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!

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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

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.

Production

Tracking and Titles

Somehow, I’m finding a decent amount of time to work on this album. I’ve been able to track two more songs in the past two days. And what’s more amazing to me is that they’re nearly done in their current state. The aesthetic for this album is going to be a lot more sparse than I’m used to working with. There are songs on here that are a solo piano with nothing else involved. These last two are piano with a simple synth pad of some kind underneath them. Sure, there are more complex songs with multiple layers of guitars and all kinds of effects and stuff like that, but even those are a lot more raw than the norm. But I’m very happy with how it’s coming out, even though I’m also wanting to be done with this set of things so I can put some work into other stuff.

Titles for songs have always been fairly important to me. However, most of what I come up with is simply Too Clever for its Own Good. Which, incidentally, I’ve decided is going to be the title of my autobiography/memoir. But take for example “This Town Loves You, This Town Will Destroy You” off of halt. I like the title a lot here, it’s catchy and I felt it matched the two-part nature of the song. Problem is that the song itself isn’t as good as its title, in my opinion. You expect this epic tale of woe, but you get this noodly thing. It’s one of the most clicked-on tracks in the bandcamp page, which tells you that the title is grabbing people’s attention. But “AdorĂ©”, what I consider to be the best track on the album, doesn’t get as much attention. The title is a much better fit for the song here, though.

And now the part that some of you have figured out was coming. I’ve told you that I have a lot of songs for Results Not Typical, and I told you that titles are important to me. Now I tell you the titles of the songs! At least, these are the probably-final titles from the most-likely-going-to-keep tracks for the album. There will be other songs, too, but I’m either not happy enough with the title yet or I’m not sure the song’s going to be good enough to make it on. These are also the ones I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to finish.

  • Amid the Stacks
  • Another Empty Hour In Every Day
  • By Pint and Pound
  • Closure
  • Dustwood
  • Ghosts of Persistence
  • Mettle
  • Open to Suggestions
  • Those Born of Kings
  • Unfurled
  • Whether or Not

Presented alphabetically so as not to imply any kind of album ordering.

Uncategorized

Four songs?

Today, while dusting off things for my monthly off-drive backups (kids, it’s always important to keep things on more than one disk!), I went through a few different directories in my ProTools hierarchy and figured out that I have four songs all but finished for Results. These are four piano-based pieces, some with some programmed drums and one with a whole pile of synths on top. That still leaves a lot of dangling bits for an album that is mostly made of dangling bits, but in light of recent craziness I was a little surprised to find myself fairly happy with the state of so many songs already. Once I can get my studio put back together more properly, I can start tracking on some of the more guitar-heavy ones. Also once my neighbors decide to stop riding their Harleys at all hours. Don’t they know that v-twin bleeds into the recording? Though I can think of one track where that might actually help. Hm!

In other news, I think I have made a technological leap and managed to connect this wordpress account to my personal twitter account. OAuth is such a wonderful thing. But, then again, I am a nerd.

Update: in future, I will preview the twitter message this thing spits out. That must have been very confusing to most people.