Music

Track Notes Vol. 1.4

This is the final edition of track notes for Results Not Typical. Enjoy!

Incognito Shuffle

Spies are sneaky creatures. If you don’t see them, the feeling is not mutual. If you do see them, it’s already too late for you.

This started as a backing track to a face-matching game. We ended up not doing much of anything with the game, so this little ditty gathered dust for a few years before I decided to take it apart and rework it into this song. I really like the avante-guard feel here, like something out of a speakeasy, and the walking bassline really makes me want to buy a real upright bass. I’m not sure my wife would appreciate us keeping one in the house though, so we’ll have to pass on that for now. That said, on this album I actually did do a lot more with bass than I had previously, mostly because I couldn’t really rely on the synthesizers for the basslines and keep the aesthetic that I wanted to for this album, and I really love that pushing-the-microphone-past-its-limits sound.

They Came In Waves

The odds seem insurmountable. The hordes crest the hills on all sides, a seemingly endless onslaught of feral ferocity aimed directly at your head. As soon as one falls his kin rise on the opposite side. The question is not when but if this night will end.

This track was recorded entirely with the Korg Wavedrum and no other instrumentation. Consequently, it was also played live, and you should be able to tell just how terrible a drummer I really am. Mind you, this is even after gratuitous post-processing and many takes on each part. I think it’s because of all that that this song is actually my least favorite on the album, though it’s still interesting to me. I like the relentless sonic onslaught that the pounding layers of drums make, and the tribal adrenaline rush that it’s meant to feel like. In the end, I chalk it up to experimentation and call it a day.

Eyes In The Forest

A pair of small lights gleam at you from the dense wood. They seem inviting, whimsical, almost playful. When you’re close enough to see the truth, you no longer have a chance.

This started out as a simple guitar progression that I liked, played on my nylon string acoustic and recorded in one take and named, simply, “forest”. When I pulled out the sketch to start building it into something more, I ended up actually using the original guitar piece verbatim (with a touch of compression and reverb thrown in to draw out the tone). After laying down a simple synth melody over the top of it, I had it mostly where I wanted it — but it was very, very short and something felt missing. That’s when I dropped the synth down a few octaves and drew out the low growling noise to contrast with the peaceful, idyllic sounds of the beginning. Also, if you get a chance, listen to this with a good set of stereo headphones.

Closure

After many years of wondering and doubting, resolution finally comes. It may not have answered all of your questions to your satisfaction, but there is finally an ending to this tale.

The final song on the album, this one feels like a sigh of relief to me. I particularly like how it falls down through some lingering tension and strange harmonics before it finally comes to rest on that major seven chord. It really is a story of life, having spent years worrying about a past event you can’t change, wondering what might have been, only to finally let it go.

 

And there you have it — a collection of my inner thoughts for each song on Results Not Typical. I’m sure I’ll find something else to fill these pages here. In the mean time, I’m trying to find a way around the Amazon problem. I’ll probably have more news for the site in a week or two on that, but for now I’ll just say that I’m looking into a few things.

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Music

Track Notes Vol. 1.3

Welcome to another edition of Track Notes, wherein I talk about some songs in greater detail than usual.

Another Empty Hour In Every Day

You are finally free of that one tedious daily appointment that you so dreaded each day. But you have nothing to fill the time with, it seems. Do you look upon this with joy or with dread? Do you rush to find new activities, or take the time for what it is? Whatever you decide, the day still lies ahead, waiting for you.

This is an instance where title and music came together from separate spheres but fit so perfectly together that I couldn’t have planned it that well. The title is actually inspired by a scene in the Vernor Vinge book “Rainbows End” where the main character completes an intensive medical rehabilitation program. He then finds himself with more free time, but nothing worth filling it with. That in turn got me wondering, what would I do if I had more free time, like I always wish I had? It’s entirely probable that I and many others would simply expand everything else to fill that time. Perhaps that time instead should be savored.

Open To Suggestions

What do you want to do today?

Me? I dunno.

