Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Less Sinister Christmas

What makes a Christmas "less sinister," you might ask? What makes Christmas sinister in the first place? Well, I know that I'm not the only person out there that has negative associations with Christmas, and who has come to reject it, in part due to those associations, and in part due to being educated later in life of the ways in which celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ on a co-opted Pagan holiday is a bit of a sham. Hell, I've learned that many Christians reject the holiday, while there are Christians out there who claim that encompassing other traditions and beliefs into this holiday is a "war on Christmas." The whole thing is fucking ridiculous if you ask me, but there are some ways in which I can appreciate the spirit of the holiday. I have a sneaking suspicion that placing celebrations of giving and gratitude in the winter has been an unconscious way to fight off seasonal depression. Of course evil, greedy corporations have found ways to exploit that and turn it into a time when many people experience the greatest stress of the year, driving them to commit absolutely atrocious acts in its name. Meanwhile the pressure to be joyous makes the loneliness of others seem a crushing weight. 

Personally, the holiday madness has made me prone to seriously consider blowing my brains out more than once. The fact that my father and step-mother had their brains blown out right between Thanksgiving and Christmas exacerbates that, I must admit. Also, children of divorce hardly ever have much joy during the holidays after having their parents play an emotional tug-of-war in which they were the rope. So I hate Christmas. And with my Pagan-leaning spiritual practices, I'm more likely to celebrate the solstice, and to call "Christmas" Yule. The holiday tradition I've enjoyed most in the past was having a day of feasting on bagels, cream cheese, and salmon lox, while watching horror movies in a blanket fort.

However, last year I actually celebrated Christmas with my Christian mother and step-father, participating in the exchanging of gifts, and generally having a pleasant time. I made physical albums of my music in the form of CDs in handmade sleeves to give to my parents, and I put out a holiday download online for my friends, family, and followers. I've been making a conscious effort to associate my music with days of the year that I've had negative associations with in the past, and that was a pretty successful attempt. It made for a less sinister Christmas, and this year I'm repeating the formula. However, my mother's summer wedding has brought a whole new element into this year's Christmas: a large new step-family. So I'm currently sitting (it's Christmas Eve) in my step-brother's family home, to which I've brought seven copies of another handmade album to share around. Some of these Christmas goers will have to share - there's definitely going to be more than seven other participants in tomorrow's gift exchange. I encountered many technical difficulties while uploading and assembling this year's album, so a process that I figured would leave me several hours in the day for songwriting instead had me working on these gifts until nearly midnight. As a result, I'm winging it by just passing them around to people and dictating who has to share, and (as opposed to last year's album) they're getting the same track list that I constructed for the digital downloads.

Last year's A Wintering Soul had a track listing that was customized for my parents, while Yuletide Carols...shit, I don't even know what was on that album anymore, because I didn't download it or save it as a playlist. I only remember that it included "They Delving 3.0," probably because it was a rarity I figured folks should have, though it's an oddly dark tune to have on a holiday album. Well, this year I set out to make a more uplifting collection of soft ambient-rock tunes that would be appropriate background music for a holiday get-together; that might offer a soft cushion for introspection; and would maybe bring some solace to those who have a tendency to despair at this time of year. Okay, a couple of these tunes have a bit of a manic edge to them: "Wrong Pocket Kinda Day" has it's moment of panic-stricken madness, "Signor Fancypants" has a bounce that wouldn't be out of place in a mosh-pit, and "The Seventh Swan" has teeth. But for the most part, these are songs that I consider to be soothing, without being too melancholy. It was actually pretty hard to compile, - though, in retrospect, "Lily White" could have easily fit in. Admittedly, my music is predisposed toward the dark side. However, "Cerebellum" and "Horizons" gave me the idea to attempt this, so rather than going for popular crowd-pleasers, I let these generally overlooked electroacoustic, soft-rock ballads set the tone.

Obviously, "Less Sinister Cousins" helped inspire the name of this collection, and - being one of my newest songs - feels as though it's a more-special gift than the others...except maybe for the Alternate Spin of "Fistfuls of Whimsy," which is also new. I have a terrible tendency to make my music freely available soon after its initial publication, which might be counterintuitive to making money off of it, but,'s fucking Christmas. And I hope y'all enjoy it, no matter what your spiritual/religious/anti-capitalist/atheistic/Scrooge-ish inclinations may be. It's a gift from me to you, if for no other reason than I want you to enjoy something I've imbued with my soul.

