Friday 1 December 2023


Meet Ensemble 1.

They’re a Brighton experimental duo consisting of Tom Way and Joe Potts who specialise in crafting vast rolling instrumental soundscapes out of guitar and drums.

Their new album Delay Works is made up only three tracks. But you could hardly call it a lean album considering that the shortest track is over 9 minutes and the longest is over 23 minutes. ‘Distorted Fades’, ‘Drums & Delay Loops’ and ‘Submerged Harmonics’ are the three minimalist track titles (at first, I thought I’d been sent an Ableton sample pack). These titles reflect Ensemble 1’s minimalist approach to composing music - each track consisting of short speedy cyclical guitar riffs repeated in a hypnotic fashion with machine-like precision.

As the title ‘Delay Works’ suggests, delay effects are used throughout the entirety of their new album. These delay effects, combined with the slow progression of each track, create a uniquely seamless flow. Despite how gradually each track morphs, there remains a thrilling speed to the guitars and drums that keeps each track captivating. It's like watching an epic domino run unfold.

Their new album was released via Halfmeltedbrain Records and is out today. You can stream it below. If you have the time, be sure to check out their debut album Guitar, Bass & Drums too. 

Tom and Joe of Ensemble 1 agreed to do a little interview with me in which they explained the writing process behind these crazy compositions. They also shared some of the music they've been listening to and helped me work out where to start with Steve Reich. 

If Ensemble 1 was a pizza, what toppings would it have?


Joe: Pineapple and ham (with bbq base) and diced fresh chillies. We're both annoying vegans, so would probably be some sorta vegan cheese involved.


Tom: I’m presuming that’s substitute ham.


The music on both Delay Works and Guitar, Bass & Drums is very unique. What drew you to this type of music?


Joe: Tom composes all the music so probably best equipped to answer this. I personally enjoy this type of minimalist music as it gives a very different listening experience to a lot of music I am accustomed to. With less focus on distinct chord progressions/melodies/cadences/emotional narrative the ear is drawn to the rhythmic complexity of the music and the unique textures and 'hidden melodies' resulting from counter rhythms/phase shifting. I find it to be almost a dream-like experience. The material on this album also presents a very unique and fun challenge to play live. As it relies on precisely timed delay set to the same volume as the guitar and with a very long feedback time, playing has to be extremely precise or it ends up sounding like a massive mess ha. Overall playing sorta Steve Reich inspired music in rock/metal band setup is very fun. 


Tom: I’ve been a long-time fan of bands like King Crimson, Tool, Battles, Don Cab etc., and it was discovering all the minimalist composition stuff from the 60s/70s a bit later that gave me the nudge to try writing music where rhythm and process is the main focus. 


How did you compose the tracks on Delay Works? Were they the result of jam sessions or intricately planned out? And did the process differ to Guitar, Bass & Drums?


Tom: All of it is composed thoroughly for both albums, but one of the differences between the two is that Guitar, Bass & Drums was mostly written in a vacuum with the possibility of playing it live as an afterthought, and Delay Works was written with both myself and Joe playing it live in mind. The Delay Works stuff is (no surprise) based around using long delay loops set to high feedback, one of the aims of which was to try and get the sound of many guitarists playing at the same time to the point where it doesn’t really sound like guitars anymore. This actually began on Guitar, Bass & Drums with GBD I Delay Loops, which is a solo guitar adaptation of the first track on that album. I also found that using long delay loops kind of forced me to take a more rigorous and logical approach to structure and process in the writing, whereas previously I’d taken a slightly looser, more intuitive approach.


This music was written quite a while ago (2017 – 2019). Is there a reason it’s only just seen the light of day?


Tom: It was only really during lockdown in 2020 that I got to spend more time thinking seriously about the recorded format of the music, as prior to this I wasn’t sure what would be the best way to go about it, i.e., how the music should be grouped, how much can be done DIY, whether we’d be able to do it to a standard that we were happy with etc. It then at this point seemed to make sense that there were two separate albums for the music written up to that point, and that DIY was probably the way to go as it would give us more time and control over the recording. Then there’s all the different logistical aspects of releasing an album which I hadn’t dealt with before and had to learn from scratch. So, the first album Guitar, Bass & Drums was released in 2021, and we were then hoping to release Delay Works in 2022, but we got busy with live shows and working on other new music, and we’ve just about managed to fit the release in at the end of 2023 instead.


I haven’t listened to much material from Steve Reich and I notice he’s a major influence on your work. Where’s a good place to start with Steve Reich?


Tom: Three of my personal favourites are Eight Lines, Six Pianos and Sextet. Music for 18 Musicians is the big minimalist classic that he might be best known for, and it’s great, but it’s about an hour long and quite a sizeable dollop of Reich to begin with.   


I saw on your Facebook page that you’ve recently supported Liturgy! What was that like?


Joe: Really cool. I have been following that band for a long time, they played an amazing set and were happy to talk about their sound. Also really cool people who were happy to watch and hang out with the supporting bands.


Tom: Yeah, it was great, and they’re all lovely people too. I only just discovered them fairly recently, but I’ve been listening to them a lot since and look forward to following their music and hearing what they come up with next.


What’s your favourite venue you’ve played?


Joe: The Hope and Ruin in Brighton is cool, the sound guys there are always on point and get a great sound out of the room.


Tom: I’m pretty happy playing any venue really, and I feel that each room has something unique about it, and I enjoy playing our music in a variety of places.


Which drummers and guitarists do you look up to the most?


Joe: Tom Way for both xo


Tom: My favourite drummers are Danny Carey, John Stanier, Damon Che, Bill Bruford, Keith Carlock, Christian Vander and Tim Alexander. For guitarists it’s Adam Jones, Wayne Krantz, Ian Williams, Robert Fripp, and yes Joe Potts of course.


What music have you been listening to recently? Anything fans wouldn’t expect?


Tom: Recent recurrent listens for me have been Morton Feldman, Jan Jelinek, Heilung, Yawn, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Prefuse 73 and Amotik. Also, I can’t remember why, but I was listening to early Eminem recently.


Joe: I've been listening to loads of the Japanese shoe-gaze band Coalatar Of The Deepers and a Math rock band I came across at arctangent called 'The Most'- they sound like a sorta math rock Steely Dan. As far as newer music I've been enjoying the latest album 'Variables' from contemporary jazz artist Alpha Mist and The New Gogo Penguin 'everything is going to be okay'. Heavier music-wise I've also been hooked on the new Zenith Passage album 'Datasylm'. Anything fans wouldn't expect? I've been loving the new album by pop-punk/ska-punk artist Jeff Rosenstock. Not really in a genre of music I keep up with but gave the album a try after seeing a positive review online and got totally addicted, every song is a banger.


What does the future hold for Ensemble 1?


Joe: Playing more shows, reaching more people and connecting with more fans of experimental music! We would love to get to play shows outside the UK and get onto the festival circuit, particularly festivals like ArcTangent and Radar. We already have some really cool shows lined up for 2024, hit us up on Instagram or Facebook to keep updated. There is also a lot of music we have been playing live which has been going down well and we will eventually get round to recording. 


Tom: Yep, we’ve nearly got another album’s worth of music written, and it’s the stuff we’ve been playing live for a while now (and is quite a big contrast to Delay Works), and I’m hoping we can finish and release it sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Follow Ensemble 1 on Facebook at, on Instagram at Ensemble 1 Music and on Twitter at @Ensemble1music