Saturday, March 28, 2015


A milestone that's been approaching with steadily increasing speed has arrived: in the short time it has been active, this blog has received over 500 visits, and I am proud and relieved. I'm proud of the work that has gone into each post, each piece of writing, and each piece of my music that has been put on display here, as well as the work I've put into promoting my art and this blog in particular. There have been days where I have been working from the moment I woke up until I finally give myself permission to shut down and drift off for only two-to-four hours of sleep before I start again. An impression that many have of working artists is that they kick back having fun and messing around with their friends and then get paid a disproportionate amount for little work. While I would agree that most artists consider their work "fun," it is not without its toils and exhaustion. It can be a full-time job that can kick your ass as much as any nine-to-five, and artists can never really leave their work behind until the drudgery begins again. Many, many a sleepless night is spent frantically trying to capture ideas and emotions onto a canvas, and that's only part of the act of making the art itself. To be a working artist - to try and make a living at it, to make it your job - is to also work yourself to the bone promoting your art, to keep people interested and in some cases entertain them. This can involve hours of driving from venue to venue or, in our wonderful new age of wireless connections and social media, to be glued to a gadget every moment your eyes are open.

I am relieved just to have this number, these 500 visits, to tell me that maybe, just maybe, I'm not running myself ragged until my fingers are cramped and my eyes feel like they're going to bleed for nothing. My art is being received. It isn't floating around being ignored. People are listening, people are reading; when I put up a blog post, I see an immediate reaction in numbers. When I post a new song on SoundCloud, the little bell icon symbolizing notifications is constantly turning red for a few hours, and I continue to see my number of "listens" climb. 

There's still a long, long way to go before I could even scratch out the most minimal living doing this. While I consider this my job and I am working at it full-time, I'm still just trying to gather a consistent audience, never mind finding people who will actually pay me. As encouraging a number as 500 is, it's still just a milestone along the way toward making art that can sustain itself. But everyone has to start somewhere and 500 is a milestone along the way. It is cause for celebration, however, there is no champaign in my near future. I'm not kicking back and taking a week off, confident that my art will continue to generate interest in my absence. No, I'm celebrating by letting myself be encouraged to work harder. Instead of feeling as though I've earned some leisure time, I feel as though I have to generate more art to mark this occasion and to tell everyone, "Look at what I did! And look what I did to show you."

Which brings me to my newest release. Over the course of the past day-and-a-half, I've put together a new EP that says, in it's title and in it's existence, "500, yo! Fuck yeah!" That's not literally the title, of course. I'm calling this Pentacental which, as far as I know, is not really a word, but I'm claiming that it means "Five-hundredth." Now combine the "penta" in the title with the image of H.R. Giger's art on the cover, and this is clearly the kind of recording your parents warned you against. We're getting into virgin-sacrificing, Satan-worshipping, black metal here...

In seriousness, this is the darkest release I've put out so far. That's not to signify that I'm in a particularly trying period of my life; in fact, I was in a much more desperate state when I wrote "A Determined Snail." It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't have the same affinity for what others consider "dark" that it's not purely a state of being sad, angry, or hurting. I'm frequently amused by things that a morbid, I'm fascinated by things that frighten others, and I tend to see beauty where others see horror. And I don't think it makes me a twisted individual or necessarily marks me as a victim of past trauma. I think I just maybe have a wider lens when observing reality. This release, though frequently strange and often turning on a dime into minor keys, is just a reflection that death isn't every person's worst enemy, Giger's work is fascinating and beautiful even when it's trying to be repellent, devils are funny little imps, and a Goth is someone having fun aesthetically the same way as a drag queen.

So here's a collection of my Dark, Gothic works. You won't find any pot-smoking snails here. For this release, I spent nearly the entire day hammering out details of "Giger's Lullaby," which I have never quite felt was finished. After listening to it countless times today while working on it, I can already think of something else I'd change, but I'm 90% satisfied with it and that's enough for me to put it on a record. I've also gone back to "Introducing..." to tweak one section of it that's been bothering me since I released the second version on The Alternate Spin. This release is also an excuse for me to make "Dusk Devils" available for download, which makes me happy, because I'm really quite fond of that song, even if it's not suited for European pop. Fitting these three together with my beloved expanded version of "Winter's Salve" and material from the debut of Progress Report has created a lovely playlist that ranges from piano ballads to industrial-and-trip-hop infused dance rock and blues.

