What, How, Why: a written preview

As you have probably read in my previous posts (assuming you read this blog regularly, that is), I’ve got a new album out on 1st March. Now, this may not be a big deal to you; but to me, it’s earth-shattering. That’s the kind of self-deluding universe I live in. Actually, that’s the universe of the DIY independent musician. When I was on Twitter, I often read posts which, in rare cases, highlighted the release of new music which was truly revolutionary/reactionary/meaningful and entertaining (no names mentioned here). Though, in many cases there were also tweets about some releases which provoked a reaction which can be roughly summarised as “meh” (again, no names mentioned!). My tweets were no exception to this, I reckon. In my fairly haphazard way, I often posted about my own music, to which some people probably thought “who gives a fuck?”. However, to the artists who were releasing the music, that said music was all-important: their release; their labour; their ‘baby’.

So, in around 5 weeks’ time, I’ll be there; joining the expectant queue of muso technicians; attempting to (virtually) shout about the merits of my new release from the rooftops. At the moment, we are ‘ten-a-penny’; but we strive to stand out from the crowd.

Aaaanyway. The following will probably only interest the handful of you who are loyal listeners (and I am truly grateful for your presence!).

So, “Crash St”….an album, a voyage, a collection of musical tracks which are sequenced back-to-back. Available from 1st March (though I wish it was sooner as I really want to get it ‘out there’). Here’s a list of the tracks and a bit of information about their making.

Firstly, after a few releases which were relatively pedestrian, tempo-wise; I’ve decided to crank-up the speed of the new album. Most of the tracks fall between 150 and 170 bpm in order to develop a sense of momentum. There are some exceptions….but, as ‘ambient’ music seems to be about as common as real ambience in the natural world; I decided to steer clear of too much pure sonic mood and I opted for beats instead.

1. Calibrate You – Game music is something I find fascinating. Not the contemporary music which accompanies the hyper-real games of modern consoles, but the rudimentary music of 8bit systems which accompanied computer games in the 80s and early 90s. I’m not an aficionado, you understand. But whereas new gaming seems to rely on the notion of putting the player in as real a situation as possible; early computer games were totally aware of their limitations and didn’t really attempt to place you in a ‘reality’. This made gaming a weird, other-worldly experience. The music heightened this sensation……it was a crude facsimile of ‘real’ sound and structure (again, due to its technical limitations) and, as such, became rather ethereal, especially when coupled with the pixelated imagery. I find the disconnected, slightly grainy footage of city CCTV cameras has a similar effect: real, but not real. But it is real people in real situations. Gaming meets Desmond Wilcox.

2. Delegation – not sure where the title came from for this. I sometimes come up with titles which seem entirely appropriate and narrative-based. But not this time….it’s just a nice word which has rhythm, like ‘inconsequential’. Anyway, it’s quite a ‘rich’ track, I guess. It’s got many layers of sound and a dominant melody. I like it (is it wrong of me to say that?)…..I’d describe it as “an ever-growing snowball rolling down a mountain towards a honey factory”.

3. Moonface – It started out as an semi-improvised groove I put together for a live mix I did; then ended up being 0% improvised and completely ‘programmed’. It’s the ‘Amen Break’ cut-up; but you knew that already. Along with a dirty synth bass and some live electric piano (which was tweeked and re-arranged afterwards).

4. Flume – this is one of the slower, more contemplative pieces. Piano and wobbly synths recorded live then filtered and fucked-up in Ableton.

5. NMAB – or ‘No More Ambient Bollocks’ as it was originally entitled. I tried to go fairly heavy on the synthetic and jerky. It kinda returns to the old-skool gaming theme, with a bit of dissonance and lots of crystalline saw-waves.

6. Calamatise – This was originally an improvised electric piano piece which developed when I imported it into Ableton and structured it differently. I love Lalo Schifrin’s music and Roy Budd and wanted to try to create a similar mood to them, without producing a pastiche of their music. Dunno whether I succeeded; but I quite like the overall vibe. It also acts as a bit of a counterpoint to the non-organic faster tracks which appear before it.

7. Wowflutter – These two words put together; well, if you’re a recording person, you’ll be aware what they mean. I used to own a Tascam PortaOne 4-track recorder. Wow and Flutter were two weird by-products of bass and treble-induced ‘crosstalk’ between audio tracks. If that means nothing to you, I wouldn’t be surprised, as I don’t fully understand it either. Anyway…I am a sucker for the sound of a 303 and acid-like stylings (this is a pseudo 303 I programmed meticulously into my Alesis Fusion, as you aficionados have no doubt worked out – Geeks!)  ; I came-of-age musically in the late 80s/early 90s and the sound of the 303 has stayed with me ever since.

8. Hard Memory – I find repetition quite edifying. I find repetition quite edifying. I find repetition quite edifying. I find repetition quite edifying. I find repetition quite edifying. I find repetition quite edifying. I find repetition quite edifying. I find repetition quite edifying. I find repetition quite edifying. I find repetition quite edifying. Then I like to finish it off with a little melodic section.

9. Monkeytron – This started out as the original version of ‘NMAB’; then I recorded something else. Plucked string-type improvised melody over cold synths and squeaky beats. It’s like a cold-war Russian techno glitch national anthem. Or not.

10. Snow Star – Now, this started out as something almost entirely different. In fact, a version of it appeared on Pete Jackson’s Dandelion Radio show in December 2011. But it moved on and became a colder, slightly more synthetic track. I remember a film called ‘Bear Island’, which was based on an Alastair MacLean book and starred Donald Sutherland. It was one of those action films which was made in the culturally arid late 70s/early 80s’ mainstream, but is really quite entertaining. Anyway, I kept thinking of that film when I was recording this.

11. Playing The Game – A track which basically consisted of synth strings and sine waves. It was quite a pleasant melodic piece which was shorter than this version and much more simplistic, sonically, originally. Then I introduced it to Ableton and added some pitch-shifted abstract vocals. Then I reversed the entire track for the second half. It’s perfectly symmetrical in that sense.

Do you really need to know all that? Probably not. But, you know me..I like to write stuff. If you download or buy the album, thanks in advance. If not; why are you reading this?!

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6 responses to “What, How, Why: a written preview

  1. This was a highly entertaining read and I am definitely looking forward to the album. I love your spot-on narrative of the “Earth-shattering” event of releasing an album. So true, but I have approximately 36% as much enthusiasm for the 1st of March as I do for my own releases, which is not an inconsequential amount albeit totally reliant on it being my favourite number 🙂

    Rock on
    -Angus

  2. Thanks, good folks! Am looking forward to it…… people will love it or hate it (it’s too melodic to be avant-garde and too exploratory sound-wise to be ‘easy listening’ or poppy!), I guess. Either way, it’s going to get a reaction; which suits me fine!

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