Nudge You Alive (2004)

this was first envisioned as a mr. sinister project without the other half of mr. sinister. i toyed around with using that ethereal female vocal effect on a few songs. for whatever reason, it didn’t feel right. maybe that sound only belongs to the brief window in early 2002 when it was all sweaty and new.

this time i was going for a different sound — quasi-electronica, sort of, but more concentrated on atmosphere than chasing any sound that was contemporary or cool. it was music with more importance placed on the bass part, to the extent that it sometimes was the first thing i recorded and it dictated where the song went. in any other setting, the bass is pretty much always something i leave until after the guitar or piano has been recorded, working in sort of a lopsided inversion of the standard build-it-from-the-rhythm-section-up method, leaving the parts most people get down first for last or near-last. a new effects processor also played an important role here, allowing me to treat my voice with delay and reverb in ways i never could before with built-in digital mixer effects.

this was a pretty radical departure for me. i was all about keeping things organic for years, outside of some digital piano and the occasional synth/organ flourish, and here we have the revenge of the synthesizer. only two songs feature live drums and a few brief flashes of guitar. all the other noise is coming from a neglected yamaha W-5 synth.

the music is heavily improvised throughout, though most of the lyrics were written, usually after the music was recorded. i tried to keep things pretty stark, and i think i managed to inject some of the weirdness and spontaneity that was missing from OH YOU THIS. i wanted to get as far away from that album as possible. taking a more serious stab at something resembling electronic music than ever before seemed like as good a way to go as any other.

surprise, sunrise, turpentine alone kills just about everything on OH YOU THIS, and the messed up “organ solo” in the middle of the song is one of my favourite moments on any album i’ve made. i’ve always had a thing for that song. it felt like i tapped into something new and exciting that wasn’t like any other place i’d been before. the song kept changing shape and passing through different scenes, but it always felt like it was right where it needed to be, and there was a dark, claustrophobic feeling that never seemed to leave.

the lyrics for green ribbon hippopotamus came from my attempt at free association writing, where you just put pen to paper and keep writing without giving any thought to what you’re going to write. i’m not sure how successful it was, but the loop still stands as one of the more demented things of its kind i’ve concocted, and the lyrics are pretty messed up.

there are quite a few instrumental tracks. i tried to lay down vocals on some of them, but they all seemed to open up and gain something when the words were gone. the best of these is probably pictures of lillian — a lounge-y, long, winding thing that follows the same unchanging bass line for a little over six minutes, while organ, electric guitar, and various synth sounds appear and disappear. it’s all about the groove, and i manage a pretty tasty one-handed drum fill on the snare and toms early on. no way could i have done anything like that a few albums back.

eggshell embryo has to be just about the closest i’ve ever come to something that sounds like proper idm, with reticent not too far behind (though there’s almost a weird skeletal hip-hop thing going on there, with some spoken word elements creeping in as well). saturday night at my favourite dive is probably the catchiest thing on the CD, so of course there’s an f-bomb in that one. and merapi used to fill me with a strong desire to shake my ass, which isn’t something any of my music tends to do. i think a lot of it came from that moment halfway through when the drum loop gets a lot thicker after it’s slathered with delay and kind of becomes the lead instrument.

this album got me some unexpected airplay on CJAM when i gave a few CDs to some random hosts i didn’t know, just to see what would happen. angela desjardins decided to give it some attention on her show braille radio. i think she was the only person who gave me any serious airplay back then, when pretty much no one cared about what i was doing. she misread the title as “nudge you to death”. i thought that was kind of funny, and later nodded to it in “touch me to death” on GROWING SIDEWAYS.

this was the first CD of mine that looked something like a proper album instead of just a CD-R with my handwriting on it. i was getting more interested in the visual representation of my noise, and i was surprised to learn how easy it was to get things looking borderline professional. it was all still pretty bare-bones, but a definite step up from the last album in that department.

overall, i felt this was the best thing i’d done since BEAUTIFULLY STUPID, though the two albums don’t really have anything common. when that other half of mr. sinister heard it, he said the music made him picture me “in a goth dance club, playing digital folk tunes for vampires”.

i kind of liked that image. still do.

TRACKS:

toss it around
surprise, sunrise, turpentine
reticent
eggshell embryo
pictures of lillian
your purgatory
conversation double
merapi
saturday night at my favourite dive
green ribbon hippopotamus
jumpoff

LISTEN:

surprise, sunrise, turpentine

pictures of lillian

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