I give you Pentacental: my gift to all of you for this milestone you've helped me reach.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dusk Devils / The Witching Hour (UPDATE: Dusk Devils Rejected!)

For a very limited time
For my friends, fans, and followers
as well as those who may stumble upon me
I give you the "before vocals" version
of my collaboration with LaVoyce:
"Dusk Devils" or "The Witching Hour"

UPDATE: This morning I received the following email:

"Hey Nim. Sorry to disapoint, but I have downloaded the track and I don't think it will suit LaVoyce. I've forwarded her the track and wait to her feedback, but I'm quit sure that this kind of slow descriptive composition is not really adjusted for her... Please, wonder yourself about the kind of sing that you would add to that track ? Don't hesitate to contact us back when you have an other proposition."

I think I'm going to take this as a compliment and a challenge. I know my music is unconventional in some ways and does not lend itself to pop/rock sensibilities or structures, and I like the way he used "descriptive composition" to describe this song. But slow? Come on, it becomes a straight-up rock song in the middle with that rapid bass line, piano banging, and vicious string-strokes. Anyway, it may not suit LaVoyce, and I may write a song in the future that will suit her better, but this song wanted to be written, and it took me for a fun ride, showing me every twist and turn it wanted to make and take. This was a song that basically wrote itself and used me as a tool for its manifestation, and those songs are my favorites. If vocals are to be written for it, they need to lend themselves to the song, not vice versa. And I may be able to take this task on myself. We'll see. I've been itching to add my voice to my music, but have been nervous and hesitant about doing so, as my voice is recovering from a traumatized esophagus and isn't nearly as malleable as it once was.

The real point of this update is that, as it is no longer part of another artist's work in progress, I am no longer in any hurry to remove this piece from public exposure, so enjoy it at your leisure and follow  The Lady anoNYMous on Soundcloud.

May your inner snails be resilient and determined.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Memory Lane

The Trip Begins

Taking a look back at the first song I composed with the aid of an electronic device is a trip. Well, the beginning of a trip. It began as just picking out notes on the piano, of course, and then experimenting with the cello, which has always been one of my favorite instruments. I'm convinced that loving music and the cello go hand-in-hand, and if you don't love the cello, you're dead inside. The Liverpool-style electric bass guitar is what really got this song going, though, and adding a dance beat came naturally after that.

The aim of making a digital album was already on my mind when I named this song and declared its original incarnation "finished." I already had the title Nothing Left To Lose picked out, inspired by the Janis Joplin song "Me and Bobby McGee," with an image of myself holding a patriotic coffee mug inscribed with the words "Freedom isn't free!" on it picked out for the cover. The theme of the album was to be my own personal journey through darkness, after the loss of my husband, my home, my job, all of my finances, and then no longer being able to care for my dog. Quite literally, I was at the point where I had "nothing left to lose," and I was drinking myself to death, which lead to my stay in the hospital and my current health issues.

"The Trip Begins" was meant as a dual meaning: the trip that music takes you on, and the trip of my personal journey into darkness and beyond. After beginning to write "A Determined Snail," with that gastropod's happy image and relentless forward motion in mind, the title took on a third meaning, which of course was the beginning of the Snail's journey. As the first song I had written as well as a starting point for the Snail, my intention was to make this the first track on Nothing Left To Lose. Of course, with the manifestation of "A Minor Distraction," I felt I had to release some of my material before I had enough for a full album. I felt I had to release a Progress Report.

When it came to figuring out which songs I would include on the EP and what order they would be in, it seemed as though "The Trip Begins" was the natural choice to start off the track list. I rewrote it into the version above for that purpose. Unfortunately, I no longer have the original version. I lost it during these revisions. And when the track list was coming together, I decided I didn't like beginning the EP with this song or how it led into "A Determined Snail," which resulted in me writing a whole new song ("Introducing...") to begin Progress Report with. Looking back, I'm still glad I made that choice. I'm almost embarrassed by this song now, and I feel "Introducing..." is much more representative of my music as a whole. But who knows? I may take some of the new ideas that went into this version of "The Trip Begins" to create a new incarnation which might still end up starting off Nothing Left To Lose when I finally get around to releasing it.