This track began its life as simple background filler music at church one night, while a survey was being passed around for people to fill out. I asked a friend to join my piano wanderings on the congas, and this little song was born. The whole time, it felt like it needed a melody instrument atop it, so when it came time to record it I added a simple guitar line to complete the recording. A little serendipitous effects processing gave the song exactly what it needed. This song also features the debut of live percussion on a Psycliq recording, courtesy of a borrowed Korg Wavedrum. It is truly a remarkable instrument, one that I hope to be able to add to my permanent arsenal someday.

By Pint and Pound

Come one, come all! And come quickly, for there is much to see. The Market is here this day, and it forever pulses with the beat of a thousand hearts set sail on a thousand ships from worlds you could hardly imagine, named in foreign tongues you cannot pronounce.

Yes yes, everything is for sale here! Blood and flesh by the pint and the pound, respectively– yours today! If the price is right, of course.

This folksy blues number started out its life as a very simple chord progression and melody combination that quickly took on a life of its own once I let it. Originally dubbed “Launch” (and available as such on the limited edition Preliminary Results digital album), the song was renamed “Blood And Flesh By Pint and Pound” once I started to flesh it out. No pun intended, I swear. Regardless, that all seemed a bit too gruesome, so “By Pint and Pound” it became, with the above story snippet of the market scene (inspired by the Floating Market in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere series) to fill things out. This song also marks another appearance by the Wavedrum in addition to being the debut of another new instrument for a Psycliq project: an acoustic guitar. Is the future of Psycliq made of wood and skins?

Dustwood

A lonely stop on the side of a dry and forgotten highway. The road stretches off into the distance in either direction and shows no sign of wavering around any obstacle, visible or otherwise. Strangely enough, you are far from alone here; but it is clear that you are not nearly cracked by the sun enough to fit in.

“You must be new in town. Pull up a seat, son.”

Ever since I first penned this blues track, I felt it really wanted to be road music in a film, played over a dusty and forgotten local watering hole. An old cowboy town, perhaps, but one where pickup trucks and motorcycles were preferred over horses. I had a hard time mixing this song, for some reason or another. I just couldn’t quite get the different themes to stand out without smashing over each other. Also had issues with the ending, and didn’t get that to work until nearly the last minute. I think I finally got it all to fit appropriately, though it’s times like this that have made me really wish I could work with a producer and mixing engineer. Maybe when I’m rich and famous someday, right? Interestingly, the electric guitar sounds in this are all from the Silvertone. Man, that thing is versatile.

 

Stay tuned for the last and final volume of my notes for Results Not Typical. I promise that I’ll try not to let it take quite so many weeks in between this time.

Music

One Armed Remix

In keeping with the “always expanding” corporate statement of Mergers & Acquisitions, Inc., I’ve put up a new track online, entitled One Armed Remix:

A very simple mashup between Project 86’s “One Armed Man (Play On)” and Plumb’s “Concrete”, this song is nonetheless fun and shows Project in a very, very different environment. I actually put this together way back in 2002 and just ran across it on my harddrive, but I figured it’d be a great addition to Mergers. The track also loops very nicely. Perhaps someday I’ll go back and do a more proper smash-together of this, now that I have better tools and a ton more experience with an audio editor than I did back then.

As always, downloads of this track and the whole Mergers & Acquisitions, Inc. album are completely free!

In other news, I’ll get back to finishing up track notes soon enough here.

Music

Track Notes Vol 1.2

Welcome to part 2 of the first installment of Track Notes, wherein I take a few minutes to talk about songs from the latest album, giving you a brief glimpse inside of my head. At this rate, I’ll have four total parts here to get through all of the stuff on Results Not Typical.

But before I get into that, I just want to take an opportunity to get you plugged into The Electric Goodies Newsletter. Subscribers have already gotten six free MP3s of behind-the-scenes works in progress. I’m also running a small contest available to list subscribers only. Join today, check out the archives, and have fun!

Ghosts of Persistence

Sometimes echoes of the past remain long after the presence of memory was last called upon.

This is one of those lilting progressions that I came up with just sitting at the piano one evening. Thankfully, I keep a small digital recorder sitting on top of said piano to capture the neat things like this that decide to show up. I was trying to figure out what to do with this bit, but it kept wanting to stand on its own. The bridge in the middle keeps it from becoming a completely repetitive affair.

