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.
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 - because...you 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!
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