It’s that time of year again… time for the dreaded Year-End Review. An attempt to make sense of 2014 and formulate an idea of where 2015 might lead.
I’m a little embarrassed to note that I didn’t even do this last year! But 2013 was a quiet year, and I didn’t work on anything solo. I recorded my parts for The Rage of Reason (see below) and Afterimages (from Memory Palace, below), and arranged my odd-meter electronic groove parts for Somewhere the Circle Stops (from Memory Palace), along with a handbell choir version of Arvo Pärt’s Summa. That was it. (Handbell choirs: please get in touch!)
Anyway, 2014 was the most productive year yet! The highlights are, predictably, its two releases, Divinations and Memory Palace (with Chris Russell). Each album was several years in the making, and included work recorded before I left Canada to move Stateside. Both are self-released on my Kalindi Music label, with Memory Palace being a joint release with Chris’ Void Music.
Four pieces were released on three compilation albums. The Relaxed Machinery label‘s collection reBOOT included two duo pieces: The Rage of Reason and Particles and Waves. On the first, Peter James provided a nice drone chord over which I laid a couple of guitar parts, using an original effects patch which I’m really pleased with and will definitely use again. For the second, Chris Russell took a metal-handrail-drumming groove of mine and bathed it in his signature synth atmospheres. (He also did this on Spatial Mnemonics from the Memory Palace album.)
(Details on the other two compilation pieces below.)
2014 was a great year for composition – most of it in the month of January. In the first week, I finished arranging and recording my part for Somewhere the Circle Stops, the ambitious closing piece on the Memory Palace album.
Still in January, I took up four improvised pieces from the April 2012 multimedia jam with art painters Royce Deans and Tali Farchi. I had to distill and rearrange the good parts into actual compositions. These will make up most of the next solo album. The artwork will be all from Royce and Tali.
I recorded one of these pieces, Fading Angel, shortly after its performance at my library concert in mid-November, which marked my return to live performance after a two-year break. One of the others, Sirens of Maya, was already recorded, but its live performance (also at the library concert) was so pleasing that I’m going to use that version instead.
Still in January, I applied the same distillation process to three of six pieces from the two September 2012 events (all six of which will make up the second next solo album). One of these, Emerge, was also played at the library concert and the studio version recorded shortly thereafter.
So that was a really good month…
After January, there wasn’t as much composition time as one would like, but I managed to work up three pieces, all for compilation albums.
Mister God, This is Taylor was published on the Waiting World Records album Shine Like the Stars. This memorial tribute was curated by Waiting World’s Michael Peck, in honor of a young and dear family friend, someone I would like to have met. Musically, this was a clear step forward in my composition process toward something that’s beginning to emerge as “my sound”. The story begins here.
Driven to Ground is a drone experiment, intended for the open-ended compilation I No Longer Love Blue Skies from Sound For Good Records. This is an evolving synth texture, which I’ve sketched out but not executed yet. I’ll know if it amounts to anything…. when it’s done.
The year closed in a rush, with the library concert and the subsequent recordings. With all that going on, there was just enough time to meet one more deadline: the compilation Power Beyond Fathom, from CRL Studios. This is a benefit for Chicago musician Don Hill and his family. Don, aka Millipede, was diagnosed with Stage 4 renal cancer late in the year. I’m honored to have my piece Transitional included in this 3-part, 47-track collection. Transitional marked my first use of more-or-less normal-sounding drum kits to drive the piece, and was a hallucination of what a collaboration with Don might sound like. Sadly, that now seems most unlikely.
The compilation pieces continue to serve as testing grounds for new ideas and approaches. Almost every one of them is a “first” of some kind.
2014 also marked the release of my first guest appearance, on the album Halla from Ari Porki and Christopher Alvarado. I contributed electric guitar and EBowed fretless electric to one piece, Ruska. My colleagues Jack Hertz, Cousin Silas, Stephen Briggs and Void of Realms also guested. Halla is available from the 45 Echoes Sounds netlabel.
We moved in late September, and the new studio is the most spacious yet. The layout changed only slightly, so v3.1 of The Keep goes something like this:
So what’s on the horizon for 2015?
I’m inclined to be cautious about looking ahead, because very few items from my hope-to-accomplish in 2013 list actually got done that year. So let’s just say what I hope to be working on:
Albums 4, 5 and 6 are all partly recorded, so the priority is finishing these and kicking them out of the nest.
After these, the Concerto for Ambient Orchestra looms as the most likely project to start up next. There are also the covers album and two collaborations, one already settled (with Chris Russell) and the other on a wait-and-see basis. So there’s never a shortage of choices…
There’s also one piece to be drafted for a potential collaborator, which would be the concluding track of a future album – which is part of a multi-album cycle. That one piece could be a year or two down the road; it’s a real case of “if and when”, so I’ll leave it there for now.
So here we are, and there we might go. As always, many thanks for your interest and support, and all the best for 2015! (My year’s already off to a great start, because I’m finally going to get to see Steve Roach play live in February. Hope to see you there!)
