Harness was a musical project from James Brewster which existed
between 2001 and 2008. He released three albums, two EPs and one
mini album under this name. The music was mainly guitar-based and
combined subtly processed tones with untreated melodic progressions
to form intricate, evolving structures. Brewster has lived in Malmö,
Sweden since mid-2006 but was born in the UK in 1980 and began making
music in Bristol in late 2001 after buying a second hand sampler.
The purchase completely changed his life, and from this point on
making music became the main focus of his existence.
the next couple of years he became involved in an emerging electronic
music scene in Bristol, and also become part of a diverse group
of artists associated with the Silent Age label (who released his
debut EP ‘Problems With Perspective’ in November 2002).
Being surrounded by such a supportive, DIY oriented community proved
invaluable during the early stages of his musical development, providing
not only practical help and creative inspiration but also a vital
sense of confidence in what he was doing.
Mole Harness album ‘All Your Memories Return At Once’
came out in March 2004 as a split release between Float and Silent
Age Records. It crystallised his early sampler-based sound, combining
layers of looped, reversed and sequenced guitars with sweeping synth
melodies, intricate drum machine/ percussion sequences, simple piano
motifs and unsettling found-sounds. In November 2004 Brewster started
his own label, Stray Dog Army, and the first release was a Mole
Harness EP collecting together the remaining tracks written or begun
on the original sampler, which by this point had been replaced by
began working on a new album, using software for the first time
which led to a significant change in the sound. It not only allowed
for more detailed processing, but also more complex structures compared
to the purely loop-based limitations of the sampler. He also decided
to make this second album entirely from guitars, in an attempt to
refine his sound to its essence and produce a more coherent, concise
work. The result was ‘a present from the future’, which
came out in January 2006 on Stray Dog Army.
was then followed a period of rapid creativity, with all the tracks
for a new album written by the end of May, and put together in a
much more spontaneous manner compared to the intense crafting of
‘a present…’. Brewster then moved to Malmö,
Sweden in June, making this third album the last Mole Harness release
to be written in Bristol. Entitled ‘out of the walled pathway’,
it came out in November 2006 on Stray Dog Army, and was defined
by an increasingly minimalist approach. In
March 2007 'a present from the future' was given a full-scale re-issue
by Japanese label Umi.
Harness ended on 9th December 2008, exactly 7 years after the project
began on the same date in 2001. This event was marked by the release
of a final mini album entitled 'flaws and characteristics'. The
reason for the project's end was that it was always intended to
have a very specific and coherent sound, gradually developed and
refined with each release while always retaining the same essence.
Brewster felt that there was nowhere else left to take this sound,
and that most of his latest musical ideas didn't fit with it. So
there was no way to continue without either repeating himself or
destroying the sound he had carefully built up. It thus seemed best
to leave Mole Harness as something complete and self-contained and
then start again afresh. James Brewster continues to release music
and play live under his own name and also as part of various collaborative
constellations. For latest news on these activities go to his new
The first James Brewster album, provisionally titled 'Your life
was but a trick of the light', is currently being finished and will
be released sometime in 2009.
Harness performed live with the minimal setup of sampler and electric
guitar, often complemented by slide projections and films from longtime
visual accomplice Jonathan Williams. He also worked with Knowledge
Of Bugs on two very different live collaborations. The first was
their soundtrack to Kenneth Anger's 1953 short film 'Inauguration
Of The Pleasuredome', performed both at the Cube Cinema in Bristol
and at the 2003 Ashton Court Festival. The second took place at
the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford in February 2004, and involved
playing and looping acoustic instruments and electric guitars in
a more improvised set. In December 2006 Mole Harness undertook his
first UK tour, playing a short series of dates alongside Jasper
Leyland, with the two artists contributing elements to each others
performances for the first time.