HFH, y'all. Happy Fucking Holidays!

Last year's A Wintering Soul

The physical incarnation of A Less Sinister Christmas

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Elemental Differences

It's been a while since my last blog post, and that's because there hasn't been an awful lot to report. I've been spending most of my time at work promoting the Nothing Left To Lose demo's availability on - and updating - my Patreon. During this time, I haven't been entirely idle in the songwriting department, though it has been at a slower pace than perhaps y'all have become accustomed to. As I started getting back into songwriting-mode, I made the foolish prediction that I would have an EP (and maybe even an album!) ready by the end of the year. Alas, a new home has come with new responsibilities, and I've also been adjusting my life's rhythm. I'm no longer awake for 36-48 hour stretches; I'm sleeping every 24 hour cycle, and usually at night. My psychiatrist (and my step-father) seem to think this is important. I'm just doing what the doctor ordered. While I'm not sure if this has improved my mental health, it has resulted in my being a little less manic. Maybe not-so-oddly, this has affected my creativity. I'm no longer devoting almost every hour of two whole days to write a single song. Also, I'm used to inspiration coming during the night, and I've been forcing myself into a binaural cycle in which that's the period that I'm trying to sleep. My psychiatrist is convinced that human beings aren't meant to be nocturnal...obviously, she doesn't know many eccentric artists. And my manic periods are the time when my creative juices usually flow. Yes, my drive can border on masochistic, and the come-down is a bitch, but I kind of miss going full-bore into writing a song, with the high that comes with being exhausted-yet-victorious. However, I do feel a teensy bit more balanced. Whether or not I feel the trade-off is worthwhile remains to be seen.

Whereas I used to have so much time in a period of wakefulness to create ads, promote my music's availability on various platforms, create incentives for crowd-funding, and to write/record music, now it seems like most of my time is spent doing the first three. I have been able to devote a couple of hours a day at work on new songs, though it sometimes seems as though I'm making zero progress while experimenting with new sounds and alternate recordings. Some of you who are active on Facebook and Google Plus will recall that I gave a private preview of the new song "Movement," which I actually began writing several weeks ago. It took several days where I had only a two-to-four hour window of actual songwriting for small sections to be polished; for new sounds to be realized and implemented; and for new directions to become evident. Then there were days at a time when I had to take a break from that song and play around with others so I could approach the song from a fresh perspective later on. During one such period, I found myself laying in bed and having a complete piano tune pop into my head. I forced myself to stay in bed (as per doctor's orders), but I hardly slept that night for fear that it would disappear. I needn't have worried; it was still stuck in my head the next day. And after recording it, the tune was stuck in my head for days, during which I would experiment with accompanying instrumentation, and find new ways to explore the basic melody, as well as the rhythm section that I found myself creating from a tortured drum machine, guitar effects, and new sounds. There came a point, however, that I was at a loss at how to bring these myriad ways of exploring a repeated melody to a conclusion.

So, I decided it was time to explore "Movement" again, which had been coming along in small spurts (not like the other described song, which had been coming in waves). By this time, I had completed an introduction that had many post-industrial/trip-hop elements reminiscent of "Interlude," which spurred on forth into a dance-rock rush akin to "Overdrive." Then it slammed into an industrial grind sounding more like Nine Inch Nails than anything I had done before. What followed was loosely sketched and utterly useless. Instead, I returned to the staccato cello riff that is that this tune's core, and harmonized it with another cello an octave higher. I mimicked this with piano and whoosh! I was off again, until I slammed it back into another industrial-metal grind. Redeveloping that into a more gradual build-up the following night, the conclusion of this song became suddenly self-evident, and the fact that I had been writing and then polishing small portions of this song at a time meant that the finished sketch didn't leave much to be edited before becoming the final draft, which is exactly the same as the preview I offered on social media.

