Friday, December 1, 2017

Review - The Captivating Soundscapes of Lorenzo Masotto

"Lorenzo Masotto's journey with music began at the age of nine when he started playing piano. Graduating from Conservatorio di Veona, he consequently started studying composition and jazz. Lorenzo also plays in a prog/post rock band Le Maschere di Ciara, directs a male voice choir, writes music for film and theatre, and teaches piano and composition. 'I've never thought about writing in only one music style,' he says. 'I love all music, and everything I write increases my confidence and ability to write from a wider perspective."

I can tell you right now that this is going to be more of a gushing overview rather than a critiquing review, because I am simply in love with this music. It is flawless and keeps on improving upon what perfection. I consider myself very lucky to have stumbled across the music of Lorenzo Masotto, and I feel compelled to share it with others, as he has released four albums and three EPs that are graceful, emotionally impacting, and shifts in unexpected directions while maintaining absolutely true to itself.

Ironically, even though I often badmouth Soundcloud, it is responsible for my discovery of artists that are now a big part of the soundtrack of my life, such as Suzerain, (iam)warface, and my favorite neoclassical composer, Lorenzo Masotto. On offer were free downloads of "Moon" and "L'impressionista," which I snapped up after giving them a listen. Both songs were essential to playlists of mine that have subsequently become quite expansive, but were just forming when these songs joined them. Therefore, they showed up in my iTunes shuffles quite often. I then realized that this was classical music in a way I had never heard before. It was lyrical without words, soothing without repetition or sleepy ambience, fronted by piano, which I was beginning to love beyond a tool of my training to compose my own songs (Tori Amos also helped quite a bit in this regard).. I had to hear the rest of the album, and I discovered SETA.

This album showcases Lorenzo on the piano with an assortment of guest musicians. It's pretty straightforward in its classical style, and I found myself enthusiastic over an album of this type that I had never been before. So when I discovered that an EP follow-up, Travelers, was released, I dived right in with gleeful abandon, and was not disappointed. It's the perfect epilogue to SETA, offering landscapes described by piano, making their inspirations almost tangible. Without guest musicians, Lorenzo's piano is raw and unencumbered, manifesting unrestricted beauty. I'm not saying that previous guest musicians had limited his compositions, only that alone with his piano, he still manages to evoke an entire orchestra.

Now following this unrivaled composer on Bandcamp, I was notified of the release of a free download of a compilation on which he had contributed a song, called Winter Kept Us Warm, released by Preserved Sound, a label that I continue to keep an eye on. While the album introduced me to multiple artists that I have monitored since, Lorenzo's new song "Chrono" stood out, and has become my favorite song he has released. It is because of this song that I fell completely for Winter Kept Us Warm as a whole. "Chrono" is also the reason I so eagerly anticipated his next release, and when Rule and Case arrived - then available in beautiful hand-made packaging (I believe this was also Preserved Sound's doing) - I practically begged Lorenzo to make it available on Apple Music, through which I was collecting most of my library. Such was not the case, and I was crushed. The following EP, Prime Numbers, almost made up for it. It displayed a fraction of the abstract turn his music was taking, and I could only hope hat his follow-up would be on Apple Music - at the time, my subscription was about all that was in my budget for music.

The pre-release marketing for Aeolian Processes was torturous for me. I didn't think I could handle the disappointment I experienced over Rule and Case again. Lucky for me, it was released on Apple Music, and definitely did not disappoint. Eclectic use of electronics and percussion, with accompanying instruments used in an unusual manner that evokes, but is not, electronic compositions, again with the liberal use of piano; but at times the piano is absent and other instruments, such his stirring strings arrangements, take center stage. This album is all it took to convince me I couldn't live without Rule and Case, and I bought the digital album. One listen of this extraordinary album - one in which I believed true perfection was achieved and even brought me close to tears in unbridled emotion - convinced me that I could never miss out on his music again. I needed to have it all, and I needed to have it now (Rule and Case also contains "Chrono," and nearly every song on the album competes with it for the status as my current favorite). Roughly the same time I took advantage of the free download EP Mountain Paths, which was a return to solo piano, and I voraciously pounced on his discography as listed on his Bandcamp page. I bought the single "Reflector" then and there, but nothing could sate my appetite at that moment. I needed more.

I didn't have to wait too long. When I received an email invitation to hear a preview of his latest album White Materials, I immediately devoted a tab to it as I went about the business of marketing my own music. It was hard to do, as White Materials held my fascination completely. It took everything I loved about Aeolian Processes and Rule and Case to a new level, with the addition of vocals by his wife Stefania Avolio and the return of his sister Laura on the violin. In many ways it is a departure from his familiar styles, and as such he produced it completely by himself, in his home studio. This album rivals Rule and Case as my favorite of his works. Listen to it yourself and be transported into a realm of complete, classical, abstract, and eclectic beauty, in compositions that uniquely defy its categorization at every turn. 