Amicus Fidelis Vale

This song I wrote for a very dear friend when I learned of his passing. Since he was four months old, Theo the Dog was not only my companion, but an extension of my soul. We became so close over the course of our eight years together that we could communicate nonverbally, and there were times when I should have paid attention to his signals and instincts that I did not realize until later. A leash was never needed, but tolerated. He loved me fiercely and jealously, and was sometimes ready to bite the head off of anyone who came between us. I could wrestle with him, tooth and claw, looking to others like he was mauling me and I was struggling to defend myself, and he would never hurt me or leave a mark. If I said "ouch," he would immediately stop what he was doing, sit, and wait to see if I was alright. Anyone who knew him knew he was the world's biggest sweetheart and a marvel of a beast. Those who didn't would not dare to fuck with him.

Unfortunately, after I had already suffered much loss, there came a time when we had no choice but to live in a situation that wasn't ideal for either of us. We lived in the home of an abusive control freak, someone who I learned after we had already lived there for a couple weeks was a habitual abuser of methamphetamine, and he restricted Theo's access to the home more and more, until he forced Theo to live in the garage. I had lost all of my finances and couldn't find any work anywhere in Portland. I was feeding Theo canned food purchased with food stamps, and he was losing a startling amount of weight. I had to admit to myself I could no longer care for him. I had to find him a new home.

Through a friend, I met a wonderful woman with a hippie-ish lifestyle and beliefs, who already had  very well-treated dogs and lived on several acres of land. Theo immediately took to her. I watched him jump into her vehicle with that huge goofy grin on his adorable, wrinkly face. I said good bye, and I had tears when we parted, he still had that smile, and I felt I unquestionably that I had done the right thing. He lived a year longer in the company of this woman and her dogs, romping happily on her land, and I am happy that that was the way he spent the remainder of his life.

Of course, I will always miss him, and I thought about him every day after we parted. I still think of him quite often, and feel the pain of his absence, particularly when I mistakenly use his name to address a new friend of mine named Rocko. When I learned of Theo's death, I had two choices: I could withdraw into myself and be miserable and sad, wrapping my inner being around an antimatter-like ball of grief, or I could focus on fond memories and creation and express myself in a constructive way. I chose the latter. I chose music. And it was indeed a wonderful way to process the finality of Theo's absence and a cathartic tool for moving onward.

I love this song. It's cheesy, it's beautiful, and it perfectly captures what I had in my mind's eye while I was writing it: a montage of grainy, home-movie like images of this magnificent beast happily galumphing through whatever landscape he found himself in. I don't believe I'll be including this song on any of The Lady anoNYMous' releases, but I think I will include it on a page dedicated to Theo's memory on this blog. A memorial for a friend, a companion, and a soul mate. Please share this post or the page with your friends, particularly those who love dogs, and help #TheoTheDog to trend.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

30 Days Gone By...

30 days have gone by since I typed in the URL of this blog and found it still floating forlornly in cyberspace - unused, untouched, neglected after being birthed from my intentions something like five years ago. Back then, it would have been used as a platform to share my writings about the evils of capitalism and the building anxiety that we, as a species, seem to be experiencing. It was meant to give my ex-husband and I something more to share, something imbued with a bit of each other. A legacy, a child. His photographs and collages, any artwork of his that I could encourage, would accompany my writings, sharing posts as we shared our lives. Too much of our lives, I guess. I practically swallowed him whole with my intentions, with my love, until he fought back by chewing me up and spitting me out.

And You Have Failed Us was abandoned. It failed to even begin. And thirty days ago, out of curiosity, I typed in the URL and there was the title with this background image, selected by himself, still in place. Empty and waiting. I had just cobbled together my online musical debut by the seat of my pants, the whole thing a rough experiment, really. But I had put Art out into the world for everyone to experience, to judge, to share... If I could do it with music, I could do it with blogging. Even if it was just a blog about my music, another platform for promotion. But I've found random inspiration knocking on my skull, like the faery tale about the Widow and the Snail that refused to leave me alone until I wrote it down, and I've found myself writing out thoughts and ideas; musings and fiction.