If you missed that preview, then let that be another lesson to you that you should follow me on Facebook and/or Google Plus. Because the song I've decided to use in this post to promote my latest work is the other song that I had been working on, during the writing of "Movement." I returned to my earlier multi-faceted exploration of the piano piece that had haunted my sleep so many nights ago, and found that I had fully realized rhythm, string, and piano sections, accompanied by glockenspiel, that required very little editing, and the next segment seemed like it should have been ridiculously obvious. With a new piano part accompanying some epic strings and guitar derived from the original piano, the song came to a beautiful climax that was then stripped down to a gentle conclusion. All of this was recorded without a name in mind; "Movement"s' name was simply drawn from the stop-and-go bursts of writing and recording, a movement at a time. I even went through the entire editing process of this song without a title popping into my head, as they usually do. When it came time to share it with my Patrons, I had to sit and meditate on it for a while. During the writing of it, I had often thought of the cousins (the animal people) in the writings of Charles de Lint, particularly the cerva (horned cousins). This brought to mind the digital painting "Feral Strings" by Cyril Rolando. However, I knew at this point that I was intending these songs to be presented to Patrons as B-sides to the Elemental EP, and "Strings" had already been used as track art on the Artist's Edition for "Cerebellum." (To see each piece of track art for the original Artist's Edition, visit the article "Elemental, My Dear...") Therefore, I found myself at an impasse in that train of thought and meditated on the song further.

I found that it also brought to mind a naiad, which prompted the thought that naiads are the less sinister cousins of sirens. Immediately, the phrase "Less Sinister Cousins" stuck in my mind, and also fit with the cerva of my original train of thought; how there are the imposing, more menacing cerva, such as buffalo, and their gentler cousins, such as deer. This could be applied to Charles de Lint's animal people in general: they come in all shapes, sizes, and dispositions. And this song definitely calls to my mind creatures that are gentle and even whimsical. When browsing Cyril Rolando's artwork for track art (to keep within the themes of the original EP), I was initially drawn to the piece "What Do You Wanna," but scanned through each item on his DeviantArt page before settling on it. I also had "Movement" in mind while scanning through Cyril's art, with the goal of finding something that conveyed kinetic energy; it doesn't get more kinetic than the train depicted in "Train Train Quotidian."

So finally I had the long-promised B-sides to Elemental to offer my Patrons. They were a long time coming, and one song that I had intended to be among them (a vocals-and-verse piece called "Looking Glass") didn't make it, but I feel that, tonally, they go quite well with the rest of the EP. "Less Sinister Cousins" has elements of the ambience in "Cerebellum," as well as the playful glockenspiel of "Fistfuls of Whimsy." It also has drum machine techniques that I developed for "Signor Fancypants," which are evident in "Movement" as well. Actually, "Movement" has all the industrial- and post-metal aspects my music has to offer, while being a piano-and-cello piece of dance rock at its core.

The two-track Elemental B-Sides download, with individual track art by Cyril, is now available to all my Patrons. They have also been incorporated into the Artist's Edition of Elemental available to Patrons pledging $5 USD or more, as "hidden" bonus tracks, meaning they aren't mentioned in the PDF booklet, which remains the same as before. I'm not sure whether these songs will be included in the next publicly available EP, which I'm going to be taking my time on. Thanks to the generous contribution of a long-time Patron, I'm able to have a bit of breathing room in writing and recording the next one. I keep pushing back the date for its release as a result, but I'm hoping that I'll be celebrating my two-year anniversary of self-publishing my music with a public release of some sort. The next EP may be released before then and I might celebrate my anniversary in some other way. Time will tell.

This has, of course, altered the rewards available for a pledge in support of me and my art at Patreon. I decided to make an Artist's Edition of The Instrumentality Project available to those pledging $1 or more, exchanging it for Instrumentality, while keeping the compilation Embrace (a 12-track collection of my most popular songs from the four previous albums). The current selection of rarities are songs that were on Instrumentality; "Introducing... (Alternate II)," "Winter's Salve (Alternate Spin)," "Waltz for Giger (Delusions of Empathy)," and "The Nocturnal Dervish." And there's now the Elemental B-Sides. This means that for just $1 toward the release of my next EP, you can download 31 songs! And for $5 or more, you can have all that and the Artist's Editions of Occultation, Jaded, and the aforementioned  extended Artist's Edition of Elemental. A pledge of $10 or more includes all of the above, as well as the Artist's Editions of Revolutions and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the demo for Nothing Left To Lose!

