Monday, December 28, 2015

The Instrumentality Project - Jaded

Presenting the new album,
the third chapter in the Instrumentality Project
and the third commercial release by The Lady anoNYMous:

Wow. Just fucking wow, y'all. It's almost year's end, and in the past ten months (since February 19th) I've released nineteen (gods, there's that number again... Fuck you, Stephen King!) Bandcamp records to the public - including three compilation albums - and now, three sixteen-track commercial releases, making for forty-eight of my songs bearing my soul and infecting the ears of people all over the world. And they are all over the world! According to SoundCloud, people in 116 countries have accessed my music... I'm not even sure I can name 116 countries. Personally, I have made online friends of folks all over Europe because of my music, including one super-fan in the Russian Federation, and I have regular (roughly translated) correspondence with fans in Asia. I don't know of a single fan in Missouri, aside from my mom...but then, folks in Missouri haven't really impressed me with their taste in music, with the exception of one Facebook friend who recently got a meet-and-greet with Tool. So fucking jealous...

My (half-hearted) apologies for all the f-bombs, but this is just so fucking wild! I'm not a big rock star; I'm still broke as hell (actually, I think I'm more broke than people in Hell); I'm not wildly popular on the charts of any country's music; but my music is out there and it's being heard. And with each album, both commercial and non-commercial, the number of people it's being heard by seems to be increasing exponentially. There may yet be a way to make money doing this, while also staying true to my belief in making art accessible. If only artists were important enough to society that they were considered public servants and paid as such...because it certainly feels like we are to me! But hey, I've always lived to serve, and that's no joke! From being a cook to being a janitor to being an artist, to my personal life, I feel as though I've always been (sometimes even proudly) providing people with a needed service.

For this latest album, that has meant opening some old wounds to create art that appeals to and is best related to by people who have had brushes with the crueler side of humanity and had to continue on, hardened by the experience. Jaded not only refers to my fictional alter ego, Jade (see "A Jaded Beltaine" in the Snail Tales section of this blog), but to my current disposition as a person who's been used up, spit out, and shat upon by selfish bastards, many of whom I've forgiven and have continued (though distanced) relationships with and that I have witnessed having similar experiences since. If karma is coming around to give these people what they deserve, I can only wonder what the fuck I could have possibly done to deserve some of the treatment I've experienced over the years. The last thing I want is a pity party, but fucking hell (sorry, I can't seem to stop), it seems as though my entire life has been spent being used as an emotional punching bag or being taken advantage of by people, and now I'm in therapy and on psychiatric medication after purposely trying to drink myself to death. People can be such godsdamned evil shits, sometimes.

So (heh) this album is kind of about that. From the mournful melody of "Jade's Theme" that I've been carrying around with me since composing it to introduce (the debut EP) Progress Report; to the angry spoken-word piece accompanying "Mr. Douter" about those who would try to extinguish the spark of another human being; to "The Manic Widow's" new dance mix; to the weak and the meek who end up preying on the good intentions of another in "Sublime Like Swine;" to rebuilding from the aftermath of the destructiveness of the using and the losing in "The Ground Up (Rebuild);"...the theme runs through the album until some sense of serenity is found in the keeping on to keep on of the moon ("every night she drowns / every night she'll rise") in "Lily White," is embraced like "Cold Sunlight," and solace is found among "The Tranquil Isles." 

It's tempting to use this opportunity to rant about individual personal experiences, to tell you all exactly what evil shit my ex-husband did after our break-up to earn him the alter ego of Mr. Douter after six years of marriage during which I supported him financially and emotionally, shit that's I can't imagine anyone (not even him) deserving of, but part of the purpose of these songs is re-attempting to exorcise those demons. To try - yet again - to let this shit go. But any of y'all who can relate know that it can be so hard. That you can feel as though it's over and done with, as though you've moved on, only to have those feelings of hurt and betrayal bitch-slap you when you unexpectedly see the perpetrator's face or hear their name. You can feel as though you've honestly forgiven someone who's stolen from you, then read a Facebook rant by them of going through a similar experience to what they put you through, and you can't help but feel grim satisfaction and the urge to comment, "So now you know how it feels, eh, motherfucker?" You want to be a bigger person than that. You don't want to admit that you can be that callous and shallow, and yet these are the feelings that rear their ugly heads as a direct result of the sins committed against you. Not only have these people hurt and betrayed you, but they've made you (me) an uglier person on the inside. And it pisses me off all the more.

