I’m pleased to report that I have final birthed my third long player. I posted a lengthy piece back in December about the first song in the set ‘Sea Song (Water in my Eye)’ which has been recycled into the main blog. The finished song set is titled ‘Sea Song and other fictions’ and comprises eight new songs, four videos and eight original images. This has been the longest project I’ve produced so far taking roughly nine months, hence the birthing reference above.
The digital album is now available on my Band Camp page and includes the possibility to purchase the entire project as an artefact.
The audio for this set started in much the same way as the previous projects ‘No Direction’ & ‘Blue(Sound)’ being built around music apps (Bloom, iMS-20, Amplitube, Speak-It etc) but has been hugely influenced by a an app that came out in the early part of the year, Korg Gadget. This truly brilliant program replicates 15 different ‘old school’ synthesizers and drum machines. Depending on your iPad type you can run up to 6 different devices (mine peaks at 4) either setting patterns or ‘playing’ live in to its recording function. Even for the musically challenged like me it offers endless scope for the manufacture of sonic distractions. Other than two of the pieces in the set Korg Gadget has formed the basis of all the songs and has varying dominance in the finished pieces.
Also added to the available toys this time around is the always entertaining Ebow. I had my eye on one of these for a while and managed to get a nearly new one from Ebay in the early part of the year. This device used on one of my guitars and processed through iRig & Amplitube has contributed greatly to the overall atmosphere of the pieces.
All of the songs have been assembled and mastered in GarageBand (I still can’t justify Ableton Live) although the new version has added to the consistency of output level.
This isn’t a concept album as I had no over-arching story or viewpoint to communicate but it does hang very much around the notion that these pieces, non-verbal, sonic & visual have a form of narrative within them. This came from ‘Sea Song’ which started out using field noise recorded on a beach in Majorca last year. Sitting watching days pass, weather change, children play, tide wax & wane has its own beginning, middle & end and with that particular piece I tried to take it through a number stages and atmospheres as it progressed. The field noise used nails the song to a specific time and place and the length of the piece (a little over 23 minutes) was determined by taking the recording and stretching it to four times its length as an allusion to seasonal change or lunar equinox & solstice.
In a similar way the other songs are informed by a cyclical event, a longitude or latitude, an orbit, a tropic, a cycle of life, in some cases referencing a sound, in others an image.
Each song has a complimentary image, in some cases the song came first, in other the image informed the song, although both have been worked on as the other evolved so they are further linked by working process and cycles of action. In the same way that the songs mainly originate on iPhone & iPad the images (and later the video) come from the same source. Most of the base images come from my on-going love of the Hipstamatic photo app and have been further process using Snapseed, PSTouch, Blender and any number of other available programs. I have however managed to break out of the devices by printing, collaging, drawing & painting on the images before taking them back into the digisphere.
These are the songs.
Sea Songs and other fictions…..
1: Cloud Riding (A Dragons Tail)
This was the fifth song in the series and came about after taking GBoy25 to see Spirited Away. He’s very fond of Manga and Aikido and I’m very fond of dragons and sushi. I’ve liked Japanese & Chinese traditional stories since I was about G’s age when my father gave me a book of folk stories from the orient which had some beautiful and stylized illustrations. Later when I studied printmaking I of course appreciated Japanese wood cut styles and their subsequent influence on European illustrative form (it also had the temptation of its use of erotic Shunga imagery).
I identify with dragons through my Chinese horoscope mainly for dragon kudos rather than a specific faith in the system. I’m a Wood Dragon apparently.
Cloud Riding is I suppose a reference to day dreaming & free association which is also mirrored in the process that creates the music. In this instance there is an Oriental tone to Korg element and it has a drifting aspect to it overall. I’ve used this as the first track as it’s not overly discordant, an attempt to lull the listener into a false sense of security.
2: Winterval Interlude
My wife suggested that with my keen ear for a jolly melody and overwhelmingly gleeful seasonal attitude that I write a Christmas Number One. That would of course never happen. ‘Winterval’ is one of those new non-denominational words that have been popularized recently. I have no objection to new words.
This piece was however produced during the Christmas holiday and uses field recordings from the local shopping center and the annual Christmas Market. These elements can be seen in the accompanying video. I am of course deeply cynical about the commercialisation of Christmas and the weight of expectation that is put upon it and us. I do however appreciate the time off work, the prettiness of the season and the chance to spend time with the family. The song is more of a soundscape and is similar to an earlier short piece called ‘Urgen-City’ that was a mini travelogue. That piece was more drive-by whereas this is more stroll-through.
The image used on this comes from a fancy dress shop that has a wonderful skill for juxtaposing strange costumes and masks. There is something, not specifically Christmas but inherently pagan, about the sheep-head mask appearing here. This was the second song produced for the project.
3: Ocular Cents (The Ghost of the Horse Orbits Altair5)
This was the third song produced for the set and the first to feature Korg Gadget. The title references two of my favourite things – the singer/songwriter Mark Linkous also known as Sparklehorse and the classic 1956 Sci-Fi epic Forbidden Planet. It was very much aiming to be a space drone or soundtrack and whilst peppered with little tuneful runs is a roaring decent into a dying sun. Whilst originally it didn’t feature Ebow some layers of this were added later in the process.