Being a Patron really is the best way to support my music; it means income for me when I publish an EP or album (always letting you know in advance), and for $10 you can download all of my music. Plus, Patrons are often treated to song previews and early downloads, and I'm always looking for ways to create something special for them. In the past, this has periodically been an extensive compilation that includes new music, and that's what I'm aiming for the next Patron exclusive to be. I don't have an idea for a title yet, but I do know that it will include "Less Sinister Cousins," possibly "Movement," and whatever other new songs I complete between now and then, effectively giving early downloads of songs that will be on the next EP(s) or album.

However, there is an alternate way to get your hands on Artist's Editions of the existing albums, as well as the new extended Artist's Edition of Elemental. You may not be aware of it, but MIME has been renovated and renamed Soundbrokers. It's still the same innovative way of supporting indie music by buying stock in an artist or band, while being rewarded with cash and artist-provided incentives. Artist's Editions of Occultation, Jaded, Revolutions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Elemental are among those I've put on offer for $5 USD a share. If you're already buying and selling stock at the Internet's first indie music stock exchange, I encourage you to consider this option for supporting (and being rewarded by) The Lady anoNYMous.

That's all for now, folken. It's taken me all damn day to put together this blog article. Doesn't look like it, does it? ...sigh... But now I'm going to call it good and start winding down for sleep. Because that's a thing I do now. My inner snail is resiliently sliming a trail toward mental health (Ha!) is yours doing? I hope my music provides a fitting, if not soothing, soundtrack for your odd gastropod and its own journey.

UPDATE (12/17/2016): A new Alternate Spin of "Fistfuls of Whimsy" has become available! Ever since its publication on Elemental, there have been a couple of minor things that have been bothering me, and in the following months I've been fiddling with this song, trying to pin them down. I finally figured them out, and it has left me ridiculously elated! Other people may not even notice them, because the changes are subtle - really just a couple of notes in a piano riff here and a couple of guitar chords there - but it makes all the difference in the world to me. Since recording those changes, I have also painstakingly remastered the final product, and it's now available to download as one of the $1+ rewards on Patreon. I've shared an unlisted YouTube video (which I'll make public any day now, so that subscribers to my channel feel a little special) with my followers on Facebook and Google Plus, so I'm tempted to make this another example of why you should follow me there... But what the heck, I'm too excited to not share. Here you go!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Instrumentality Project - Culmination

Okay, folken, the events I set up to coincide with the Allhallowtide triduum have all come to pass: Instrumentality has been officially retired, Libration - The Anniversary Spin and Selenophilia 2.0 have been taken down from NoiseTrade, the Artist's Edition of The Instrumentality Project has been delivered to Patreon patrons, and the new album is now publicly available on my Snail Tunes store and YouTube, and making its way to iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify, MS Groove, and TIDAL (stores/streaming platforms will become linked as the album becomes available). 

For those not in the know: The Instrumentality Project is the culmination of a year-and-half of refining the songs that were originally published on my early non-commercial EPs Progress Report, Progress Report - The Alternate Spin, Pentacental, and The Hypnotic Jamboree. Many of those songs were collected and flung out into the universe of mainstream-distributed media on the album Instrumentality, and each of them have been reworked, rerecorded, or remixed since then - some multiple times. In the case of each song, I currently feel as though they have reached their zenith as how I originally imagined or intended them. I didn't have the tools or skills back then that I do now, and I feel satisfied with how far they have come. So it seemed as good a time as any to retire their early, amateurish versions and collect the latest into an album that represents the end of an era of trying to get that first set of songs just right. An artist's prerogative, of course, is to change their mind and their work - try things in a new way - but as of now, I honestly feel that each of these songs is as near perfect as I can get them.