When writing the release article for Wisps of Reason, I honestly felt it would be pushing it to come up with enough post-Occultation material to fill another album, but with these experiences to draw on, and with the insane pace at which I've been working to sublimate Holiday Season-related issues (work which will also be filling a new Snail Tunes EP entitled Sublimate, following the release of the next EP, Obfuscate) it was actually more difficult not to release this album sooner than I have. I very well could have, but it was actually nice to have the extra time to let the songs breathe as I fine-tuned them and re-ordered the track listing about a million times. As I mentioned in previous posts, I put off this release to give Alejandro (Saldarriaga Calle of The Arcane Insignia) and Matt (of iamwarface) some time to work on some contributions/collaborations I requested of them. Unfortunately, Alejandro has been experiencing some ongoing health issues while also working on his own band's material while Matt has had renovations, the holidays, and the new Star Wars movie (yes, I'll actually let him use that) to draw on for excuses. For those who were looking forward to these contributions: if I have my way, Alejandro will still get around to substituting for my vocals on the more melodic parts of "The Between" (which I did re-record for this release, and I think there's been an improvement since the version released on Wisps) and Matt and I have been talking about a more equal collaborative effort (talking him recording a new drum track and a vocal track to duet with mine) for "Sublime Like Swine." I'm not as ashamed of my vocals on "Sublime Like Swine," though, and I hope y'all enjoy it. I prefer it to "Darkest Dreams." It's my feeling that the rasping, scratchy, screaming quality of my attempt to "belt it out" matches the nu-metal quality of the song, and it now feels naked to me when I listen to it without vocals. I feel as though that song came together beautifully in the end.

And speaking of songs that came together beautifully with vocals, I'm really excited for y'all to finally hear "Cold Sunlight," which is all-around a very different song for me. More in the acid-jazz vein of trip-hop, this is the result of finishing a song I started long ago when trying to come up with a more jazzy piano number, inspired at the time by Tori's "In the Springtime of his Voodoo." I halted work on it and shelved it in favor of other songs I-can't-remember-how-long-ago, and was randomly inspired to add a little bit of instrumentation while combing through the Archives of the Shelved, I do every now and again during the rare occurrence that I'm working on nothing else. And that little bit of instrumentation inspired a little more...and a little more...and I was also in the midst of practicing leaving "spaces" for vocals, and so inserted a few rhythm-section-only lengths here and there. And it just so happened that on a cold, sunny winter's day, I was sitting outside and enjoying the feel of the sun on my face while listening to what I had so far, and I started to croon random poetry to it. Then I started to write down bits of random poetry that might fit, and before long I had a song with music, lyrics, and vocals. It really came together quite smoothly and beautifully, and I'm particularly proud of this tune. I even think the vocals turned out quite well. For this release, it's a slightly different recording and edit than what I released on Erised. I think it's been improved further still. I hope those who managed to get their hands on Erised feel the same.

It is very healing to be making this music and to have it out there, if for nothing more than to have a reason to put one foot in front of the other and to have something to look forward to. Who would I be shitting if I were to say that I don't care if I never make it big? I want my music to be heard by as many people as possible and I want to be able to make a comfortable living (any kind of living at all would be nice, really) from my art, but I honestly don't care about the lifestyle of the rich and famous or the adulation that comes with (some forms of) celebrity. And that I am doing this is such a fucking rush in and of itself. It makes me want to take the many people I know who have massive amounts of unexplored talent by the shoulders, shake them, and scream in their faces, "Just fucking do it for the sake of it doing it and stop being afraid of how much you suck!" My music's not for everyone, and I admit it stung when I saw that someone had rated it only one star on Google Play (it felt so godsdamned personal, and for all I know it was!), and I know my voice isn't even close to what it used to be and I probably shouldn't be recording myself singing at all these days (after tweeting "The Between" in promotion for Wisps of Reason, a website for vocal lessons started following me in response), but I love my music, and I love to make it, and I know of at least a handful of people who are devoted to following my art because they love the art (it's kind of refreshing when it isn't about me at all!). So far, no one has come right out and screamed, "You suck, just stop it already!" (which has happened to me when I was on stage doing spoken-word long ago) but there's a strong possibility that it might. I promise myself I won't listen to them. I know y'all see a successful band like Tool or Muse and think to yourself, "There's no way they're afraid of sucking," but do you really think that, at the beginning at least, that fear wasn't there? I know this is encouraging potential competition in an already overcrowded playing field, but if you're creative and you feel as though your creativity is untapped, just do it for the sake of doing it, people. I don't regret starting on this journey one fucking iota.

There are so many ways that life is going to get you down, and if you live long enough, you're going to experience just about every kind of cruelty the world has to offer. I've experienced more than many do in an entire lifetime in thirty-three years, and I don't even have any enemies that I know of. That's a big part of what makes my hurts so fucking painful. They were caused by friends and family, by people I loved and that I was the most vulnerable to. There's a big possibility that some of those people are reading this, and I don't necessarily aim to make them feel guilty or as though they deserve every ounce of pain coming to them, but my heart has been hardened, and a big part of what I had always felt made me who I was used to be my willingness to trust and to extend a helping hand no matter how many times I was knocked down...but not so much anymore. My spark flickers feebly on most days. I'm not so willing to love or let myself be loved. I'm not much of a romantic anymore, and I used to be a high-flying hopeless romantic. I miss these aspects of who I used to be. I think what makes me most angry at the people who have hurt me is that they've changed me, and I get angry at myself for having let them. But I can say this much for being Jaded: I feel as though I could stare into the eyes of just about anyone seeking to harm me and rip out their soul with nothing but a steady gaze. Is that something to take pride in, I wonder? Or is there truly no benefit, to anyone whatsoever, of becoming what life would make of you?

