With new album 'Requiem For A Rave' the duo with the invisible partner pay homage to dancefloor sounds of yore
Electronic music duo Posthuman have just put out a concept album called Requiem For A Rave, a musical love letter to the techno, jungle, trance and house of their early raving days.
Available digitally, on vinyl and as a special cassette version that comes recorded as a pirate radio broadcast, it’s a distinctly nostalgic project, but this isn’t a strict homage or retreading of old rave styles. Instead, Requiem For A Rave is a set of contemporary dance tunes that explicitly reference the early 90s without attempting to slavishly reproduce them.
So sure, there are lots of breakbeats, Pacific State pads and hardcore-esque stabs, and the overall sound is highly evocative of the rave era. But the production and the mixing of musical quotations from different genres also gives the whole thing a more contemporary feel.
iDJ spoke with one half of Posthuman, Josh Doherty, to get the Posthuman story and to talk rave concept albums…
For readers who might not know, please tell us who you are and what you do?
“I’m Josh, I’m one half of an electronic music act called Posthuman. I also run a record label called Balkan Vinyl and a club night called I Love Acid.”
Tell us about your background: what was life like for you growing up?
“I was born in London at the end of the 70s. My parents split when I was less than a year old and I went to live in Australia with my mum. I grew up in the 80s, a bit in Sydney and Adelaide but mainly on various hippy communes around the Coffs Harbour area in NSW – I lived in a bus, a teepee, a mudbrick cottage (that my mum built) and a caravan, among other places.
“I missed a lot of school, at times we would be living deep in the bush miles from anyone else, off the grid, so I was generally left to my own devices. I read a lot of books (for most of my childhood we had no TV or electricity) so my understanding and exposure to popular culture was pretty limited.
“When I was 12, I’d been getting into trouble in Australia – mainly drugs, stealing, running away, stuff like that. My mum couldn’t handle me anymore so she sent me to England – moving from sub-tropical Australia to Darlington in the northeast of the UK, meeting my dad and that side of my family for the first time. Going from being a hippy kid with dreadlocks (yep, I was a white kid with dreads!) to being the middle of seven kids in a terrace house – three younger siblings and three older step-siblings
“At this point, it was like an avalanche of new things – particularly music, television, movies… overwhelming but inspiring. It was at this point I discovered electronic music – my older brother Laurie playing me tracks by The Orb. This was around 1993.”
Do you think your background affected your choice of career?
“Definitely. My dad had a furniture/bric-a-brac shop called Wrott & Swindlers and someone had traded him a synthesizer, a four-track and a drum machine. He gave them to me, I think mainly just to get me to have an actual functional hobby rather than just wandering around the streets smoking. I started experimenting with electronic music from there, saving up money from my paper round to buy cables, tapes, guitar pedals…”
When did you first realise that dance music could be your career?
“From that point on really, 13 or 14, it was all I wanted to do. Literally, everything in my life revolved around it, my bedroom was a constant shambolic set-up of dangling MIDI cables and stacks of cassettes. My older brother had turntables, knackered old things with belt drives and a dial to control the pitch, he was always playing me new music – from rave stuff on XL to house on Cleveland City. A few of my mates at school were into tunes as well but I was definitely the one with the most obscure taste and general obsession with music.”
Posthuman are a duo, so tell us a little about your music partner Rich…
“Rich is my cousin on my dad’s side. He’s a year or so older than me, and an only child like I was before moving to the UK. His mum was the first female UK airport manager and his dad was a pilot – both his mum and dad came from a background of poverty and had an incredible work ethic, which Rich also has. But their career choices meant he was sent to boarding school, where he was kicked out for setting up a brewery, so he ended up finishing school and living with us. That’s really where the two of us were thrown together as teenagers. My dad would give us a fiver to go to the cinema, we’d spend it on booze and ciggies and go out causing trouble instead,
“Rich went off to University in Newcastle, where he got a job at a record shop, so he would come back to Darlington and bring me tapes of stuff like Anthony Rother, Underground Resistance, Boards Of Canada – huge eye-openers for me. At that point I was mainly listening to bands like Orbital, FSOL and Leftfield. We did some jams together on my music gear, and he even put on my first-ever gig as Posthuman in Newcastle.
“He told me about a label called Skam Records, and how they put Braille on every record. I sent them a demo, which they signed, and when I told Rich he basically said ‘Well, I’m going to have to join the band now, otherwise you’ll fuck it up‘!
“Rich doesn’t do social media. No Facebook, no nothing. He’s not really involved in the business side of the labels or club nights – he is just about the music and the art, nothing else. That’s why I do all the interviews, all the talking! He’s also the vastly more skilled vinyl DJ, while I’m the hardware guy.”
And you’ve just released Requiem For A Rave album, which sounds very much like a concept album to me…
“It is, unashamedly so! We wanted to write an album that was a love letter to ourselves as teenagers. It might have been a reaction to lockdown, or just because we’re getting older. So we set out the story of a night out, a kind of mash-up of our memories of being that age.
“We were of the generation who caught the tail-end of the rave scene, saw things move into the clubs. We wrote out all the different parts of a big night out: everything from being sat round your mate's playing Megadrive, someone DJing on busted decks, passing around spliffs, to jumping in a car and piling down the motorway, either to a rave somewhere or a club we’d heard of in one of the big cities nearby.
“From there, we wrote tracks to match the vibe of the night, chronologically, like a soundtrack. Our mate Bruce – who’s been part of the crew since our teenage years – narrated the album like a pirate radio DJ, in the style of the MC from The Warriors. But it’s viewed through the prism of memory, so the timelines don’t quite match up and it’s all a bit hazy.”
It’s certainly quite nostalgic in places, but there’s a sense of timelessness to it as though it could have been made last week or three decades ago - is this a fair description? Was that deliberate?
“We didn’t want it to be a throwback, retrospective album – it’s all new music but it’s the feeling of those days that we wanted to capture rather than just copying the actual style. It certainly is a departure, genre-wise, from our usual output because there’s things in there that are inspired by trance, jungle, breakbeat… but it’s still very much us, today.”
And what’s next for Posthuman?
“We’ve actually been writing shitloads of electro this year, which will hopefully be getting released soon. Electro is definitely Rich’s first love… mine’s electronica.
“We also have an album coming out on The Dark Outside which is completely different from Requiem… it’s ambient, leftfield electronica and themed around a haunted Soviet numbers station – a radio station that spies would use for dead drop instructions – and the plan is to create a digital treasure hunt where you have to follow clues in the music to get hold of the album. Only for the dedicated!”
Words: Harold Heath
Requiem For A Rave is available now – buy it here.