Wednesday, March 21, 2018

An Arcane Design

The Arcane Insignia, and its Debut Album, A Flawed Design

I'll start off by saying, I've been waiting for this album since 2015. I first became acquainted with The Arcane Insignia's frontman/composer/guitarist/vocalist on Twitter, of all places. We found a mutual appreciation for each other's music - he called "Slowly Scooting Closer" a "beast" of a song, and I fell in love with an EP (more of a demo) from 2013, which contained five songs: "Car(di)nail & (Sub)liminal," "Chapter 9: Trail of Extinguished Suns," "Panopticon," "The Violence Within," and "Vicarious Virtues." These songs had me chomping at the bit, eager for more; I was repeatedly told, "It's coming soon," referring to a full-length album that I anticipated would be heavenly.

The result, released March 16th, 2018, was more of a single composition than an album: it's arrangements of acoustic seven-string guitar, strings, and acoustic percussion are equally neoclassical and progressive rock, with the vocals more of an accompanying instrument, the lyrics a prose of  metaphorical and spiritual poetry. The guitar is often used for percussive riffs, as often at it's plucked melodiously, with even a little metal-inspired flavor.

"Kingdom of Wolves" starts off the album as a lengthy prelude to seven additional "chapters" (that's the best description I can come up with) and after three listens, I already know I need a booklet of lyrics (incidentally, you can find the lyrics for each song at the band's Bandcamp page), to read along with the music. It's easier to hear the vocals as an additional instrument, and the lyrics are seldom repeating or rhyming, making the possibility of memorizing seem an intimidating feat. But that's part of their appeal: this is thoughtful stream-of-consciousness prose rather than your standard fair, adding to the sense that this is a musical epic. The lyrics are more of a companion to Alejandro's voice, guitar, and percussion; Noah Heau's cello; and Tina Chang-Chien's viola and backup vocals.

"Architect of a Flawed Design" continues the story, with a light neoclassical intro segueing into more percussive guitar and violently sawed strings. Metaphors of questions and statements is highlighted - unexpectedly and thrillingly - by a choir contributed to by Martha Stella Calle (Alejandro's mother, and a tremendous source of strength and support in his life), Allie Jessing, and Jamel Lee.

It is stated that "Chapter 9: Trail of Extinguished Suns" is the "song that started it all." It was one of the first songs that I became acquainted with, almost immediately finding tits way into two playlists in my iTunes: "Acoustic/Electric/Eclectic" and "Another Soundtrack for Another Life." And that's what it became: essential to the soundtrack of my life. Rereleased as an advance single for the album, I was excited to experience a new version that didn't disappoint. The vocals became overlapping and harmonizing, including backing accompaniment. It was a new experience with which I felt extremely satisfied, and increased my anticipation of the album, which I was again reassured was "coming soon" - I was hesitant, but so wanted to believe.

Another song, "Car(di)nal (Sub)liminal," was also appropriately used an advanced single, and again it was one with which I was already familiar, equally as important in my life as "Trail of Extinguished Suns." It offered up new delights, again in the form of overlapping and harmonizing vocals. New strings arrangements gave the song a more orchestral feel, yet it stands on its own as a progressive rock tune.

"Obelisk Pt 1: Fallen Shell" is the melancholy prelude to an epic of self-discovery, part one being what I interpret as a tale of a changed man who does not recognize his transformation as necessarily a good thing. However, part two, "Liquid Skies," changes perspective of this transformation, with adversity recognized as an ally to self-discovery; of the changed man being a step in the journey toward a being perfect in his imperfections, the metaphorical "obelisk." It speaks of a very Buddhist view of the self, which is a form of spirituality that Alejandro has embraced. A comparison of this song that comes to mind is Tool's two-part epic "Wings for Marie," though whereas "Wings" is more psychedelic ambient rock, this is more neoclassical progressive rock. Still, I think "Obelisk" is a kindred spirit.

