Saturday, November 28, 2015

Wisps of Reason

There is no way I could have predicted this. It's beyond what I would have expected in many ways. The radio play, the downloads, the readers, my patrons, the relationships that have been forged... That I would have stuck with my art, or the directions it has taken! At this point in time, as the year is drawing to a close and I've released my third compilation album, there's definitely a lot to reflect on. There's plenty to be thankful for, but I'm thanking the gods that I didn't try to write this on Thanksgiving, when the record was released. It's not an easy holiday for me. Gratitude can be hard to come by. It's a practice, something to strive for, and it can feel unnatural at times. Ironic, then, that it's often most difficult to feel grateful when you have to force it. As a child of a broken home who suffered joint custody between warring sets of parents, the day itself has been repeatedly scarred. This year was nearly not an exception; in fact, it was like reliving my childhood when my mother tried to bully me into joining a Thanksgiving celebration with the family of her fiancé. I stood my ground, however, and opted to spend the holiday alone this year. It took many celebrations with a chosen family of friends to start reversing the negative stigma attached to the holiday for me. I'm not adding a fourth step-family to my history of Thanksgivings I'm not thankful for just because my mother is getting married again, thank you very much. I'm too fucking old for that shit.

So to give this year's Thanksgiving Day positive connotations for me, I chose to release Wisps of Reason on that day.  The material was all there. I just had to assemble it to my satisfaction which, judging by the fact that I've been listening to the record since it's release and it's continuing to make me happy, I believe I have done. Some things didn't work out the way I was expecting or hoping for, but they may all be for the best. That sounds like things didn't come together right, but it's more that they didn't come together as planned. A minor example would be that "A Most Resilient Snail" was bumped off the record in favor of "The Manic Widow (Feral Bitch Mix)" at the last minute. A major example would be that I had been hoping to release a version of "Darkest Dreams" complete with lyrics and vocals on this record, but decided to go with the sin palabras version, even though the lyrics and a demo recording of the vocals had been completed. 

I kept trying to will myself to return to the "studio" (meaning go shut myself in the car in the garage with the iPad) for another vocal recording session, but I decided in the end to not stress about it. It was getting too last-minute to feel like I would be doing the song any favors, and I let an email from Alejandro (Saldarriaga Calle of The Arcane Insignia) be the deciding factor. I had emailed him about the possibility of his recording vocals for the more melodic parts of "The Between" (one of the new songs on this record, previously only available on Nyctanthous B-Sides to Leaguers and Patrons). Now, I'm proud of my work on "The Between," including the vocals I want him to replace. I just know my range is still shot and I haven't accomplished the notes that I desired when recording them. The screaming is excellent, if I do say so myself, but I feel the rest would be served better by Alejandro's talents. In his reply, which I received late Thanksgiving eve (it might have even technically been Thanksgiving Day) he indicated that he found himself drawn to "Darkest Dreams," and I let that be a sign. I have yet to get back to him (are you reading this, my friend?), but my feeling is that I should let him have a crack at it and maybe we could even merge ideas. We'll see. In the meantime, I'm still going to poke at him about recording vocals for "The Between" as a favor to me, and hopefully we'll be hearing what that sounds like with someone who hasn't tortured the fuck out their esophagus singing it on the third commercial release.

A very supportive fan, who has become about as close as an online friend can get to me can be, says that she loves my voice. She's only ever heard it in my songs, so I'm taking it that she thinks my singing is just fine. I hope the rest of you enjoy it as well. I'm pretty self-conscious about it, but I'm feeling braver these days, and like my vocals have recovered significantly since my time in the hospital. Man, I used to romanticize the sound of a voice tortured by whiskey and cigarettes so much. Now I don't even have to try to sound like Kurt Cobain, and I'm wishing I could sound more like Maynard James Keenan, which I used to in my days of singing Tool covers. Maybe someday...

Man, I don't ever want to look through this blog and count how many times I mention the old glory days of my singing voice. Moving on! I really can't believe how quickly I amassed enough material for this record. I guess it just seems quick because I can't seem to help counting back to Occultation when I should be counting back to Nefelibata. I owe a lot of this record to the original material I wrote for the release of Occultation. It's all here, and it's also thanks to said material that, unlike Instrumentality to Nefelibata, there's no new versions of old songs on this record, with the exceptions of "The Last Waltz" and "Jade's Theme."

The version of "Jade's Theme" here, subtitled "A Dirge" (for kinda obvious reasons when you listen to it - it's kinda funereal), is different than that which appeared on Nyctanthous in many ways. In fact, it's the most different from it's Phase Three EP counterpart. The songs use the same instruments and are based around the same melody, but the similarities end there. It's been entirely rewritten and re-recorded, and has the addition of piano and strings instead of being entirely built on synths.