I'm going to say, to myself as much as anyone else, do your godsdamned best to fly high and never let anyone get you down! Nobody wins from the cruelties we have to offer each other. And don't let fear or feelings of inadequacy or ineptitude keep you from giving the world what you may have to offer. Just fucking do it for the sake of doing it! Let your inner snails be RESILIENT AND DETERMINED!

No, I'm not done yet. The Snail just had to make its appropriate appearance a little early. I still want to tell y'all more about what this new album has to offer. First off, let me present you with the track listing:

01. Jade's Theme (Van Gogh Reprise)
02. Mr. Douter
03. The Manic Widow (Feral Bitch Mix)
04. Simplify
05. Dorian
06. The Between
07. Jaded (Alternate Spin)
08. Sublime Like Swine
09. Nyctality
10. Umbra (Alternate Spin)
11. The Ground Up (Rebuild)
12. Jade's Theme (A Dirge)
13. Lily White
14. The Seventh Swan
15. Cold Sunlight
16. The Tranquil Isles

There, that lets me reference what songs I have yet to touch upon. Such as "Dorian," where, in all seriousness, it felt like some sort of ghost-boy tapped me on the shoulder and whispered his name before disappearing on me when it came to naming this song. I've decided that Dorian is the mysterious Arcane Son, and that this song was his way of letting me channel his name. I know how that sounds, but part of not succumbing to being a jaded bitch is letting your imagination run wild and free. So there.

I'd also like to point out that this Alternate Spin of "Umbra" is slightly different than that released on Wisps of Reason, in that it's been remastered and has a "hidden" synth, as in, you'll feel as though you have a finely tuned instrument for an ear if you catch it. Or you'll feel as though you're overly familiar with this song.

The Alternate Spin of "Jaded" contained herein is a fix on how the flamboyant guitar at the beginning always struck me as a little too over-the-top, that the immediately following piano section felt a little naked, and that the piano section following the first industrial-metal interlude always felt a little off to me. I've corrected these by replacing the opening guitar with my theremin-mimicking synth, while the rest has been solved with additional industrial effects or electric guitar. 

This recording of "The Ground Up" is different than that contained on A New Era and its spin-offs, hence the subtitle to differentiate the two. It also seeks some fixes to minor things that had been bothering me with the addition of a new synth to balance out the noise-levels in places while also helping some of the additional guitar-work feel less raw and abrupt. 

Lastly, I've remastered Alejandro's vocals on "Lily White" for this release, most notably removing the vocal distortion from the harmonizing, falsetto secondary vocal track. At this point, I'm not quite sure why I added the distortion in the first place. I think it sounds better without it. All I can is shrug and say vaguely, "Just one of those things, I guess..."

And that about wraps it up for the songs. Now, as you probably know, there is an alternate Artist's Edition available to Patreon patrons. Unlike the other Artist's Editions, this one has two additional songs on it, which are inserted among the other tracks rather than being tacked onto the end as "bonus tracks," making it more of an "extended director's cut" than a "bonus track edition." I prefer the Artist's Edition and think the additional songs and resulting change in the song ordering enhance the overall flow of the record. If you're wondering why the hell I didn't include these songs on the commercial release, it is expressly for the purpose of treating my Patrons as more special than those who would buy the commercial release from a store. I value the personal connection that Patreon facilitates and that these people - my Patrons - place value on supporting me directly. And these tracks are also on this Edition to encourage others to join in the Patreon system and find out exactly how much more of a rewarding and personal experience it is than just streaming an album or purchasing it from a store. Now, one of these tracks can already be heard on a previous blog post and on my SoundCloud page, that track being "Overdrive." Consider that but a teaser to when it is joined with "Passage Through The Veil," an epic post-metal song that rivals "The Cloud Walkers" and also paves the way for "Overdrive" with its closing piano riff.

The Artist's Edition also has the qualities the other Artist's Editions have that separate them from their commercial counterparts. You see, my distributor only allows me to send the tracks and the album cover far and wide, while the Artist's Editions have everything that makes a Bandcamp release superior. There's individualized, unique artwork associated with each track, and there's a PDF booklet of artwork and liner notes that accompanies the downloads. I've discovered that, on appropriate songs, you can also display lyrics on capable devices. Seriously, I wasn't aware of that before until I tapped my phone screen during "Sublime Like Swine," and up popped the lyrics! I was the one who input them into Bandcamp, but I didn't know that this was a resulting feature!

So, while I will be - as per usual - promoting and listing all of the ways you can stream and download the commercial version of this release, remember that the Artist's Edition provides a superior experience and that you really can't do better to support an artist and their work than by making a pledge (even if it's only a one-time thing!) through Patreon.

And that, I do believe, is all, folken! Enjoy the album! I will be posting links here at the end of the article to the stores at which this release is available as it goes live.