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 a 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. In 2016 they released their second album, Locks & Bolts, recorded live at the Cube Cinema in Bristol.

Press, quotes & reviews

Arresting, atmospheric and thrilling… Solarference are one of the most original acts playing English folk music.”fRoots magazine

“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.”SpiralEarth

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

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


Reviews for Locks & Bolts (2016)

“Visceral and living… They find something new in the heart of these songs. A joy to listen to.” – SpiralEarth ✩✩✩✩

“Artists of promise and consequence… Fragile sounds, hard beats, gorgeous vocals.” – fRoots Magazine

“As enchanting as it is groundbreaking – truly English folk music for the 21st century.” – Bright Young Folk

“Adventurous… daringly experimental… an intricate tapestry of jittery, edgy atmospherics” – Folk Radio UK

“Radical recompositions… drawing deep from the digital well of endless possibilities” – Songlines Magazine ✩✩✩



Reviews for Lips of Clay (2012)

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

“Hauntological… Remaking traditional folk with more computer power than GCHQ … ” – 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”  – Fatea Records (Winner of Fatea Award for innovation in roots music)

Reviews for Jekyll & Hyde soundtrack show (2014)

IMGP0684“This classic movie comes to life under Solarference’s spell, with fascinating intensity.” 
– Thomas Brooman CBE (former director of WOMAD)

“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)