The Industrial Duo DIY-ing the Sounds They Can’t Find
To many in India, Jessop & Company is a name that evokes the country’s colonial, industrial past. Established in 1788, India’s oldest engineering firm at one point had manufacturing facilities spread across 63 acres with a large headquarters in Kolkata. The company still exists today – producing railway coaches and wagons, cranes, road rollers and hydraulic equipment – but it is a shadow of its former self.
The decision of the fiercely independent, outsider techno, noise and industrial duo JESSOP&CO. to name themselves after the firm is a typically provocative measure but one that makes a certain degree of sense. The pair are protective of their identities and have a very spartan biography – known only as “A” and “S”, they’re both in their mid-twenties and grew up in Kolkata.
Communicating via emails that are lengthy and often impenetrable, they explain the thinking behind their moniker. “Naming our project JESSOP&CO. was about re-contextualising the name in order to make sense of our own existence,” they say. “The whole factory is an acute descriptor of the industrial 'wasteland' scenario. It is just lying there in ruins, dislodged from its history and submerged in vile passivity, the failed state of industrialisation. We want to take that historical notion, and turn it inside out.” On the other hand, they also say, “it might be bit of a joke… [maybe the] whole thing is just a sham on our part... self-serving hogwash”.
Our sound came out of sheer boredom. That and the obsession we had with [extreme] music and our willingness to push certain boundaries.
They release their rigorously processed electronic music through the usual outsider routes: limited edition cassettes, SoundCloud and Bandcamp. All of it seems to swim in a dark, misty and beguiling world of clanking organic rhythms, rolling techno pulsations and grimy industrial dub, with subtle sonic themes that unfurl with slow luxuriation.
They are influenced by all things at once, tendrils reaching out into corners of arcane culture new and old. Their conceptions of DIY are based as much on the business practices of Fugazi and Dischord Records as they are the current realities of making music in an age when revenue streams have all but dried up – yet with the internet still offering unlimited choice in terms of cracked software, immediate electronic distribution and contact with other like-minded souls around the globe.
They say that their primary motivating factor is “an inability to find what we want where we live”; that they suffered an “existential crisis” after realising that Kolkata was “choking itself with acute inaction” and that they could find only “a handful of people” in their home city who share their proactive musical mindset. When asked about developing their sound, they mention discovering both Fruity Loops and Ableton while stressing how important it was that they didn’t have anyone to show them how to use either of these production programmes. Ultimately, they say, “our sound came out of sheer boredom. That and the obsession we had with [extreme] music and our willingness to push certain boundaries.”
These days, their process tends to begin with them feeding computer-generated sounds into an analogue mixer, with the signal run through some “cheap-ass pedals and effects” to create a feedback loop, before it’s then run back through the computer for “more decimation”. Or, as they put it: “Sample, re-sample, synthesis, resynthesis, programme, then de-programme and the final output is something that even we cannot put a finger on.
“We are not musicians,” they conclude. “We don’t have any musical background and have never had training of any sort. We just do what we feel like doing, but our output has the tone of us coming to terms with the rejection, isolation and obtuseness of our existence.”