Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Instrumentality Project Continues - Occultation

Presenting: Occultation



It's been the plan for a while now - since the release of Instrumentality - that I would begin echoing every major Snail Tunes release with a commercial release that would aim to reach audiences seeking music in less underground places. While I revel in the online "scene" of independence and community created by resources such as Bandcamp and SoundCloud, there's a lot to be said for the reach of major music stores and streaming sites. That's mostly what this experiment that I call the Instrumentality Project is about: reach. I have no illusions that being an artist on iTunes is going to make me rich, or that I'm going to have mainstream success from being sold in mainstream stores. I'm already a tiny fish in a fucking huge pond. When I have an album distributed to sites such as these, I'm plucking myself from my fucking huge pond and throwing myself in the ocean in hopes that it's being trawled enough that I'll be picked up and maybe even noticed a few times along the way. There's a slim chance that this won't be a financial loss on my part. There's a reason why the stats measure in fractions of a cent on my distributor's website. But this isn't about trying to become a star or even financial gain, because what's going to make this worthwhile is that hopefully a handful of people will discover my music through means outside of my limited reach who will become loyal members of my audience. And, yes, with that loyalty comes a good chance of a little ker-ching ker-ching. Maybe enough to help with my cost of living and to invest into upgrading my tools, which is, of course, the main aim when I figuratively lay out a guitar case and play my music for y'all.

In other words, the Instrumentality Project is using the traditional means of selling music as another busking tool. It's my way of putting up a photocopy on a telephone pole or getting played on a local radio station. My way of busking has never had any hope of depending on local word of mouth or live performances as way of getting off the ground. I've literally started out international, which is a really insane thing to do. But nothing about my business model has been tried before, to my knowledge, and I'm kind of just making it all up as I go along and trying out every resource available to me. When talking with Tommy Darker of Musicpreneur Project (who also hadn't heard of this approach to being a full-time musician, and it's kind of his job to become familiar with all approaches) we both agreed that there would be no way of really gauging the success of this kind of balls-to-the-wall cyber-busking until a year had gone by.

So here I am, totally floundering, and yet I have to admit that the release of Occultation makes me feel a small measure of success and elation. It has nothing to do with any sort of financial gain or increased measure of popularity. There has been none of the former and while there's indications of the latter by the stats of a website or two, it's nothing that's really made itself apparent to me. But I honestly do feel successful with the publication of this album. It has a solid track list of songs that I feel really proud of, and it's also a pretty significant milestone. This hasn't just been some hobby that kept me occupied for a couple of weeks, and then quit when I had a notion of how unrealistic it was to make me rich. I have no illusions here. I have hopes, but not illusions. And yet I've been working hard at this for the better part of a year, and I happen to think that I'm getting better at it. Whereas with Instrumentality I was pretty much just tossing a collection of songs I had already made out into the world at large, I feel as though Occultation is a serious effort to represent myself at my best and to present the wider world with art that I wouldn't blink twice about taking someone's hard-earned cash for. It's a thing that I believe many artists struggle with, to feel as though their art is worth asking for money in return for sharing (especially the determining of how much), but I'm finding that becoming less and less of an issue for myself, and virtually a non-issue in the case of this album. My impulse to share it and have it heard will definitely overcome taking the seller's stance, but there will be no guilt here for taking money for this work. I worked fucking hard, yo, and I polished and molded and reworked and polished again right up until the moment I set aside my tools on August 4th and said, "Okay, world, here ya go!" To feel as though I have a right to ask for something in return is a bit of an accomplishment in whatever success story I have to share with this album.

In the sense that I feel good about my job, good at what I do, and as though I am learning from it, the Instrumentality Project is marked with a sense of success with the release of Occultation. That is the summation of these tangents that I had no intention of writing about when I set to work on this article. I had planned to give y'all details about each individual new song and about the history of the shaping of this album, and now I can't think of a single thing to say about any of that. Except that I can easily give credit to the influence of two artists who I met online. Both had a significant impact on the finished album, and on me while I was working on it.

I met Alejandro Saldarriaga Calle of The Arcane Insignia through Twitter, when it seems we checked out each other's music at the same time and someone said, "Hey, I dig your sound," and the other said, "Hey, I dig your sound, too," and the word "collaboration" came up somewhere in there. We've exchanged emails and ideas since, and while we have yet to record an actual collaboration, these exchanges reinvigorated me with excitement for creating and influenced the writing of "An Arcane Son" (which began as a collaborative project) and "The Cloud Walkers," which may be the predecessor of a collaborative work in the making. I sincerely hope that somewhere down the line y'all will get to hear a song by The Lady anoNYMous, featuring Alejandro Saldarriaga Calle.

And of course I must mention Tyrone Webb, whose painting "Brimstone Moon" brought to mind the word "Occultation," which I had learned as a term for the solar eclipse while reading The Strain trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, which seemed absolutely perfect for the name of an album considering how I love to use words that sound heretical, but have a completely innocent meaning. That I later found out the word is also an art term for an object in the foreground blocking another from view just made it that much more perfect.

I had also fallen in love with Tyrone's art the moment I first saw it and was extremely impressed to learn that it's created with spray paint. When I mentioned to him that I would love to use his art in album artwork sometime (an act of courage on my part, I'm proud to say, that has paid off) he was completely open to the idea and even said that he was open to suggestion. But I think I had my heart set on "Brimstone Moon" even before it encouraged me to think of the album's title. However, when I finally did speak up about that particular painting, it was to find out that sadly, it was already spoken for, and so Tyrone repeated his offer to take a request. So I told him the name name of the album and that I had an "eclipse theme" in mind. This led to the painting of "Between Worlds," the gorgeous work of art that Occultation's cover art is sampled from, and I couldn't be more honored to have it representing my music, and in some cases being a visual representation of me, as websites are using the cover of my latest release in the absence of an actual photo. The color scheme of the mobile version of my Apple Music profile is now pink and black with hints of sunset colors to match that painting, and it makes me ridiculously thrilled.