Unfurled

As the sun sets on another day, you feel everything that had once bothered you begin to melt in the crimson rays that bathe the horizon. Breath slowly comes easier, deeper. The universe is yours to contemplate as your mind and soul unwrap and spread, billowing into the breeze. Contemplation is now your only goal, until the sun should choose to meet you again.

This is a song of quiet reflection, with the complexities of a day’s thoughts shown by layered and extended chords. You really should listen to this one with your eyes closed while taking a deep, slow breath. Or maybe a few breaths, as this is the longest song on the album. It’s also one of only a couple songs I’ve ever produced without a metronome of any kind. I actually tried to clean it up and quantize things when I first recorded it, but doing so completely destroyed the soft and loosening feel of the original demo. So here you have it, wobbly tempo, mashed chords, and all.

Whether or Not

Some choices in life are simple. To be or not to be, to do or not to do. And some things remain unaffected by these choices, a steady constant in a stream of binary waverings.

One of the things I really like about this song is that the left hand of the piano is fairly constant the whole song, never actually changing the bass note. It’s entirely up to the right hand to add tone and color, and it makes the otherwise steadfast left hand take on a whole new and exciting life in context.

Ligature/Signature

When is a signature something more? When it is a flourish of personality completely tying itself to the heart and drive of the one whose hand is the only that could truly make it. A flourish in life that identifies more so than the words it makes.

This goofy little tune is really an excuse for me to pay homage to ragtime, honkeytonk, and hot jazz. I like the off-kilter chord progression, and it was one of the first times I’d tried for some of the weirder harmonics in a song. Somehow, it still sounds OK. Also, the piano was a bit tricky to get to sound right and fit with the feel of the track, but I think the chorusing does its job well there. As cheesy as it is, it’s the kind of song that I think would be a blast to play live with a jazz trio sometime.

The Clock on the Wall in Limbo

The longest wait in the most boring waiting room in the universe. You watch the clock wondering if the ticking will ever stop. Here, it does not.

This was a literal 11th-hour addition to the album, replacing another track that I had planned but scrapped at the last minute since it wasn’t working out at all. That’s always a hard thing to do, but it’s important to know when something isn’t working. Maybe that other song will come back later. I like the simple, loopable 12-bar blues on this one, and the melody and bassline that counter each other and play off each other’s rhythm. Fun fact: this was recorded with a single sound patch from my Korg X3, with the bass in the left hand and the vibes in the right. I nearly added drums and some other stuff on top of it, and even almost put a ticking clock effect in there, but in the end I’m very glad I didn’t.

Stay tuned, parts 3 and 4 will be coming soon!

Music

Track Notes Vol 1.1

I’d like to take a few posts to go through some of my thoughts and notes for each of the tracks on Results Not Typical. Since the album has seventeen songs on it, it’s going to take a few posts for me to go through them all.

You might not have realized this, but each track has a narrative associated with it, and they can all be read on the music site. I’m not sure if the digital downloads contain this information anywhere, so I wanted to include them all here along with my thoughts on the tracks themselves.

Setting Out

A young boy leaves his village in search of Adventure, accompanied by his trusty sidekick. The world is a promise before them. They know not what perils and trials lie ahead, but welcome the future with great anticipation.

Like much of this album, the roots for this song are actually quite old. After having listened to Mortal’s incredible Pura album way too many times in a row, I had programmed the basic two-chord progression on my sequencer and thrown some conga drums and a noodley melody on top of it. It always felt too repetitive and sparse to do anything with, though. When I started pulling together tracks for Results, I played around with turning it into a semi-rondo, with the light ambient parts interspersed with some harder jazz/hip-hop sections in a minor blues scale. I particularly like the first drop in section with the harder drums, since it really comes out of nowhere. I’m also not entirely happy with the title of this song, but it seemed to be the best I could do.

Mettle

Strength undeniable, able to be called upon exactly when needed. Unshakable grace as life hurtles you from the top of one building to another, and the resolve needed to rise to your feet again. The fact that that for a moment there was nothing but 37 stories of empty air between you and the ground seems of little consequence.