Lastly (before a hidden bonus track you have to download the album to hear) is "Gemini Cycle," a song graceful is its entirety, guitar and strings playing off each other in classical fashion until the vocals join the fray,. Alejandro is yet again joined by Martha Stella Calle, Allie Jessing, and Jamel Lee, in elevating choral arrangements.  The song's instrumental interludes are many and welcome, bringing it beyond the level of typical progressive rock.  I have to say that every song aside from "Trail of Extinguished Suns" and "Car(di)nal (Sub)liminal" have a certain novelty for me for being new, and I'd be hard-pressed to choose a favorite, but this song's neoclassical grace, combined with the sublime choir, strikes a chord within me: my favorite qualities of eccentric rock are finally in a single song!

I had to confess to Alejandro that I was disappointed in the absence of "Vicarious Virtues," one of my favorite songs; but I was promised that it would be on the sophomore album, which I'm already eagerly anticipating. Hopefully I won't have to wait for three years this time, but if I do, it will undoubtedly be worth it. I know from past experience that The Arcane Insignia's composer won't do things half-assed, especially where his art is concerned. I think that all his fans will agree with me that we appreciate it, and that we've been rewarded for our patience and support.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Welcome to Anniversary 2018!

Jaded Winters and Fleeting Fractals

This has been an incredibly busy month, as I've been cramming in more than maybe I should have leading up to the third anniversary of my debut EP, Progress Report

Progress Report was just that: an update on what I'd been up to and how I was healing following an intense ten-day hospital stay, during which I was violently ill. After my hospitalization I was largely immobile, as the gradual development of neuropathy suddenly hit me full-force, and I could hardly stand because of the pain, and had a very difficult time maintaining my balance. I made my way around the house largely by repelling myself off of walls; stairs were about impossible to manage without crawling; and I used a walker outside of the house. You see, my liver nearly failed, and the damage was spread throughout my body. I ended up staying mostly on the couch and massaging my affected brain with word games on my iPad. Stephen King's Dark Tower series helped keep boredom at bay, perhaps saving my life as I entered a period of severe depression - something I'm already susceptible to.

My discharge from the hospital was on February 18th, 2014, and it was during the following winter that I began to dabble at composing. Music has always been a very large part of my life. I took five years of piano music when I was very young, and I followed that with show choir through middle school and high school. I picked up a guitar and taught myself to play while I was fronting alternative and metal bands as a vocalist. As a soloist, I performed a cappella at open mics. Then I got into a long-term relationship and began focusing on "real" jobs, which lasted six years before a volatile breakup during which I lost everything and had to move to Missouri from Portland, Oregon to try and pick up the pieces of myself and my life. All together, I had about a ten-year hiatus from music.

So I put my years of piano music - and trying my hand at every instrument I picked up - to use on a computer program, and on an iPad app with "simulated" instruments (meaning there's some fret work, strumming, and bowing involved on stringed instruments, apart from the keyboards) and  I composed some instrumentals. One of those earliest was primarily a test to see if those piano lessons had stuck, trying my hand at a more classical-style piece. That song was called "Winter's Discontent," as I anticipated a particularly dark and depressing winter, with my mobility so limited. However, as music became my main focus through this composition work, that winter was not only bearable but somewhat enjoyable, and that song was renamed "Winter's Salve," not completed until after I released Progress Report.

I decided to self-publish some of this work, partly in defiance of every artist's initial fear of making themselves vulnerable by offering up their creation for public scrutiny. Many talented artists I have known have sold themselves short and never pursued that path because of that fear. However, I decided to share this work, even if I didn't plan on selling it, instead offering it up for free, if anyone wanted to download it. I had seven songs ready in February 2015, and decided this "progress report" should be published on the one-year anniversary of my hospital discharge. Instead, in honor of the Dark Tower books that were helping in keeping me sane, I released it on the 19th, a number that figures into that series quite a bit.

The EP almost began with a song called "The Trip Begins," which fortunately has never been heard by anyone else. Being dissatisfied with that song, I instead set to composing a sort of introductory piano ditty, which I completed overnight, and thus "Introducing..." was born. After a couple more cracks at that song, it wound up opening a couple more of those "non-commercial," up-for-grabs EPs. When I actually got confident enough to distribute my work on a wider scale, it opened my first "real" album, Instrumentality, and then a version with beats - "No Introduction Needed" - kicked off my second album, Occultation.

Since then, that melody has been reused a few times, being renamed "Jade's Theme" after a fictional alter ego of mine who is the protagonist of many stories in my head. It's a melody that doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, and neither is "Winter's Salve."