"From the moment my hand touches the piano and I begin to compose, my conscience starts a journey, leaving my body. During its wandering shows me pictures of the places I encounter, creating a sort of connection between my unconscious and my fingers. The colors, the landscapes, the faces of the people it photographs along the way are so clear in my mind to allow to portray those images using the only sound a piano can paint."

- Lorenzo Masotto

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Starlight Music Chronicles - Second Spotlight!

Today - Wednesday, November 8th, 2017 - hot on the heels of being included in Erosion Factory's 100th Show on Beyond The Dawn Radio, my second interview on Starlight Music Chronicle's Spotlight was published! I'm not ashamed to say that editor Candice Anne Marshal's introduction made me blush. It's support like this that helps me believe my music might be taking me somewhere, like this could turn into a truly successful career. That I have people who listen to, pay for, and care about my music is success enough, but being one degree of separation from artists I admire, have the utmost respect for, and even - in some cases - have on pedestals makes my head spin.

This is nicely timed, as I'm doing a second promotional run for Dialectical Observations, which this interview focuses on. Just over a week ago, I released a new Extended Artist's Edition as a Patreon pledge reward, which you can read about in the previous article. I hope this generates even more interest, and that I might actually be on my way to the next step in my dream, releasing a record on physical mediums. If you'd like to help, just make a pledge at my Patreon. There's a lot of rewards to be had, my appreciation not being the least of them.

I hope this article gives you new insight into my latest album. And I hope my excitement is infectious and washes you in the glow I'm feeling. May your own inner snails remain resilient and determined; even if your dreams aren't fully realized, shit like this can still happen!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Dialectical Observations - Extended Artist's Edition

It's arrived as a new Patreon patron reward - the Extended Artist's Edition of Dialectical Observations. I'm not sure what I can say about it that hasn't already been said in the prior articles hyping it up, but I'll try to say it differently.

This has really given me a refreshed view of, and enthusiasm for, what has become my favorite of my releases. Don't tell the others I said so, but it's true. I've felt that this album has really upped my game in a new era of my songwriting, the previous era having come to a close, pretty much, with The Instrumentality Project. It doesn't mean I can't revisit any of its songs. In fact, I already have, with a new mix of "Winter's Salve," which I've made one of the Dialectical B-Sides, and which has also made it onto the Extended Edition. "Winter" has long reigned as the neoclassical piano ballad in my overall body of work, and the Alternate Spin has always been considered the "definitive version." I tried to knock it down with the "Fecund Remix," but I feel as though I tried too many (albeit good) ideas in one mix. I've been talking ever since its publication of toning it down and simplifying it, and I finally have. I've removed some of the synths and made the remainder sparse, and I've simplified the beats, making them a closer match to the Alternate Spin's. The piano has been a marriage of the remix's with the original arrangement, and the string arrangements closely match those found in "Fecund Remix." I'd love to share the results with you, but I'm trying to keep a lid on the new tracks to make Patreon pledges more enticing.

What I feel I can share with you, since I already have in two of its forms, is the version of "Why Can't We Have Nice Things?" that made it onto the Extended Edition. There's only a slight difference in the piano of the bridge, when compared with the "B-side." I had to seriously consider the added notes, but settled on them because that's what I heard in my head, whenever I gave the B-side a listen. Sometimes it's better to leave notes out, to merely have them suggested, but in this case I went with making them actually present. It was actually kind of a tough decision. Because of this minor difference, sharing the altered version feels as though I'm not really giving anything away that I haven't before.

Both "Winter's Salve" and "Why Can't We Have Nice Things?" are available as digital downloads to all my Patreon patrons.

What is exclusive to the Extended Artist's Edition is my newest composition, "Surviving Is Killing Me." I wrote this song during a prolonged period of agitation that lasted for three days, always finding some thought or other to feed off of. It was a rough time for me, and it recalled a pervasive and depressing thought about the current state of my life: "This is no way to live." As a person that struggles with bipolar depression (I hate that label, but that's the diagnosis) it's easy for me to focus on negativity. My life is comfortable, productive, and moving in a positive direction, yet I feel depressed and as if I have nothing going for me. This is why gratitude lists are important to create and recall, and this is where music often helps me - it exorcises those nagging demons, or it helps to focus my being on creating beauty and putting it out into the world. In the case of my latest song, I furiously poured my being into something that explores metal territory, which I haven't touched upon since writing "Movement." It was a good feeling to get back into that groove; to sink my teeth into something hard and crunchy. The piano riffs are rapid and the guitar recalls some of the hardest post-metal I've heard, while the synths and clean guitar provide ambient-industrial breathers. I wrapped it up with the chant "This is no way to live" and titled it "Surviving Is Killing Me," after a line from Fear the Walking Dead that I just had to write down.

Both "Why Can't We Have Nice Things" and "Surviving Is Killing Me" are likely to be included on my next full-length EP, but the new mix of "Winter's Salve" isn't likely to be publicly available until a possible four-track single that I'm considering releasing further along.

