Bentley Rhythm Ace
The Bentley Rhythm Ace soundscape combines mad basslines and fractured beats with hypnotic techno riffs and the occasionally facetious sample - truth to tell they're as likely to generate new sounds as they are to plagiarize old ones in a heady brew that rocks. Since releasing their debut album through the UK's Skint imprint at the beginning of 1997 BRA's star has been on the rise and rise. They scored a hefty 10/10 in the subsequent Mixmag review, i-D described it more simply as 'massive', and they've consolidated upon such critical plaudits with live showings at all the major overseas festivals like Glastonbury, Phoenix, Reading, V97 and the Essential Festival then, after recently signing with major label EMI, the duo re-released their album 'BRA' through Parlophone.
Meet Richard March and Mike Stokes. If Richard's name sounds familiar, it's because he spent the better part of a decade with techno-pop-thrash outfit Pop Will Eat Itself before combining with former tarmac layer Mike to produce music under the alias of Bentley Rhythm Ace. Although it started as a part time arrangement, the BRA assignment quickly overtook Richard's chores with PWEI.
"There's no stress at all when it comes to Bentley Rhythm Ace," surmises Richard. "I mean when Pop Will Eat Itself sort of fizzled out it was quite stressful because we'd been playing together for almost ten years, and that's a long time for any group of people to stick together doing something - not only just in music but if we were boat-builders or whatever. You just naturally get sick of each other!
"So when I started doing music with Mike, who's the other half of Bentley Rhythm Ace, it was more of a leisure activity that got me away from the stressful environment that was PWEI. It was a bit of fun we played with at weekends that grew and developed - and it's weird the way it's almost got bigger that Pop Will Eat Itself. It's been surprising, honestly it has - it's all been a happy accident."
Richard's connections with PWEI have been neither a benefit nor a hindrance. "When the first record came out on Skint I made a conscious effort not to tell anyone that the guy from Pop Will Eat Itself was involved, because I didn't want it to be presented as the new PWEI project - I wanted it to stand on its own two feet. Even the people at Skint didn't know!" He chuckles. "Anyway, it's worked out really well."
On the cover of Bentley Rhythm Ace's eponymous first album is a shop-front with an overhanging sign which reads simply as 'Bra'. In both Swedish and Danish the word bra means good, and when I bounce this translation off Richard in querying the album title he responds on a different tack. "We just noticed that sign and had to take the photo - but it was actually taken when we were in Reykjavik in Iceland the new year's before last. It's one of our holiday snaps!" He laughs. "But to be honest the 'BRA' on the album is just short for Bentley Rhythm Ace - and I guess it is good at that."
Comparisons and labeling are rife both in the UK as well as here in Australia, and two fellow bands that Bentley Rhythm Ace seem to be constantly held up against are the Chemical Brothers and Propellerheads. It's a situation that doesn't appear to phase Richard Marsh for one. "It happens, you know- . . . and it depends what the perimeters are. I mean Bentley Rhythm Ace is made up of two people, and it's the same story with the Chemical Brothers and Propellerheads - so I guess there is some similarity," he laughs. "And we make instrumental music that's good to dance to. So, no, I don't have a problem with comparisons. That said I guess we work iTags