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.

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

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.

Production

An Inadvertent Time Warp

This evening, I was able to grab a little time in the studio to work on some stuff, and I found myself pulling out my trusty old Silvertone guitar and the shiny still-on-loan-but-I-promise-I’ll-give-it-back-sometime wavedrum and did some tracking and overdubbing for “Open To Suggestions”. This song started its life when I was asked to “just go play something on the piano for background music” in church one night. I just began noodling around and this neat lilting cadence came out. A friend joined me on the conga to add some structure to the rhythm, and things came together pretty quickly there. Back in my home studio, I was able to transcribe the piano parts from memory, and the wavedrum filled in nicely with a pair of percussion sounds to round things out.  I’m still not a very good drummer, but that’s OK for now.

Also when recording it here, I very quickly realized that it needed some kind of melody countering things over the top. This is something that electric guitars are very good at. So out came the big red beast and the little green Tube Screamer, and away I went. I was liking where things were headed, but something was missing about the guitar’s sound. Now, I’m really not much of a tone-head. I flail at knobs and settings on amps and pedals with no idea what I’m looking for, hoping that eventually something useful will come out. On a whim, I threw a flanger effect onto the guitar channel. That’s when something weird happened.

The song instantly turned into something from the early 1970’s. I’m not sure how it happened, but it went from being modern to retro as quickly as I flipped a switch. Mind you, the rest of the song that I’d been working on didn’t change at all prior to this. And in my opinion, this jump is just what it needed to find its home.

This may also be a sign that I’m turning into an old guy and starting to make old guy rock. We’ll just have to see how that one turns out.

Music, Production

A Weekend with the Wavedrum

I’m currently borrowing a KORG Wavedrum from a friend of mine. For those unfamiliar with this fantastic instrument, it is an acoustic drum synthesizer. It works by using vibration sensors underneath a real drum head and rim that respond to all of the dynamic playing that a hand drum is used to, and then sending those signals to a synthesis engine. The engine then takes the input waves and modulates them with various PCM sources and algorithmic sound models to create the output.

What all of that technobabble really means is that this isn’t a drum, it’s a thousand drums in one box. And unlike a drum machine or normal synthesizer, it is played like a real acoustic drum would be. In short, it’s pretty awesome.

I’ve only had it at my place for a few days now, but I’ve managed to spend a few sessions just playing with it. It has an impressive range of tones, most of which mimic real drums of various flavors in addition to a bunch of very otherworldly sounds that have very little to do with drums. However, the fact that you play these sounds like a drum adds a rhythmic character to it. Another great feature of this instrument is that it outputs directly into the recording system. This means that any incidental ambient noises won’t bleed over into the recording. As you’ll recall, this was a necessary feature for my acoustic guitar as well. It turns out that a home studio is difficult to run with a 10-month old in the house. Incidental ambient noises are the rule of the day.

After my initial noodling, I set about using the Wavedrum on an actual song. This one has a bluesy little groove to it that my traditional drum machine just wasn’t going to capture. I tried to program it in Reason, but the timing was all off and it felt horrible. Ever wonder why so many techno songs are in straight 4/4? It’s because it’s really easy to program that. I’ve programmed a few different step sequencers before, and they’ve all been 16-step 4/4 sequencers. The Wavedrum, based entirely on hand input, has no sense of quantization. Thus, I quickly found out something I knew already — that I am not a very good drummer. I’ve got a decent sense of rhythm, but translating that into a particular instrument isn’t always so straightforward. Thankfully, modern post-production lets me tweak things in software where needed. That said, I am trying to have a fairly light touch on this.

In any case, I jumped in and tried a few different drum sounds before settling on a nice round conga sound. With a little compression, it gave me a nice snappy sound that complemented the acoustic guitar and bass that drives the rest of the song. The Wavedrum, being a very different kind of sequencer, turns out to be quite difficult to program. I wasn’t getting the deep booming tones that I was after for underlying the higher accents, so I ended up breaking out the drum machine for just those bits. After trying unsuccessfully to sync with the underlying groove, I simply recorded the drum machine output to a track and un-quantized it by hand to match. This is the opposite of what you usually do with drums.

After a few sessions of recording, re-recording, and tweaking, I’m getting relatively happy with the state of the song. I have a vision of some kind of bell over the top of it, or something to that effect, but I’m not sure it needs it. I always have trouble knowing when to stop.

Oh yes, the title? “By Pint and Pound”. Now you have the first title of a song from Results Not Typical. Originally the title was “Blood and Flesh by Pint and Pound”, I thought it was a little too macabre. What do you think though? Should I change it back or keep the shorter version? Maybe you’d have to hear it first. Maybe I can arrange that, if you want.