It's a good feeling and a wonderful outlet, to be writing again, as I've always considered myself to be a writer. That is my primary function. I was hoping to be a published author when I was six years old, and I still hope to be at thirty-two. My early teens were spent primarily in a chair in front of a computer that anyone born in this century would goggle at in disbelief. People didn't blog then. Social media was chatrooms and email. Modems made dial tones and then raised an electronic cacophony the likes of which a 1950s imagining of a robot would make. Back in my day, blah blah blah...

Let's stay on track here. Thirty days ago I reacquainted myself with this blog, kept the title and the background, started using it to promote my music, and I've also been using it to write shit down. And based on the stats from Blogger, people seem to actually care about the shit that I'm writing. According to those stats, more and more people have been visiting this blog every day. It seems I first attracted attention to it with my music, then with sharing these posts to Google Plus, and now more than 300 people have visited this blog. It's momentum has been steadily building. It's been fun to watch and gratifying in the sense of popularity that those rising numbers can give you, like when your number of Friends, or your number of Likes, grows. It may not actually mean much. The data I get to see is hardly conclusive enough to tell me I have a Following. But it's enough to tell me people are dropping by. My art is out in the world and it's not just my music. People are reading my words. I get the sense that I am heard.

It's be cool to pretend to be all stoic-like and act like I couldn't care less and that I'm doing all of this purely for the act of creating. But the fact that this is a blog forces me to be honest with myself: I was hoping it would attract attention, and it is. Fucking cool, yo (back in my day, people used to talk like that).

So I just want to say: Thanks for stopping by. Even if you've never been to this blog before, even if this was purely a click out of curiosity for you, even if you never come back. You're not just a number to me. As ridiculous as it may be, and it certainly sound ridiculous to me, you are a contributor to a sense of validation. To a burgeoning in my sense of self-esteem. Don't judge. I'm being honest enough with you to admit that, as embarrassing as it may be, because this is my place to express myself, to be my most transparent. And thirty days have gone by and 300 people have visited my blog. Hell yeah.

In the news portion of this blog, the posting of my latest release, the alternate version of my debut EP Progress Report, as a playlist on Soundcloud has pushed the number of plays of my music on that site to over 130 in thirty days. The Lady anoNYMous on Soundcloud

And in thirty days, my Bandcamp homepage has received 198 visitors. Man, why can't two more people have visited before I wrote this post?

Thanks again, y'all. May your inner snails prove themselves resilient and determined.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Entering The Between

Just a brief update since I've been absent from the blog for a few days.

First, that I've been approached by French vocalist/lyricist LaVoyce to co-produce a track. We've worked out terms, keeping everything simple, fair, and straightforward, and I'll be writing new music which she will then write original lyrics and lay down vocals for. I'm pretty excited and can't believe this is the kind of thing that's happening in my life. I still feel like a pretender, an amateur, like everyone's going to realize I actually have no talent all at once, or that an independently-released self-published digital release is really no kind of record at all. It was so surreal when Brian Viglione (of The Dresden Dolls and The Violent Femmes) left a comment on my Facebook page, even if it was only just "?!" and I'm pretty sure it's soul purpose was to fuck with me. I mean, one of my favorite musicians couldn't possibly have taken a look at The Lady anoNYMous' Facebook page... And then there was that online conversation I had with Kinnie Starr, who made three albums I own and who I've been listening to for ten years, about art and work ethic and what it is to be a working artist. That didn't really happen, did it? She didn't check out the aforementioned Facebook page and describe it as "DEADLY," you know, in a good way. That kind of thing doesn't happen in my life. I mean, I know I met before, years ago, but that was another lifetime and that didn't really happen to me, either.

So there's NO WAY that I would wake up one morning, check my Facebook, then check the Facebook of this fake person who has this fake job who exists entirely in my head, to find that a real singer in fucking France (I mean, France isn't even a real place, right?) wants to work on a song with me. Like this person somehow came across my music on the Internet (who knows how because I can't even grasp that someone beyond my Facebook friends are actually hearing all this shit that I'm putting out there), a person who's actually a talented singer, who's been recorded and worked with other artists, and wants this fake music that I make backing her beautiful voice. I am secretly suspecting that she doesn't actually exist, I mean, so far I've only exchanged a couple emails with her representative, who is undeniably French, so maybe FRANCE actually exists, and he's probably a con artist who's trying to get me to email him an original composition...why? Anyone can download my music for free...