When weaving these songs into Dialectical Observations, I of course attached them to artwork by Cyril Rolando, which I then worked into the design theme of the rest of the original Artist's Edition.

The additional artwork and track titles were then incorporated into an extended PDF booklet, making for a lovely overall digital package. What I would love to do is a limited professional printing of physical copies of the extended album, with a discounted price for Patreon patrons. As it is, I'd need several more pledges, and the printing couldn't take place until after those pledges were collected upon the release of my next project, a full-length EP. However, I've already given away one physical copy, handmade for my mother's birthday. This is an approximation of what I hope I could distribute.

To sum it all up: "Why Can't We Have Nice Things?" and the new mix of "Winter's Salve" are available to all Patreon patrons as Dialectical B-Sides. Worked into Dialectical Observations (Extended Artist's Edition), they are accompanied by "Surviving Is Killing Me" with additional track art and an extended PDF, as part of the top tier of Patron Rewards.

I would love your direct support in my continuing endeavors to put a little beauty back into the world with my music, and the best way to do that is with a Patreon pledge. However, as an alternative, you can also buy my songs, EPs, or albums directly from me at my Snail Tunes store.

Thanks for your consideration, and may your inner snails be resilient and determined!

P.S. I almost forgot to include the new track list!

01. "When Anchorage Became An Island"
02. "Man Seeking Cocoon (For NSA LTR)"
03. "Surviving Is Killing Me"
04. "Familial Germs"
05. "Movement (Alternate Spin)"
06. "Butterflies On Ganymede"
07. "Fleeting Fractals"
08. "Why Can't We Have Nice Things?"
09. "Signor Fancypants"
10. "Less Sinister Cousins"
11. "Fistfuls of Whimsy (Alternate Spin)"
12. "Winter's Salve"

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Dialectical Future

Well, folken, the promised Dialectical B-Sides are finally available to all of my Patreon patrons. The "Where Is My Mind?" cover, of the song by Pixies, is fated to be a later one-off that most likely will never land in the public eye, but it wouldn't have fit very well with the tone of Dialectical Observations anyway. These B-sides are, after all, to be included on an Extended Artist's Edition of the album, available as a Patron reward to all pledging $10 USD or more. The B-Sides, however, are available no matter the pledge amount.

The first finished was the song formerly known as "Madame Muzzle," a preview of which was included in a prior article. You'll be able to hear how much it has changed below. About the writing of this song: As they often do, this used a previously recorded piano riff that I had stuck in my head, which I just had to "jot down" on the spot. That's what I call it when sitting down for a moment to record something so that I'm sure I'll be able to use sometime later - "jotting" it down. When I go through these short recordings to look for inspiration, sometimes something will just grab me and I'll run with it. That's how this started, though at first I was looking at a repetitive piano riff to accompany what I already had. This was sounding a bit clunky to me, and the inspiration came later to write something in a more fluid, more "classical" style; a stream-of-consciousness flow with less structure. I had a lot of fun with it, and you can pretty well see the result of that in the "Madame Muzzle" preview. However, a lot of rewriting and rerecording of the treble cleft piano came later so that the two parts were more harmonious and complementary. Changes were also made to the drum and bass tracks, and the end result was a bit of an upbeat neoclassical composition with post-industrial percussion. "Madame Muzzle" no longer seemed quite so appropriate, though; it's more of a joke-title to begin with, but maybe it'll be used later. I had a few title ideas written down that had occurred to me before, and what I kept being drawn to  was "Why Can't We Have Nice Things?" For such a rather cynical title, this song seems a little too whimsical, but maybe the contrast is what grabbed me in the first place. Anyway, sometimes I have to say to myself, "Who am I to argue?" I may be the writer, but these songs and titles often have their own ideas in mind, and can be rather pushy.

My next project was an idea I'd had for quite a while. Ever since I published "Winter's Salve (Fecund Remix)" on The Instrumentality Project, I've wanted to simplify it. Similar to how I felt about "Jade's Theme (Introduction)" - which will probably be getting the same treatment somewhere down the road - there seemed to be too many ideas that, while all of them good, were crammed into one treatment. I wanted a compromise between the Alternate Spin (which might as well be the original) and "Fecund." First of all, I wanted the same more-structured arrangement of the piano that I used in "Winter's Remix 2.0" and "Fecund," but with the gentler close of "Alternate." This took some tricky maneuvering and a little bit of disguise but I managed to make it work beautifully. Then I took the strings arrangements and some of the beat elements from "Fecund" to create a rough draft that I let myself sit on for a couple of days. I ended up studying the subtle, heartbeat-like beats used in "Alternate" closely and copied it, then took ideas from the simplified beats of "Fecund" used in my rough draft, and created a lovely marriage. With simpler, more elegant instrumentation, I created what I'm sure I could simply call "Winter's Salve" and pass it off as the original, which I've been tempted to do. It will be labeled as such on Dialectical Observations (Extended Artist's Edition) but will be clarified as the "Dialectical Spin" when referenced outside of the album. This project wasn't originally intended to be one of the Dialectical B-Sides, but it fit the general ambient-neoclassical tone of the album so well that I thought, "What the hell?" Therefore, a third song for the extended album seemed called for, even though there's traditionally just one or two.

