Artist Spotlight: Luke Howard
Australian Music Prize twice-long-listed composer Luke Howard has been described as “absolutely heavenly” (Mary Anne Hobbs, BBC Radio 6) and his music as “an ambient masterclass” (Musos’ Guide), but no words can fully capture the potency of Howard’s enthralling compositions. A pianist since childhood, Howard has scored films and performed with artists as diverse as Lior and Jeff Mills, capturing audiences with contemporary classical arrangements that curl and twist around the boundaries of a particular emotion. Though wordless, Howard’s songs perform a function unique to music as a medium – that of evoking without describing, bringing listeners to a feeling which defies articulating.
Back home in Melbourne, Howard recently composed music for the short film The Sand That Ate The Sea (nominated for best soundtrack in the 2019 ARIA Awards) and the theatre work The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes (Back To Back Theatre). He has worked with choreographer, Juliano Nunes on pieces for the Royal Ballet in Covent Garden, and the Atlanta Ballet.
Howard is one of Australia’s foremost practitioners of contemporary classical music whose work continues to captivate audiences worldwide.
ATC caught up with Luke back in May, to find out a little more about how it all began, how he works in the studio and his experiences playing live….
ATC: Can you tell us a little about how your background and how your career in music began?
L.H: It’s probably not an uncommon story – I learned piano as a child at my parent’s suggestion – and I’ve just kept going. I suspect persistence is likely the real secret to a career in the arts. Of course, the story is a bit more nuanced: I studied jazz and improvisation at university as I enjoyed making things up, and didn’t have the technique nor repertoire to be a concert pianist. Much of my twenties and some of my thirties I oscillated between being a jobbing jazz pianist and a software developer, but in the past few years I’ve focused mostly on composition. I miss playing the piano as much as I used to, but I feel I can address bigger ideas, instrumentation, etc. as a composer. In a way, I’m just chasing the sentiment I first felt when I heard, say, Keith Jarrett. Trying to recreate that.
ATC: ATC’s founder, Chairman and fellow Australian, Billy Woodman has a great passion for jazz and has played piano from an early age, even covering the cost of his journey from Australia to England by backing a singer onboard the boat that he travelled on. One of his great influences, and all-time favourite pianists is the late great, Bill Evans. Which musicians have had a strong influence on you and your music?
L.H: Well, Bill Evans of course is an influence, but I think in my study of jazz piano I looked both before and after – I transcribed many Bud Powell solos, and then spent a good few years on a diet of Keith Jarrett and Brad Mehldau. They really define the language of modern jazz piano. The sadly departed pianists Lyle Mays and John Taylor were also huge influences, and aesthetically much more aligned with the music I make today. This of course is just a very narrow jazz piano lens – there’s much more music I love, including the artists I’ve mentioned so far, along with Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Blue Nile, I could go on for days…
ATC: Piano is your primary instrument, but do you have any other instruments you are particularly fond of, both acoustic and electronic?
L.H: I am fond of many instruments, but I can’t play any of them save the piano (I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to play the French Horn and oboe by now). I have a small cadre (which Google informs me is actually a tautology) of musicians I use on almost every record: effectively a jazz rhythm section, with guitar and violin, but used in more creative ways. So I love those textures. And, really, string orchestra is still my favourite ‘instrument’ for its emotional depth. I do look forward to the time when it will be possible to record with one again.
ATC: You incorporate electronic instruments and programming in your compositions. Is this an area of music you have been interested in for a long time or, a more recent development?
L.H: I’m a definite nerd but I’ve usually kept the two worlds fairly separate. I have been using synthesisers since I was a high school student thanks to some particularly forward-looking education programs in Australia (electronic music was offered as instrumental subject at my school). I’ve been reading audio magazines since approximately 1987 when my Dad bought me an issue of the now defunct Music Technology! As a jazz musician I didn’t listen to a whole heap of electronic music until recently, but I have been particularly inspired by how artists such as Nils Frahm, Jon Hopkins, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, et al. have integrated acoustic and electronic elements.
ATC: Could you give us an overview of your studio setup?
L.H: I work mostly ‘in the box’, I have a few nice bits of outboard but beyond the things necessary to actually get the music into the computer in the first place, that doesn’t see a great deal of use. So what really matters are the room and the speakers. My room was designed by Adelaide acoustician Chris Morton. I have a very beautiful desk (of the non-mixing sort) designed by my friend, Thomas Jouanjean of Northward Acoustics. My speakers are a pair of ATC SCM50ASLs (fed by a Cranesong Solaris DAC), which to me are a perfect combination of musicality and truthfulness; not fatiguing to listen to for long periods, not flattering, but also not so clinical one doesn’t feel inspired. My piano is a Yamaha upright, nothing particularly extraordinary but one which records quite well. I’m a bit of a collector of reverbs and tape delays, too.
