Month: December 2016

‘Tis the season to be seasonal.

three-piece

That whole “blog heating up at the end of the year” thing hasn’t really happened. Sleep demons have been doing their energy-sapping thing, and there hasn’t been a whole lot to report. There are at least a few bits of things that resemble news, though.

The next Papa Ghostface album is farther along than I thought it was. A lot farther along. We’ve got eleven songs recorded in one form or another. Some still need work. Others just need their mixes tweaked a little. And there are quite a few songs we’ve been playing around with and talking about recording, where all we need to do is sit down and…you know…record them.

Between what’s already been recorded, what’s yet to be recorded, and whatever surprises fall out along the way, I think we’re headed for an album that’s a little more sprawling than STEW was. And you know how I like to sprawl.

Some of those surprises are already showing up. A few days ago I was mixing a solo song. i felt this urge to slather the acoustic guitar in a thick, chewy chorus effect. I knew it wasn’t right for the song, but I liked the way it sounded. Thought it might be worthwhile to try building a different song around that effect.

My brain has a habit of taking thoughts like that and running with them before I can even get my shoes on. That happened again here. I came up with a chord progression that was a little bit wonky, a song more or less wrote itself around those chords and the sound of the chewy chorus effect, similarly chewy effects were added to most of the other tracks (I think the bass was the only thing I left alone), and once Gord added some insane textural noise guitar to put the musical cherry on top, I mixed it and it was done.

I’m not going to post it here. Don’t want to give too many surprises away. But I can tell you it doesn’t sound like anything that was on the last album. On some level I think it was a challenge I set for myself, to see if I could take the music in a really off-kilter, more psychedelic direction, far away from the dark folky thing. Given how successful it was, I’d like to try and channel that energy into some of the other songs and aim for a less accessible album with some more out-there production touches.

We’ll see how that goes.

Right now I’m working on finishing up the mixes for Zara’s album. For a hot minute there it looked like I might be adding a lot more in the way of instrumentation and musical ideas to this one. Now I’m not contributing anything at all. I guess some people just want their music to be them and them alone, unadulterated. I don’t think I’m really the guy you want to go to for that sort of thing. There are other people in the city who are better choices for straight acoustic recordings, at least in my opinion. But I can do it, if it’s what the artist wants. So that’s what I’m doing.

I imagine she’ll want to wait to put it out there until she’s got a CD release show lined up. So look for that one early in the new year, probably.

Once my work is done there, the plan is to dive straight into finishing up YEAR OF THE SLEEPWALK. It’s about time that thing got all its loose ends tied up. I’d say, “expect it to emerge sometime in the spring,” but every time I try to carve out a timeline for something it seems to blow up in my face. Maybe I should start wearing a protective mask.

At least there’s no shortage of stuff to work on. Between SLEEPWALK, Zara’s album, the next Papa Ghostface album, THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE (remember that thing?), a second collection of out-takes and misfits, a projected album of songs that return to the “avoid repetition and anything that resembles a conventional song structure at all costs” way of writing, getting back to working on Ron’s next album in the new year, whatever happens next with the O-L West, and whatever else might pop up along the way, I’ve got my hands pretty full.

I wonder what the Vegas odds are on which albums get finished first…

Kind words.

intense-squirrel-violinist

Ron Leary just did an interview over at the AVB podcast. Not only is there some great insight into his craft and music-related philosophies, but there’s an unexpected shout-out to me and Steve around the 31:50 mark, with some incredibly kind words about AFTERTHOUGHTS. Thanks for that, Ron. It means a lot.

(Side note: if you don’t have a copy of Ron’s new album yet, you should grab one and support that magnificent fella.)

I think those construction flapjacks might finally be gone. Maybe. Before the weekend, they were taking their pylons away. I hear in some cultures the taking-away of pylons indicates the end of a job that’s been drawn out a month or more past the time-frame in which it would have been completed by competent people with some semblance of a work ethic.

Plus there’s snow on the ground now. A lot of it, all of the sudden.

If they really are finished torturing me with the noise made by their pretending-to-work-while-doing-mostly-nothing shtick, blog things might be heating up in the casual walk to the end of the year. I’ve got so many things I’ve been wanting to work on over here, my eyebrows are about ready to take flight.

You see, it’s all clear.

greg-lake

I guess 2016 couldn’t leave without killing off at least one more talented person. Two-thirds of Emerson, Lake & Palmer are gone now, with Greg Lake joining Keith Emerson in the massive concert hall in the sky.

These guys gave me a lot of joy when I was a young ‘un, both with the epic prog workouts and smaller-scale gems like this.

Greg Lake was also the voice and bass behind some of the first music I heard that really challenged me, though it took a while before I figured out it was him. When I was seven or eight years old I came across my stepfather’s copy of In the Court of the Crimson King on cassette tape. The album cover scared the shit out of me. The music kind of unnerved me too, but at the same time there was something exciting happening there.

I grew up in the eighties listening to the radio. This wasn’t like anything they played on the radio. It wasn’t like anything i’d ever heard before anywhere.

Try jamming on some Brain Salad Surgery tunes if you run into Keith up there, Greg-man.

Zara doing Zara things (continued).

Here’s that video action I mentioned a little while back.

Zara says, “Watch me awkwardly sway to my music as I make one of the happiest instruments possible sad.” (Really. That’s what she said.)

Johnny says, “Lots of clichés have been peddled over the years about vocal power, but Zara’s voice is so powerful it makes microphones shake — literally!”

The Tasmanian Devil says, “I like my new perch. I get to see and hear stuff.”

Something I discovered in the course of editing this video: it’s easier to edit something when you have a lot of different elements to stitch together. More time-consuming, sure. But easier. When you’re only cutting back and forth between two different things, it becomes a little trickier to create movement without disjointedness. Camera movement would probably help there, but I can’t move the camera around and concentrate on recording at the same time, unless I grow another set of eyes and hands.

You never know. It could happen.

My way of working around that was not making too many quick cuts, and deviating a little from the “show the person singing when they’re singing and show something else when they’re not singing” approach every once in a while, to keep it interesting.

Didn’t feel right adding any additional instruments to this one, because it’s a really personal song, and also because I wanted the video to be a showcase for Zara. It would be a little less of a showcase if every once in a while you got “random bearded person who isn’t Zara doing things” sneaking into the frame.