Posts Tagged rhythmic

2014 in Review: Afterimages and Transitions

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!)

Memory Palace Album - Front Cover

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.

Album cover: Divinations by eyes cast down

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.

ShineCoverMister 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:

The Keep Nov 4-14

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!)

Doesn't every Christmas tree need an owl?

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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 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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Building the Memory Palace – My Story of the Album

Memory Palace Album - Front Cover

What’s a memory palace? According to Wikipedia, it’s an ancient “method of memory enhancement which uses visualization to organize and recall information.” It was especially useful to students and orators in pre-printing-press times. I’ve long thought it would make a good exploratory theme for an album.

The Memory Palace project began when I approached Chris Russell around Christmas 2010, asking if he would be interesting in exploring a groove-based collaboration. I had enjoyed Chris’ album Frozen and posted a brief but enthusiastic review.

My idea was a simplistic division of labor: rhythmic stuff by me, melodic stuff by Chris. We agreed to try our hands at one piece and see if we liked the result.

So, on a January weekend in 2011, I headed straight to the 31st-floor stairwell in The White Tower (my downtown Toronto day job venue), portable recorder in hand… as one does. Hit the Record button… check. Start drumming on the steel handrails, with bare hands… check.

You might be surprised how many different sound timbres can be obtained that way. The session yielded a righteous selection of grooves, a few of which – duly processed into something other, of course – formed the backbone of a piece which I assembled on my laptop. The laptop approach was hatched of necessity; all my instruments and studio gear were in Chicago, while I was exiled in Toronto awaiting my US visa.

Chris wove one of his characteristic synth atmospheres over my groove, and I hit on the title Particles and Waves, in reference to the two forms in which – according to physics – light is perceived as acting, if you zoom in closely enough. It was included in the Relaxed Machinery compilation reBOOT, released in Jan. 2014, along with The Rage of Reason, a piece I did with Peter James.

Chris and I were both so pleased with how Particles and Waves turned out that going ahead with a full album was … how you say … not needing any brains.

Musical frogs

Best wedding present. Ever.

In any event, I hadn’t even waited for Chris to finish his part for Particles and Waves, before embarking on two other pieces. For Primitive and Prime, I worked up a groove using mostly acoustic drum and percussion samples, and especially my much-favored wooden frogs. By contrast, Touchstone Array was made from samples which were also acoustic in origin, but transmogrified into an electronic crackle, and set to a racing tempo. The original version of that groove goes all the way back to the Christmas season of 2006, one of my first attempts at carving up a sampled-based groove with Ableton Live.

Our procedure was the same for the entire album: I sent Chris my finished parts, and he went to work. By the end of summer 2011, we had three pieces, half an album’s worth. Chris remixed my groove part for Particles and Waves and composed a completely new piece around it, which became Spatial Mnemonics.

A lengthy hiatus was then sort of forced upon us. I was finally able to move to Chicago at the end of September 2011. The next year’s music work was mainly playing live shows and finishing The Separate Ones.

The running order of the pieces on Memory Palace was pretty clear early on, with those first three opening the album, and they were intense enough to strongly suggest a non-rhythmic, purely-atmospheric interlude for the next piece, especially since I was planning a really ambitious closer. So I started off 2013 on the right foot, spending New Year’s afternoon in the studio to record about 15 tracks of atmospheric percussion elements, using objects like car keys, Go stones, bubble wrap, a handful of inch-thick branches, and so on. I did some drumming on an inflated yoga ball, among other things. Fun fun fun…

Memory Palace - inside panel detail

Memory Palace – inside panel detail

Fast-forward to the end of October 2013, on a week-long Indiana getaway. By this time Chris – who had raised his personal bar with an outstanding release, Portal – had recorded entirely new parts for two of those first three pieces, and I wanted to tweak one of mine. I spent most of my play time that week arranging my New Year’s Day elements – which had been recorded without any concern for their future structure – into what became Afterimages. For a bed track, I added a field recording which I really liked, of blowing wind and falling leaves, which I’d recorded at the same retreat place two months earlier.

The Afterimages arrangement took only two days, so I began work on the closing piece, Somewhere the Circle Stops. For this I’d dreamed of alternating odd-meter electronic grooves (flashing back to my drum kit days) with four-on-the-floor tribal drumming, flashing back and forth between ancient and present days. Once again, the electronic grooves (in 5/4, 7/4, 9/4 and 11/8) were all pieced together from samples. I need more vacation time, so I can get more work done!

Back to the city… I recorded the acoustic drumming and percussion parts early in January and sent my part to Chris. The piece was over 20 minutes long, so one of my most pleasant surprises ever was receiving the finished piece from Chris a mere three days later.

A shout-out here to one of my favorite singers, Sheila Chandra, whose song Question the Answer (from her album Nada Brahma) provided the title. I like the phrase’s apparently counter-intuitive nature; circles aren’t supposed to end! Nature, however, is full of … how you say … interesting paradoxes.

In the spring of 2012, some Buddhist monks visited Chicago’s Loyola University and created a sand mandala… as one does. Mandalas are gorgeous artworks which have always attracted me. I knew at once that this was the perfect subject for the Memory Palace album art. Since I couldn’t make it to the exhibit, my wife Dasi took some photos…

Memory Palace is available for pre-order now and will be released Dec. 8. It’s a joint release on Chris’ label Void Music and my Kalindi Music. We hope you enjoy it!

The Keep, in Nov. 2013

The Keep, in Nov. 2013

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Coming Soon: Memory Palace – New Album with Chris Russell

Memory Palace Album - Front Cover

Just a quick announcement, as I’m learning I don’t have to write a book every time out…

Chris Russell & I have finished our album Memory Palace and will announce its release date shortly. It will be a joint release on Chris’ Void Music and my own Kalindi Music.

Needless to say, we’re very excited to share this. Nearly four years in the making, it’s something neither of us had done before: a full-on groove-driven project. Chris took my organic-electronic hybrid groove tracks and wove his deep-atmospheric magic around them.

This will be available on CD from eyescastdown.com, and by download from both of our Bandcamp pages.

Much more to come soon, including a preview clip, pre-order info (including bonus items for both digital and CD versions), and the behind-the-scenes story of how the “palace” was built.

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