Rowell has had a lifelong fascination with “high-tech sounds made on cheap tech”. He has spent the last two decades recording and releasing increasingly sophisticated computer music and performing it to audiences across the globe.
Martyn Pepperell has written a two-part profile of Luke Rowell that reveals tireless creativity and experimentation. From his beginnings producing homemade CDs of original music, Rowell has become an international force.
The 2004 Disasteradio album Synthtease received a colourful description from reviewer Grant Smithies: “Rowell makes techno-pop. It sounds icy, synthetic, saturated with colour. Some tracks tingle gently like a battery on your tongue, while others are as frantic as a fire alarm.”
Rowell considers his 2007 album Visions to be the breakthrough release of Disasteradio; it was voted best album of the year by Real Groove. After tours supporting acts such as Voom, Kill Surf City, the Mint Chicks, and Supergroove, Rowell began venturing overseas as Disasteradio. He toured Europe and the United States, and in 2010 released ‘Gravy Rainbow’, which over the next 10 years received over a million views on YouTube.
Rowell then became interested in vaporwave, a US brand of library music which can be played in public settings. Under the monker Eyeliner he dived into the genre, using an early Korg synthesiser, and releasing the albums High Fashion Mood and LARP of Luxury.
Just before the Covid-19 pandemic set in, Rowell moved to Hong Kong to live with his partner. Early in 2021, the National Library of NZ announced the Diasteradio project, archiving two of Rowell’s albums, developing new digital-preservation methods, and creating a born-digital collection. This can be accessed online by anyone, and – due to Rowell’s gift of a Creative Commons licence, can be downloaded for remixes or other uses.
In his thorough profile, Pepperell writes that Rowell continues to find “inspiration in unexpected places, entertaining audiences, and using low tech gear to create high tech sounds that reflect the sci-fi futures of the past and futures yet to come.”
The National Library blog about the Disasteradio Project
A Low Hum
Beer On The Rug
Orange Milk Records