ATC: When you are in the studio, do you have a pretty structured process you like to follow when recording and do you have a favorite place to record?
L.H: I do a lot of recording at my own studio now, so I tend to record rough ideas on the piano, then work and edit them in the computer, and then re-record them if the original version wasn’t up to scratch. It depends on the piece: an orchestral piece might start as an improvisation on the piano or the computer, but most of the work will be done in notation, and it doesn’t really exist in a tangible form until it’s been performed. Other pieces I’ve improvised on the piano have ended up on the record with very little editing.
Regarding a favourite place to record: I loved recording at Rainbow Studio in Oslo when Jan Erik Kongshaug was alive…but it wouldn’t be the same without him. Again, it really depends on the composition, but I learned the lesson early that acoustic instruments need good rooms, and it’s a lot easier to bring recording equipment to a great sounding room, than a good acoustic to a poor studio. High land prices have forced the closure of many studios here and elsewhere, so nowadays we are usually recording ensembles in a concert venue, and solo instruments in smaller spaces. One of my favourite released albums, Ten Sails, was recorded in a Berlin apartment. Good music recorded in a less than ideal room will always trump the converse, but great music in a great room is ideal!
ATC: Are there any technologies that have had a particularly strong influence on your ‘sound’?
L.H: Most of the music I make has an acoustic genesis, using instruments which haven’t changed for hundreds of years. I am fond of treating sounds using delays, reverbs, etc. but I’m fairly certain I’m using exactly the same tools as everyone else, and I arrived at a ‘sound’ simply through experimenting with them. I love a beautifully recorded Steinway just as much as an upright piano with some felt draped between the hammers and strings (I’ve actually been using a distinctly Australian cleaning cloth – Chux – as a replacement for felt of late!). I did buy a Prophet 6 synth a couple of years ago, which I’m slowly getting to know, so you might hear more of that on the next album.
ATC: I read that you performed live as part of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra alongside iconic techno artists Jeff Mills and Derrick May. On paper, an unlikely musical combination! but can tell us a little about how that came about and the experience?
L.H: Well, my name must be somewhere on a list of casual musicians as the Melbourne Symphony calls me occasionally when they need someone who can both read music and improvise. It was an interesting gig, certainly a lot of fun but the nature of amplifying an orchestra means that I couldn’t hear what Jeff and Derrick were doing too clearly. I do have a good story from that gig though, which might also explain why I haven’t heard from them since: I had a long solo feature just before the final song Strings of Life, and as I took a bow for this, my earpiece (with the click track) fell out. By the time I got it back in, I didn’t know where in the bar I was, let alone which bar! It was a pretty excruciating moment in front of many thousands of people – suffice to say when the gig ended I snuck away very quietly. To this day I’m not sure if anyone in the audience noticed, but the conductor certainly did!
ATC: Many people have had more time on their hands the past few months and are listing to more music and/or are looking for new artists and sounds to explore. Can you recommend three artists or albums that you have been enjoying recently?
L.H: I often go back to Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. It’s a perfect record. Keaton Henson’s Six Lethargies is a beauty. Other favourite artists to check out that your readers may not have heard of are Bing & Ruth, Ben Lukas Boysen, Marty Hicks and Hania Rani.
Quick plug! – a new live record of solo piano music, All That Is Not Solid, releases 30th July on Mercury KX (Decca/Universal). It was recorded in January this year, at the height of the Victoria bushfires. Listen to the track Passions of All Kinds here. I also recently released a book of sheet music which is available here.
Luke Howard: Website – Instagram – Facebook – Spotify – Tidal – Qobuz
PRODUCT LAUNCH: SCM150ASLT LE
New Limited Edition SCM150ASLT LE Active Loudspeaker System
Limited edition system brings exceptional focus to a 45-year heritage of innovation and precision engineering…
ATC loudspeaker Technology is proud to announce the availability of the SCM150ASLT, a luxurious marriage of world-class transducer and electronic design engineering, conceived to deliver extraordinary levels of clarity, neutrality, transient response and effortless power delivery.
The 3-way system comprises flawlessly engineered SCM150ASLT speaker towers incorporating the latest ATC designed and built drive unit technology, combined with an ATC P6 power amplifier. SCM150ASLT drivers including the new 25mm neodymium soft dome SH25-76S super dome tweeter, the 75mm soft dome SM75-150S super dome midrange and the SB75-375SL super linear bass driver are driven directly by the six dedicated channels of the P6 dual-mono, 3-way power amplifier, housed in an elliptical billet aluminium chassis, exquisitely machined and finished to complement the impeccable quality of the cabinets.