This, I think, is my favorite track of the whole disc, and it’s certainly the closest to a “normal” Psycliq track. I think I had been playing Mirror’s Edge when I started to work out the basic melody, so thoughts of leaping into the unknown with great confidence were rattling around in my head. This started as a simple and sparse piano piece, but after I added the first synth layer to it I just kept going. Interestingly, this is made entirely with software instruments; in general, I use hardware synths to do most of the noise making.

Those Born of Kings

The throne room of the palace is immense as you seek audience with the king. Pillars, stonework, tapestries — everything carefully constructed to make you feel very, very small. But while you are always in awe of your surroundings here, you do not feel the overwhelming fear this room was intended to instill in you. And this for one simple reason: it is your living room. You belong here. And you have come to bid your father good morning.

I struggled for ages to come up with a good title for this one. Most of these titles were very bad, and I never felt they captured the sense of majesty and wonder that the music was expressing. It needed something to make this whole march business make sense, and I couldn’t get away from the idea of royalty being somehow involved. I like the final title quite a lot now. This song features the same piano-and-drum-machine aesthetic of Setting Out and several others, but the “big snare” hit sound is actually something I programmed on my microKORG using hints from this tutorial.

Amid the Stacks

The corridors of the Great Library combine into a labyrinth if incredible complexity and scale, both in the physical and ideological senses. It could take you days to walk up and down every aisle of every floor without stopping, and days more for each bound volume that beckons your attention from its place on the shelf. The world has been cataloged and ordered here, you only need look.

The first all-piano track on the album, I debated adding more to it but ultimately decided against it. There’s a moogerfooger Analogue Delay on the piano that makes for some really interesting overtones if you listen closely. This track is meant to compliment Those Born of Kings somewhat– their narratives take place in the same world, at least. The connection is obvious to me now, but didn’t occur until I’d gotten the title for the other song squared away. It’s even stranger since the roots of this song are about five years older than the other, too. The feeling here is meant to be one of getting lost in endless worlds, always with something new around each corner.

And that’s the first four down. Stay tuned for more episodes of Track Notes ™, where I’ll eventually get through the whole album. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to join the Electric Goodies mailing list!

Music

Electric Goodies and Physical Platters

I have two cool things today! First off, for those of you who want a physical, made-of-atoms copy of Results Not Typical, the wait is over! You can now order a CD from CDBaby. Now that it’s available there, the distributors should be getting copies of things so that you can also pick it up at Amazon or order it from your local record store.

And of course, for those of you who like your music digitally, you can get it from iTunes, Amazon MP3, bandcamp, eMusic, and a bunch of other places that I don’t have links to. But just go and check your favorite music website, and if they don’t have it yet, ask!

Thing the second: I am pleased to announce the creation of the Electric Goodies Newsletter! With this newsletter, I will periodically be sending out sneak-peaks, demos, snippets, sketches, and other interesting things that will let you see into the inner workings of Psycliq. By and large, this is stuff that won’t be posted on the website or anywhere else, so if you want free MP3s and cool stuff, join today! I’ll even give you a subscription box:

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Subscribe to Psycliq's Electric Goodies Newsletter
Visit this group

And once you join, invite your friends! I really do want to give list members some cool things. And who doesn’t like cool things?

Music

By Pint and Pound

I’ve been up at a music festival all weekend up here in New England, and being surrounded by lots of great music has made me want to share some of mine as well. So here we have the second preview track from Results Not Typical, entitled “By Pint and Pound”.

This is an example of some of the more guitar-based stuff on the album, while “Those Born of Kings” is significantly more piano-driven. This song also features the Wavedrum on percussion and helps prove that I’m not a very good drummer.

Enjoy the track and be sure to hit the “share” link up there and share this to everyone you know.

Music

A change of heart

The last song I was working on for Results Not Typical just wasn’t really coming together, so I’ve decided to shelve it for now. There’s a possibility that it’ll pop out again at a future date, but who knows.

