March 10, 2016


Singers and sound artists Nick Janaway and Sarah Owen perform a genre-defying mix of live sampling and traditional folk song, with voice at the heart of the music. From laptops running their self-designed, ‘home-made’ sound software, the duo explores and transforms a range of sounds from bike bells to cellotape, alongside live instruments. Every sonic detail of a Solarference performance is created live as Nick and Sarah improvise and respond together to weave layers of sound and song.

CubeSideTotemNick, based in Bristol, is a songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and sound designer. Sarah is a versatile vocalist from East Devon with a background in sonic art and composition. Solarference is the perfect forum for the two to bring together their love of the human voice and their fascination with live audio transformation.

Winners of the 2012 Fatea Award for Innovation, their unique approach to fusing traditional folk music with live electronics has been gathering a growing critical acclaim, and their first album, Lips of Clay, was released in late 2012. The duo devised a live soundtrack piece to the 1920 classic silent film “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, which toured to arts venues in the South West in 2014. They are about to release their second album, Locks & Bolts, recorded live at the Cube Cinema in Bristol in early 2016.

Quotes and reviews

Arresting, atmospheric and thrilling… Solarference are one of the most original acts playing English folk music.”
“A crystallization of ancient and modern, as circuit boards sing with the art of storytelling…Totally intoxicating. May mornings will never feel quite the same again.”

“Treading their own path from day one, and inventiveness is certainly at the top of the description… the audience were so enthralled.

Some really beautiful electronic/folk work from Solarference … who conjure music, effected, looped, layered live… plus spine tingling vocal harmonies and counterpoint to create a very beautiful and innovative performance.” 

– IglooMag

“Passionate and original… Like nothing else you’ve ever heard before.”
– Tom Robinson, BBC6 Music

“Solarference (also shortlisted for the 2012 Isambard Folk Award) are crossing into new musical territory, performing their live electronic folk music to captivated crowds –  a fascinating show using laptops, sampling and a wide collection of sound toys.” 

– FestivalsForAll

Quotes and reviews for Lips of Clay (2012)

Simply genius … It’s like the ghost of a voice singing down the ages, dropped into a pool LOCsquare360of Wicker-Man-ish, spooked folkstrel clamour… Thrilling, crystal vocals, surging effects and steady pulse all binding.”

“This literally home-made album sees Sarah Owen and Nick Janaway remaking traditional folk with more computer power than GCHQ… his guitar and her dulcimer and their interwoven voices… and snatches of found sound are fashionably hauntological … Four Stars
– Financial Times

Lips Of Clay is a stunning album, which seamlessly joins contemporary electronic music to traditional folk music”
– Bright Young Folk

“This duo has rocketed way up there with this quite phenomenal debut” 
Winner of Fatea Award for innovation in roots music
– Fatea Records

Radical, determinedly experimental … I’m real keen to hear more”
– Netrhythms

“An absorbing debut release … the overall feel is organic, a creaking analogue quality … which suits the traditional material perfectly.
– Northern Sky

Quotes and reviews for Jekyll and Hyde soundtrack show (2014)

“This classic movie comes to life under Solarference’s spell, with fascinating intensity.” 
– Thomas Brooman CBE (former director of WOMAD)

IMGP0684“Comb teeth were thumb-raked, miniature music box handles cranked … paper slowly torn and a dulcimer plucked. The resultant noises were expanded, multiplied and dispersed into rich and colourful fogs of sound. The principal source was the human voice, however, the vast potential of which was used to produce… an inner soundtrack, as if they were sounding out the film’s subterranean layers of meaning. … excitement and a daringly exploratory spirit in this committed and immensely enjoyable performance. 
– Jez Winship, Sparks In Electrical Jelly

“A shivers-down-the-spine night out by the inspired folktronica duo… they perform a chilling, in-the-moment improvisation of sound to accompany the screening.”
– Festivals for all

Below are some screenshots of Solarference’s self-designed performance software, patches made in Max/MSP – please contact us if you want to ask about them!


solarferenceHopper(segmentarranger) solarferencePivoc(PhaseVocoder)