Manufactured to the highest standard by ATC’s own cabinet makers, weighing 116kg and at approximately 1.4m tall, each speaker enclosure is finished in selected European crown-cut walnut veneer with a high-gloss polyester lacquer, and detailed with a stainless steel badge, input panel and bespoke limited edition plinth, PVD treated to create an exclusive nickel-like appearance.
Deploying proprietary drivers throughout, the 3-way system uses ATC’s new SH25-76S tweeter, featuring both upper and lower suspension for greater operational precision and lower distortion; the latest evolution of ATC’s signature soft dome midrange design, the SM75-150S, and the company’s low-distortion SB75-375SL Super Linear bass driver. Combined they deliver a response accuracy of ±2dB between 60Hz-17kHz and ±6dB from 25Hz to 22kHz across a wide horizontal dispersion and at a maximum SPL of 117dB. The rear-mounted input panel features a single LEMO aerospace-grade 10-pin connector.
P6 Power Amplifier
The P6 is a high-performance Class AB dual-mono power amplifier designed and built by ATC to provide dedicated amplification and optimally matched active crossovers for the SCM150ASLT. It features a total of 6 channels: 2x (200W LF, 100W MF, 50W HF) for a combined output power of 350W/side. Generating a signal-to-noise ratio of more than 105 decibels its ultra-low noise discrete design, paired with 3-way active crossovers with phase equalisation, offers clear and detailed audio reproduction. On the rear panel, professional L/R XLR inputs (from preamplifier/digital source) are joined by aerospace-grade LEMO multi-pin loudspeaker output connectors. Proprietary speaker cables are included with the system.
As is customary with ATC products the SCM150ASLT and P6 are covered by a six-year warranty.
Available to order immediately. Product built to order, earliest shipping Wednesday August 5th.
Recommended UK retail price is £46,600 inc VAT. If you are located outside the UK, please contact the dealer or distributor in your region for pricing. A list of ATC authorised dealers and distributors can be found here.
Further product details can be found on the SCM150ASLT LE webpage.
SCM7 Reviewed by Hi-Fi Critic
Our most compact and affordable loudspeaker, the SCM7 has been reviewed by Martin Colloms, writing for Hi-Fi Critic magazine.
“This is a remarkable loudspeaker on several grounds. Firstly build quality and finish are excellent. Then comes the monitor grade accuracy, excellent pair matching and the remarkable bass for the size, and then the low distortion. It sounds musical and entertaining and was a delight to review. Within the natural limitation of size it really is of musically revealing monitor quality.”
Martin Colloms, Hi-Fi Critic, June 2020
To read the review in full, download the PDF HERE.
Hi-Fi Critic Website
ATC SCM100SE Wins Hi-Fi+ Editors Choice Award 2020
Our SCM100Se active loudspeaker has won a much coveted Hi-Fi+ Editors Choice Award.
Read the write up from the Awards Issue of the magazine in this PDF. Alternatively, read the detailed review from last year here in this PDF.
The 2020 Hi-Fi+ Awards Issue is available now. Please visit the Hi-Fi+ Website for details.
SIA2-100 & SCM7 System Review – Stereonet
ATC most compact and affordable system comprising SCM7 loudspeakers and SIA2-100 Integrated Amplifier have been given a glowing review by Jay Garrett, writing for online publication Stereonet.
Concluding, Jay writes, “…you will be treated to textured low-frequencies delivered with conviction and realism, a midband of clarity and focus, and smooth yet mustard-keen tweeter. Overall then, whether you choose this system because of its size, build-quality, performance, and/or country of origin, you’ll not regret auditioning it one bit. Catch it if you can.”
Jay Garrett, Stereonet, March 2020
You can read the review in full via the Stereonet Website
New Album Release – Gemma Sherry ‘Songs I Love’ – Featuring Billy Woodman
In music, timing is everything. The same could be said about the making of the album “Songs I Love”. ATC founder, Billy Woodman, an accomplished pianist and arranger, originally from Australia knew his relative, Gemma Sherry was into Jazz but it wasn’t until recently that their musical lives coincided.
In his early 20’s Billy made his way to England from Australia as a pianist on a cruise ship. This was followed by many years of touring and performing with some of the biggest name vocalists in England. Gemma, who is from a small town in outback Australia, started off playing saxophone in numerous jazz bands. After being accepted into music school she moved to New York City to study Jazz singing.