Part of the catalyst for this was the creation of the demo for Nothing Left To Lose. I wanted to kick it off with either "Introducing... (Alternate II)" or "No Introduction Needed" (both variations of the same song, which has since become known as "Jade's Theme) and I'd long fantasized about a blending of the two that would also use skills I've developed since then. As I was working my way back into "song-writing mode" after a relatively long hiatus due to life changes, I started playing around with taking elements from the original files and splicing them together, but it quickly became apparent that rerecording each instrument would be a better way to achieve the desired effect. And so I rerecorded the cello and piano, recorded some new beats, and played with new synths and newly developed ways to alter them, inspired by achievements in the variations of "Jade's Theme" that were recorded for Jaded, as well as the neoclassical ballad "Microcosms" from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The result, "Jade's Theme (Introduction)," pleased me greatly, and as I was working on it, the desire to alter other songs to my satisfaction for Nothing To Lose came upon me.

I was also torn about whether to include "Winter's Salve (Alternate Spin)" or "Winter's Remix 2.0," as they both have elements I'm very proud of, and I've long considered them equally essential to my overall discography. They achieve wonderfully different takes on the same song; one is subtle and beautifully orchestral, the other a delightful combination of piano ballad and mad beats. I wanted to blend the two, and I was again inspired by effects I had achieved in "Microcosms," which I consider my only comparable neoclassical ballad to "Winter's Salve." In the end, I selected the piano recording of "Remix 2.0" for its timing, but made the accompanying beats more subtle, with a rhythm section of synths accenting them, and including both beat-and-synth-oriented punctuation. I also recorded a new string section to give the song the more orchestral feel of the Alternate Spin. And so, the "Fecund Remix" was achieved, and I believe this will become the new "definitive" version of the song. The Alternate Spin and "Remix 2.0" will always have a special place in my discography, respectively remaining on Progress Report - The Anniversary Spin and Occultation, but I'm very proud to have this new version as part of the culmination of all my efforts on the songs from Instrumentality.

"The Nocturnal Dervish" has long been my original "success" story, reigning as my most popular song on SoundCloud for a very long time, and being my first song to achieve rotation on a mainstream radio station. But being such an early work, and my third experimentation with using multiple drum machines (a technique now commonplace in my compositions), it has become an amateurish-sounding song to me, and I'd come to resent its success over songs that I felt were equally deserving (if not more so) of such attention. My problem has mostly been with the convoluted beats that were over-crowded in my overuse of each drum machine. The rest of the song is as nearly perfect as any of my songs can be, but the drum track has long been bothering me, and I figured that as long as I was altering songs for their inclusion on Nothing Left To Lose (and The Instrumentality Project, which had, by now, been conceived and announced) I might as well do what I could in simplifying the drums to my satisfaction. And so I went through the song measure-by-measure and reprogrammed the drum machines to maintain the original overall effect, but removed unneeded percussion, as well as adjusting the sound levels of cymbals, snares, hand drums, bass drums, etc. I had also made some minor achievements that I was proud of in the composing of "Dervish"s' electronic cousin, "The Replicant (Alternate Spin)," that I wanted to include in this new mix, and I couldn't resist including some new techniques that I've developed. So the "Simplified Mix," which I believe has rejuvenated and improved this song, was born and included on The Instrumentality Project. And, as a result, the Nothing Left To Lose demo has now been altered to my satisfaction, and is overall a more impressive product to share with prospective record labels.

Now, because it's a rarity that would make The Instrumentality Project a bit more special, I wanted to include the original "Waltz with Lilith." In part, I wanted to include it out of laziness, rather than create a new version. After all, I'd officially retired this song (originally known as "Giger's Lullaby"), right? Yeah, I reserved the right to play with it more in the future, but the "definitive" version, "Claim," has already been achieved, and I'm satisfied with it. However, instead of including "Claim" on Project, it seemed the original "Lilith" would make for a more special product. That was the plan, anyway.

