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WOO is Mark and Clive Ives, two brothers who in the early 1970’s began to create a musical world all their own in a small row house in Wimbledon, South London. For several years they made tapes for their own amusement, never once thinking anyone else would be interested. It wasn't really important to them whether anyone else was interested, and that's one of the main reasons why WOO music works so well, and why it defies all attempts at defining what "kind" of music it is. WOO music is music which delights in its own existence, and in the process, charms the listener like nothing else. It was 1981 before anyone else suggested the world might like a listen, too, and the result was their debut album, Whichever Way You Are Going, You Are Going Wrong. Released in the U.K. in 1982 it received rave critical reviews in the difficult to please British press, and was then licensed by Independent Project Records for US release in 1988, followed by their second album It's Cosy Inside in 1989. 

Since that time, the brothers have been remarkably prolific and Independent Project Records is delighted to collaborate with Woo again. More than a simple reissue, the new team-up of Woo and IPR debuts with a special selection of two works, Xylophonics and Robot X: the albums were first self-released digitally on their Bandcamp page in 2017 and 2016 respectively, and have now been reshaped, expanded, and newly conceived as companion pieces. Listening to Xylophonics and Robot X side by side makes for a fascinating, and ever surprising, journey into experimental retro-futuristic electronica.


There are more than 1000 tracks in Mark and Clive Ives’ archives (which collect material from the 1970s through 2005); over the last decade the brothers have been busy creating albums from these old recordings, sometimes overdubbing the existing tracks, sometimes adding newer contemporary music. To briefly describe their process: the two create short lists of the archives with sounds they feel complement each other (for instance, they can be melodic, or optimistic, or surreal…). Then begins the process of creating a track listing. Once they get something down to an album duration, they start listening… and there comes a concept, a title and the artwork for a new release.


That’s how Robot X was conceived, utilizing snippets of recordings made on a 4-track tape machine in the late 1980s. “One of our most abstract and surreal albums”, Clive Ives calls it. When the record was compiled in 2016, the brothers felt that the reality of humanoid robots being made and being used was immanent. This concept became the main inspiration for the album, fueled by the influence of Terry Gilliam’s 1985 masterpiece Brazil, with its blend of sci-fi and dark comedy. The story, set in a dystopian world in which there is an over-reliance on poorly maintained (and rather whimsical) machines, proved influential for Robot X’s artwork, too: Clive Ives collaged together various old industrial machinery etchings from the British Museum archives to create robots, coming up with something that is obviously not as practical and functional as modern (real world) robots are.


Xylophonics was birthed through a similar process, reworking tracks found in the ‘90s section of the brothers’ spacious archive. Back then, they had just begun recording onto computers, and the album proved their first opportunity to properly link drum machines with keyboards, and create loops and multitrack more layers without the need of sound on sound on a tape deck. These recordings also find the brothers working on melodic pattern loops made with the tuned percussion instruments they’ve always had a special interest in (such as marimba, kalimba and xylophone), weaving those with drums, and creating a feel that is at once futuristic and optimistic in the process.


Xylophonics and Robot X together tell a story of retro-futuristic visions from different angles: both proudly experimental, they combine a deluge of musical influences to offer something that is, quite remarkably, deeply layered and minimalist at the same time. The unpredictable instrumentals they unleash invite listeners to attach their own fantasies to what they hear, whether those fantasies belong to the past, the present or, more likely, a robotic future. Released for the first time on vinyl and CD as double-disc sets encased in IPR label founder Bruce Licher’s singular letterpress packaging, complete with a handcrafted stamp booklet insert, these exquisite artifacts are a must for any serious collector of compelling contemporary musical endeavor.  

 Clive Ives' video for The One That Got Away captures the essence of Woo’s vision.

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Dobbin's Lost His Coconuts is a track recorded in the early 1990's, which escaped release until the brothers Ives put together a digital album featuring the track in 2017. The version on their digital release is an edited version, while the version that IPR included on our 2021 compilation Source - The Independent Project Records Collection is the first release of the full song with an additional minute of music at the beginning.




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