The film was one of a number of movies my father encouraged me to watch as a child. He was a fan of science fiction and gave me John Wyndham novels and general permission to stay up late to watch Star Trek for which I’m eternally grateful. Forbidden Planet is broadly based around Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’. It’s a classic, almost Jungian analysis of ego & id and the struggle to retain sanity when endowed with ultimate power. The film has some of the best lines in movie history. It also has Robbie the Robot, Leslie Nielson & Anne Francis.
The Ghost of the Horse references Mark Linkous who tragically took his own life due to his own challenges with depression & mental health. There is a line from his song ‘Eyepennies’ (hence Ocular Cents) that is quoted at the end of the song “At sunrise the monkeys will fly, and leave me with pennies on my eyes”. The final death scene, orbiting a dying planet, the ghost with coins on his eyes, to pay the ferryman for his final ride across the fiery Styx.
This was the fourth song produced for the project and is a partner track to ‘Cloud Riding’. There is an underling tone shared by both pieces although the surface layers differ quite substantially.
The title references sun rise & sunset, top and tailing the day. The song ebbs in and out with an almost drum’n’bass rhythm in its second half and is probably the most formal of all of the pieces.
The image tied to this was taken through the sun roof of my car. Whilst it appears to be a sun rise or sun set in reality it’s a light responsive cark light set against an incoming storm cloud in the early afternoon, the added hand drawn elements emphasizing the atmospheric disturbance.
5: Sea Song (Water in my Eye)
This piece comes in at 23 minutes and was the first song in the sequence, conceived and with source material gather whilst in Majorca late in 2013. I wrote at some length about this piece previously which can be found here.
The song in process is the most connected to some of the longer pieces that appeared on the ‘Blue(Sound)’ project albeit created with a greater technical consistency. It uses a good proportion of GarageBand loops and processed field noise, mainly edited in Audacity.
As with the ‘Winterval Interlude’ song that followed on from this it aims to be a sonic journey across the ocean, from quite beaches with children playing, into rougher waters, rain and rolling tide and sailing over the worlds end into blissed out abandonment.
The film that accompanies this was filmed far away from the ocean in Wollaton Park and Newstead Abbey gardens during a fairly cold November weekend. The footage is heavily processed and only occasionally allows a glimpse of any anchored reality. Its aims to produce a hypnotic air, abstract and distracting.
Dol Tor is a megalithic stone circle near Birchover in the Derbyshire Peak District. Its close by to the Nine Ladies stone circle and not a great distance from Arbor Low & Gib Hill, all of which I’ve blogged about and photographed in the last year or so.
Dol Tor is a fairly small artefact, isn’t sign posted and could be described as off the beaten track. As with all of these sites there is an ‘atmosphere’ of unknown origin. Whilst there I didn’t encounter anybody else but there was evidence of more recent tribal activity on the form of ribbons, crystals and dream catchers tied to branches as well as small fires and the skeletal remains of small animals.
I took a number of photographs, recorded a good deal of silence (which whilst inaudible does appear in the track) and filmed a number of views and walkthroughs that comprise the film which brings to mind a Cold Case / CSI investigation.
Overall this is the piece that I’m most pleased with. It has the most successful use of Ebow and the repeated drum’n’bass style rhythm (resampling Growing:Going) seems appropriate as an echo of the activities conducted there before my arrival.
7: Childs Play
This was made by my 10 year old son Gabriel. He’s been very encouraging about my music and has contributed a number of elements to past songs. One day he told me he had written a song and showed me his notes. He had invented a method of showing drum parts & strum patterns, quiet & loud parts and elements of drone.
I provided him with the instruments and recorded the parts and assembled them to his instruction with as little intervention as possible. His is the result and I think its very credit worthy. The title was his own and his face can just be seen in the background of the image which shows his youngest brother playing with light sabre Spiderman.
8: Love in the Time of the Politics of Deceit (I did not inhale that woman)
Another epically arranged title for a 17 minute closing opus. Were any of these pieces of a lyrical type this would be the political protest song, my ‘Masters of War’ or ‘Eve of Destruction or even ‘California Uber Alles’. The title references one of the comments made by ex US President Bill Clinton when he was questioned over allegations of impropriety in office and also the comments from another US President in regard to his noninvolvement with marijuana. Neither of these activities are in themselves at all worrying or unexpected as aspects of human nature but in the world of politics it’s acceptable to arm oppressive governments, train terrorists and persecute minorities as long as you don’t look for a little human comfort or chill out with a doobie. The world is a frightening place and the noise, distraction and endless breeding of fear is used to keep down the masses whilst the tills ring out for those in power.
The video that accompanies this track was filmed using the Cinamatic app which allows you to capture 15 second clips. Many of those used are from archive YouTube news clips, some from live TV (news, sports events and culture shows) but are zoomed into anonymous detail. The clips are slowed down to quarter speed and filtered for uniformity. To my eye they gel well with the changes in the musical themes – you may find other wise.
The image used is fairly Freudian in its connections to petals and scents and female anatomy, but sometimes a dream about an umbrella really is just a dream about an umbrella.
The final artefact is designed to replicate a gate fold sleeve album cover. I would love produce a piece of vinyl but as that’s not currently an option this will do. As with the music, images and films most of the design elements are created on iPhone & iPad.
The eight prints are archival quality ‘Giclee’ prints scanned from the final versions of the hand affected collaged photographic prints.