Murphy's Law heavily affected the finalizing and publication of this album, and I encountered several technical difficulties as I was assembling and uploading it. And, as luck would have it, I no longer have the original file for "Lilith." Sure, there's MP3s floating around of it from its publication of the rarity A Waltz with Giger - The Completed Collection, but my original project file is missing, making the original "Lilith" that much more of a rarity. Well, because of other technical difficulties, I'd already spent several more hours than anticipated in assembling the album, and I was looking at pulling an all-nighter. So I figured, why not pull up the project files for the variations on "Lilith" that I still had and assemble a new cut with some ideas that had already been tickling the back of my mind?  After all, I like the drum track on "Claim" better than that on the original "Lilith" and the main difference is that the original doesn't have a drum track for the first half of the song. So I cut out the drum track on the first half of "Claim" and replaced it with a simple rhythm of sounds that I tortured out of a drum machine I'd since acquired. I rerecorded the vocals from the end of the original "Lilith" ("it's so fucked...") and named this cut the "Everything's Fucked" mix, aptly so since everything that could go wrong with the album's assembly/publication process seemed to be going wrong; including - after delivering the album to Patreon patrons - the original upload of the album to my distributor, since the screening bot had me upload the whole thing over again, because it didn't like me censoring "Everything's Fucked" myself. Who would have guessed? Anyway, because of that one "fucked," the album's going to be marked as "explicit" that's three "explicit" albums now! I'm so proud...

In the end, I did end up pulling an all-nighter. A lot more effort than initially anticipated went into this album. Even though it's mostly a collection of previously published material, I went above and beyond what I had planned to make a product that I'm extremely proud of. Not only did I create more new music than I was originally going to, but I listened to and rearranged this playlist again and again and again, and adjusted the spaces between songs, until it played out beautifully as a true representation of the culmination of work originally begun in November of 2014, when I first started work on "Giger's Lullaby," "Winter's Salve," and "A Determined Snail." Not all of the titles of these songs reflect which song they originally began as, but I'm pretty sure I included them in the song descriptions at my Snail Tunes store, for those unfamiliar with the history of these works. But just so there's a list out there:

"Jade's Theme (Introduction)" originally began life as "Introducing..." on Progress Report.

"They Delving 3.0" began as "They Delving 1.0" on the three-track single Delving for Devils, released between Pentacental and The Hypnotic Jamboree.

"A Most Resilient Snail" is basically a blending of "A Determined Snail," from Progress Report and "The Snail Plays Piano" from The Hypnotic Jamboree.

"The Ground Up (Rebuild)" is an industrial-metal take on a blending of "To The Grind" from Progress Report and its piano-rock rendition "The Ground Down" that was published on SoundCloud shortly after The Hypnotic Jamboree.

"A Not-So-Minor Distraction" is a version of "A Minor Distraction," originally from Progress Report, with industrial-metal elements worked into it.

"Hell is for Reels" had a simpler demo-version published on The Hypnotic Jamboree.

"The Manic Widow (Feral Bitch Mix)" is a remix of a song from Progress Report.

Same with "Momentum (Higher Gain Mix)." They were also originally placed back-to-back.

"Odd Gastropod" is an "updated" version of "Trip-Hop Thing," which was originally published on The Hypnotic Jamboree.

"Waltz with Lilith (Everything's Fucked Mix)" began life as "Giger's Lullaby," a version of which was published on Pentacental, which split into two branches - "Waltz with Lilith" (a version of which was published on The Hypnotic Jamboree) and "Waltz for Giger."

"Vainglorious Wrath (Alternate Spin)" - an alternate version of "Vainglorious Wrath" from The Hypnotic Jamboree - is actually a rendition of the song "Glory and Wrath," from Progress Report.

"The Nocturnal Dervish (Simplified Mix)" began life as the song "Dusk Devils" on Pentacental. "Dusk Devils" had a "Whirlwind" mix on Delving for Devils, which paved the way for "Dusk Devils (Nocturnal Dervish Mix)" on The Hypnotic Jamboree. The "Nocturnal Dervish" mix became so popular that its title was shortened to "The Nocturnal Dervish."

"Winter's Salve (Fecund Remix)" is derived from a song originally titled "Winter's Discontent." It became refined as "Winter's Salve," a bonus track on a limited release of Progress Report. An "Alternate Spin" - which was long considered the "definitive" version - was included on Progress Report - The Alternate Spin.

It truly is the result of nearly two years of work, if you take into account when I actually first started composing some of these tunes. And a lot went into this final presentation. So I hope you enjoy it! I have been. It's given me a new appreciation of the time and work that went into all of these tunes, which wouldn't have been possible without the support and encouragement of some very special people, or my audience at large, including the people who have been reading this blog since the very first post, "Progress Report," on February 19th, 2015, and the readers who have joined in afterward. The 3,500 +1's on this blog have certainly been encouraging! And the person who was the first to purchase one of my EPs, which was non-commercial and available for free; a person who since bought everything I made and then became a patron of The Lady anoNYMous on Patreon; that person knows who they are and was absolutely instrumental in bringing The Instrumentality Project from an experiment in mainstream distribution to this "finalized" realization. Many blessings on you!