There's differences in other songs from their EP counterparts: the Alternate Spin here of "Umbra" has an entirely rewritten and re-recorded piano part, with minor differences in the drum and guitar tracks as well. The piano opening of "Nyctality" is different. "The Cloud Walkers" has been subtitled "Selenophilia" because the differences between the versions on Occultation and Selenophilia, although subtle, are so many that I feel the distinction should be made. Of course, the Feral Bitch mix of "The Manic Widow" didn't appear on any of the EPs but was recorded and released to Patrons  and Leaguers during this time period, but shouldn't be counted as a counterpart to "The Manic Widow" on Libration, to my thinking. "Feral Bitch" was originally going to remain exclusive to Patreon and The League until the next commercial release, but I kept finding that "A Most Resilient Snail" wasn't fitting into the track listing for this release, while I felt "Feral Bitch" fit in perfectly. So, as I said before, that change was made at the last minute.

That about covers what should be said about the track listing. The cover art is from a piece called "Up in the Air," by an absolutely stunning photographer named Robert Zuchowski whom I met through Tsu. He gave me permission to use this photograph quite a while ago, and right now I can't contact him through Tsu because of computer woes (I really just can't get into that right now, but I count myself lucky to be able to publish anything right now, and suffice to say I simply can't log into Tsu without my Internet browser crapping out), so I can't let him know I've finally gotten around to using it or send him a link to download the album in thanks! It's a little distressing to me, but hopefully it will be resolved soon enough. Maybe I can find another way to contact him. Unfortunately, I don't know if the website I have listed in the credits is what he would have preferred; it's what came up when I Googled him. But I very much encourage people who love the image or photography in general to check out his work. Like I said, it is stunning, and I count myself very blessed to be using one of his images with his permission. It should also be mentioned that the image inspired the title for the album. Yes, I know I've mentioned Wisps of Reason as a possible title for previous records. I've been holding onto this image and Robert's permission to use it for a while now, waiting for the right time.

I know this kind of comes out of nowhere, but I need to wrap this up and eat something, and you know what? I am feeling pretty grateful right about now, and it doesn't feel forced. It might be the Abilify kicking in, but I am thankful for the radio play, the listeners, the downloads, the readers, my patrons, the relationships that have been forged. I'm thankful for my mother for taking care of me after my failed suicide and the resulting health issues and I'm thankful for her fiancé giving her some much-deserved happiness. I'm thankful for my online social life and for the existence of such a medium for socializing, 'cause it's about all I think I can stand. I'm thankful for my therapist. Aaaand that's about as ooey-gooey as I can stand being at the moment. But hey, it takes practice, right?

Wisps of Reason, y'all...

Friday, November 27, 2015

Small Business Saturday Sale

Starting at midnight Pacific Standard Time on Saturday, November 28th, for Small Business Saturday, the Snail Tunes store will be having a special sale. While all items are always marked "name your price," no minimum (which includes FREE), there will be three additions to the store for 24 hours only, priced at US $5.00 each. If you haven't already guessed from the picture, these will include Instrumentality, Occultation, and A New Era.

All three items will be the normally Patreon-exclusive versions, meaning these will be the Artist's Editions of Instrumentality and Occultation not found anywhere else, with track art either unique to the song or indicating its Snail Tunes origins (displaying on all media players I've encountered and heard of) and PDF booklets of album art and liner notes, plus JPEGs of the cover art and track listing, included in the downloads.

For full details (and then some) on each of these records, visit the following links to their release articles:

Remember, by making a purchase, you are not only supporting a small business, but an independent artist as well. Thank you for your consideration and your support.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

B-Sides and More

In the release article for Nyctanthous, I mentioned a song called "The Between" that I was working on and had intended to be on that EP, with the promise that it would be released to the patrons who supported that work as soon as it was finished. Well, now I've released to patrons - as well as to Leaguers and those who would join either crowd-funding platform in support of the Lady - two all-new songs. Yes, "The Between" has been finished, and I am very happy with it. I don't recall when exactly I began working on that song, but you can identify influences very similar to those that went into "Slowly Scooting Closer." I can tell you that the initial inspiration for the piano part in this song came from listening to Thom Yorke, who I personally have dubbed the King of Trip-Hop.

While "The Between" has my characteristic trip-hop beats and features piano throughout, it's very much a post-metal song, with anthemic and orchestral instrumentation as well as heavily distorted electric guitar and a healthy amount of scream-singing. That's right, I'm happy to say that I'm back in the saddle as a professional screamer, and the recording process went very well. All of the screaming in this song is one take, with no looping and no distortion or sustain effects. There is also more melodic singing in this song, but my range is still shot to hell. I'm considering asking Alejandro (who is currently very busy with The Arcane Insignia's upcoming album) to record vocals on a future version of this song; we'll see. In the meantime, what I've recorded ain't bad. This is the most vocal-centric song I have yet to release for this project, and I'm proud of it. The "lyrics" aren't much to speak of. Taken as a whole, they become a very short poem. But hey, I'm kinda taking baby steps back toward my roots as a vocalist and lyricist, and combining that aspect of my musical career with my new-found niche as an avant-garde composer is a bit more difficult than I would have expected. Yet there is progress, and it's very evident with this song.

