PJ Harvey’s The Hope Six Demolition Project at first appears to be the distant and colder cousin of 2011’s anti-war masterpiece Let England Shake. Despite this initial impression, a deeper examination of Harvey’s motivations and approach – along with a comparison of her previous record – reveals more going on under the surface. Continue reading
Here’s a bunch of things I’ve done written for Echoes & Dust over the last few months – including one of the best and most in-depth pieces I’ve ever written.
I interview a series of musicians, from Zappa alumni like Robert (Bobby) Martin and Mike Keneally through to Thighpaulsandra, Matt Stevens and …probably too many others, asking them about what Zappa record they’d recommend as a starting point.
I talk with Kavus about the (then) upcoming Knifeworld tour, as well as Guapo, Gong, new music and raves.
This is the piece I’m most proud of – it also took me fucking forever to write. A look at the role of revolution in the music of Fela Kuti, as inspired by Albert Camus.
I review The Display Team’s latest record and all the crazy prog-punk insanity therein.
February Album Writing Month – an annual songwriting challenge to write 14 songs in 28 days (14.5 this leap year, I guess?) – is something I try to do as often as I can, as it often seems to coincide with me having some sort of writer’s block. I also use it as an excuse to experiment in styles unfamiliar to me. Whilst in previous years that would mean writing on my sitar (which is still in Australia), this year I was more looking at different compositional methods. I’ve been studying Mark Levine’s The Jazz Theory Book in order to get a better appreciation for music theory (having never been formally taught music) and modal playing, and this provided the backbone for many of the 17 songs I ended up writing or collaborating on this February. Elsewhere, I also employed Eno & Schmidt’s ‘Oblique Strategies’, 12-tone serialism and generative music. Plus, my usual addiction to odd time signatures and tritones.
You can download the compilation of my favourite tracks from this February here, and they are also available streaming below with some words on each piece.
Track #1: Not Necessarily True
I spoke to Chris Harris (@headfirst only on FAWM) before FAWM began and he mentioned being interested in collaborating in some King Crimson-esque music. So I woke up on February 1st around 9am, picked up my guitar and started writing as much Fripp-esque stuff as my head could come up with. I sent this over to Chris who plays some excellent Chapman Stick, drums and extra Fripptronic guitars. It might not be particularly original, but it’s fun.
You can check out Chris’ various musical exploits here.
Track #2: Oblique Turnaround
I had written a rather nice chord progression, but was stumped for what to do next. I turn to the ‘Oblique Strategies’, which promptly tell me “Change nothing and with immaculate consistency”. That was not exactly what I was looking for, but I end up hanging on the turnaround chords for the lengthy ending. Including here as I particularly like my soloing.
Track #5: Knots
‘Oblique Strategies’ strike again with the instruction: “Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities.” I decided that playing with 12-tone music might be the best way (in that no single note has dominance over the other, hence the lack of specifics). I start with some Frippy angular guitar and then try and play some rather odd chord sequences that don’t repeat any of the same notes to each other.
Track #8: Space Viking Funeral
This is here because I like it. Originally, the focus was going to be me soloing in the Lydian mode, but instead I slowly build some loops and let the chords take over. A few people have said that I sound like Mike Oldfield, which is certainly not a direct influence as I haven’t heard much of him, but I’ll take it!
Track #9: Nectarine Slumber
I’ve never felt particularly confident in my ability to write polyrhythms, but this turned out not too bad! The first section features 5 over 7, the second section 4 over 7. The title comes from the piece reminding me of the Tangerine Dream song “Force Majeure”.
Track #10: Fuzzy Ants
The intro and end are experiments with chords and modal soloing, learnt from Levine’s Jazz Theory Book, whilst the middle is just some 7/8 prog riffage. I dig it.
Track #13: Binary Singularity
This one was cool. Using the detector sound of the newly discovered gravitational waves as a loop, I wrote some heavy riffage and weird noises. I then got in touch with Peter Watkinson (@sapient on FAWM) to add some drums and guitars. This is as appropriately heavy, spacey and all-consuming as a track inspired by the gravitational waves created by two black holes colliding could be!
Check out Peter’s own music here.
Track #15: Stumbling Ballerina
I’ve always been interested in writing some generative music, but the results have never really appealed. Here I write some music using FractMUS by choosing what key and mode the three pianos are in, their note lengths and then what algorithmic model will decide on which note to play. An odd but interesting experiment!
Track #16: Denouement
This is probably my favourite piece as I really tried incorporating all my experimentations in composition in one song. The first section is both partly generative (using the above program from ‘Stumbling Ballerina’) and partly me writing using the 12-tone method (as heard in ‘Knots’). The time signatures also continually change, and over the course of the track you hear 4/4, 5/4, 7/8, 9/8, 11/8 and 13/8! There’s a lot here I enjoy.
You can listen to the highlights of last year’s FAWM attempt here.
If my two part treatise on the band wasn’t evidence enough, I quite like The Residents. I’ll be seeing them live for the first time next month, but before then I was privileged to be given the opportunity to interview Homer Flynn of The Cryptic Corporation, manager and spokesperson for The Residents. We talk about some interesting potential projects that are coming up for the band, and Homer answers a few questions on things that have intrigued me over the years.
You can read the interview here: http://echoesanddust.com/2016/01/interview-the-residents/
I got a chance recently to speak with Bryan Beller of The Aristocrats, Joe Satriani and many other cool things. We talk about the upcoming Aristocrats tour, his solo work and touch on Mike Keneally’s Scambot 2.
It’s been a while since I posted here due to moving to London, but I have been busy! Here are the plethora of album reviews, gig reviews and interviews I’ve done since the move. Continue reading
“Project/Object is a term I have used to describe the overall concept of my work in various mediums. Each project (in whatever realm), or interview connected to it, is part of a larger object, for which there is no ‘technical name.’
Think of the connecting material in the Project/Object this way: A novelist invents a character. If the character is a good one, he takes on a life of his own. Why should he get to go to only one party? He could pop up anytime in a future novel.”
“…In the case of the Project/Object, you may find a little poodle over here, a little blow job over there, etc., etc. I am not obsessed by poodles or blow jobs, however; these words (and others of equal insignificance), along with pictorial images and melodic themes, recur throughout the albums, interviews, films, videos (and this book) for no other reason than to unify the ‘collection.’”
– Frank Zappa with Peter Occhiogrosso, The Real Frank Zappa Book
“Like Mandelbrot’s fractals, every Zappa grotesquery springs from some tiny detail in previous work (the celebrated sex yarn ‘Dinah Moe-Humm’ was heralded by a phrase in the sci-fi story inside the booklet that accompanied Uncle Meat).”
– Ben Watson, Frank Zappa: The Complete Guide to His Music
“The official Zappa discography is often an unreliable indicator of chronology; therefore, one cannot necessarily assume that the composition of a given piece is concurrent with its first official release on an album.”
– Brett Clement, A Study of the Instrumental Music of Frank Zappa
tl;dr version: I made an interactive map of Frank Zappa’s conceptual continuity, and you can see it here.
My review of KoMaRa’s debut album is now up at Echoes and Dust. Click the link to read, but spoiler alert: I seriously dug this avant-garde beauty. Featuring Pat Mastellotto of King Crimson fame and artwork by Adam Jones of Tool, this was always going to find it’s way into my heart. Also, the other musicians David Kollar and Paolo Raineri messaged me on FB thanking me for the review, and that’s always a nice touch!
A somewhat in-depth analysis of Frank Zappa’s “The Evil Prince” from the 1984 album Thing-Fish.