Press Release and Sleeve Notes by Mat Smith

Spiritual Friendship 4 is the fourth album from Spiritual Friendship, the pairing of hip-hop beatmaker and producer Nick Hook (Run The Jewels, 50 Backwoods, Gangsta Boo) and fellow producer and noisemaker Gareth Jones (Depeche Mode, Yann Tiersen, John Foxx). The album finds the pair using modular sequences and arpeggiating chords as the foundation layer of the album’s seven pieces, making this the most immediately musical project the pair have released so far. The album includes vocal collaborations with Quinquis, Erasure’s Andy Bell, Malena Zavala, ‘89 The Brainchild and Hinako Omari.

The roots of Spiritual Friendship 4 can be traced to the duo’s first, self-titled album together, released by Calm + Collect in 2016. “With that first album, everything just emerged from our hearts,” says Gareth. “Afterwards, we thought that it was interesting that the album had been formed from drums, drones, sequences and field recordings. After that, we decided to release individual albums focussed just on those individual elements.” Exploring the table of Spiritual Friendship elements, ‘Root Drone’ and ‘Drums’ were released in 2018; ‘Drones’, released as a series of seven long, Chakra-inspired pieces, followed in early 2021. This, then, is the sequences album.

Nick and Gareth have always said that any Spiritual Friendship project needs to be done in person, together. In the case of Spiritual Friendship 4, the pair created the initial sequences and chords at Hook’s Greenpoint studio, The Spacepit, in September 2019. Gareth was on his way to upstate New York to work on the Nous Alpha album ‘A Walk In The Woods’ and Nick was just about to begin work on a ‘Grand Theft Auto’ soundtrack. The plan was to return to the studio once both of their other projects had been completed. “Then the pandemic hit,” says Nick. “That changed everything. The first rule of Spiritual Friendship is that everything’s done in person – always, period. But not being allowed to do that is what allowed this record to become what it did. We threw all the rules out of the window and said that we could do whatever we wanted.”

With Gareth back at The artLab in London and Nick at The Spacepit, the pair took the chords and sequences they’d recorded together in Greenpoint and began working independently for the first time in the history of their collaboration. “The foundation of Spiritual Friendship didn’t change,” explains Gareth. “We’ve always worked together without judgement, and we’ve always been allowed to go as crazy as we want. Nothing about this was any different – it just happened that we couldn’t be together to work in the studio like we normally would.”

Spiritual Friendship 4 was completed in October 2021. Over the course of two years, Nick added beats to various tracks and both worked on arrangements and structural edits; at some point Gareth decided to explore adding vocals to various tracks. He initially recorded his own voice, which became a focal point of the album’s ethereal closer, ‘Infinity’. As his enthusiasm for adding vocals grew, he approached friends and asked them for contributions. New Mute signing Quinquis added a fragile, haunting Breton vocals to the captivating opening track, ‘Nemet un Nor’; Malena Zavala sang Spanish vocals on ‘Sol con Nieve’, seamlessly weaving her voice around a mesmerising rap from ‘89 The Brainchild that Nick added just as the tracks were being mastered; Hinako Omari’s vocals joined Gareth’s on ‘Infinity’; Andy Bell (Erasure) sang a fully improvised vocal on ‘An Honest Key’.

The result is an album that is partly instrumental and partly song-based. We hear wriggly acid-style sequences and predatory sounds on ‘Greenpoint’, possessing a liquid energy and almost industrial techno-style forward motion despite the absence of beats. ‘432’ finds the pair creating a robotic groove from edgy, momentum-filled sequences, rarely staying in one place for very long before reaching a hypnotic, mesmerising climax. ‘Angel’ became the album’s centrepiece. The beatific, electro-spiritual chord structure for the first section had existed in Gareth’s head since he was a teenager, its playful, intricate synthesiser patterns reminiscent of Wendy Carlos’ ‘Switched On Bach’ and Don Dorsey’s ‘Bachbusters’.

Spiritual Friendship 4 is immediately recognisable as the work of Nick Hook and Gareth Jones when they come together as Spiritual Friendship. The trademark attention to detail and arrangement is every bit as present as it has been on their previous work, but it takes their sound in new and exciting directions. “When I imagined the sequences album in my head, I figured it would sound like when you walk into a modular synthesiser store,” reflects Nick. “I really feel like this one really did take on a life of its own, and that abandoning the Spiritual Friendship rules we set for ourselves allowed it to be like that. Including other people on this album was a really cool thing to do – it’s like everyone can be part of Spiritual Friendship. I feel like this record opens the door for wherever we want to go next.” 

released December 3, 2021

Produced by Nick Hook and Gareth Jones
Mastered by Joe Laporta