Transparent Sound: Orson Bramley Talks 90's Rave Era, New Project Empty Orchestra and More

© O. Bramley

Transparent Sound became one of the innovators of the 2nd wave of Electro back in the mid 90's. Since the beginning a very independent artistic endeavor between Orson Bramley and Martin Brown; debuting with their first EP "Meltdown Ride" on their own self-entitled imprint, Transparent Sound went on to become one of the most sought after Electro acts of the 90's and early 2000's, with a plethora of releases and downright classics, such as "Freaks Frequency" for example, or perhaps "Three Fifty Short" on Electrix Records. Their sound transcended space in such a way that everyone from Rave goers to hardcore Electro and Techno enthusiasts couldn't help but fall in love with their aggressive, yet mystifying and soulful style of Electronic Music.

In this interview, Orson Bramley of Transparent Sound talks about the duo's history, his new solo project Empty Orchestra, while reminiscing on the 90's Rave era and how it helped shape not just the project's sound over the years, but who he is as a person and musician to this day. Let's get to it!

Welcome, it's truly an honor to have you take some time to do this interview! Let's start at the very beginning. How did Transparent Sound originally form? Who would you say were your main influences?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just a few, but those who have inspired me along the way are Plaid, Boards of Canada, Depeche Mode, Dr. Dre, Simulant, Drexciya, Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Claro Intelecto, Air, Anthony Rother, Matthew Johnson, Carl Finlow and many more.

Talk about your personal experiences in the Electronic Music industry over the past 30 years or so, in what ways has it changed for you, for better or worse?

Personally the biggest change for me was the shift of vinyl to digital. The swap over to CD, then to MP3, and the use of analog gear to software synths. It’s constantly changing and flipping back, like people dancing in clubs instead of fields. Of course there’s the commercialization of dance music, and also the millions of sub-genres that have been created…

It's rather overwhelming these days for sure! Were you a big part of the UK Rave scene in the '90's? As a youngster, I remember your records back then being considered by many to be Rave classics, often not even knowing there was such a thing as Electro.

What was your experience with that movement, and in what ways would you say it affected you as a person and as an artist?

Yeah, it was (and still is) a massive part of who I am and what has made me who I am today, both as a producer and also the ethics from that time. I used to DJ quite a bit back in the ‘90s and rave at the legendary Interdance held in Worthing (UK), which was the closest place to where I grew up. I also played at Space and Cafe Del Mar in Ibiza back then. We used to drive up to London in search of the illegal raves, and I remember going to an early Energy rave that blew my mind! I couldn’t wait to get out of my home town and move to London.

For the last 19 years, you have consistently remained one of Electro's strongest acts, much of this done completely independently! You have survived many ups and downs in the markets and its many changes, and still, you have never given up.

What does it take to make it in the music industry, what would you say personally drives you towards making and releasing music, especially Electronic?

Well, be under no illusion, it’s a really hard business to be in at times. It’s been a really tough ride but it’s who I am and what I love to do above anything else. I’ll never stop, it’s my passion, my love and my life. To be honest, I just do what I like really, what ever feels right, but I always try to remember that first time when my hairs on the back of my neck stood up from music; that first track that did that!

I constantly chase that feeling with the music I make and release. I think it’s important to push things forward while holding on to what you have always had a passion for. I’ve always loved Electro, but I also like other forms of Electronic Music, so long as it has an edge and isn’t too generic and forced.

Artwork for Empty Orchestra - Nervouse Smile EP © O. Bramley

You now continue Transparent Sound on your own, and also have a new project called Empty Orchestra and a new EP titled "Nervouse Smile". Talk about this, what was the inspiration behind the new project?

The new project has been something I’ve wanted to get going for a few years now and was always a name I liked for a solo project. Empty Orchestra is the translation of Karaoke. It will give me freedom to write in different ways than is expected of Transparent Sound.

What's your take on the current Electro revival, will it last you think? What will it take to ensure it does not lose that core ethic that has always been so special about the Electro sound?

I think it’s great and feel positive about it. I think too much of any one sound gets boring in a set and it’s nice to keep things fresh and interesting, so time will tell I guess... but it’s nice having such a big choice of new releases on vinyl again. I’m loving that.

Let's talk studio for a minute. What's the typical session for you like?

It varies a lot for me. Sometimes I’ll jam and write a track in a day, but other times I might keep revisiting tracks for months that have something special, but I just can’t find a way to finish them. I get bored quickly though and so I like to record quickly and try to capture an emotion, but then not kill that emotion when polishing the track, or over-working it.

It’s been a really tough ride, but it’s who I am and what I love to do above anything else. I’ll never stop...

What do you think of the current hardware revolution? Any new gear you have been getting, or eyeing at least?

There’s always new toys I want and think I need, but I have plenty of gear and really don’t need anymore. I really like the Korg Minilogue XD. I have the first one but I quite fancy the new version. I’m always after vintage synths too, and obviously the Moog One would be nice.

What's in store for the future? What releases can we look forward to?

I have a new Transparent Sound album ready to cut and that should arrive around July/August this year, plus some great remixes from Acidulant, Mesak, Defekt, Umwelt and Mutex. I also have a new releases coming from Mesak, Carl Finlow and Mutex on my Orson Label, and I’m working on a remix for John Selway, and have a remix coming for Larry McCormick as well.

Sounds great Orson, can't wait to hear! Thanks again for your time.

Listen to previews of the new Empty Orchestra release called Nervouse Smile EP: