Amarta Project

Amarta Project
Beyond The Lines, Beyond The Sea

Friday, 17 June 2016

Beyond The Sea....Part 2

So, where was I?

Ah yes. I was telling you about where the inspiration, ideas, musings for the tracks on Beyond The Lines, Beyond The Sea came from. Ready for part 2? I am.

8. A Good Day For Rain

This is pretty simple. It rained on the day of my brother's funeral. That's all I need to say about that.

9. Hibiscus Sky

This has been the lead track for much of the promotion of the album, so hopefully most of you reading this will have heard it by now....No? Check it out here, quick! This track started way back before the main writing process of the album happened. It was just an idea that I'd scratched out with a basic groove (which got scrapped) and a melody line (which stayed.) Like many people who are creative, you occasionally hit brick walls in the creative process and such was the case with this one - couldn't get it to flow in any way whatsoever. Then one day I laid out a very funky percussion loop over the track in the hope it might inspire - it did. It totally pinned the track down and allowed everything else to come more naturally to completion. One funky bassline and some vocal cuts later, the track was done. The title - well, I'd always liked the word 'Hibiscus' - and the track had a very widescreen feeling to it, like you were flying or riding through a big wide desert sky. 'Desert Sky' was too easy. 'Hibiscus Sky' was just about right.

10. Coda.

Here's the video - seen it?

This track totally wasn't planned. Messing about one night in the studio, I hit upon a sweet combination of a very simple melody and an equally simple beat which seemed to suggest a certain mood - late night, asiatic, warm - yet still had a introspective feel to it. The idea seemed pursuing despite the fact I had about four other unfinished album tracks to conquer and sort out. It was a fruitful pursuit because it turned out to be one of the easiest tracks to finish on the album, caused me no trouble, and as such is probably one of my favourites. The title 'Coda' came from the fact that it was a simple musical idea that repeats itself in many different forms throughout the piece - the melody is essentially the same throughout but with slightly different inversions and in different contexts, Amazing what you can do with six notes.

11. Wildflower

Featuring the talents of Iona Leigh on vocals. Check her out here. And you can hear the full track here. The vocal was so sweet and angelic when I heard it I just knew I had to do something with it. It's a take on the old Celtic melody 'Wild Mountain Thyme' - it seemed to fit because my mother was Irish, and it would have been a melody she would have been familiar with. Again, this track came very quickly - some sparse chords, cinematic percussion and a flugel horn - whirl around the vocal quite dreamily until the break twists into into something a bit harder sounding - a dubsteppy bassline with some slamming kick and snare, but still retaining the airiness of the main idea. I loved working on this track and wish I could write stuff like this more often, but hey - they come when they're ready not when you dictate. I hope enjoy this track as much as I did writing it.

12. An Endless Snow

Inspired by a wonderful woman. Evgenia is a very talented photographer who took the promo shots for the album, have a look and wonder at her work here. She hails from a mystical sounding place in Russia called Syktyvkar, just shy of the artic circle. She'd told me of her home over many coffees and hot chocolates in various coffee places in London, and she's a very captivating storyteller as her photography will testify. The winters of her childhood there were long, angry and all encompassing - and as a self professed sun worshipper this always seemed to rankle with Evgenia. The thought of an endless snow was a very engaging idea to me, and as I am often inspired by words as titles, it seemed a piece of music would be born. The thought of being trapped in snow, a maelstrom which starts as a fluttery blizzard and transforms into a powerful whirlwind of a storm seemed to have a very musical dynamic to it - and it fitted within the main theme and hypotheses of the album. This track marks a departure from many structured musical practices to me. It's written in 5/4, a very hypnotic time signature which also kind of trips you up at the same time - leading to a feeling of uncertainty, which I wanted to convey, and it's effectively a two parter - the first section is mellow, jazzy, uncertain - the thought of being in a snowstorm which may or may not dissipate. The second section switches into a larger format electronica track (still in 5/4) which grows and grows, becoming more ominous and hectic - a musical storm if you like. It was a very difficult track to negotiate and marked a significant challenge for me musically and technically. I'm very proud of this piece of music, I hope you enjoy it.

13. She Sees The Light

Again, I have Evgenia to thank for this one. As I mentioned previously, spending time with her often involves a lot of walking. Sorry, I meant to say - A LOT of walking. She is an observer and a beauty chaser and is always on the move. I remember one afternoon last summer she darted across a road in central London somewhere totally out of the blue (she does this often), and disappeared down an alleyway between two buildings. Following her I found us in an almost Victorian type furrow, with a pub on one side, some office drones outside enjoying a pint, and THE most wonderful afternoon light. She was looking up, around, eyes shielded by her right hand and proclaimed matter of factly 'Good light'. She found beauty most would have missed, this was admirable and a mark of the type of person that she is - thanks Evgenia for everything you did for me on this album- whether you realised it or not I couldn't have brought these tracks to everyone without you. She didn't take any pictures in the alley - it really stank down there.

14. Beyond The Sea (Ae Fond Kiss)

Another track featuring Iona Leigh - an epilogue to the album. Again based on an old Celtic melody, namely the Robert Burns song 'Ae Fond Kiss', this track is more of a summing up than a true album track, a true ending, a closure. I wanted it to be sparse, beautiful. It's almost like a funereal march with it's drone like bodhran pulse throughout and basic block piano chords, but the beauty of the vocal transcends it totally to a different place. Listen to the words, they say everything I really wanted to say in this album - about my brother, about my feelings, about my journey over the last four years. It's a closing sign being flipped, it's a line under what was a difficult yet beautiful and organic time in my life. I miss my brother, I always will. But with this album I'll always have a keepsake of him, he's always going to be - there. This album is for you. It's for me. It's for us. I hope it speaks to you in some small way or another, makes you smile, reflect, shake your ass. Whatever it brings to you - you're welcome, and thank you.

Anthony (Amarta Project)

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Beyond The Lines....Part 1

So here's the thing.

The kind of music which I like, and make, is very subjective.

Over time, I've felt a divorcing from regular songs. The music I listen to and am predominantly influenced by, is mostly instrumental, is mostly quite niche and introspective. This allows me/you/the listener to decide what the music is about - to allow your imagination and emotion to imprint on it in a very individual way. Songs, while great, unfortunately have a way of guiding you in a certain direction - the lyrics, vocal delivery, genre - it all adds up to a very regimented 'story telling' way of doing things.

That's great obviously. It's very popular - and it's worked for thousands of artists and influenced and embelished the lives of millions of people. But for me, for now at least, it's a little too obvious. I don't want to be told a piece of music is about love, or grief, or happiness - I want to decide what it means to ME. Even titles of tracks can set your mind thinking in a certain way. That's the nature of the beast with music, there has to be a grain of something familiar which people can attach themselves to. See, subjective.

So the point of this blog is to put all those grains in a line for you, with regards to the tracks on Beyond The Lines, Beyond The Sea. I wanted you to know how they started, evolved, and how some fought me every step of the way, and how some came like beautiful gifts. The genesis of them, while important to me, are important to ONLY me. What you get from them from this point onwards is up to you. So, presenting a track breakdown of Beyond The Lines, Beyond The Sea with trepidation and all honesty, is totally my pleasure. You all know this album for me was a cathartic way of dealing with the loss of my brother - it was hard, it was emotional - at times I didn't know where it was going and wondered at some points if I'd even finish the bloody thing. But I did. And here we go.

1. Epilogue - Beyond The Lines

The album needed an opener which was going to distill and present all of the feelings encompassed within it. The opening is a big scene setter - minor chords with a cinematic bassline, seagulls, a cool grey coastline cradling an oncoming storm, then a melancholic piano phrase which builds to a energetic glitchy track that pops, squeals, caresses and spins you in the vortex - it had to have everything - I think it does. Finishes on the same opening chords, leaves you in little doubt what's coming. This track came very quickly, it was written in London, as most of the album was before I moved out to the Shires.

2. Black Rose

This track was more ambitious than my music production computer (at the time) could handle. The album was started on my trusty dusty PC World Compaq that wasn't designed for music production in any way. The fact that I'd managed to write and produce my debut Night Stories on it was quite frankly, a flipping miracle. By the time #BTLBTS came along, it was clear that my ambition outweighed its capabilities, and that my tools needed an upgrade. 108 tracks of audio/MIDI, and extensive signal processing on most of those, led to some of the densest and darkest textures on the album. The track's broken groove is inspired by very cool artists like Flying Lotus, who chop and trip the groove into very interesting textures and rhythms - placing beats behind and in front of the groove, messing them up, somehow makes them even more soulful, and provided me with a very interesting framework to build on with the track. It ends with some big Gothic vocals, and an automated bassline that is dense and took bloody ages to program. Groovus intacticus.

3. Dead Bird

Vocals by the incredibly talented Odissi - who drolls her beautiful words over a pretty funky little track underneath. The track was written around and inspired by her vocal - a bleak, delicate, dystopian diatribe about losing your way in life. 'And your heart - is like a dead bird' - the most wonderful line that is so beautifully succinct that it said everything I wanted to say about my life, my loss, my mood and feelings. Just hit the nail on the head perfectly. The original track was a lot more melancholic, but I could never get it to work. Then I just scrapped it - and started again. It emerged reborn with a much funkier feel, which acted as the perfect foil to the introspection of the lyric. One of my faves.

4. Drowning In A Sea Of Gold

Another track inspired by the sea. Why the sea? Water is a wonderful conduit, it's the life spirit we're all born from. It nurtures us, forms us, binds and unites us. More on that at another juncture. This track was actually two pieces combined - neither of which as a standalone I thought was particularly strong, but when combined really seemed to work brilliantly. The level of detail I put into this track frazzled me - it required lots of layers to really get the point across - listen to it on headphones and hopefully you'll get what I'm talking about. Technically this was a challenge, and I'm really pleased with the way it came out - the ethereal vocals, the funkiest bassline I've ever written - and a melody that just sort of sticks around. Drowning In a Sea Of Gold - we all have more than we need, and it can consume us and divorce us from what's really important, knowing yourself.

5. Run Each Mile

My co-conspirator in music, the highly talented and perceptive Yves Schelpe of Psy'Aviah, cited this track as a cross between Moby and Fat Boy Slim - I couldn't help thinking that was a brilliant way of describing it! Upbeat, glitchy vocals, optimism, funky bassline and organic (programmed to death) drums - it has a running rhythm that works really well. This track is for my niece Lucy. I lost my brother, she lost her dad. He would have wanted you to 'run each mile' Lu - make sure you do.

6. Sunshine/Motherless Child

This for me, is one of the most personal tracks on the album. From a production point of view, it was one of those ones that fought me all the way. It never gave me an indication that it was ready, that it was right, that it fitted comfortably anywhere. It only seemed to resonate with me as an artist. Realising that was entirely the point, I persevered. It's an amalgam again of two tracks, the first being a hiphoppy trappy kind of summer jam with a slinky vocal sample or two - which then hits you in the face with something darker. Now I'm not going to tell you I can DIRECTLY relate to a slave song/spiritual from The Deep South, but it did feel relevant. The nobility, fragility and beauty of the vocal in this part of the track is one of the highlights of the entire album - don't miss that. Please.

'Thinking 'bout ya sometimes - and I love ya like the sunshine.' Yes bruv - always.

7. Ghosting

Time to thank Yves from Psy'Aviah again for this one, because this track wouldn't exist without his input. He posted a poignant article on Facebook about an online phenomenon called 'Ghosting' - the act of ceasing all communication with someone you are dating, seeing, whatever - can. Because it's easier than fronting up and telling someone you're not interested anymore. People, sadly, have become a more disposable commodity with the relentless march of the internet. Their shape in people's lives becomes smaller, harder to accomodate, and be less relevant or influential on their lives. I've been ghosted a couple of times - it's fucking horrible. In terms of the album - it's another form of loss, isolation - one which can lead to a kind of grieving process - it seemed relevant to what I was trying to say, and it was an inspiring title, so the track was born - it came very quickly, and was one of the albums gifts. Thanks Yves. Thanks to those who ghosted me. I got a nice track out of you. No you can't have royalties.

So we're halfway through. I'll tell you a lil story about the remaining seven tracks on #BTLBTS next time. Yay!

Pre-order Beyond The Lines, Beyond The Sea here

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Wednesday, 4 May 2016

There to Here, Then to Now - A Brother's Tale

It's been a while. Hello.

It's been so long since I wrote an update on this blog, I don't know where to start - so I won't. I'll just talk for a bit if that's okay with you? Cool.

'Beyond The Lines, Beyond The Sea' is the name of my new album. It's coming out on June 20th 2016, almost four years since my debut 'Night Stories' on September 10th 2012.

On September 11th 2012, I got some devastating news.

My eldest brother Nick had cancer. It wasn't going to go away. It would claim him in a year.

Let me tell you about Nick. He liked music. He liked fishing. He liked to take photographs. He liked to travel. He liked to drink whisky. He loved his family very much. As big brothers go, along with next in line David, I couldn't ask for better.

What followed in terms of the next twelve months, both personally and musically is kind of a maelstrom - a spiralling journey that somehow, at some points, never felt like it was going to stop being downward, or ever get better. Music was my ally, my friend, my confidant, but - this time round - it left me. I couldn't write, couldn't shape my fingers into a chord to lay on a keyboard, I couldn't do anything. Even the prospect of turning my computer on to face it daunted and tricked and terrified me.

And then came the day that he left us too. Almost exactly a year since we were told we would lose him.

Grief is such a subjective thing. Some people can carry on with their day - pulling and dragging themselves through it, healing through industry, seeking out support when they need it like popping a painkiller from out of the blisterpack. Others retreat, look inwards, try to unravel, and understand, and withdraw....latterly, this was me. I was angry, I was sad, I was suffering my own way - as we all were. No one in the Taylor family had it any easier than anyone else. Time is what you need I told myself, the aged cliche which is more than true. Less than true were some of the friends who would not afford me that time and thought I should 'snap out of it', 'be more positive', 'stop being so sad', 'its not what he would have wanted'. If stating the obvious were an Olympic sport right? These people stopped becoming friends very quickly. If they ever are in a position where they lose something more significant to them than their car keys (and they will) then I shall be very interested in measuring the relevance of their grief for them. I told you I was angry.

By the by. To the point.
Music, after time, became more accessible to me, if certainly not easy. Nick was always over my shoulder when I was writing this album - sometimes I could almost hear his voice, not in a cliched Hollywood way, giving me guidance (he certainly wasn't Yoda) - but just the sound of his voice was there. Like the hum of a streetlight, or traffic across air - he was a reference point always. I'm not sure that was a good thing - this album was hard fucking work, it never made it easier. But I always felt he was there - but then I realised - I got it wrong.

There I was trying to make this album for him - to finish it for him - to leave something as a parting gift that he would have been proud of and listened to and enjoyed. No.

Not entirely.

This album was MY journey. A journey through grief, through change, through pain, through loss, through coming out the other side.  I still am, I think I always will be.

Beyond The Lines - beyond what we see every day, beyond what we take for granted....
Beyond The Sea - to that place where one day we will go, that we will never return or turn away from....

This is what that journey sounds like.

For Nick. For Me. For Us.

'Beyond The Lines, Beyond The Sea' Pre-Order Here
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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Night Stories Part 4 - Notes On The Future

Todays listening - '13 Angels On My Broken Windowsill' - BT

August 23rd, half past midnight. Head's like the inside of the Matrix. All I'm seeing is streaming lines of code and bleached out colours searing the back of my skull, etched in as if by some kind of industrial lathe.

I'm tired. But today, has been a good day.

A friend's birthday. A kiss on the arse from the bank. Nice food. Yeah, a good day.

So why so jaded? Well - this promotional lark is draining. I've never been one to talk about myself (there are members of my family who don't know that I have an album coming out - they really should by now. It's on the to-do list, honest) so a constant barricade of mememeness is rinsing me out like a hot flannel.

I know given the nature of what I do, that this is an essential routine. What's the point of making music if no one hears it? But I honestly don't know how pluggers/publicists/promoters don't get the urge to saw their own heads off daily. I guess I must be doing it wrong. It's monotonous, boring, slightly humiliating and ultimately, provides little return for the input (I'm guessing.) Now I'm sure there's a right way and a wrong way to do self-promotion, but sheesh - does it HAVE to be so rigid?

The answer is yes.

We live in a world where talking to people is just not de rigeur any more. Everything is wireless - intangible like air and transmitted across networks that don't just span your street, or town - but the world. Logistically, it's a nightmarish situation. Especially for someone as disorganised and lazy as me. So, parading I go, album in hand, across the world wide web tapping timorously on doors I'm not even sure I should be tapping at. It's the classic case of 'throw enough shit at the wall and hope some of it sticks.'

But, hey ho. It's a learning curve right? Positively speaking, this grind on the numbers has worked a little magic, in a lot of ways - and cumulatively, that adds up to a lot. My track got played on national radio - that's a result by any stretch. How the fuck did that happen? Don't question it. Lap it up and milk it. It's also traded me with a little more perspective musically. I haven't so much as TRIED to write any music or be creative since the beginning of July, and it's a really eye opener realising how much time I ploughed into this album, now that it's finished. Freed from the murk of the creative haze I can clearly see what coming AFTER 'Night Stories' - some of which may surprise you sonically.

This self-inflicted hiatus from the music making has made me realise it's not the be all and end all, but to my defintion as a person, a human being - it's pretty much essential and can't be overlooked. Music will always be there, it's not just a whimsy. Will it be the main focus for always? Who knows. For now, yes.

There is life after music.
There is no life without it.

'Night Stories' - September 10th. Be there or be square.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Night Stories Part 3 - Every Story Has An Ending

Today's listening - 'Night Stories' by Amarta Project. Yep - me again.

So where was I? Oh yes, 5 tracks down, half way in. So...

6. 'Cloud Cover'

Look at these beautiful people.

Ladies and gentleman - allow me to introduce you to the Boat Party Masseeeeeeve.

How is this related to 'Cloud Cover'? Well - it was after a night out with this bunch that CC came into being. Last summer was kinda dreary, weather wise. Typical British summer ya know - kinda sunshiney, mostly cloudy, overall disappointing.
I had this notion, that I liked the title 'Cloud Cover'. It sort of summed up my mood at the time of inception, and pretty accurately reflected the shitty summer weather of 2011. When I first started writing it, it was kind of downbeat, reflective - not the happiest of tracks.
The I went out with this lot, and had a great night out.
The revisited version of CC, post Boat Party, was a different story. It became infused with a break in the cloud, an injection of sunshine provided by a mad night out with some great people. If you listen to the track it starts off kind of pensive, resolved onto a minor chord. Then, as with a break in the cloud when the sun comes out, it shifts to a more upbeat partylike mood. You can see yourself dancing with a drink in your hand, surrounded by great company, sailing the high seas (well, Thames) through to midnight and beyond. CC has been live on my sites for a while, and has proved to be one of my most popular tracks - mostly thanks to this lot. Cheers.
June 5th 2011 - the sun shone brightly that day.

7. 'The World Looks More Beautiful At Night'

It really does. This track was designed to be listened to driving around London by night, maybe by the river, on a summer's evening in an open top car.
London is full of ghosts, and you see them quite often shuffling about the streets in the wee small hours. You see some strange things. Sometimes they stand stock still in the street waiting to be noticed. Sometimes you catch them hovering in a doorway. Sometimes you don't see them at all, you just know they're there. They don't make a sound - but they have a resonating frequency that you feel deep within, somewhere. This track is my attempt to translate that frequency. It's lazy, dreamy, funky, sinister, beguiling - a little bit lost and jarring. It means nothing in its' constituents - a snippet here, a vocal clip there, a monotonous groove underpinning - but when you sum it all together, it just works. Very proud of this track, it's my soundtrack to a city that's indefinable and shifting, beautiful and evil. And as for the intro sounding like 'West End Girls' - that's COMPLETELY intentional.

8. 'Neon Sun'

Another track that proved a battle of wills. The classic case of having a beginning, and an ending - but nothing in the middle to gel it together. This in turn proved to be a blessing as I had to flex my imagination and musicality quite a lot to get the job done. The result is probably the best 'drop' on the album. Again this track, much like 'Monument', modulates quite a bit musically. Don't know what key it's in. (Okay, force me to call it - A minor, with a modulation to D minor after the drop - happy now?) It's subtle, you wouldn't notice it unless I'd pointed it out (which I just did) but it was the glue that was needed to nail this. All in, despite this geek talk, all you need to know is this - IT'S. A. BANGER. Play it loud. No - LOUDER THAN THAT. Yeah - now you got it....

9. 'Hearing, Breathing'

The most personal track on the album. In February of this year, I was struck with a crushing bout of vertigo. If you've ever had it, you'll know how horrible it is. You can't move, you can't get up, sit down - nothing. It's like spending your life in the inside of a washing machine on spin cycle. The best you can do is lie still and breath. This vertigo continued for a couple of weeks, and a doctor's diagnosis was that it may be 'something else'. Meniere's Disease is a condition that can manifest as vertigo in its' initial stages, and can lead to a loss of hearing down the line. The prospect of losing my hearing was terrifying. I pretty much disappeared off the radar when I was going through this,  but thankfully came out the other side.

