’s also unveiled a more irreverent side. His 064 release, which arrived this past May on AD 93, is the most prominent example, as its two rave-ready cuts indulged in bubbly glee and reckless abandon, taking cues from genres like hardcore, bassline, electro and booty bass. However, it’s with the STRIPE N CO moniker that Finlayson has really let his freak flag fly; although he’s often playfully kept his distance from the project in public—going so far as to denounce its output on social media—it’s become a vehicle for edits that border on maniacal, reworking pop divas, nu-metal anthems and even holiday music into mercilessly banging cuts that giddily pull from hardcore, gabber and various other strains of hard dance.
What prompted this change in direction? Considering just how much dance music has tilted toward big, bright and brash sounds in the aftermath of the pandemic, one might assume that Finlayson had simply followed suit, but the emergence of Absent Friends Vol. III makes clear that he still has a taste for thoughtful introspection and more considered compositions. Hoping to reconcile his various musical pursuits, I asked if he would be interested in an interview, and over the course of a long conversation last week, he explained how his love of goofy bangers isn’t some new thing, even if the influences of that love have only recently begun to show up in his music. And while Finlayson rarely works as a journalist these days, his answers also revealed him to be someone who still thinks systemically about electronic music and club culture, touching upon the current debate over the growing presence of pop music and edits in the supposed “underground,” the influence of social media, the declining power of the press and what exactly constitutes a joke.