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“My take on music is more of a meditative exercise, used to enhance reality, while Nathan makes music as a way of destroying sound.” – Mathew Jonson
From Boards of Canada to Bros, sibling musical duos over the years have enjoyed varying degrees of success, but for both Canadian brothers, Nathan and Mathew Jonson, already established and accomplished musicians in their own right, their coming together as Midnight Operator marks a musical relationship which fuses the analogue world of one to the digital realm of the other, synthesizing the incredible talents of both in the creation of something new and intense.
Between the pair they’ve released on some of the most respected and influential labels out there including Richie Hawtin’s M-nus, Crosstown Rebels, Fool’s Gold, Perlon, Sub Pop, Itiswhatitis, and of course, Mathew’s very own cult imprint, Wagon Repair.
They’ve remixed everyone from Chemical Brothers, Moby, Richie Hawtin, Plaid, Kevin Saunderson, Om Unit, Phil Kieran, and Para One, and played shows at the most iconic clubs and festivals the world over; from London’s Fabric to Berlin’s Panorama Bar to Glasgow’s Arches, as well as memorable performances at Mutek (Canada), Sonar (Barcelona) and more recently Boiler Room (Berlin).
Growing up, the brothers made use of digital sequencers and eighties sound modules, pushing them to their limits until the first rudimentary computers began to infiltrate their home. Mathew’s long-term passion for the warm sounds produced by analogue equipment persisted, while Nathan became increasingly fascinated by the multivarious routing possibilities exposed by digital software programs, in particular Audiomulch and Generator (a precursor to the Native Instruments Reaktor software). This separate adoption of digital and analogue equipment led to the development of two distinct and divergent sounds; Mathew’s idiosyncratic lush, warm, analogue soundscapes which sit diametrically opposed to the Hrdvsion obsession with abrasive, heavy-duty, circuit-mashing and trademark brick-wall-smashed compression. Finally, the pair started working together on what started out initially as a remix and live project, with both cutting up each other’s creations. But, as Mathew explains, it wasn’t always such an obvious decision to work together: “The small home studio we had as kids was not really built for two people and it seems weird but we only made music on our own for years. We always talked about doing something but for some reason developed in our own direction.”
By 2007, however, they were ready to release the first manifestation of Midnight Operator in the form of a brooding self-titled split 12". A period of several years followed during which time they worked largely independently of each other whilst preparing for the release of Nathan’s highly acclaimed second Hrdvsion LP, Where Did You Just Go? and Mathew’s seminal Agents of Time in 2010.
In 2011, the decision to play live and begin producing more as Midnight Operator had been made. On stage, there’s an innate understanding between the pair, a brotherly intuition, which binds the push-pull sound dynamic of both unique producers into one mesmerizing performance.
In the studio, it is Mathew who carefully sculpts the bass and melodic content with layers of analogue and digital noise before Nathan processes, chops, manipulates and spits the sounds back into the analogue realm, ready for the final mix-down. The second Hrdvsion/Midnight Operator split, “Prettier Than That/Dangerous Behavior” released on Wagon Repair Limited in June 2012 is testament to the success of this production technique, which continues to go from strength to strength, or at least from one absolute extreme to another.