To the rest of you: thank you. I hope you enjoy the work. Regardless of how you prefer to purchase or stream it, it's available here as a convenient YouTube playlist.

And Instrumentality, though now officially retired, will remain as a playlist on my YouTube channel. If you feel like comparing and contrasting, you can encounter many of those original songs and some of their later incarnations there.

May your inner snails remain resilient and determined.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Instrumentality Project Comes To An End

Okay, I should have posted this here first, instead of to Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter (although, let that be a lesson to you! Follow me on Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter!), but I've announced that I'm pulling my first widely-released full-length album, Instrumentality, from stores and streaming platforms.

Everyone who has been following me since those early days knows that Instrumentality was an experiment in distributing songs that I had self-published non-commercially (on the EPs Progress Report, Progress Report - The Alternate Spin, and The Hypnotic Jamboree on Bandcamp, NoiseTrade, and Jamendo) to a wider audience. Many of those songs had been composed on a cellphone screen while using crappy earbuds. They were later remastered and edited for their widely-distributed debut, but they now stand out as amateurish compositions, all of which have since been reworked for later releases, with the exception of "Winter's Salve (Alternate Spin)," which stands out as the "definitive" version of that piece. So it's been bothering me for awhile now that, when people access my discography for the first time, they may not be hearing the songs as they're intended to be heard. Really, I just want to cover up my almost-embarrassing early efforts. I've developed a much better grasp of my tools over time, and when someone clicks on (for example) "A Determined Snail," I'd rather they heard "A Most Resilient Snail."

So, for my upcoming November 2nd release (October 31st for Patreon patrons), I'm replacing Instrumentality with The Instrumentality Project, closing a chapter of my music that began with those four early EPs. I feel almost all of those songs have had their most fully realized versions published, and I want them together as Instrumentality should have been...would have been, if I'd developed my skills more before uploading an album for wide release. But all artists are constantly developing their craft, are they not? I don't regret it's release, but I think my music is better represented by more intentional albums (I still publish songs that I don't feel are my best work on my EPs, to be considered "rarities"). Besides, it's always bothered me that there are multiple versions of the same song on that album, so for The Instrumentality Project, I'm going to try to set a limit of one version per song.

Some of the songs published on Instrumentality will still be available on free releases such as Progress Report - The Anniversary Spin; the rest will be reclassified as "rarities," and will still be available to my Patreon patrons. For now, I'd like to invite you all to download this early effort while you can. It's available for just $3.00 USD from my Snail Tunes store, and Patreon patrons can download it now for pleading $1.00 USD toward The Instrumentality Project.

A bit more about the Project: it's not only going to be previously published tracks. The main catalyst for this was that I've been thinking about writing new versions of a few of the songs from Instrumentality, and that's where most of my focus has gone as I've been trying to get back into the swing of songwriting since my life was interrupted by my mom's wedding and my move. Progress report: it's working. I'm thoroughly enjoying using my tools again and creating art. Now, these new versions aren't going to be just remixes. For example, I went to work on a new rendition of "Introducing..."/"Jade's Theme," using elements from the original, as well as "No Introduction Needed" and the variations on "Jade's Theme" to create a song that's closer to the original, but with the new skills and sounds that I've developed since. When I began, it quickly became apparent that rerecording would be more practical than a cut-and-paste job, and I retaught myself all the instrumentation and even wrote some new parts. This is what I came up with:

I hope you enjoyed that private demonstration! I would appreciate it if this video didn't get shared around, as anybody with a link can view it since it's simply "unlisted." That said, you can look forward to reworkings of "Winter's Salve" and "The Nocturnal Dervish," as well. Why "Dervish," you may ask? Even though it's one of my most successful songs and the first that was ever picked up for rotation on a radio station, the drum track has been feeling a bit convoluted to me for quite awhile now. It was one of my first experiments with using multiple drum machines, and so I'd like to use what I've learned since. In this case, it's most likely to be a simple remix. Anyway, I look forward to sharing it with you, as with The Instrumentality Project in general!