What I've been working on these past several days has been a radical change from "Why Can't We Have Nice Things?" and "Winter's Salve." I started off with yet another idea that I had jotted down, and trotted it into a 180 with some blasts of industrial-metal noise, similar to what can be found in "Movement." Without realizing it, I had changed the time signature from a 3/4 to a 4/4. I tried to change it back, but kept on finding myself unable to. Even when I found a natural progression, shifting back to the song's prior tone, I discovered I was still writing in 4/4, but decided to just keep it going. Then I dropped the song for several days; in fact, I think it was at that moment that I decided to shift my attention to a new mix of "Winter." When I came back to that song after a respite from songwriting, wherein I took up the not-as-fun promotional work, I found that I was in an easily agitated mood, which lasted for a few days. First it was President Trump and the current state of the world, and the U.S.'s position in it; then it was the break-up of my marriage, at the same time longing for my ex-husband, wondering what he was doing and thinking, and being very angry at him while questioning myself. During this time I poured my agitation into my songwriting. I already had a metal progression hinted at in the song I was working on, and this state of mind propelled it full-tilt. During this furious songwriting that would no doubt see it completed in just a couple of days, I'd been wondering at a title, drawing a blank. Then a sideways glance at my notebook landed on "Just surviving is killing me," a quote from Fear the Walking Dead, I believe, that I had written down; sometimes I hear something I just have to write down. "Survival Is Killing Me" became the tentative song title - my reluctance was purely because it sounded so oppressive and tragic. However, the name stuck, becoming part of the drive in its writing, and informing the chant in the last-minute addition of vocals. This chant was actually a pervasive thought that I'd had, and it was good to exorcise it. I won't speak it here; you'll have to hear the song to find out.

As I'm writing this, I'm listening to playlist of Dialectical Observations with these new songs inserted into it. "Killing Me" won't be available for anyone to hear until the Extended Artist's Edition is released, which means only pledges of $10 or more will have access to it. It is likely, however, that both it and "Nice Things" will be included on my next full-length EP, though I have no idea how far in the future that might be. The "Dialectical Spin" of "Winter" isn't likely, on the other hand. There may be a WInter's Salve EP released at one point (probably not until after the next EP), partly to put the Alternate Spin back into circulation (it hasn't been available since I removed Instrumentality from my "official" discography, aside from the Anniversary Spin of Progress Report at my NoiseTrade site) and to showcase this new mix. The whole point is that you won't have access to any of these three songs (well, you'll be able to stream an unlisted upload of "Nice Things" below) unless you're a Patron. I'd like to point out that you won't be charged for your pledge until after the release of my next full-length EP or album., while you can enjoy the pledge rewards right away, as well as the rewards of being a Patron in the meantime. These include whatever is in the three tiers ($1 or more, $5 or more, or $10 or more) as well as previews, early downloads, and whatever I can think of to make you feel special in the meantime.

For now, enjoy this example of what's available to download for Patrons, and think of this as a reward for being one of my readers!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Of Spooky Sprites and Palindromes

'Tis the season for the creepy, macabre, and spiritual, as we approach the thinning of the veil between this world and others, from what is commonly thought of as the most haunted - or interpreted as unlucky - coincidences; as in coinciding, not happenstance. How could I resist a gothic-themed release between Friday the 13th and Halloween? The palindrome alone is delicious, and this is my favorite time of year. Not just the holiday, but autumn in general. Turning leaves and my favorite squashes, cooler sunny days and lots of rain, it would surprise me if this season isn't loved by everyone.

For a release with the haunting and atmospheric in mind, I decided a free-to-download EP of some of my most gothic material was in order, to help me get into the spirit of the season, and to be of assistance in everyone else's celebrating. It just so happens that a few of these tunes were previously brought together in a no-longer-available non-commercial EP called The Hypnotic Jamboree, which told the continuing tale of the Snail falling into a psychedelic underworld. It was brought there by the delving of the Dusk Devils where it met their king (or queen? It's a very androgynous figure) the Nocturnal Dervish, and waltzed with Lilith, the mother of all misfits.. Originally a four-track concept, other songs badgered me as I was selecting these tunes for a trial playlist, and I brought in the environment of "The Hallows," the horror show musically depicted by "Xenophobia," and that jerk who exists to snuff out candles, "Mr. Douter." 

