1967 the Harrow based Ad Rhythm Records put out its first three 7 inch
singles, entitled Add Rhythm. Rather than featuring complete songs,
each of them contained four drum rhythms; two on each side for musicians
to "Add Rhythm to your own melody". The three singles, entitled
Dance Time, Pop Time and Latin Time, are a unique example of technological
repurposing; it was no longer your gramophone it was now, "the
most effective practice aid a musician ever had".
Ad Rhythm Records never put out any further Add Rhythm
7 inches. And for the rest of their career, which lasted until about
1975, they concentrated on popular albums, largely composed using electric
organs of various types, and some of the exciting new synthesizers that
were starting to appear at the time.
In August 2013, I found two of the Add Rhythm 7 inches
in a Red Cross charity shop in Hendon. Charity shopping is often a form
of media archaeology. Over the years in this same shop I have found
artifacts as disparate as a hand-painted Balinese divination calendar
and Deutsche Grammophon's eight DVD set of Wagner's Ring cycle.
the Add Rhythm singles home two things became apparent: firstly that
these rhythms were entirely usable, and secondly that they represented
ancestral missing links in the technologies of break beats and sampling.
I resolved to use them for my own recordings, but then as I showed off
my newly won treasures online, I had a bigger idea: I thought that it
would be better if *lots* of people used them for recording.
I set up an event on Facebook and invited every musician
I know, and they invited a few themselves. It was an opportunity to
fool the shopping mall of the latter-day internet into doing something
creative. Something more collaborative, obsessional and fetishistic.
Something more like the sort of thing that the internet used to be so
I was slightly surprised at the enthusiasm of the
response. After all, what I was asking these musicians was to record
completely original, exclusive tracks, with strict limitations on the
form, and with no opportunity to make any money out of the process.
In total there were thirty-nine applicants. I digitised
all of the rhythms, initially at the intended 45rpm and then at 33rpm,
to give a total of sixteen rhythms, and then put them up onto Archive.org.
I chose a rhythm for each applicant, using a weighted stochastic distribution
which I like to call the Krishna Tombola System, and sent instructions
and a deadline:
Most of the rhythms are a little under three minutes
in length at 45rpm, and extend to something like a minute and a half
at 33rpm. Each rhythm is introduced by a lead-in beat on a wood block
and some vinyl crackle. In many cases the artists left the vinyl crackle
intact and in one case even resampled and exaggerated it.
By the 30th September I had received twenty-seven
recordings from the contributors. Over two thirds of the original applications.
I was astounded both by the quality and the range of material on these
recordings. Certainly I expected some of the playful noise-based reactions
to the rhythms but there were a wide range of musical responses using
a variety of techniques and even a pleasing array of songs. With most
tracks ranging between three to three and a half minutes, the resultant
feast is more like a mouthwatering selection of tapas than a stodgy
diet of carbohydrates.
In summary, I'd like to thank all of the contributors
for their hard work and their enthusiasm for this project which has
turned a late 60s folly into a living musical chimaera. Whatever ambitions
the anonymous drummer and the studio technicians at Ad Rhythm records
might have had for their product, it is unlikely that they imagined
that over forty years in the future their work would be interpreted
in such a variety of colourful forms.
Krishna - Add Rhythm Sampler curator.