I'm currently taking a step in a more vocals-and-verses direction with additional work on the other song that's available on Nyctanthous B-Sides. But while I wouldn't have considered "The Between" complete without the vocals, this song very much stands on its own without them. For the purposes of this release, the instrumental version included here has been titled with my initial instinct, which was "Darkest Dreams." However, as I was recording test vocals and coming up with lyrics, the title "Sublime Like Swine" popped into my head. So, the two versions of this song will have two different titles. Here, as a preview for this release and for your enjoyment, is the sin palabras version that is included on Nyctanthous B-Sides, "Darkest Dreams" - an alternative-rock/electronic-pop fusion with a goth-metal twist that actually would have suited Nyctanthous better than "The Between," despite being written after the EP's release.

I had originally intended for the SoundCloud release of this track to be private with this embed an exclusive for my readers, but just now I figured, what the hell? I can use it to more widely promote B-Sides and the upcoming Phase Three compilation (on which I'm hoping to include the con palabras version) if I make this release public. So if you like the song and want more of it in your life, log into your SoundCloud, give it a Like, and Follow my profile while you're at it! And while I'm on the subject, I'd like to remind folken that I have reached the six-hour limit of music for a SoundCloud Pro account. If you'd like all of my music to remain free to stream on SoundCloud, donations can be made through the "Support SnailCloud Unlimited" button at the top of the right-hand side bar.

Moving on... I took my sweet-ass time getting around to posting new exclusives for Patrons and Leaguers after the release of Nyctanthous, which is something I usually try to update right away, as my newest releases usually make some of my exclusives, well, no longer that exclusive. Such has been the case with "Simplify," "Jaded," and "The Tranquil Isles" being included on a public release. So, I've finally gotten my ass into gear and rearranged and updated things.

Now, I've included B-Sides as a reward for Leaguers and in the $5-or-more tier of contributors at Patreon. Already available to Leaguers but newly available to Patrons is An Abbreviated Era, a seven-track EP that includes all five of the original songs from A New Era. Also included in this tier is the Artist's Edition of my first commercial release, Instrumentality - a 16-track collection of the most essential songs from my earlier works, meaning Progress Report through to The Hypnotic Jamboree. What makes it an "Artist's Edition" is the inclusion of a PDF booklet of album art and credits, plus individual track art; all the commercial downloads include is the cover art.

This post-Nyctanthous shuffling around on Patreon has made it so that the individual song downloads available to those pledging $1 or more now include "Darkest Dreams," "The Manic Widow (Feral Bitch Mix)," "The Ground Up," and "Lily White (Sin Palabras)." As before, A Waltz For Giger - The Completed Collection is also available, but now The Occultation Sessions is included. I figured that since the Occultation Spins of "Pentadactyl," "Insults," and "A Not-So-Minor Distraction," and the Alternate Spin of "The Replicant" have been made freely available on Phase Three releases, it made sense to make this seven-track EP available for a pledge of just $1. It also includes the Occultation Spins of "They Delving 2.22," "No Introduction Needed," and "Winter's Remix 2.0."

And of course, the top tier of $10 and up includes A New Era and the Artist's Edition of Occultation, along with everything else.

Little has changed for Leaguers aside from B-Sides now being included for download, as well as streaming on the Bandcamp mobile app, but here's a quick refresher: League membership includes the exclusives Nyctanthous B-Sides, An Abbreviated Era, The Occultation Sessions, A Waltz For Giger - The Completed Collection, and the single of "Lily White (Sin Palabras)," along with the back-catalog releases Nyctanthous, Libration, Selenophilia, Nefelibata, and Instrumental. All are available as DMR-free downloads in a high-quality format of your choosing, with unlimited streaming on the free Bandcamp mobile app.

That about wraps it up. The Phase Three compilation album should be available, free to the public with optional tipping, by the end of the month. A note about that: it's going to be a Patreon-supported release. That means pledges will be collected from Patrons for this album to be made freely available for everyone. So, here's the thing: if you've been listening, downloading, and enjoying the music, this would be a great time to make a pledge. And no, it won't make you a sheister to make a one-time pledge, reap the rewards, and then cancel after the pledge is collected. It would make you a sheister if you pledged, reaped the rewards, and then canceled before a pledge was collected, which is actually possible to do. Patreon is a system of trust. That means that if you make a pledge, I'm trusting you to follow through with it and not just reap the benefits, same as you would be trusting me to not just release the same crap over and over again, or release each song as a single, and collect a pledge for everything I possibly can. I do my damnedest to make pledging worthwhile for my patrons, so I collect pledges sparingly and offer a whole lot that I put a lot of heart into in return. Because I do want pledgers to stick around. But one-time pledges are still a contribution and are very welcome. So, to reiterate: if you've been enjoying the music and the free downloads and streaming that I have on offer and can afford a buck or more to in contribution for the new compilation album, now would be an excellent time to make a pledge. These pledges keep me working and offering music for everyone to enjoy, and hopefully one day they'll help me upgrade my equipment and enhance what I'm able to do and offer.

That is all. Thanks for reading and for your continued interest and support! May your inner snails remain resilient and determined.