This just so happened to bring the track count up to seven, which works out to my favorite number and pays homage to the non-commercial EPs I used to release regularly before I came to the conclusion that I couldn't do this as a career on tips alone. However, I still like to make my music freely and widely available, so it's pretty much all on free streaming platforms, and I occasionally like to put out a free download such as this one. Of course, since my main bread-and-butter is from royalties and loyal Patreon patrons, tips are very much appreciated. Just be aware that purchases of this release will only have streaming available until the time I remove it on the 31st (maybe November 2nd; I haven't decided yet).

About the songs: the "Waltz"s are derivations from an old song called "Giger's Lullaby," inspired by the biomechanical gothic figures depicted in the works of H.R. Giger. Lilith happens to be one of those figures, and figures into my Snail Tales. "Waltz with Lilith (Claim)" is what I consider to be the definitive version of this tune, as it finally captures what I had in my head when I first started composing what turned into ten (afterward, eleven) incarnations. "The Last Waltz" is a remix of this version, with what I consider to be post-industrial trip-hop beats.

"They Delving 3.33" is also a later incarnation of one of my earliest tunes. "They Delving" started me on a path that leaned toward "industrial-piano" compositions, and it underwent five transformations before this, being the con palabras (with words) version of an industrial-metal mix. I intended "Delving" to depict oil drilling, then decided it was really about tunneling otherworldly creatures, later identified as the Dusk Devils. And what do they find? The otherworld which is presided over by the Nocturnal Dervish and Lilith.

The Dusk Devils have a self-titled theme song, an eerie piano ballad that also experienced later adjustments in a post-metal direction, eventually arriving at the "Nocturnal Dervish Mix," named so because I spent an entire very-manic night creating it. It became so popular that it overshadowed its source material, and "Dusk Devils (Nocturnal Dervish Mix)" became its own entity and had its name simplified to "The Nocturnal Dervish." It was easy to conclude that the figure of the Dervish was the Devils' monarch, discovered at the end of their tunnel.

"Xenophobia" was an easy fit. Intended to portray the creeps that people experience from encountering the different and unfamiliar, it was so darkly atmospheric that it also fit into the Snails' universe and Its encounter of Giger-esque figures, reminding me of Ripley's flight from the Xenomorph in the climax of Alien; except this time it's the Snail that experiences the horror.

"The Hallows" and "Mr. Douter (Sin Palabras)" simply struck me as belonging because of their shared gothic ambience. "The Hallows" can be interpreted as being named for a haunted and spiritual environment, while "Mr. Douter" - originally a song about my ex - is named for the archaic term for bell-shaped candle-snuffers. It's metaphorically a man whose soul purpose is to extinguish the flame within others. Definitely a haunting figure, if you consider it; I know he still haunts me.

The finishing touches on this release, to make it extra special presented as - though with a little less effort, on my part - an Artist's Edition. As such, it has macabre individual track art for each song that should be displayed on every able media player, and it is accompanied by a PDF booklet featuring Halloween-themed artwork. All of the artwork is by the extremely talented Jeremiah Morelli ( who, once upon a time, gave me permission to use his art as long as it's for non-commercial purposes. Hopefully he remembers that, since it was about two years ago... Anyhow, at the least I want to steer people in his direction, and promote his beautiful creations. There are twelve pieces inhabited by jack-o-lanterns, black cats, ravens, and the like. I highly recommend downloading this release for the booklet, if nothing else.

But I really hope you enjoy the music. It my be comparatively old to my current work, but I'm still very proud of each song, and can only hope to match their over-brimming spirit and ambient qualities. Some of these haven't been available for free download before, or not since the days of the non-commercial EPs and compilations. I'm happy to put them out there for everyone to possess and listen to them at their leisure and, hopefully, pleasure.

Each song is also available for streaming on YouTube, Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Microsoft Groove, and TIDAL: "Waltz with Lilith (Claim)" and "The Last Waltz" on the album Occultation; "They Delving 3.33," "The Hallows," and "Xenophobia" on the album Revolutions; "Mr. Douter (Sin Palabras)" on the EP Dissonance and the album Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; and "The Nocturnal Dervish" on a self-titled EP. They may be on other streaming platforms; look them up, and add them to your libraries or playlists, if you'd rather not download. However, the most direct way you can support me and my art, aside from Patreon, is to buy the songs, EPs, or album from me at my Snail Tunes store.