To see more of and learn more about Tyrone Webb's fine spray paint art, visit http://finespraypaintart.com, and if you're a fan of supporting artists through Patreon like I am, you can contribute to his creations at http://patreon.com/Windswept.

So there's some behind-the-scenes factoids and credit-where-credit-is-due for y'all. Moving onto some of the specs and information what's on the record and where it can be found: Well, first off, the record ended up being sixteen tracks, pretty much because my brain insisted that it had to be because that's how many Nefelibata has. I'm not sure why it mattered so much. There were times when I tried to insist to myself, "Well, Instrumentality had sixteen tracks while Instrumental only had fourteen, so surely Occultation can have fourteen even though Nefelibata has sixteen." It even makes sense since Occultation had less material to draw from than Instrumentality. One of the key differences here is that I had released The Hypnotic Jamboree between Instrumental and Instrumentality, so Instrumentality had a whole EP of non-recycled songs to collect from compared to its non-commercial counterpart. Nefelibata was also able to draw material from Jamboree, but that was not a resource Occultation could tap. It didn't dawn on me until actually assembling the Patreon edition that the only Snail Tunes releases Occultation had gathered material from were Reprise and Pentacental Overdrive, and then it also had original songs from Nefelibata to collect on. But no wonder it came out comparatively short! If it hadn't been for writing "I Will Dim My Light Only Enough To Not Blind You" and "A Most Resilient Snail" back in June; or for Alejandro's influence to write "An Arcane Son" and "The Cloud Walkers" in July; or for a random and much-needed muse that looked a lot like "Upside Down" by Tori Amos to inspire the beginnings of "Wrong Pocket Kinda Day," I would never have hoped to achieve sixteen tracks before I turned thirty-three (on the 31st, thanks for asking). But I guess it was meant to be. I had been holding onto one final idea for another remix of "Waltz For Giger," as well, and that brought it to the insisted-upon-by-this-ganglioid-inside-my-skull number.

Which has final list of tracks that was sent to DistroKid on the 4th (I was going to rant about that in this article, but maybe let's just not go there?) being:
"No Introduction Needed"
"A Most Resilient Snail"
"Waltz With Lilith (Claim)"
"I Will Dim My Light Only Enough To Not Blind You"
"I, Supplicant"
"They Delving 2.22"
"Wrong Pocket Kinda Day"
"The Replicant (Alternate Spin)"
"An Arcane Son"
"Pentadactyl (Alternate Spin)"
"Slowly Scooting Closer"
"A Not-So-Minor Distraction"
"Insults"
"Winter's Remix 2.0"
"The Last Waltz"
"The Cloud Walkers"
at just a bit over 91 minutes. You'll notice that there is now an Alternate Spin of "The Replicant." Well, that's not the only song to see some changes for this release. In fact, this Alternate Spin of "Pentadactyl" is an alternate Alternate Spin, and aside from those two songs being obviously labeled as such, every previously released song aside from three ("Waltz With Lilith," "I, Supplicant," and "Slowly Scooting Closer") have had changes, ranging from "significant" to "so subtle you may never know what they are," made to them, and also been remastered in the process. In short, none of these songs except for the previously mentioned three are as they have been previously published. As I was listening to them repeatedly while trying to set the track list, I ended up stopping for virtually every little thing that had ever bothered me or had an alternate idea for and playing around, figuring that the only deadlines I had were in my head and, in reality, I had the time, so why not? I think they're virtually all improvements, except for maybe the changes I made to "No Introduction Needed." I think that just ended up being different, but not necessarily better. Moving on...




The first place Occultation ended up being published was as a reward for upper-tier patrons of my Patreon page. While I had always assumed this would follow the wide release, there were unneeded technical difficulties in getting the album's track list past DistroKid's automated system (there, that's the shortest and nicest way to put it) and so the release was delayed three days (the staff at DistroKid is either very small or unresponsive to emails, or both). This, however, would actually be the Artist's Choice for people to get hold of the album. For a pledge of $10 or more toward my next creation, one can gain access to all the patron exclusives, which include Artist's Editions of Instrumentality and Occultation. To put it comparatively, for the price of one of these records on iTunes, you could have both, with the addition of PDF booklets of liner notes/album art and individual track art that displays the covers of the original Snail Tunes releases each song is from on compatible media players.

Aside from this route, the album is available at the following links (this list will be growing over the days to come):


You can, of course, expect the new songs on Occultation to appear on future Snail Tunes releases, which are always available for a price of your choosing. I have no idea when or on which ones, though. A single currently exists with "An Arcane Son" and "A Most Resilient Snail" on it, which you can find in a recent article on this blog. Other songs will appear on an EP that I'm aiming to release later this month, but I don't believe all the rest of the new songs will be included. And, of course, the edited and remastered versions of all the familiar tunes are unique to this record and may stay that way...

And you know what? I think that covers everything, including all the shit I originally wanted to say before going off on that unexpected tangent at the beginning. So there ya have it: Occultation, y'all. I sincerely hope you enjoy it, and I sincerely invite your feedback, questions, and even criticisms (so long as they're constructive and not just plain insulting). May your inner snails be resilient and determined, and all that jazz. If I was a more skilled digital artist, the following snail would have jazz hands, so please picture it, if you will.