Breathing is kinda important. I knew this, obviously - but only truly appreciated it after one night, sitting in my car at work, eating a Snickers bar. Random? Yes. Relevant? Totally.
Whilst chowing down, a small piece of the bar got lodged in my throat. The more I tried to shift it by coughing frantically, the more it seemed reticent to move. Panicked, I stumbled out of the car gasping for breath - drawing in but not being able to breathe out until there was no room left in my lungs. Involuntary tears streaming down my face I thought 'this is it, you're going to die in a pile on some concrete in an industrial estate in Hounslow.'
Not ideal.
On my hands and knees now, I coughed harder, and harder, whining and gasping until finally, after what felt like a million heartbeats ripping through my ears, it shifted. I must have stayed there for a while, dribbling onto the concrete. I drew gazes from the little Indian boys pummelling up and down the road in their forklifts as they loaded fruit into the ar-tics. Thanks for your help fellas. 'Preciate it.
I've had my appreciation of the simpler things in life rekindled this year. Listen to this track - if you listen hard and close - you will hear it breathing too.

10. 'Shiver'

Written pretty much in one sitting - 'Shiver' was completed in about 6 or 7 hours, maybe the quickest written track on the album. The first edit of this track was too long, it bored me. So it was subject to a musical bob cut for the album. The result is much tighter, more concise, and more impactful as a result. It's a cold sounding track that warms up through the layers. All the synth sounds are quite thin, reedy, barely there - but when layered up with a big sub bass and a housey groove, heat up significantly. It's pretty relentless, musically not very deep - but it has a presence and a vibe that just again, kinda works. The power of layers. And yes, that is me muttering away over the top. This track was submitted to a label for a deephouse compilation. They rejected it. Losers.

So there you have the inside track. An autopsy of the pieces that slot together to represent 'Night Stories'.
I'm very proud of it. I hope you are too.

September 10th!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Night Stories Part 2 - Every Story Has A Beginning

Today's Listening - 'Night Stories' by Amarta Project.

There's a good reason that today's listening is,

Thought you might like a little run through of the tracks on my album, what they're called, how they came about, the quirks they have, the heartache and equal euphoria they brought - that kinda thing. You in? Sweet.

'Night Stories' was initially born approximately three and a half years ago. Terrible parent that I am, I cannot remember exactly when. Tracks started ecreting themselves out of a few loops and samples, and as my knowledge of production grew, from actual seeds in my head. At the time I never really imagined that there would be an album at any point, it was just something more productive to do than sitting watching TV. I experimented with different styles of electronica, failing miserably in lots, succeeding in a few - aped as many of my favourite artists as I could (apologies to BT, Hybrid, Depeche Mode, Ryuichi Sakamoto and a hatload of others) and just sort of knuckled into it.

My 'day job' is working as wheels for hire by night. It all sounds much more shady and exciting than it really is, but it did involve spending great swathes of time driving around London by night, and almost (on quiet nights) as much time sitting in my car with nothing better to do than to sleep or gaze out of the window at whatever suburban nightmare/utopia I was parked in. Unable to sleep under the glare of sodium orange street lights I would often think about the tracks I was working on, and many ideas would formulate - at night. I was never a day person, have always been a nightbird. So inevitably when I was working on the tracks it would be at night, through to early hours. Anyone that knows me would know that a 5-6am finish in the studio would not be unusual. The tracks somehow take on a darker flavour by night - this would not be the same album it was if the only difference to my method was working during daylight hours. It wouldn't have the edge. And so....

Welcome to 'Night Stories'.

1.'Bad Monday'

This track was a perfect contender for the album opener. It had a dark kind of energy to it that was a perfect capsule for everything the album would come to stand for. The title comes from a vocal sample I found lying about on my hard drive, and the track was built around that, mostly.
The actual writing of the track was very fast - maybe a week from initial idea and arrangement to mixdown. That's pretty quick for me, and I think it was the energy of the track that carried me through the process - it's upbeat without being glossy, beautiful and grimy too. Just like me really.

2. 'Science...And Other Things'

The text conversation sort of went like this.

Sal - What are you doing?
Me - Looking up equations on the internet.
Sal - Sorry?
Me - I'm writing a track that's got a vocal sample in it quoting Newton's laws, I want to make sure it's accurate before I include it.
Sal - Ant, what are you REALLY doing??

Sal probably doesn't remember this text conversation. 

I'm a geek, and I don't care. I wanted to write a track that sort of summed that up. Having toyed with titles like 'God Particle' and 'Higgs Boson', and having dismissed both for being equally wanky, I was no further with my geek track. Then, this sort of came out of nowhere. Jumping on the opportunity to make THIS my geeky science track I decided upon a somewhat generic yet I think intriguing title (what other things?) here you have it, track 2. And one of my faves.