Hell, who cares why, right? It's just painfully obvious that there's some grand conspiracy to fuck with me. Huh. Maybe all of this being real is actually more plausible...

Well, a brief update has turned into a rant full of name-dropping and me going, "Oh, my stars...!" and so, let's just cut the shit: I'm taking a brief break, and I won't be promoting like crazy while I'm working on this track for LaVoyce. Maybe I'll get inspired to publish some writings on here, but it's going to be pretty quiet on the music front for a little while, except to throw up some shit like this:

Now, that's a song that's rapidly getting old in comparison to my others. It's about the same age as "Glory and Wrath," actually, but this one's never been finished to my satisfaction. So, some "B-sides and rarities" type stuff, the kind of material that musicians release when they're running a little dry on inspiration, might be appearing on Soundcloud and Facebook. I don't think that kind of thing will really justify new blog posts, so keep your attention tuned in those directions for anything that might pop out of me, aside from any writing.

With that, I will bid you all a fond farewell until next time. May your inner snails prove resilient and determined.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Final Spin

Well, the nagging need to expand "Winter's Salve" and rewrite the cello on "Introducing..." has led to this: another alternate version of Progress Report with an alternate version of one of the alternate tracks from the Alternate Spin. As it is, I'm now treating the previous Alternate Spin as an experiment that was an excuse to try out a promotion gimmick. The alternate tracks from that release are now available to download as separate entities at my BandCamp site ( so people can create a playlist with those tracks inserted if they so desire. And right on the heels of the release of those tracks, I rebuilt "Winter's Salve," expanding it, recording new material, and remastering it into a version that I find much more satisfying. Hence this Alternate Spin having an alternate track of an alternate track. Does your head hurt yet? Mine does, but I've been working on this for two days with brief catnaps here and there.

I'm calling this the Final Version of Progress Report, but that is not to be confused as the intended vision of the original project, which the original release still very much is. That version tells a linear story through sound, with each song intending to convey a sequence in that story. This version is arranged by sound entirely, and I'm not entirely sure that the track list is in the right order, but I had to stop juggling it and settle on something. And now I really need to break my attention away from Progress Report and these songs that I have now heard literally hundreds of times each; each bar, each measure, each instrument, each arrangement. There's a single chord on this new version of "Introducing..." that bothers me and that I can't get right, but I need to let it go. And that's what this final bundling of these songs is really about. A last hurrah before I make myself turn my attention elsewhere, whether it be on different forms of art, or on getting songs written for my first full-length album, Nothing Left To Lose.

For the most part, I'm satisfied. I finally downloaded Photoshop and have been playing around with it this last week, and I'm excited to have put together artwork and liner notes for this Spin. I'm particularly enamored with this cover. All of the artwork I used is by John Jude Palencar, whose work I first encountered as covers for novels by one of my very favorite authors, Charles de Lint. This piece was used as a cover for the book Someplace To Be Flying, which I love and reread every couple of years. His work has also been featured on the covers of books by Octavia E. Butler, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and several other authors of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. These works inspire me and have felt very true to the vision that I'm trying to convey with Progress Report. This cover is practically a self-portrait, as is the anonymous guitar player who appears in the liner notes and all over my Facebook page.

I hope you all enjoy this new track list, the new versions of the songs, and this new polished little digital package that wraps it all together. It's only available for download and streaming from my BandCamp page and BandCamp embeds, as well as the BandCamp app that I call Snail Tunes on my Facebook page. I'm offering this all for pay-what-you-will, no minimum, in the spirit of true cyberbusking (I think I just coined a new term!), and any tips you're able to toss my way can be done through Paypal. May all your inner snails prove resilient and determined.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Songs

Throughout the week following the release of Progress Report, I featured a track from the EP each day on The Lady anoNYMous' Facebook page. Each morning I posted a link to a song and wrote about its creation. Below is an edited compilation of those posts.


So, here's the story behind my special, exclusive introduction for Progress Report.