Gemma and Billy’s first musical encounter was when she was a teenager and during one of Billy’s trips back to Australia to visit his family, however it would be another 10 years before they began discussing the idea of making an album together. The original concept was to capture all of the musical talent in the family by including Gemma’s brother Jacob Sherry, an accomplished bassist. However with the family split between Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. this was very difficult and it wasn’t until 2019 that Gemma was able to sit down with Billy and bass player, Mike Waite to record a full album at Yellow Shark Recording Studios in Cheltenham, England, with none other than award winning New Zealand born engineer Clint Murphy behind the mixing desk.
This inspiration for this album was to showcase some of the most beautiful jazz songs that have ever been written. Billy & Gemma both have the same approach in that they believe the songs should be allowed to speak for themselves. It’s the subtlety in the music that shines and you can hear that from both Billy’s playing and Gemma’s singing. Their treatment of the melody and chords is with care and thought. Billy’s arrangement of all the songs shows his deep love for piano voicings and getting them, ‘just right’. He is an absolute perfectionist and you can hear that. Even if you didn’t know they were related, it’s hard to miss the effortless musical connection between Billy and Gemma as you listen to the album. There is such an understanding between the both of them. It also helped that Billy and Mike Waite have been playing together for over 20 years, having weekly jam sessions and rehearsals.
With a wide range of influences including legends such as Bill Evans, Kenny Barron, Blossom Dearie and Astrud Gilberto, the album ”Songs I Love” is a treasure.
The album was mastered by Ryan Smith at the new Sterling Sound facility in Nashville, TN, USA who employ ATC monitoring throughout their new facilities.
The album is available now from Gemma’s Bandcamp page. If you would like information on upcoming gigs, please visit www.gemmasherry.com
Clint Murphy Productions. Yellow Shark Studios. Sterling Sound Mastering.
SCM40 awarded ‘Best Buy’ by The Ear
“It’s probably best not to wear socks whilst listening to the SCM40s – they’re only going to get blown off each time you fire-up these gorgeous floorstanders”
Rahiel Nasir, The Ear, December 2019.
Rear the review in full here on, The Ear Website.
New ATC Hi-Fi Distribution in Greece
ATC are very pleased to announce, Audio Soul Ultra as ATC’s new Hi-Fi distributor for Greece.
Based in Glyfada in the South of Athens, Audio Soul Ultra is run by Anestis Koulis and George Kopsaftopoulos. Their shop features a spacious showroom and very well appointed demo rooms, suited to a wide range of systems and price points.
Audio Soul Ultra have a very wide range of ATC products available, from the compact SCM7 through to the mighty SCM100, active & passive and with ATC’s range of partnering electronics.
Audio Soul Ultra
5 Dousmani Str.,
Phone: +30 2103839399
ATC LAUNCHES NEW C1 SUB MK 2 ACTIVE SUBWOOFER
Faithful to the signal, a new C1 subwoofer design will generate deeper, cleaner bass in the sub-£2000 market.
Built to provide a dynamic low-distortion bass foundation for ATC’s Entry Series speakers, its C1C and C3C centre speakers, HTS Series on-wall speakers and all but the largest satellite speaker systems, the new C1 Sub Mk 2 is a compact real wood veneered design, incorporating a hand-built 12” (314mm) ATC bass driver and a fully discrete ATC 200W MOSFET power amplifier.
Designed for both music and cinema applications and replacing the Mk1 version, the new C1 Sub promises a quality of low frequency reproduction that belies its price point. The re-engineered design incorporates ATC’s customarily transparent circuits boosted by larger power supplies, the latest ATC grounded-source 200 watt Class A/B discrete MOSFET power module and improved overload protection circuitry (with front-panel indicator) for greater control at full output. The low-pass filter circuits have been comprehensively re-worked to facilitate the best possible integration with partnering speakers from ATC and other manufacturers.
Controls include a continuously variable low pass filter, a continuously variable all-pass filter and polarity switch, speaker level L/R inputs, independent L/R RCA line inputs and a summed line output RCA connector to facilitate the daisy-chaining of multiple subwoofers.
The C1 Sub is available now in four real wood finishes: Cherry, Black Ash, Satin Black, Satin White to match Entry Series speakers, centre speakers and HTS Series on-wall products. The recommended UK retail price is £1650 (inc. VAT).
Enhanced by ATC’s traditionally robust engineering and scrupulous attention to detail, the new C1 Sub Mk2 active subwoofer will generate a reliably accurate performance over a very long life, backed by ATC’s standard six year warranty.