Okay, enough plugging. Download and enjoy!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Demo, Companion, and Addendum - Nothing Left To Lose

Remember how I put up a demo of Nothing Left To Lose, the album I'm hoping will someday be distributed on physical mediums, as a Patron reward at my Patreon? In case you don't, it's a digital download of twenty of my finest and/or most popular achievements, up to The Instrumentality Project. It's assembled Artist's Edition style, with individual track art for your media players, and a PDF booklet of album art and liner notes. It has a track list that looks something like this:

01. "Jade's Theme (Introduction)"
02. "Fervens"
03. "Simplify"
04. "Darkest Dreams"
05. "Slowly Scooting Closer"
06. "Safe in Cars"
07. "Passage Through The Veil"
08. "The Last Waltz"
09. "Winter's Salve (Fecund Remix)"
10. "Revolutions"
11. "The Nocturnal Dervish (Simplified Mix)"
12. "Matriculating"
13. "A Different Story"
14. "The Seventh Swan"
15. "Wrong Pocket Kinda Day"
16. "Cold Sunlight"
17. "The Cloud Walkers (Selenophilia Spin)"
18. "The Tranquil Isles"
19. "Microcosms"
20. "Fistfuls of Whimsy (Alternate Spin)"

Of note is that new versions of "Jade's Theme," "Winter's Salve," and "The Nocturnal Dervish" were written for this demo (actually, I'd been considering playing around with them some more for quite awhile; the demo gave me an excuse) before they were included on The Instrumentality Project. The Alternate Spin of "Fistfuls of Whimsy" had been floating around for some time without being on a public album, so technically, it was written and recorded before Project's release. 

Several months after I assembled the demo, I created an alternate cover to reflect the change of my logo.

Now, the choosing of the demo's track list was very difficult: sone songs that seemed like obvious choices were left out, as were some of my personal favorites and others that I consider integral to my body of work. This led me to consider creating a companion for the demo, which sat as an idle, occasionally morphing playlist in my iTunes for some time. The spur to action on this was the birthday of a long-time supporter who became a close friend. I began picking out other "essential" songs, combing through my back catalogue - again up to The Instrumentality Project - and it quickly became apparent that what was intended to be a short sort-of-sequel was again going to be an album of considerable length, with a lot of difficult choices to make...again. For the sake of symmetry I limited the companion album to twenty tracks, which include:

01. "Reticulated"
02. "The Ground Up (Rebuild)"
03. "Dead End"
04. "They Delving 3.0"
05. "Xenophobia"
06. "Vainglorious Wrath (Alternate Spin)"
07. "Odd Gastropod"
08. "Lily White" (featuring Alejandro Saldarriaga Calle)
09. "Waltz with Lilith (Claim)"
10. "Interim (Alternate Spin)"
11. "I, Supplicant"
12. "A Good Mourning"
13. "Mr. Douter"
14. "The Manic Widow (Feral Bitch Mix)"
15. "Momentum (Higher Gain Mix)"
16. "Jaded (Alternate Spin)"
17. "Overdrive"
18. "Obfuscate"
19. "Quiet Holler"
20. "Winter's Remix 2.0"

To make this a little more special than the demo, I took more time in creating the track art and the booklet, just for Elodia Von Raben's birthday present...which ended up being a little late. But hey! my long-term Patrons tend to get special compilations or new versions of (or entirely new) songs, so consider making a pledge, and then sticking in there as I create new additions to my "official" discography and remember: I don't charge until the end of the month of an official new EP or album's release. In other words, you don't pay until I put out. Of course, a pledge can always be a one-time thing, but I try to think of creative free content for the Patrons that hang in there.

Bringing the focus back to the demo and the companion album - once again, I had a hard time choosing only twenty songs (heh, only) from the around-100 that remained. I went over the limit by three songs, and then had a hell of a time choosing which would be excluded. I finally decided that "The Hallows," "Interlude," and "Solace" would be left out. "Solace" was an especially hard choice, because my intention had been to use it as a quiet closer for the album. I'd already included a version of "Winter's Salve" on the demo album, but "Remix 2.0" has always been very well-liked, and it fit in better - so out went "Solace" and in went "Winter."

Those three weren't the only ones that I'd left out - they were just the most difficult of the narrowed-down list to remove. It really didn't sit well with me, and the idea to make a "remainder" EP - a free one to help bring attention to the demo and companion at my Patreon - came around not long after the companion's creation. For this, I was able to choose seven songs, in homage to my non-commercial seven-track EPs of old, to turn a "two-disc set" that I had been calling 40 Essential Songs into a collection of 47 Essential Songs. I really feel like this distills my discography to the songs I that are most important in representing my body of work, as well as my growth as an artist. Now I have a dream of printing a limited number of copies, in CD form, of this collection with fancy artwork and a comprehensive booklet, as Patron rewards. I just have to come up with the funds and find the best way to hire out for creating well-made printings. I could do this by hand, except that the CDs I know of are more limited in length than what I would need, and I don't know how to print artwork on the discs themselves, let alone including the track art. My knowledge extends to burning a playlist and creating hand-made sleeves and booklets, like the physical copy of Dialectical Observations I made for my previous therapist.

Anyway, Addendum is notable in a few ways. Most obvious is a new Alternate Spin I wrote and recorded of "Solace." I'd often thought of going over that song with some of the new skills I've acquired since the release of Revolutions, but I wasn't entirely convinced I'd find anything I'd want to change. I almost didn't bother, in favor of just including "Solace" as it is, as the quiet come-down closing the EP. However,  I wasn't on any specific time table, so I went ahead and combed through it anyway. At first, there was only some slight rewrites made to the acoustic guitar and the strings, but the further into the song I delved, the more I changed, usually expanding riffs that were one measure into two measures, sometimes rewriting whole instrument tracks. And, of course, the whole thing was remastered.