Many thanks to Bill Fox of Thought Radio for playing Primitive and Prime from the Memory Palace album on his Dec. 20 broadcast. Bill has been playing my music from the beginning, and his support is greatly appreciated!
Guest blogger alert:
The journey to this palace has been a long, rewarding and sometimes frustrating journey. But so worth it in the end. Greg contacted me late 2010 to work on an album and we were off running. This was to be our first release using drums and odd time rhythms in our music. I have played with loops in the past, but never really applied acoustic or tribal drums to my music until work on this album came up. This immediately took me out of my comfort zone and at times became a challenge that led me to re-do my parts, two, sometimes three, times before I could hand the piece off to Greg.
Life events for both of us would slow production down on this album and it became clear to not rush the music and let this album slowly develop over time. That probably is what helped the most for me, living with the music for brief periods of time and then after a hiatus coming back to the project with fresh ears.
Fast forward to 2014 and Greg and I are at the end of our journey to the Memory Palace, but this is only the beginning of our adventure.
I look forward to the next chapter.
As might be deduced from the above, Chris and I knew, even before Memory Palace was finished, that another project was in our future, and the general direction it would take. Stay tuned!
A shout-out here to (1) the Relaxed Machinery artistic community, where we connected shortly after its inception, early in 2010; and (2) the rM label, which has released most of Chris’ albums to date. There’s a long list of excellent releases which I highly recommend!
Gratitude also to everyone who tuned in, and those who joined us in the Relaxed Machinery community chat room. The album has been very well received, and we’re hopeful that the word will spread…
Thanks to the hosts of two first-rate radio programs for including music from our Memory Palace album in their latest broadcasts!
If you’re not familiar with either of these programs, you would do well to check them out. They both come very highly recommended.
Many thanks to Bert for his close attention and support! His original post is here. (I added the links.)
The origins for “Memory Palace” go back to Christmas 2010, when Greg Moorcroft (aka eyes cast down) approached Chris Russell with the idea of starting a groove-based collaboration. Greg would take care of the rhythmic side of things while Mr. Russell would be in charge of all additional textures, soundscapes and synthetic sounds. Both musicians focused on a full-album release after the first idea materialized smoothly in a track for the Relaxed Machinery sampler “reBOOT“.
The first half of the the 5-track/70+ minutes album is centered around electric groove patterns using mostly acoustic drum and percussion samples and the sounding of Greg’s much-favored wooden frogs alongside tasty synth textures and circular atmospheres, all creating quite an intense and more upfront sonic statement with a certain psychedelic edge.
The third piece “Touchstone Array” (defined as electron crackle) reveals certain contemplativeness, but evolves eventually into a weird and abstract/experimental effort led by acoustic samples set to a racing tempo with lots of bleeps and sound modifications running alongside.
Fortunately, gentle curling and shifting atmospherics make up the core of the two remaining tracks, with assorted (occasional tribal) rhythmic elements pushed further back in the spacious, transparent sound design on “Afterimages”. The fast but not upfront table-percussion on the final 22-minute piece (which alternates odd-meter electronic rhythms with live tribal drumming) reminds slightly of the Roach-collabs with Mr. Fayman.
The result on “Memory Palace” comes down to quite peculiar ambient, expecting the listener to think out of the box quite a bit.
After a two-year break, it was time to get back on the live wagon, to make sure the wheels were still securely attached. So I jumped at the library’s invitation.
I had planned to play all composed pieces, but it finally dawned (at the last rehearsal) that this was involving too many guitars (four, including the 12-string and the acoustic), so I cut back to the usual two and revamped the program, allowing for a couple of improvised flings.
So I ended up with three pieces from The Separate Ones, two from the next solo album, one from the album after that, and the two improvs. I used just the two guitars, apart from the synth line in Radha’s Tears.
The minimum success threshold for a live show of mine is pretty basic: no power outages, no blue screens of death, no screaming feedback, and no crazy blue notes. So… on this day we’re all good.
Actually, it was one of the better shows. The live take on Sirens of Maya is so pleasing that it may replace the finished studio recording on the next album.
So, we got music to share!
Here is a medley of highlights, also on Soundcloud:
Submerge/Emerge (part of which closes this highlight clip) is free with all Memory Palace digital pre-orders. A download link will be emailed. This ends on Release Day (Dec. 8), though the download link will be good until all pre-purchasers have confirmed receipt.
I was so chuffed at how Emerge turned out – thanks to its improved structural re-arrangement at the last rehearsal – that I recorded the studio version last night. Six guitar parts, and no looping – all the repeating parts were played through. This allows for variety in phrasing and processing, and liberates me from the metronome.
Concert day wasn’t the best day for photos, but here’s one before:
and one during:
First Day Apart
Improv 1: Glittering Depths
Rebuild From Memory
Sirens of Maya
Improv 2: Submerge