Archive for category Releases

The White Island – Story of the Album

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My fifth album, The White Island, has gone to the factory and will be released on CD and in digital formats on October 1st, just in time for my performances on Philadelphia at The Gatherings and on Star’s End, on the 7th and 8th.

This album concludes a most unexpected arc in my performance history. The music is all improvised, and all but one of the tracks are solo guitar pieces, recorded live either in the studio or in performance.

I say “unexpected” because it came as a pleasant surprise to me that I could improvise at all. So I’m really pleased that I’ve somehow been able to jam in an extended mode: of the album’s six solo pieces, five of them are over eight minutes long.

Also unexpected was the frankly experimental nature of three of these tracks. They are a fairly severe contrast to the more serene vibe of the three Mirage pieces.

Remembering those who have gone before, in the album notes I call out soundscape guitar heroes Jeff Pearce, Dirk Serries, Steve Roach and pioneer Robert Fripp with thanks for their great inspiration.

Here is a Preview Clip, featuring bits from all seven pieces:

The front and back covers of the CD package are graced by photos from my wife Dasi, looking out over Lake Michigan on an early November evening, with the sun setting behind us. The two interior photos were taken by me, on our wilderness camping trip this summer.

All pieces were performed on 6-string electric guitar, unless otherwise noted.

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Track List and Details:

  1. Mirage One 8.30

Studio recording, June 11/15; rehearsal for June 20/15 concert. As mentioned in my 2015 year-end review, I planned an improvisation between the composed pieces First Day Apart and Fading Angel in my two concerts that summer and, from those concerts and two rehearsals, obtained three releasable pieces. This was a revelation, which suddenly made an album of guitar improvs a Necessary Project.

  1. The Four Directions Seemed Aflame 9.00

Studio recording, Jan. 1/16; fretless guitar with EBow. All was not quiet on New Year’s Day. This was a stab at a collaborative piece, inspired by a wildlife scene from our Boulder Lake camping trip. This performance – which ends up with four loops going – didn’t leave any room for my collaborator, so it meets its destiny here. This taught me that I’d best compose my part for the collab piece, which has been done, but not recorded yet. It’s a little restrained compared to this…

By the way, the “wildlife scene” wasn’t a forest fire, thankfully. It was four hawks circling overhead. This just sounds like a wildfire…

  1. Mirage Two 11.10

Studio recording, June 30/15. Rehearsal for July 6/15 concert.

  1. The Eons Are Closing 16.20

Studio recording, Jan. 16/17. This is the crazy one, starting with its tongue-in-cheek title, lifted from a Frank Zappa piece. There are eight 16-bar improvised parts: two each on 6-string, 12-string, fretless with EBow through a harmonizer pedal, and electric mandolin through an octave pedal. These were copied, messed with and arranged into something structure-like.

The middle section has all eight of them going at once, followed by each instrument’s pair of clips. Some of them are run backwards, and they’re put through some fun effects. The mandolin, pitched down two octaves, often sounds like a crazed bass marimba or some such, which I think will require further exploration.

  1. Mirage Three 8.55

Recorded in concert, July 6/15.

  1. Submerge 5.11

Recorded in concert, June 20/15. I’m fond of the effects patch on this one, first used on The Rage of Reason, which sounds quite underwater.

  1. Mystic Memory 14.38

Recorded in concert, Apr. 1/12. 12-string with slide, severely modified with lots of processing. The guitar is tuned to Alexander Scriabin’s mystic chord and the performance is fairly avant at times. This inspired the composed piece Transcending Memory on my Souls Adrift, in Disrepair album.

The White Island will be available on CD from my website and in digital from my Bandcamp store. I hope you enjoy it!

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Souls Adrift, in Disrepair: the Album Story

Front Cover

Painting copyright (c) by Royce Deans. Used with permission of the artist.

I’m delighted to announce the upcoming release of my fourth album, Souls Adrift, in Disrepair, on my Kalindi Music label. It will be available by download on July 12 and on CD shortly thereafter. The album’s release page is here.

I think of the album as… three guitar symphonies, a dark drift and an elegy. Possibly an oversimplification, but close enough to be helpful.

Four of the album’s five pieces are reworked improvisations from my April 2012 multimedia jam with art painters Royce Deans & Tali Farchi.

I had met Royce & Tali a mere five days beforehand (thanks, Eve!), towards the end of their 6-week residency in downtown Chicago (part of the Pop-Up Loop series), and we just went for it.

Many thanks to Royce & Tali for making the day, and for lending me their inspiring artwork for the CD package.