Also included is the Dialectical Observations version of "Signor Fancypants," without the abrupt ending that transitions into "Less Sinister Cousins" on that album. I know, Dialectical was released well after The Instrumentality Project, but the song is originally from Elemental, so I hope y'all will let it slide. Besides, I wanted to have several aspects that would set this apart from any of the other free downloads I currently offer. Therefore, it has its own little PDF booklet.

As I've been putting this all together, playing around with "Solace" has helped ease me back into songwriting mode, after the publishing and promotional circus surrounding Dialectical Observations. Almost immediately after the publishing of Addendum, I worked a little on the song I've been composing around the piano riff that "Passage Through The Veil" and "Overdrive" already have in common, and I wrote some additional strings and piano - and recorded some more test vocals - for the cover of Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" that I've been promising Patrons as one of the upcoming Dialectical B-Sides. Maybe they'll be the two "B-Sides"/bonus tracks that I have in mind? We'll see. Hopefully is won't be months and months before I'm able to offer my supporters this Patreon-exclusive free reward.

Speaking of Patreon rewards, I'll close this post by informing y'all that the Nothing Left To Lose Demo and Companion albums now sit side-by-side on the upmost tier, along with the Artist's Edition of Dialectical Observations. Pledges of $10 USD or more not only include those rewards, but everything offered in the $1 and $5 tiers beneath it. You'd not only be gaining access to downloads of rarities and Artist's Editions with bonus tracks, but exclusives, compilations, and everything that I come up with to offer Patrons until you cancel your pledge. Like I said before, pledges aren't collected until the end of the month of my next major release. I don't charge monthly like most other Patreon artists do. Again, you don't pay until I put out.

Anyway, with the Nothing Left To Lose Demo and Companion rewards combined with this free download, you will indeed have the whole collection of 47 Essential Songs - my back catalogue distilled into the songs that have seen me evolve and reach new heights in my compositional prowess. For now, until I can convince you to become a Patron, enjoy the Nothing Left To Lose Addendum, and may your inner snails remain resilient and determined.

UPDATE! I have completed a new song since the publishing of Addendum, and its now available for all Patrons to download, even those making a pledge now or later! The song is called "Why Can't We Have Nice Things," with a neoclassical-industrial feel that makes it feel like the Dialectical Observations B-side that its being touted as. Below is a preview of the earliest completed draft, then under the working title of "Madam Muzzle." Its had several minor and significant changes since, but I hope this gives you an idea of the post-Dialectical work I've been doing, and that you enjoy this rough draft!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dialectical Observations


A year ago, I released my first EP after Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Elemental was - and remains -  an EP I was extremely proud of and excited about. It may have contained three relatively old tunes, but it also contained three new tunes, two of which started my journey toward this album. "Signor Fancypants" and "Fistfuls of Whimsy" represented, to me, a raising of the bar in my abilities as a composer. When I isolated a single note in the persistent piano track that had been bothering me - the change prompting the altering and rerecording the metallic guitars - an Alternate Spin of "Fistfuls of Whimsy" was created, and I counted it among my most epic achievements, alongside the now-dated Selenophilia Spin of "The Cloud Walkers," and "Passage Through The Veil." I was very pleased when it was accepted by, and put into rotation, on both indie and mainstream radio stations.

Matching the quality of those two songs set a challenge that I met head-on, crafting two Patreon-exclusive B-sides to Elemental, which were tacked onto the end of an extended Elemental Artist's Edition - the first EP to have a running theme through its track art, all of which was derived from works by Cyril Rolando, whose generosity in our trade arrangement remains a massive contribution to my covers and Artist's Editions. These songs were "Movement" - a song that remained solid in its original form for almost an entire year - and "Less Sinister Cousins," which has evolved ever-so-slightly in each of its subsequent publishings. While the former was the best example of what I call piano-metal (but is more accurately described as an industrial-metal/piano-rock fusion) that I had written in quite a while, the latter captured my heart. I felt it was the best example of the odd combination of neoclassical and industrial elements that I often seek to achieve.

Those two songs were eventually made public on the EP Counterbalance, somewhat at odds with a sociopolitically-themed record. I blew smoke out of my ass to explain how they could be interpreted as being part of that theme, but I was mostly taking advantage of its release as an excuse to publish them publicly. However it was with those two songs, along with those two fine achievements on the prior EP, that made it feel appropriate to start crafting a new EP or album. I started with a track list of "Signor Fancypants," "Fistfuls of Whimsy," "Movement," "Less Sinister Cousins," new song "Familial Germs," and the bonus tracks from the Artist's Edition of Counterbalance - an instrumental version of its title track and a more acoustic, intending-to-be-balladic version of "Matriculating." I also had two more songs that were still under construction but looking promising, "Butterflies on Ganymede" and "Fleeting Fractals." However, the softer and more ambient songs "Quietly Matriculating" and "Butterflies on Ganymede" were shoved to the side of a track list that was wildly in flux, as was "Counterbalance (Sin Palabras)" for being too electronic, though I tried it as the album's (yes, it was pretty clear I was constructing a full-length album) finale several times.