I was agonizing over the order of my songs, trying to decide which songs best followed/preceded each other, and this process included deciding which song to start the EP with. I thought maybe "The Manic Widow," but I really wanted "A Determined Snail" to precede it. Both of those songs were very difficult in arranging among the others. Originally, a song of mine called "The Trip Begins," which I had pretty much rewritten and remastered from beginning to end for this release, was going to start things off, but it didn't feel right leading into either "Snail" or "Widow." So what better way to solve my problem than to write a whole new song, right? I wrote it in a day...and the melody was there, but as a whole it was atrocious, so I rewrote it the next day. Sounds like a simple enough song, right? Well, it can take me several days to give a song a beginning, middle, and end sometimes, and that's when I call it done...but, as you may know from seeing posts of these songs as works in progress, they're never really done. Something will sound off to me or I'll have a random insight/inspiration, and the songs change. It was really hard to approve these versions as suitable for this EP.

So this song was kind of a rush job...did you notice? I know, it's simple and repetitive, and while I might call it soothing, you might say it puts you to sleep. But I like the subtle changes each time the melody repeats, how the background instruments are showcased in the middle, and how it all wraps up in a different take on the first riff from "A Determined Snail." And for something that was only supposed to be around thirty seconds long, it has become a whole song that I am very proud of. I think it turned out quite lovely indeed. As my mother (even snails have mothers) said, "It makes me think of a leaf drifting down lazily into a stream." Yeah, she really said that.

A Determined Snail

The story behind this song is that it began as an early experiment. I tried my hand at a reggae guitar riff and toyed with beats and synths, hoping for a trip-hop sound. I liked what was coming out of me, and it was a fun experiment, but I shelved it for a while in favor of songs that had more intention behind them. One night, perhaps weeks later, I picked it up again after I had "finished" another project and found it shifting moods and growing instead of just repetitive riffs to a beat. I began to think of a stoned snail, blissfully pushing a boulder larger than itself up hill. That was how I happened to feel about myself and life at that moment. I've come to realize that, even though I consider myself pretty intelligent, I can be a slow learner and I can make some very poor choices when it comes to life and the big stuff; that I'm not very adept at living. The snail seemed like the right metaphor, and yet I felt optimistic and cheerful at the time, hence the blitzed-out quality to the snail. This image became the song, and when I titled it, though it seemed ridiculous, it felt unquestionably fitting. The snail stuck as a mental representation of myself and became a mascot for this project.

The song was shelved for another little while, as an ending wasn't readily apparent. When I returned to it, something grim and bluesy flowed out quite easily, and this also felt right. I wanted to explore this further, but also wanted to wrap up the song, so it became a two-parter: the attitude of the snail and it's grim, determined passage through darkness. This latter part later became, of course, "A Minor Distraction."

The Manic Widow

This actually started out as a cover song. It failed. I was trying to figure out the chords for the repetitive riff in Tori Amos' "Professional Widow," hoping to give it a more electronic/industrial spin and knowing that, even with my esophagus healing, I could pull off some semblance of the vocals for that song, as she practically spits out the verses. But there was no hope of my fingers pulling off those chords or approaching the speed with which she plays them. Frustrated, I banged out a few chords to a dance beat that turned out nothing like I was hoping to set my "Widow" cover to. Instead of deleting this miserable attempt, I thought that maybe I could salvage something out of it and titled it "Inept Widow" as a vicious jab at myself.

Now, I'm always working on multiple songs at a time. There are a few I've shelved and never finished, while I focus like a laser on others until they have a beginning, middle, and end (what I call their "bones") established. Sometimes an unfinished song is nothing more than a riff that I discovered and love too much to abandon, even though it's going nowhere. Such was the urgent cello/bass riff at the center of much of this song. I couldn't figure out what to do with it, but I recorded it, saved it, and let it sit for several weeks, just as "Inept Widow" was doing.

At times, I returned to "Widow" and recorded a new riff or two, and sometimes they flowed and sometimes they didn't, and the overall recording was just a mess of ideas. It wasn't until I recorded that bouncy, manic little piano solo you hear that I truly felt inspired to continue it and keep going. Meanwhile, I had tried accompanying my saved cello/bass riff with piano a few times, and recorded some of the results, tentatively entitling them "Urgency." The idea to include some of these in "Widow," while making the cello and bass it's core, came to me, and I decided on keeping a dance beat instead of trying to come up with something darker and more industrial. After that, it was a matter of fusing the ideas for two different songs into one, discarding what didn't work and re-recording what did. At that point, everything came together quite easily and quickly, and I was pleased with the result.