C1 Sub Mk2 Specifications
Driver 12” / 314mm
LF Cut Off (-6dB) 25Hz
Max SPL 103dB
Amplifier output 200W
User Controls Gain, Low Pass Frequency, Polarity, Phase
Inputs Stereo High Level Binding Posts & Stereo Line Level RCA/Phono
Outputs Mono Summed Line Level RCA/Phono
Dimensions (HxWxD) 450 x 360 x 400 mm / 17.72" x 14.17" x 15.75" (inc. feet and heatsink)
Weight 26.2kg / 57.64lbs
SCM50ASL Review – Hi-Fi Critic
Another new review just in from Hi-Fi Critic magazine, this time round looking at the SCM50ASL (Active Classic). This follows on from the review of the SCM50PSL (Passive Classic) back in 2017.
Just like the passive version, the SCM50ASL has been awarded a coveted, ‘Hi-Fi Critic Audio Excellence’ award.
“Like the ATC SCM 50 PL passive version reviewed last year, the SCM50 ASL also squarely hits the HIFICRITIC Audio Excellence level for sheer all round ability, and not least on grounds of a that truly massive dynamic range delivered by this active version.”
Martin Colloms, Hi-Fi Critic, September 2019
You can read the review in full or download the PDF here: ATC SCM50ASL Review Hi-Fi Critic
To find out more about Hi-Fi Critic, the UK’s only advert free, independent audio review magazine, visit the Hi-Fi Critic Website
SIA2-100, CD2, SCM7 System Review – Gramophone Magazine
This month, Gramophone magazine feature a complete ATC system, including our new SIA2-100 integrated amplifier and CD2 CD player.
Reviewer, Andrew Everard writes:
“Above all, it’s the integration of this set-up that’s its most appealing aspect. The drivers in the SCM7 work together seamlessly, the amplifier has more than enough power, control and definition to ensure they behave themselves without holding back on musical flow and even the CD player makes a very strong case for the continued existence of the silver disc.”
“Buy it for its solidity, its style or even the ‘all made in Britain’ thing: however you look at this ATC system, it’s remarkable value for money.”
Read the review in full on, Gramophone Website
London Dealer Event with Soundstage Hi-Fi & Home Cinema
ATC 7.1 MULTI-CHANNEL SYSTEM REVIEW BY DOUG BLACKBURN AT WIDESCREEN REVIEW
“…amazing dynamic capability; loads of detail and nuance; zero listening fatigue at any sane listening level; steadfastly neutral sound; and distortion so low that more typical loudspeakers sound poorly designed in comparison.” – Doug Blackburn, Widescreen Review, July 2019.
Read the full review, HERE.
ATC at Audio T Manchester
ATC are very pleased to announce that Audio T’s Manchester branch are now stocking ATC.
Located on Bridge St, just of Deansgate in the city centre, the shop is close to parking, Salford Central Station and the tram. The shop stocks a wide range of products covering both Hi-Fi and Home Cinema and also offers installation. As well as a large showroom, there are two comfortable listening rooms on the 2nd floor where you can listen in a relaxed environment.
Pop in to see Dave, Munir & Mike and see hear what ATC can bring to your system!
Audio T Manchester, 63 Bridge Street, Manchester, M3 3BQ.
Tel: 0161 839 8869
Audio T Website
PURE MUSIC GROUP GIVES ATC LOUDSPEAKERS NEW LIFE IN AUSTRALIA
ATC is very pleased to announce that Melbourne-based Pure Music Group has secured Australian distribution of ATC and their highly respected and multi-award winning range of Hi-Fi loudspeakers and electronics.
The brand’s speakers and drive units continue to be made in the UK under the watchful eye of Australian born Billy Woodman and his son William Woodman alongside a very experienced technical, design and management team all based in Gloucestershire, two hours west of London.
Warwick Freemantle, Managing Director of Pure Music Group: “Pure Music Group has long admired the ATC products and brand based on their no-nonsense design ethos focussed on pure engineering excellence and impeccable craftsmanship of every important element of a great loudspeaker”.
ATC has a strong presence in recording studios globally, including reference monitor duties in the premier rooms and mastering suites such as the brand new Sterling Sound Mastering facilities in New York and Nashville.
Warwick continued: “In a time when high-end audio is seeing more and more boutique products on the market with increasingly high price tags, we are thrilled to be partnering with a manufacturer who’s ultimate goal remains first-class sound, but delivering products at real-world prices within reach of any dedicated music lover, without sacrificing on quality or craftsmanship.”
Pure Music Group plans to appoint several key dealers across Australia and reinvigorate the ATC brand locally.
For further info:
Pure Music Group, Unit 32, 461 St. Kilda Rd, Melbourne 3004, Australia.
Phone: 0409 504 805