After a couple of remixes of "Winter's Salve," I decided to try my hand at a minimalist mix closer to the original, bringing to life a version that had been developing in my head to rival the song's definitive version for over two years, the "Alternate Spin." I first shared the result as a bonus track on the Extended Artist's Edition of the album Dialectical Observations, and a desire to make it available to the public at large brought about the idea for Jaded Winters. This also seemed like a good way to bring "Introducing... (Alternate II)" and "Winter's Salve (Alternate Spin)" back into circulation, after their disappearance from my discography, when I decided to pull Instrumentality from stores and streaming platforms.

The concept of Jaded Winters gave me the excuse to try out an all-strings version of "Jade's Theme" that had been matriculating in the back of my mind. This came to fruition as "Jade's Theme (Strung Out)," and then I offered it, and "Winter's Salve (Dialectical)," to the public in a prototype of Winters over the 2017 end-of-year holidays. I knew an "official" version was in the cards for early 2018, and it was a random inspiration to publish it as a Valentine's gift. As it got closer to this release date, I gave another listen to the amateurish "Introducing... (Alternate II)" and "Wnter's Salve (Alternate Spin)." I decided to remove them, and instead made "Winter's Salve (Dialectical)" the definitive version of that song, with a simplified title. I gave "Introducing..." another crack, returning to its original instrumentation, and I recorded "Introducing... (Alternate III)." I then recorded a new mix of "Winter's Salve" with some cool new beats and a couple of synths from a prior, overly-complex remix.  This gave birth to "Winter's Salve (Siren's Call)." This all evened out to the desired number of four tracks.

Backtracking to shortly before Valentine's Day...

I had shared a recording of "Signor Fancypants" on one of my "Jukebox" posts on social media, that wasn't publicly available: how it was on the album Dialectical Observations, but without the interrupted ending that segued abruptly into the introduction for "Less Sinister Cousins." A desire to make this almost single-worthy version widely available also gave me the excuse I hadn't realized I was waiting for to replace the single version of "Fleeting Fractals" with its superiorly mixed Dialectical Observations album version. So it was that a new Fleeting Fractals single came into being with the addition of "Signor Fancypants."

Now, I never did a release article on this blog for either Jaded Winters or Fleeting Fractals, because I knew that I'd be wrapping all of February's activities into one. I never made readers aware of the free-on-Valentine's gift, so to make up for that I'm offering exclusive links here for free downloads:


Jaded Winters is also available at Spotify, YouTube Music, Google Play, Apple Music, Amazon, and TIDAL.

Fleeting Fractals is also available at Spotify, YouTube Music, Google Play, Apple Music, Amazon, and TIDAL.

Neoclassism and Distilled

"Neoclassism" was a title I'd known I'd apply to a song or album for some time. I decided that it would be the title of my follow-up to Dialectical Observations, indicative of the neoclassical direction I seemed to be heading in. However, after I record their initial inspirations, the songs tend to decide which direction they'll take. Sometimes it seems like they're out of my hands until I begin  to engineer their final sound.

"Why Can't We Have Nice Things?" and "Surviving Is Killing Me" were first available as two of the bonus tracks on the Patreon-exclusive Dialectical Observations Extended Artist's Edition. "Nice Things" was continuing down that more neoclassical path, with some heavily electronic, industrial-style beats, similar to "Less Sinister Cousins."

Written in a flurry of anxiety that lasted for three days straight, "Killing Me" was a return to previously explored industrial-metal styles, with a title inspired by Fear The Walking Dead - Alicia informs her mother that "just surviving is killing me," or something to that effect.

"Symbolism" and "Reciprocal" were both jump-started by riffs from previous songs, that I'd been wanting to explore further. The piano riff that begins and then peppers "Symbolism" is from both "Overdrive" and "Passage Through The Veil" on the album Revolutions, which I've wanted to continue as a repeating theme throughout my discography. Perhaps it's because of it's relationship with those two songs that "Symbolism" sounds like it could have also been on Revolutions. The only real commonality it has with my newer writings are instruments that I've only lately begun to use. The glockenspiel found in "Less Sinister Cousins" and "Fistfuls of Whimsy" on Observations makes a return, and a deep-throated, synthesized "bassoon" - that has only recently become available on my DAW - is used to dramatic effect, both as a repeating single-note baritone, and as a soloist with a theme dangerously close to one found in Terminator (I think Sarah Connor's theme in the TV show?).