Now clearly it no longer resembled "Professional Widow" anymore, except that both songs feature repetitive piano-banging. As I had begun fusing the two songs, the title of the project had become "Maniacal Widow," but I wanted to toss "Widow" out of the title all together. What made me keep it was that I had listed my Facebook relationship status as "Widowed" for a while, as that was honestly how I had felt following the tumultuous dissolution of a six-year relationship. No details about that relationship or the years-long period of grieving it here, except that I do believe I had gone temporarily insane and I'm still recovering from it.

The title "The Manic Widow" seemed right, befitting of an aspect of myself, and she has since become a living, breathing character. She is always dancing by herself to the music in her head in her ramshackle cabin in the middle of the woods where the Snail comes upon her during Its journey. Her mood is always shifting, as is the music in her head, and it never quite reaches peace or happiness, but fluctuates constantly between mania, anger, and sadness. She is unable to love or let herself be loved, but she is desperate for love all the same.


The inspiration for this song was quite simple: I wanted to write the kind of music I fantasized about writing as a teenager. I loved piano. I absolutely adored Tori Amos' first two albums, Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink. But I absolutely, utterly thrilled when guitars would appear in her songs, such as the electric guitars in Precious Things and The Waitress, or the iconic acoustic refrain that opens Cornflake Girl. I didn't want to do away with the piano, and the string arrangements on those albums are gorgeous, but I wanted more guitars. I loved '90s alternative rock. I wanted Tori meets Hole.

I was also very into multi-ethnic fusions then, such as Dead Can Dance (which I still love to this day), Enigma, and Delirium. These days, I'm into less electronic manifestations of this kind of music, with the exception of Afro Celt Sound System.

So when I fantasized about having a band and creating music as a teenager, I basically wanted guitars and pianos with tribal beats, ethnic melodies, and string arrangements...with some raspy vocals and scream-singing, naturally. Something like Courtney Love doing a duet with Jonathan Davis.

Well, I'm not recording vocals right now, as my esophagus was damaged during my hospitalization last year (and it's had a scope shoved down it repeatedly since) but I think I got the rest of it right. And I had been thinking about the song's relationship to the Snail as I had been writing it, and I had the thought that it would urge It to gather speed, like those songs that you can't help but drive faster during if you're not paying attention.

Glory and Wrath

This is the second song I wrote when starting this project, before I even knew this was going to BE a project. It started out simple enough. I decided to rip off a riff from one of my favorite songs and then build my own song off it. I thought of the main strings-and-bass riff that carries Portishead's "Glory Box," mimicked it, and went from there.

Of course, it started to become my own song when I started to write the piano part, and then the percussion and the cello gave it that Dead Can Dance sort of sound that I love so much. When the song told me it was time to start wrapping thing up, I decided all of the instruments should just kind of go nuts and then let out a nice wail...and then what? I was stuck. I'd recorded the percussion going on much longer. I was trying to think of another bass riff, just plucking away at the strings, and recording...and I liked it. Just some freestyle bass, plunking along. I did the same with my keys and recorded that in one take as well, and then the song was finished, and I was pleased and happy and I haven't edited this song at all (except to re-record the cello solo) since.As for how it relates to the Snail's story, I really don't know, except that I always picture the Widow going Fairuza Balk-in-The Craft kinda crazy at the end.

To The Grind

Like "Glory and Wrath," this song was very easy to write, but also very hard to play in places because of the speed needed. Dexterity has never been one of my strong suits, or rapid hand-eye coordination. The upright bass at the end of "Glory and Wrath," with no frets and strings that require a pounding to get the right sound, was exhausting as I had to record take after take until I got it right. Same with the string section and the bass guitar in the song. The tempo in the final recording is actually sped up by four or five bpm, but it was still very difficult for me to record and took several takes. I don't know why I would write music that difficult for me to keep up with, but I did. The result is gratifying, though. This might be my favorite song on the EP.