3. 'Pushka'

The last track to be finished. When compiling tracks for the album I found there was a gap. All the tracks were either too slow (80-100bpm) or too fast (140-175 bpm). There was nothing in the middle. So, this track was written to order. I've always loved the Above and Beyond sound - slick, fat and killer on a dancefloor. Figuring I could tackle this, and then realising I couldn't, I ended up with Pushka. I love this track but don't ask me where the title came from - it's too rude.

4. 'Monument'

This track is the only truly instrumental track on the album - everything else has a vocal sample, a clip, a reference - this one, nothing. That's not by design, it's just a coincidence.
Hands down, without question - this track fought me every step of the way. It started as an idea based around a couple of melodies I had in my head - namely the opening riff you hear and the main melody you hear after the drop. Could I find a way to plumb them together? No. Bloody No. So it sat on the hard drive, safely on rotation. And it sat. AND SAT.  Every time it came round on the revolving door, it abruptly threw its chin in the opposite direction like an errant child and stropped 'Nope, not ready.'
But I knew I'd get you in the end my pretty...
To this day, please do not ask me what key this track is in - it modulates to the point of confusion. E minor - maybe? A minor - likely. G major in the outro - probably. 

Every time I hear this now, more and more I hear Depeche Mode. Early DM, ya know - when they put tunes in their songs.

5. 'Jenny Kissed Me'

'Say I'm weary,
Say I'm sad.
Say that health and wealth have missed me.
Say I'm growing old - but add
Jenny Kissed Me.'

For the record, she didn't. 

A snippet from the poem of the same name by Leigh Hunt. There's no reason for this stanza to fit anywhere in this track. It's not romantic, soft, ballady in any way. Yet - it fits perfectly. This track was written pretty quickly, and again - I have no idea where it came from. I stumbled upon the groove purely by accident - one of those happy ones. Most of the time ploughed into the production of this track involved me shouting at my computer screen at stupid o'clock in the morning after it decided that it did not like this track and would not comply with whatever I asked it to do. I would tell it to freeze tracks, it would hear 'crash and burn like a motherfucker'. I would tell it to save the set, it would hear 'fuck off and open the task manager, I'm FIRMLY not responding'. But I won in the end.
Something to do with large amounts of resampling and huge reverb tails, though not nearly as quirky a title. Fully expecting a lawsuit from the Pet Shop Boys for this track. Oh well.

That's half the album down. Tune in for the other half soon.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Night Stories Part 1 - A Boy Called Anthony

Today's Listening - 'If The Stars Are Eternal Then So Are You And I' - BT

Been a while since we all caught up. Sorry about that - you all good? you look well.

My last blog post was over a year ago. I can only apologise for neglecting you, but honestly speaking, I never forgot you - it was always the intention to return here when I had something full and valid to say. Blogs that update regularly with very little to illuminate are no kinds of blog at all. That said, it has been over a year since I last posted, so I better make this a bloody good one.

Today I'm going to tell you a story.

It's the run up to Christmas 1983. Anthony is twelve years old. One day, with clearly nothing better to do, he stumbles upon the latest Argos catalogue. Flicking through, not looking at anything in particular, he stumbles upon a picture on a page which, at the time, he couldn't have realised was going to change the course of his life. It was an inevitability, a first step of a journey - a path that was going to welcome and reject him with equally unforgiving and open arms to this day. This was what he saw.

This, is a Casio MT65 electronic keyboard. In 1983, it cost £149. 
He would gaze at the picture on the glossy thin page, read the item description over and over until he could tell you verbatim how many different sounds it could make, how many rhythm patterns it had - it even had an arppegiator. Anthony didn't even know what an arppegiator was, but he was impressed it had one. He wanted one. He really wanted one.

Anthony could have happened upon any other item on any other page. Meccano or Lego that might have sparked an interest in engineering or construction. Chemistry sets that may have burgeoned a desire to be a scientist. A football, an art kit - whatever. But this was it. A light going on.

