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Digging Deeper: An interview with Transmission Towers

Bouncing ideas from either side of the Mersey, a brand-new two-piece, cosmic machine soul outfit, Transmission Towers, stands tall. Made up of Mark Kyriacou and Eleanor Mante they manoeuvre dynamically between interplanetary bass-heavy beats, stripped-back, odd-ball soul and highlife Afrofuturism.

Wonky and murky yet deeply emotional, their debut album Transmission One, marks the first release on Luke Una’s É Soul Cultura label in collaboration with Mr Bongo. It's an intoxicating mix of sci-fi new wave and astral punk, melded with tripped-out machine soul and Motor City techno, from two artists that last collaborated over a decade ago.

We caught up with the duo to get an insight into the world of Transmission Towers, their forthcoming album and what it’s been like working with E Soul champion Luke Una.

What was the concept behind Transmission Towers?


It was towards the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. I was a bit lost musically as I’d felt I had just been treading water music writing wise. So, with a new year looming, I just wanted to strip it all back and return to what inspired me musically in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. With just a handful of synths and drum machines, I wrote a couple of ideas. Prior to this, Eleanor and I had chatted for a while about doing some music together, so I sent her the first idea for what was to become the track ‘Up’. Eleanor fired back the vocal ideas on a voice message, which I lifted and added into the track (as I’m quite an impatient get ha), just to see how it would sound in situ. It inspired me to write more.

‘Roller Skater 23’ was conceived shortly after using the same batting back and forth between me and Eleanor. Hearing Eleanor’s vocal idea for ‘Roller Skater 23’ ignited an outpouring of music writing - it was like having a musical epiphany.


For me, it was the reawakening of dormant abilities. I had been through life and health issues and was building my strength and confidence back up. It was early 2023 and I was mentally putting together for myself what I wanted my next phase to be. Mark contacted me out of the blue and asked if I still wanted to make music. I may have replied “F*** Yeah”, and things progressed from there. It felt good to be writing again. I didn't question the process, I just flowed with it.

How and where did you record the album?


The main elements of the music were a few drum machines and synthesisers with some added organic elements like congas/percussion from old faithful, Ian ‘Budgie’ Jones (who completes the live Transmission Towers lineup alongside Eleanor and myself). Flecks of bass guitar and guitar were supplied by Tom Sumnall and Stu Macdonal with the wonderful Cait Walker contributing Cor Anglais on a few tracks. Backing vocals came courtesy of Michelle Bee who I’ve worked with on previous projects.

The majority, if not all, of the music was written in my flat. The vocals were recorded either at Eleanor’s flat or during a couple of recording sessions at mine.


Mostly in my kitchen! Mark would send his ideas and I would play them in my kitchen and send back my ideas after dancing a few times over what he sent. Back, back, back in the day, I used to sing in an improvisational punk fusion band, so just freestyling over what Mark sent set me off. If I liked what came of it, I would add more structure and then record a rough version until we were able to get together and lay the track down properly.


The production is noticeably stripped back, is that a reaction to modern methods of making music?


I just wanted to try to capture the essence/vibe of what really got me hooked on the electronic music I was listening to in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I do have a tendency to over-egg when writing music, so a part of it was wanting to break that habit. One conscious thing was trying not to listen to much new music as I just wanted to tap into my memory of my early influences.


I live in a music and TV bubble. I rarely know what is new and setting trends. I just gravitate towards what I’m into at the time. I listen mostly to mixes on SoundCloud and have playlists that I cycle through from time to time. I want to make music that I can dance to, so I feel that inspiration lies mostly in that thought. I guess it's a kind of do-it-yourself approach. I like to think that I give a track what it needs and try to leave space for Mark to apply all of his elements and ideas within the piece.


Machine soul and Luke Una go hand-in-hand, what has it been like working with Luke on this release? Did he help shape the direction of the album?


The first couple of chats I had with Luke after sending him the initial message, for me, highlighted that we had so many favourite pieces of music in common. James Mason ‘I Want Your Love’ was a biggy for us both, which indirectly had inspired me to write the music for ‘Roller Skater 23’.

Luke has inspired a lot, if not most, of what is on the album. A great example is in the music for ‘Sparse’ this was inspired by a few tracks Luke had sent me to listen to, the essence of which I tried to capture but put through my filter.


It’s been amazing working with Luke. He’s got such an open mind and can see where we are going with our sound before we truly see it. I’ve been learning a lot, and he has opened me up to be bold with my lyrical style, sort of proving that yeah it's okay to go off kilter and that there are people that totally dig stuff like that and, in fact, encourage that kind of sound.

Tracks like ‘Up’ and ‘Roller Skater 23’ feel like they’re tailormade for club soundsystems. Did your experience of clubbing across the years impact the songs you have been writing?


Clubbing has always been a major outlet for me. I love dancing. Hearing dope music on boss sound systems is my happy place. I love to be able to see people dance and interact with our pieces. That is the best part. To see people start with a little head nod, then the shoulders start going and the feet start shuffling. That is the best for me, and I hope our music allows people the permission to let go and just feel.

You’ve both been involved in various musical projects in the past, how does your creative mindset differ now from those earlier days? Has it changed what you want to convey through your music?


The main difference/change from previous projects is now I feel I’m quicker at realising what I can hear in my head and tend to have spurts of writing lots of music followed by periods of not being able to write a note (fallow periods as I like to call them). Since January 2023 I think I’ve sketched about 40 odd pieces of music which I earmarked for Transmission Towers…many probably won’t be used at all.

For me personally, Transmission Towers is a manifestation of my absorption of early Detroit electronic music, Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane, ESG etc to name but a few, spat back out through my filter.


The music I created in the past was somewhat angry. I think I’ve chilled out a bit now. I think I ask ‘why’ in my music now and provide musings rather than demanding answers, which is how I used to write before. Time has given me perspective. This time around I want to be in the flow, rather than fight the flow of thought that is coming to me when I write.

A massive thanks to Mark and Eleanor for taking the time to speak to us for this feature. Transmission One is released on É Soul Cultura on the 10th May - Vinyl / CD / Digital - pre-order here.