Similar to "Momentum," this is the kind of song I fantasized about making when I was a teenager. Some industrial/piano-rock hybrid with fast and heavy strings with tribal beats that you can dance to. It isn't what I set out to write, but it what started as a trip-hop experiment turned into this very naturally and quickly. During a brief break from writing it, I heard the repetitive, industrial-quality wail of the guitars in the head and had no idea how to make that sound, but when I sat down to write, it was as if my fingers were drawn to the right frets and I knew exactly how to slide them to make that sound.

One of my favorite synth sounds that I use on nearly every song is called "Fifth Element," and the reason its one of my favorites is because of how many options I'm given to manipulate it, plus it responds to pressure and where you place your fingers on the keys very nicely. Fingertip to the edge, you have a whistling with heavy reverb; slide your finger forward, and it swells into a much more obviously electronic sound. Layering this on top of the guitar in places helped produce that "dying-humpback-whale-out-of-water" sound.

To make the song complete, a guitar riff that I wrote when I first started playing in my late-mid teens fit perfectly into this song and nestled comfortably among the piano I had already written. As the song progressed, I alternated playing that riff on the piano and building chords around it. There was never any question of what to write next during this song. I was never stumped, never had to experiment to try and find out what came next. Everything progressed very naturally.

The title also came very easily. The guitars are very grinding, for one thing. And when I looked to the Snail for guidance, I just saw it powering through any obstacle, any distraction, getting "back to the grindstone," as the old saying goes. And the name had to evoke dancing your ass off, as well. And it's a song you can grind to. You see where I'm going with this?

Then, I pictured a group of friends raising their glasses in a toast: "To The Grind!"

A Minor Distraction

This song was the inspiration for putting together the EP. Obviously, it began as a continuation of "A Determined Snail," exploring the darker direction that song had taken near its end. When I was writing "Snail," the section that would eventually become this song's beginning just sort of popped out unbidden. There's no other way to describe it. It was a complete surprise to myself. When I played it back after recording the guitar, drums, and synth, I was delighted and also very surprised at the radically different direction the song has suddenly shifted toward. While I felt "Snail" beginning to wrap itself up, I knew I had to explore that direction further. In a very real way, curiosity compelled me and the Snail to explore a different direction.

The title of the song came very early on because of this. The song is the result of letting myself be distracted by this shift in a minor-key direction that "Snail" took, hence, "A Minor Distraction." Of course the title has other meaning layered onto it now, but that's how it came about. As the song progressed, I envisioned the Snail making its way through a dark, forbidding forest as part of its journey, which was shaping up to mimic the faery tale formula of beginning > setting-out-on-a-journey > passage-through-darkness > lesson-learned in my head. This song became a sort of "Progress Report" of the Snail's journey, and so it gained an alternate title of "Progress Report / The Snail Revisited."

I was loving this song so much while I was writing it that I wanted to feature it as a single of sorts. This is where the idea for publishing some material before I had enough for a full-length album came from. I was going to drop the title "A Minor Distraction" in favor of "Progress Report" and make this song and "A Determined Snail" the centerpieces, and thus the idea for an EP was born. I just needed to satisfactorily edit some of the other material I had already written. Simple, right?

Well, of course I was continuing to write more material at the time, and some of it I loved so much that it *had* to be included, and other songs that were intended for the EP were shoved aside. As it shaped up, I realized I was telling part of a story, the whole of which would come later. As it turned out, this EP was a Progress Report for the larger story that I'm intending to tell, and has also been "A Minor Distraction" along the way.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Alternate Spin

The alternate tracks have proven pretty popular on SoundCloud, so I have made Progress Report - The Alternate Spin available for streaming. Hope y'all enjoy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Snail's Passage

Here is the combination of my songs
"A Determined Snail" and "A Minor Distraction"
that was featured on the Alternate Spin
of Progress Report, for those who missed
the download window.

Hope y'all enjoy!

Winter's Salve

This was a classical piece I'd been composing titled
"Winter's Discontent," but it had a bridge that was never
quite working out, so I halted work on it for a few months.
Inspiration came upon me to try setting it to a beat with
a synth whirring in the background. After some experimentation
I came upon this beat that I was absolutely in love with.
It shakes a proper stereo system from its core, and it always
sounds out of step with the music when it's perfectly in time.
Using my standby, "Fifth Element," I set a chord rolling
in and out like a wave. This is the result.

Hope y'all enjoy. Please feel free to leave your comments and criticisms!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Progress Report (Alternate Spin)