Cycles

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It’s been a while since I’ve made one of these, looks like over two years, yikes. A whole lot has happened in that period of time, lots of good, some bad, but overall, way more eventful than this blog would make you think.

Here’s one quick awesome thing that happened, that needs updating way more than this does: quitting our jobs and checking out a new continent

Since this blog is mostly about music stuff though, I’m gonna stick to that theme. This huge gap of blog updating pretty directly coincides with the huge gap in my music output, so I figure I should put an end to both of those! I finished a couple songs recently, it’s good to know I didn’t forget how to do it.

The first one I finished took a pretty crazy amount of time to finally get there. Check it out:

I used a fun chord trick where a phrase doesn’t end on the same chord it starts on, but rather on a chord a major 3rd down from where it started. The cool thing about that is when you repeat it three times, you end up on the very first chord you started on. I definitely didn’t invent the trick, Beethoven is famous for doing it in his Waldstein piano sonata, Muse actually uses it in “Knights of Cydonia”, it’s a good one. To get a sense of how far this song travels while on this little journey, skip around to random parts of the song really fast, and it should become apparent. The progression itself hopefully doesn’t sound too weird, I just really like the idea of a melody that on the surface seems like it’s repeating, but it just feels a bit off each time it comes back, like it’s trying to find it’s way back. That makes it pretty weird to sing, it took a lot of takes to make it sound remotely natural.

I just had that chord progression lying around for a while, I couldn’t really figure out what to do with it. It all came together pretty quickly when I decided I should make the lyrics follow a similar direction as the chords/melody, generally positive, but with a kind of ambiguously meandering feeling. That, and I like to write about water-based metaphors (see: Treading Water by Near Peak). It’s loosely about life/death, about rivers, about time, the usual.

After I had the chords and lyrics all figured out, it was recording time. I went to my usual bag of mellotron tricks, and used a mellotron (actually Chamberlin) glass sound going through a bit of modulation to give it a good unsteady warble. Since I don’t have drums, I decided to get a bit creative and use a mallet on a big plastic bin with a mic set up inside as a bass drum. After enough reverb and eq, I think it sounds pretty cool. Not like a normal bass drum, but like its own interesting thing. And then I grabbed a decent sample of a snare rim hit, and did some reversing stuff, added some reverb, and there it is. After it was all done it felt like it wasn’t really conveying the uneasiness I wanted the strange chord progression to bring, so I added some ambient prepared piano sounds that I had lying around. I’m pretty happy with the way it sounds, a few months after the fact.

So there it is, a bit overdue, but I’m glad I didn’t forget how to write a song!

Vacation

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You know, a lot of people think of me as the dude who is willing to make a complete ass of himself for pretty much any reason, or the dude that has weird shirts, or the dude that orders the beer at the office, and of course they’re all 100% right. But there’s one thing I really want to add onto that list: I love making things.

Often times it’s some script that saves a whole bunch of time at work, but in a perfect world, it would be making music. And the thing is, I can’t even be sure that I’m any good at it, but I don’t even give a shit, I fucking love it.

I knew I needed to take a break from work and was close to hitting my maximum amount of PTO hours, and just decided to schedule some time off. I very easily could have traveled somewhere, because there’s a lot of places I haven’t seen that I’d love to see. So much world out there that is completely foreign to me. Basically all of it, I’m pretty sheltered, let’s be real here.

But instead, the thing I wanted to do the most was to make something. I don’t even care of it’s good, or if anyone likes it, or if it even makes sense. I just needed to make something that I could have to show for all this time, energy, and money that I spend on my favorite thing in the universe.

It’s not really that long, and I don’t think it really makes any sense at all as a package of music/ideas, since it’s so completely disconnected from itself. But whatever, that’s just me. I mean, I’m not really great at anything, but I’m pretty good at a lot of things, and this collection of seemingly unrelated sounds is a pretty good representation of that.

Listen to it, or don’t! I swear I won’t be offended. All I can say is that I’m pretty proud of this right here, and it’s inspired me to spend a lot more energy on making music, hopefully with other actual humans. I can’t think of a single way that I would have rather spent my vacation.

Well, back to the ol’ grind!

Treading Water

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I wanted to get another song in before my vacation officially ended, and I wanted it to have some kind of album-ending sound to it. I also wanted to keep it pretty minimal, since the last song got a bit ambitious there. The only instruments in this one are a mellotron wineglass (holding one note), a B3 organ with only one stop all the way out (two more are out to the lowest setting), and a pair of voices.

The lyrics are more or less the reason I wanted to take a vacation in the first place. I’ve been getting farther and farther away from music as I’ve been drowning in work, and almost didn’t even notice it happening. I don’t really want to explain the lyrics too much, since I left them purposely vague, but that’s what was basically going through my head when I wrote them.

Emergency Room

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Another one in the bag. This one was fun to make, I used a few weird tricks to come up with some interesting sounds. Both the guitar and the bass have a sock stuffed between the strings and the body right at the bridge, giving it that muted sound. It has a pretty cool sound when I’m strumming the chords quickly, since that’s not usually a sound you can do while just palm muting. Not easily at least. You can hear me pull the sock out of the guitar right before it gets loud actually. And of course, I added in some mellotron, because it’s just my favorite shit ever.

The lyrics were inspired by a trip I took to the ER for a friend, and just realizing how completely fucked it was. We were there for a total of 7 hours, and my friend ended up being completely misdiagnosed anyway. People would come by and do some kind of test, but then not say a word, and just move on. It honestly felt like people were trying to fix a bunch of cars or something, it was a very odd feeling.

This is a good example of a song where I feel like my voice takes away from the total potential of the song. I dunno, it just doesn’t… fit. This song deserves someone who can really rock the fuck out, and that is clearly not my forte. I’m gonna keep this one in my pocket for later, maybe someone can re-do the vocals and give this song some justice.

A Short Ride

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Another song done! This one all started with me feeling like I’ve been under-using my fancy new Nord Electro 3, and decided to make a bunch of weird sounds on it to start everything. Almost everything you hear, aside from the drums and my voice, is from the keyboard. So actually, none of these sounds are synthesized at all, they’re all samples that have some minor effects on them.

The first thing you hear is mellotron glass with some tremolo and reverb, which persists through pretty much the entire song. The second instrument that comes in is a pizzicato string section through the “twin” amp setting with some overdrive and reverb. The drums are acoustic drum samples going through a virtual guitar amp, and I’m controlling through my new toy, the Korg Nanopad 2. And the last sound to be introduced is a mellotron flute, which I’m only playing below its normal register, again through the “twin” amp setting, with even more overdrive.

And that’s pretty much it! The rest is just adding this in and taking things out to give it a bit of a structure. This is officially the second song that I need to figure out how to play live, because it’s absolutely possible.

Thank You

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I am on fire right now, I can’t even explain it. I have an entire list of song ideas that I’ve accumulated over the last 9 months, and this one had absolutely zero to do with that list. I wanted to do something simple today since the last two days were pretty complicated, and this is just what came out. Those of you that know me can probably figure out who it’s about, but I’d say it’s a pretty universal topic, so fill in whoever you want.

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

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I wanted to see if my crappy P&S camera would be useful at all for video, and see if I could use my video editing software at all. Jury is still out on both of those, but at least I got to record one of my favorite songs, so no regrets! One thing I learned about this is that if you’re depending on daylight in any way, you really can’t fuck around. That, and planning ahead is beyond critical, there’s one part where I overlapped myself and the only real way I’d be able to fix it is to film everything again, or spend a whole day editing it out. Not worth it, so I’m just gonna let it look weird. Anyhow, here’s the video: