One to watch: James Ellis Ford

·1-min read

As a top-flight music producer, either you stamp your signature sound on to your clients’ music or you help your artist locate and magnify their essential self. James Ellis Ford is brilliant at the latter. This decade alone, he has given Kylie Minogue, Gorillaz, Florence + the Machine and Depeche Mode a glow-up, while continuing his collaborations with Arctic Monkeys – Ford has produced most of their albums, including all-time classic AM and, as a drummer, with Alex Turner’s band the Last Shadow Puppets.

Ford started out in psych-tinged indie rockers Simian during the early 00s; if you were anywhere near a dancefloor in 2006, you’ll remember Justice Vs Simian’s thunderous We Are Your Friends. When Simian split, James and the band’s synth genius, Jas Shaw, teamed up as electronic duo Simian Mobile Disco (SMD). In 2018 the pair had just finished groundbreaking choral techno album Murmurations when Shaw was diagnosed with AL amyloidosis, a bone marrow disorder, and had to take a step back.

So Ford has made his first solo album, The Hum. Discarding initial plans to call in Gorillaz-style favours from pop star pals, or make a collection of mood pieces, he plays all 18 instruments and also sings for the first time. It’s all pleasingly idiosyncratic. There’s sweet domesticity on debut single I Never Wanted Anything, alongside grimy funk (inspired by his wife and son’s Palestinian heritage), tranquil tape loops and sylvan folk played in a radiophonic workshop – everything coheres somehow. Like his earlier productions, there isn’t a sound that dominates, yet Ford’s excellent taste is undeniable.