"Reciprocal" uses the cello climax from "Yours To Burn" on Counterbalance, something so rapid and urgent that I fell in love with it. "Reciprocal" could be considered neoclassical in style, based on the cello-and-viola duet and flute found playing off each other as the lead instruments, but the interrupting guitars and synths make it more of an industrial-metal tune. The title was originally "Eleven," simply because it was the eleventh project file in my DAW. It stuck for quite a while because the number eleven has had significance in various periods of my life. This song wasn't initially going to be on this record, except maybe as an Artist's Edition bonus track. Same with "Reprieve," originally titled "Love & Loss." However, these songs' titles and status were both in flux, and once they informed me of their changes in name, they seemed more significant to the "neoclassism" theme. And when more songs were written before the EP's release, they were relegated to the public version, with the additional songs becoming bonus tracks.

"Otaku" is a very eccentric song, not the same style whatsoever as the other songs, relating to them only in the relentless pace the EP was forming. It was born of the idea to do two acoustic guitar tracks, one jumpstarting the riffs of the other with single sustained notes, but it was really the use of the "Chinese" drum kit that gave the song its style. Some strange electronics give it an industrial quality, and it's because of all these elements that this song really defies classification. I want to say it has an "ethnic" sound, but what that ethnicity is I would be hard-pressed to label. I guess it feels vaguely Asian to me, which could be why "otaku" - a Japanese word described to me as literally meaning "outsider," by the book World War Z - was chosen as a title. However, "otaku" is most often used as a term describing young people with nerdy obsessions, to the detriment of their social skills. I guess this could have labeled me at a point in my life, which in part has informed the person I have become. Such young people seem to have an easier time relating to me than to other adults, and I identify with them as well. So this song is really for this class of "discarded" or "dismissed" youth.

A couple of bonus songs are available on the exclusive Patreon pledge reward, the Neoclassism Artist's Edition. I recorded a version of Revolutions' "The Creeps" that has a cleaner, more piano-and-trip-hop sound, with rerecorded vocals. Because of that song's themes of class war and xenophobia, it was hard not to include it on the public EP. But it's a bit of an experiment that I'm self-conscious about, so it was easier-than-not to keep it as more of a rarity. "Misplaced Romanticism" is another song that was difficult to keep off the record; it has a neoclassical sound, and the title refers to the misguided romanticism applied to other classes - such as the well-off romanticizing poverty, and the  classes lower on the financial ladder assuming that wealth is easy and unearned. There's really multiple sides to the opposite-end-of-the-spectrum classes, and I wanted this record to reflect that; to not only be a rallying of the lower classes against the top one-percent (which is admittedly a stance that I take).

I hope that the themes and the music of this EP are enjoyable to others, and reflect myself and my growth as an artist. If you'd like to support me and my art, please consider buying the songs or digital record from my Snail Tunes store. Otherwise, enjoy it through Spotify, YouTube Music, Google Play, Apple Music/iTunes, Amazon, and TIDAL.

And here's my anniversary gift to you all, my celebration of three years of self-publishing my work, and my heartfelt THANK YOU to all who have encouraged and supported this journey. I was hard pressed to think of a theme for this year's EP, and then decided everyone deserves free downloads of my most popular songs from Occultation, Jaded, and Revolutions; songs that have been met with enthusiasm and have earned their way onto radio shows and stations throughout the world of indie music, despite their being instrumentals. It was pretty easy to select them once the theme had been decided. "Simplify" and "Revolutions" have been among my top-three most-played tunes, while "Slowly Scooting Closer" was (I think) the first to be picked up for regular rotation. "The Seventh Swan" and "Wrong Pocket Kinda Day" are both pop-friendly, and have made their rounds, while "Passage Through The Veil" has the most views on my YouTube channel, and was selected by Starlight Music Chronicles to represent my music in an artist-of-the-month contest. Enjoy!

And as always, may your inner snails be resilient and determined.

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!