Hype Release of the Month: True Peak Limit – Carriages

We talk to True Peak Limit, aka JoeFarr, about his new experimentally minded album, Carriages, out now on Max Cooper’s Mesh.

5 min
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May 19, 2021
Chandler Shortlidge

The UK’s JoeFarr is known in the techno world for his hard-edged yet adventurous music, which regularly cross-pollinates with IDM and breaks and has landed on imprints like Leasure System, Soma, Bloc., Arts, Turbo and many others. So perhaps it’s no surprise that his debut album as True Peak Limit landed on Max Cooper’s Mesh imprint.

Full of the genre-defying thrills that have possessed some of his earlier JoeFarr work, Carriages takes listeners on a tripped-out journey across London’s railways — Farr’s own field recordings of London’s tube stations inspired much of the album’s nine tracks.

Wanting to know more, we caught up with Farr to discuss his new direction as True Peak Limits, what it was like working with Max Cooper for the album’s release, and what’s next.

First of all, I love the album. It wonderfully meshes genres like bass, breaks, ambient, and experimental in exciting yet (relatively speaking) approachable ways. Why did you decide to release your debut as True Peak Limits on Max Cooper’s Mesh?

Thanks for the invite, and I’m really pleased you like it. I am known for my techno output as JoeFarr, but ever since I started producing (25 years ago!) I have always made different kinds of music, but it never got released. Focusing on techno releases and getting gigs meant that the experimental side of my music was never pushed through to being released. Two years ago I really started to focus on the experimental side and I put together around 20 tracks using a load of field recordings as the basis for each track. I decided to give the project a new name as it was too different to my JoeFarr output.

I actually sent all these tracks to Mesh as they asked me to contribute to their mix series — I was going to release these tracks on my sub label DMMT and the mix would have been great promo using the TPL tracks, but when they came back and said they wanted to sign an album I was blown away. I knew the tracks were good but to have Max and the label think they were great was a huge boost for me.

Did Max have any input on the album? How hands on was he in the whole release process?

Yeah Max was key in picking the album tracks really, and the track order. I sent over around 15 or 20 tracks originally and Max pulled out eight or nine that sat really well together. He then mentioned that he thought that there could be another track a bit like “Hope Detuned” as it is a bit less experimental than the other tracks, maybe it has a broader appeal. I took that as a challenge and made four more tracks to try and fit into that mould but they just didn’t work. Max had said don’t force it if you don’t think it’s going to work, but after binning those four tracks I just couldn’t let it’ go so I did another two, which were nothing like “Hope Detuned” — one called “The Bridge” and the other called “Hesitation.” They both made it onto the album.

That was a real push for me to challenge myself and listening now I feel that these two tracks really pull the album together. After we finalised the tracks, I then started to work a lot more with Anthony, who runs the label. Je really helped me piece everything together with the idea of the field recordings, train stations, pictures and the poems that I wrote alongside — he was key in bringing everything together. He helped me realise how much there was going on as well as the music.

As the album title gives away, you were heavily inspired by trains on Carriages, and used many field recordings from train stations, train carriages, and the streets of London for the album’s sound palette. What is it about trains that so captured your imagination?

Just to be clear, I am not a trainspotter — well actually they prefer to be called ‘train enthusiasts,’ I believe. But yeah there’s something about travelling in general that gives you that perspective on your own life that is inescapable. The train journey I took to London was for a gig actually and it was a last-minute decision to take my recorder and see what I could get, which was a lot. I ended up with about three-and-a-half hours worth of sounds, and yet about three hours of that was useless. When I got the sounds into the studio I knew I didn’t want to just lay down the field recordings as a kind of background layer/atmospheres, you know, something that just sits in the background and fills up space because that’s a bit obvious to me.

So I just went to town on the audio and chopped it, mashed it, stretched it, looped it and turned people’s voices into melodies, random sounds into percussion, train announcements into textures and so on. In terms of the feeling of the album, I wanted to get that narrative of my perspective and reflection that I feel when I’m travelling because that is what I want people to feel from it.

Of course, Kraftwerk famously used trains as the inspiration for their seminal Trans Europe Express album. Were Kraftwerk or that album at all influential on you?

Not consciously. I do love Kraftwerk but to be honest I don’t really sit and listen to music. I have Radio 6 on at home in the background but as I am a mastering engineer I spend all day listening to music, so playing albums at home is not something I do. Also as I have been listening to music for a long time, it’s quite rare that something excites me, and I get frustrated when I hear music that isn’t pushing forward. When I am producing I don’t listen to anything else as I try to avoid being influenced. Don’t get me wrong, I love music, but I hate a lot of it too ha.

What’s behind the name, True Peak Limit? And can we expect more from your alias in the future?

It’s a function of a limiter. The limiter is the final piece in a mastering chain. Inter-sample peaks are when the limiter lets through tiny audio samples that go over the output ceiling. So the fancy limiters have a true peak limit button to stop this happening. I can draw other meanings from the name — like ‘Peak’ as I live near mountains, ‘Limit’ because I think I really pushed myself with these tracks, and ‘True’ because the music is true to me. But I would be lying if I said that’s why I came up with the name, it’s just easy to attach meaning to it after. Yes there will be more!

What’s next for you?

Another TPL album using the same technique but with field recordings from a different journey or location. Also more techno. I have a release coming up on June 3rd on my label UX, and more mastering and mix coaching. I am currently building a pro grade mastering studio and I hope to be in there by mid July, I’m really looking forward to that. Maybe a gig as well? We shall see.