I was being more focused and deliberate than I had ever been before as I was crafting "Ganymede" and "Fractals," and they took much longer than any song had before. The mastering process was grueling, not helped any by trying to nudge the volumes on isolated sections of two tracks - on each song - only to find that some idiosyncrasy of my DAW was preventing me from doing so. It took forever to find a way around that, but I believe my extreme attention to detail was quite successful on "Ganymede," which became a must to be included on the album. It was one of the first concrete new songs. However, I thought that "Fractals" was more of a crowd-pleaser, with trip-hop and post-industrial elements that were very apparently inspired by How To Destroy Angels, even though it turned out to be more of a piano-pop song. I made it an advance single to try to generate enthusiasm for the album. Unexpectedly, I think "Ganymede" accomplished that goal to a greater degree, especially among fans of ambient and neoclassical music. Still, I was able to get "Fractals" in rotation on my most supportive radio allies.

During all of this, I was playing around with a much more somber composition of cello and piano over recorded rain. Yes, I recorded rain specifically for an ambient-rock song, because it seems as though pretty much all composers of ambient music inevitably use rain in one of their songs. Hell, even Tool has done it, as they lean more and more toward ambient and atmospheric styles. Anyway, what I found myself writing and recording was an evolving theme of a neoclassical/ambient style, eventually accompanied by throbbing, sustained bass kicks and muted hand drums, bringing more familiar elements in my music into a melancholy ballad. This song, of course, became "When Anchorage Became An Island." Although the title was originally inspired by the SyFy series The Expanse (as was the title for "Butterflies on Ganymede") it took on a very intensely specific meaning for me, when applied to this tune. Anchorage was the site of a double-homicide within my family, and it was a very divergent event for me. It was split from the rest of my life, a separate world. So you see, this gracefully sad song's atmosphere was a natural fit. And I think the cello of this song could also turn into a recurring theme, such as "Jade's Theme." Fun fact: there actually is an uninhabited Canadian Arctic island named Anchorage. Anyway, this song seemed natural for the opener of an album; I immediately made its position concrete, even though it was still an evolving composition.

All of the songs that made it onto the album turned into continually evolving tunes in order to fit together, and were remastered, cropped, extended, rerecorded, altered, or otherwise "improved." In the end, there is not a single song on here that is as it was previously published. "Familial Germs" had two measures cropped; "what if"s that were subtle in theory evolved into a new Alternate Spin of "Movement;" "Signor Fancypants" had a guitar chord added and was cropped into an abrupt ending in order to be deliberately cut off by a new intro to "Less Sinister Cousins," which had a small section rerecorded with slightly adjusted levels. Even "Fleeting Fractals" and "Fistfuls of Whimsy (Alternate Spin)" were remastered for this album, the latter having its opening piano chords rerecorded. Then there was the comically-named straight-up ambient-rock tune "Man Seeking Cocoon (For NSA LTR)" - No Strings Attached Long Term Relationship, for those who don't get it - that had so many "concrete" versions, I'm surprised I ever felt confident enough in it to make an incarnation public.

So here we are, a year later, with an album that - albeit short - has been meticulously constructed to be what I consider my finest album yet. I like to think of it as a "cinematic" experience, and I hope you all have an opportunity to listen to it from the beginning, to the end. Its construction has been an emotional roller coaster for me, and I hope that it has such an effect to listeners. As of now, it can be streamed on YouTubeSpotifyGoogle PlayApple Music, and TIDAL. I've also posted a playlist at my YouTube channel. You'll notice that "Signor Fancypants" and "Less Sinister Cousins" are combined on my playlist. It's because "Cousins" intentionally cuts off "Fancypants" with its new intro, and I wanted that effect in there. I'm also considering changing "Anchorage" and "Cocoon" into a single track, as the snare-edge tapping at the end of "Anchorage" flows nicely into the synth that runs throughout "Cocoon."

This album can also be purchased at GoogleiTunes, Microsoft, and Amazon, but you're better off purchasing it directly from me at my Snail Tunes store, where you'll find it for its lower price. Purchases include a download in a format of your choice - from standard MP3 to lossless audio - as well as unlimited streaming on Bandcamp and the Bandcamp app, which are worthwhile in themselves. An Artist's Edition (see previous article) is also available through my Patreon.

Now, because I always like to end with something special, I'm now letting everyone download the single version of "Fleeting Fractals" for free! Or you can tip anything you'd like to support me and art...

I hope y'all enjoy the music, and that your inner snails remain resilient and determined.