Back Cover

Painting copyright (c) by Tali Farchi. Used with permission of the artist.

As always, every piece has a story…

Of the pieces which began as live improvs, Fading Angel needed the least rewriting to reach its final form. For the recording, I set aside my usual live playing approach and recorded all six guitar parts separately, playing them all the way through without looping. This approach allowed me, on each pass, to vary tempo, phrasing, and dynamics – unlike looping, where each repetition is exactly the same – and to interact with the previously-recorded parts even more closely than I can when looping.

I also did this for the other two guitar-driven pieces, and anticipate doing so for recording similar pieces going forward.

Astral Drift creates an unsettling atmosphere, using processed metallics, ocarina, voices and breath with an occasional guitar chord, and a few brush strokes of synths to keep us grounded, so we don’t go spiraling off into the void.

Sirens of Maya is built on a loop that’s all electric guitar harmonics, an approach I later ported over to acoustic guitar for Snowdance in Starlight on my album Divinations. Sirens of Maya is a three-part canon, but those parts aren’t strictly synchronized, which makes it a loose canon (someone had to do this). I had some more fun with my EBow on this piece, and I’m getting pretty good at hitting just the right amount and drawing back – before anything breaks. I also mixed up the guitars more than usual, using 6- and 12-strings as well as the fretless.

A live version of Sirens of Maya is the album’s pre-order bonus.

Transcending Memory features my Danelectro electric 12-string tuned to Alexander Scriabin‘s famous mystic chord. This piece was a lot of fun to record and should be a blast to play live. The 12-string lines carve out an eerie space, over a roaring processed singing bowl drone.

At This Body’s Final Hour closes out the album with a plaintive piano melody over a haunting synth-guitar blend, occasionally punctuated by a thumping bass drum and featuring a chorus of chanting voices (thanks to Dasi & Leyla for joining in). The instrumental track slows to half-speed over its 18 minutes.

So what’s with the album title, anyway?

Well, it goes something like this:

The album is dedicated to the memory of our longtime companions, Sandor Cat (who passed on two days after the performance with Royce & Tali), and his brother Kalman Cat, who left us two years later. Sandor’s six-week illness was a difficult time, and was hanging thick in the air when showtime rolled around.

So I wanted the album and track titles to convey something of the gravitas of the time. For me it sums up the material world, with us struggling our way through it. Fish out of water. A suitable continuation of themes ruminated upon in the Separate Ones album, this closes a circle in some ways. Other circles await.

I was also looking for something powerfully descriptive, like many of Dirk Serries‘ wonderful titles. I’m well aware of the cognitive dissonance of the word “disrepair” in this context – which is way more animé than I intend – and that it may at first be read as “despair”, which is way more “emo” than I intend, but anyway…

Sandor Cat

Track list:
1. Fading Angel   9.41
2. Astral Drift   17.17
3. Sirens of Maya   12.55
4. Transcending Memory   15.55
5. At This Body’s Final Hour   18.04

Here is a preview clip, with highlights from all five pieces:

I hope you find the album enjoyable, and worth purchasing. Many thanks for your support!

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Memory Palace Airplay – Thought Radio

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!

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Guest Blog by Chris Russell: Our Journey to the Memory Palace

Guest blogger alert:

It’s a pleasure to turn the page over to my collaborator Chris Russell, for his perspective on making the Memory Palace album:

Chris RussellThe 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.

***

Thanks, Chris!

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!

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Memory Palace Premiere – SomaFM

Many thanks to Rusty Hodge of SomaFM for featuring the entire Memory Palace album today on Soma’s Deep Space One channel to mark the album’s release!

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…

Memory Palace is available on CD and by download. Check out the preview clip on the album page.

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Memory Palace Airplay: Galactic Travels & Night Tides

Thanks to the hosts of two first-rate radio programs for including music from our Memory Palace album in their latest broadcasts!

Bill Fox included Primitive and Prime in the Nov. 27 edition of Galactic Travels. You can see the full playlist here.

Renée Blanche, who recently celebrated her 20th anniversary as host of Night Tides, included Touchstone Array in the Nov. 30 edition. (Night Tides playlists are temporarily offline.)

If you’re not familiar with either of these programs, you would do well to check them out. They both come very highly recommended.

A shout-out to my collaborator Chris Russell, whose other new duo release, Vague Traces with Phillip Wilkerson, is earning enthusiastic reviews and airplay. Here is one from Synth & Sequences.

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Memory Palace Review by Bert Strolenberg (Sonic Immersion)

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 Roachcollabs 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.

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