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...