As a side effect, that means that all the music for this album is now completed. Done. Finished. This is exciting! Of course I’m likely to go tweak a few bits that bug me, I always seem to do that at the eleventh hour. But as a whole, this baby is in the can. Mmm, canned babies.

But what about the seventeen-song opus that it once was? It will still actually be seventeen songs, since as soon as I’d decided to shelve one song another one popped up. A simple 12-bar blues entitled “The Clock on the Wall in Limbo”, this one definitely has to go right in the middle someplace. No, I still haven’t picked an order yet, but I am at least working on that part. My immediate future in Psycliq will have me listening to this batch of songs again and again until I am completely sick of them, at which point I will release them for the world to hear.

Stay tuned.

Music

Album ordering

The concept of an “album” of music has been decried by some as an outmoded restriction imposed on us in a time of physical media. To some extent, I agree with that, and what I’m doing with Mergers & Acquisitions, Inc. is in direct response to it. In that case, the track list isn’t static, and I’ll be putting more into it in the future.

However, I don’t think that the anti-album sentiment is completely true, and I’m taking a more traditional approach with Results Not Typical. In such an album, the order of presented tracks is vital. The feel of this album is quite dynamic, with soft piano on some songs, crunchy blues guitars on others, and a whole range of oddities in between. I even have one track that was recorded entirely using the Wavedrum, and nothing else. Some are long, many are short, and each is unique.

So how does one go about picking the order of songs? The best solution I’ve come up with is just listening to it again and again, paying attention to the transition points, and feeling what works and what doesn’t. The first and last songs are already settled: “Setting Out” and “Closure”, respectively. But I still have to figure out what journey I want to take people on in between. It just so happens that there’s a fair bit to see along this road.

An added consideration this time around is the fact that, for the first time, I’m going to be using a printing service to handle the insert cards for the physical CDs. Thus far, all of my physical albums have been completely home made. Now I have yet to see their results in person, but CD Poster Shop looks to be pretty promising. Small runs, pretty low cost, and almost certainly higher quality than what I could pop out of my home printer. I’ll still be running the CDs themselves at home, and they’ll still be CDRs with LightScribe-printed labels, since I don’t sell enough copies to warrant a regular replication run. But I am selling enough copies to make printing the disc inserts a bit of a pain. A downside to this is that it does add another week or two of lead time to the project being fully released, since I need to have the final song list and ordering set before I can purchase the insert cards.

As far as the album itself goes, I’m just about done with 15 of the 17 tracks right now. I might make a few tweaks to the ones that are “done” before ultimate release, but the songs are at least in their final format. The last two are at least started, and I’m on track to get it out by the end of summer. The release will almost certainly happen on Bandamp first, followed by physical sales on CDBaby, with availability on iTunes, Amazon, Amazon MP3, Rhapsody, and all kinds of other places like that following some time after.

Music

These songs may seem familiar to you

I am proud to release a brand new, free, digital-only album today entitled “Mergers & Acquisitions, Inc.” exclusively on Bandcamp. That’s right, a free digital Psycliq album, yours for the taking right now. Here it is:

There’s a catch though: I didn’t write any of the songs. Not a one. Everything on this album is a cover or a remix of someone else’s music, the titular mergers and acquisitions. I did do all the arrangements and most of the instrumentation, though. And I suppose I did try to give each song the full Psycliq treatment, whatever that means.

There’s also something else funny about this album. It’s not a traditional album in the sense of it being a static collection of songs that have been fit-and-finished and will remain together as a closed set. Instead, this is going to be more of an online folder, a banner for me to publish future covers and remixes under. I intend for all releases under Mergers & Acquisitions, Inc. to be digital only and freely available online. For the forseeable future, it’ll only be available on the bandcamp-powered music site. What this means for you, dear listener, is that this album will grow with time. I’ll be sure to announce additions to it all over the place.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a replacement for Results Not Typical; rest assured that I’m still working on that project and do intend to have it up soon as well. But I didn’t want these recordings to languish on my hard drive forever. They belong on your hard drive instead. And all of your friends’ hard drives, so please hit that “share” link and tell everyone you know.