Anthony remembered the times before - long summer holidays being dragged to Ireland to his Uncle John's place in the heart of the Irish countryside - the kind of place where the sun shone all summer long and there was really, nothing to do. In Uncle John's parlour was an old, well loved, hideously out of tune upright piano that had an odour to it. Not a bad one, a smell of well loved old wood and discoloured ivory. You'd lift the lid, which was never locked, and be hit with it's musty smell square between the eyes. The action of the piano was one of age - the keys were light and soft, and you could feel the flimsiness of the hammers hitting the strings deep within. The sound was tinny, drowned out - a little lost. He didn't understand what the black keys were for, so played the white ones. He had found C major. On top of the piano in front of him was an old black and white photograph, in an elegant pristine silver frame which was clearly polished more often than the picture was looked at. In the picture stood two figures, a man to the left, a woman to the right - his maternal grandparents. The faces were blackened with labour and hardship, and the expressions were of what he could only describe as confusion - what's this thing then? Taking a picture? A camera? - but the eyes, of both, burned through the glass, they watched, and he watched back. He played. As they watched. Hours would roll by. Even now he can still hear that first naive tune that he composed.

It's 1988. Anthony is a teenager, a perfect teenager. A gangly awkward stick of angst and one question....why me? Mrs Stead, the music teacher, is on his case. A short, frosty Scottish woman who must have been very attractive once. Anthony spent a lot of time avoiding her, mainly because Anthony was a lazy bastard and disillusioned with academia. Coursework was NOT being done. Often they would chase each other round the school building, him running away, always being found - she always sniffed him out like a weasel. He often thought that she must have reckoned that he didn't like music. She would have been wrong - but he wanted to do it his way. She was all semiquavers and staves and 'every good boy deserves favour' - he was hit the keys and feel what comes out. They never really saw eye to eye.

In the dining hall was a grand piano. I say grand, as a term of definition only...there was very little that was grand about it. The school could never have afforded a 'grand' grand piano - it had clearly been acquired from somewhere else, after 'somewhere else' had no more use for it. Little matter. The dining hall was only ever used at lunchtimes and the odd afternoon for an insipid drama class (yeah, look - I'm a tree...) most other times, it was empty. Anthony on free periods would sit at the piano in the vacated dining hall, learning chords, relative minors and revelling in how beautiful a major 9th chord would sound as it resonated round the insides of iron and wood with the sustain pedal held til the sound dissipated to nothing. If you hit the chord hard enough with the pedal on, the chord would often resonate for two or three minutes, delicately changing as the vibration would transfer from hammers to strings, from strings to frame, and from the ironwork to the wooden enclosure. Again the sound would change and become brighter and more playful if the lid was up on its strut, quirkily and cockily pointing its apex to the corner wall.

Joe was the caretaker, one of two - Joe was the one everyone liked. He would now and again wander in to sweep the floor after lunch, or pass through on his way to somewhere else. He would never say too much if Anthony was sitting there - though he would say one thing that would stick, and return every once in a while when inspiration was being aloof.

'You sure can make that thing sing....'

Twelve year old Anthony would leave the Argos catalogue open, strategically, on the page where the keyboards were. Asking for it was never going to work. £149 was a lot of money to my mother. The answer was always going to be no. Stealth was the key, the slow drip of conviction being applied to a mind that would never open to possibilities through any other means. This carried on for what felt like months. It probably was months. Christmas was nearing, and so was his fear that he wasn't going to get what he wanted. 

Christmas Eve night he couldn't sleep, after being dispatched early. There was clearly a lot to do, and he was only going to get in the way. The stairs and hallway were dark as he edged down the stairs. The kitchen light was off. The kitchen light was never off. She was always in there - cleaning, or reading if all the cleaning was done. Voices in the living room. He expected nothing but a rebuke to go back to bed as he walked into the living room, along with a sharp pointed gesture to go and get the glass of water he wanted. 

Standing by the sofa were my mother and my sister, wearing faces that only read 'busted' - followed by a rare and unexpected joint laughter. On the sofa in front of them was a half wrapped box, about the size of a Casio MT65 keyboard. He looked at the box. 'Casio MT65 Electronic Keyboard' dimly lit and smudgy from the reflection of the Christmas tree lights. If he could find words to tell you how he felt, he still wouldn't be able to tell you.

Anthony still has that keyboard. It's wrapped in plastic in an upstairs cupboard. It's yellowed, beyond dead, and has anatomy missing. But he will have it til the day he dies.

Anthony's mother only ever bought him two presents in his life of any worth. One was that keyboard. The other was a typewriter.

Twenty nine years later, Anthony's first album 'Night Stories' is due to be released.

My name is Anthony. Hello.