Hexcentric Beats - Making Electronic Music with Climbing Gear Article

© Caro C

The jingle-jangle of gear jostling for position on a harness is a familiar soundtrack to trad climbing — in perfect harmony with the grunting and swearing, of course. Appreciating its sonority and timbre, climber and musician Caro C experimented with creating electronic music tracks using nuts, hexes, cams and clicking carabiners from her rack. Described as a "sonic enchantress" on BBC Radio 3 and a "one-woman electronic avalanche" by BBC Introducing, Caro composes, produces and performs electronic music using a mix of sound equipment, instruments, vocals and 'found sounds'. 

Caro C performing live.   © Caro C
Caro C performing live.
© Caro C

Caro's curiosity about sound and music began in childhood. "I was a bit obsessed with the tone and rhythm of car indicators when I was a kid," she says. 

When spinal issues left her unable to work for a few years, Caro started exploring her fascination with sound more deeply while living in a double decker bus. "I began tinkering with synthesisers and other second hand electronic music devices, nurtured with a musical diet of Warp Records and other classic 90s electronica," she explains. Now based in Manchester, Caro works as a music artist, teacher and sound engineer with multiple albums, creative projects and live performances to her name.

Once Caro had recovered from a major operation on her spine eight years ago, a friend suggested she might enjoy climbing. "Apparently I had the perfect physique and I loved outdoor adventures anyway," she says. "I tried it indoors at Awesome Walls Stockport and got hooked really. I am a bit cautious, probably because of my 15 years or so of disabling pain, so I would describe myself as only a "bang-on-average climber."

Caro climbing atThe Roaches.   © Rory Marsden
Caro climbing atThe Roaches.
© Rory Marsden

Caro in Fontainebleau.  © Caro C
Caro in Fontainebleau.
© Caro C

It was during a trip to Pembroke with her climbing club when Caro's ears pricked up to a cacophony of cams, noisy nuts and hollow-ringing hexes. "That sound of the gear on a harness gently jingling and jangling as a trad climber descends back down the crag and how it mixes with the crag acoustics and other ambient sounds, it can't be beaten!" she says. "I committed to making music with trad gear from then on."

Climbing ASMR is sort of (maybe) a thing. But Caro has never labelled her work as such. "I didn't realise it was called ASMR, but I think I have been experimenting with sounds and my voice in this way for a few years now," she explains. "I love to conjure, capture and create intimate sonorities that hopefully create an almost physically delicious sensation. I got into this more deeply with the climbing gear sizzles and fizzles in the more ambient track in my album Electric Mountain called Shimmering Gear."

Watch a video about how Caro creates her climbing gear sounds and listen to some of her tracks below.

Visit Caro's website,  and follow her on Instagram

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Interesting sounds, I enjoyed that.

I'll be taking my glowsticks to the crag in the hopes of an impromptu rave.

9 Sep

Really nicely developed, I enjoyed that despite the noise of gear knocking together having the opposite effect on me - it grates.

Strong nod to Kraftwerk in the first track.

9 Sep

Fantastic creative experiment! I love the whole exploratory potential of DAW software and especially when its married to the visuals. Great stuff.

9 Sep

I enjoyed that, especially the second 'shimmering' piece. The rocks with delay remind me of something, but I cant place it. If I'd heard the track out of context, I wouldn't have guessed source of the sounds.

That's a well balanced mix. Lots of space for each element, clarity and a really phat bass sound.

Bonus points for having a colander on your desk. I don't know if that's a nod to Abbey Rd studios and the wacky recording techniques they developed or you're just a fan of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

9 Sep

All very Mathew Herbert - His 'Plat de Jour' album is made with food sounds.

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