May your inner snails remain determined and resilient, folken!

ADDENDUM: As we draw closer to the release of The Instrumentality Project, I'd like to share with you the newly completed "Winter's Salve (Fedund Remix)." This is another private demonstration; as was with "Jade's Theme (Introduction)," I will not be sharing this publicly for a few days, so I'd appreciate it if this wasn't shared around. This is intended for Patreon patrons and blog readers only.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Selenophiliac Librations

Does that title, "Selenophiliac Librations," even make sense? I suppose it does - something like, "the perceived gentle rocking motion of those infatuated with the moon," perhaps? Whatever, I have a long history of making up words and terms that only sort-of make sense, and that's an artist's prerogative. Anyway, it was the best merging of these two titles I could think of, which I'm featuring in this article because they are available for FREE DOWNLOAD for a limited time!

I released these because it's been really getting to me that I haven't put out any new music since Elemental on July 30th. Those familiar with my level of output know that I'm generally a workhorse when it comes to writing music. I generally put out a new EP every month or two, and those EPs lead up to full-length albums. And while these releases don't necessarily have all-new songs on them, there's usually at least two that are entirely original. Well, I haven't completed a new song since "Signor Fancypants." There are several works in progress, but I keep failing to get into the songwriting groove. I tell myself that it's okay - I have one-hundred songs published on iTunes, Google, Amazon, and multiple streaming platforms from a year-and-a-half of almost nonstop work. That's pretty rare for a musician. It's been necessary to take time off for my mom's wedding, and to move and get acclimated to my new environment. And one-hundred songs across five full-length albums and six EPs is a good point to stop and examine the work thus far. But no matter how I justify and rationalize it, it's been seriously bothering me how long it's been taking me to get back into my groove.

Part of that is how long it's been since my last post on this blog! There was a time I tried to publish a new article every two weeks. Well, take a look at how long it's been since I wrote that review for (IAM)WARFACE. It's been even longer than the last period between articles, and that had been my longest absence up to that point! I generally feel that I have to be constantly putting myself "out there" (in cross-promoting social media and the music scene) to make sure that I'm generating an audience and to hold the attention of the followers/listeners/readers I already have. So partly in self-flagellation and partly because offering free shit helps draw people's attention, I've released a couple of "updates" an old, no-longer available releases.

First was an Anniversary Spin of Libration, a seven-track EP that I put together on September 20th of last year (click here for the original release article). This was during the era of The Lady anoNYMous releasing non-commercial EPs that led up to album-length compilations (all available for free or pay-what-you-will) that in turn led to widely-released commercial albums. It was a period during which I lived with the romantic idea that I could live as an artist off of tips and streaming royalties. After publishing music for a year under this model, I came to the realization that I need to behave as if my art is worth something and that I can ask for compensation without guilt or compromised principles. Also, I had an overwhelming amount of EPs/compilations/albums available at my Snail Tunes store. A little Spring-cleaning was called for. In short, it was time for the non-commercial releases to go, and so Libration is no longer available.

But once upon a time, it had been my most popular release. It was the most-downloaded record from my Jamendo page for quite some time, and the release article on this blog was the most widely-read. It was also a pretty unique little collection, focusing more on the alternative-rock style of my music, by which I mean it had a more classically "rock" sort of sound than the neoclassical/industrial/trip-hop styles that I tend to focus on, but fused with some electronic pop elements. It had the '90s grunge-era feel in "Momentum," "Insults," and "Pentadactyl"; a prevalent electric-guitar hook in "An Arcane Son"; piano-driven dance-rock in "The Manic Widow"; and upbeat ambient-rock in "I Will Dim My Light Only Enough To Not Blind You." And there was also the first publication of the psychedelic-rock epic "Lily White" to include the vocals of The Arcane Insignia frontman Alejandro Saldarriaga Calle. The overall theme of this release: rock.

For the Anniversary Spin, I replaced some of the tracks with newer incarnations. "Momentum" was replaced with its "Higher Gain Mix" from Revolutions; "The Manic Widow" with its "Feral Bitch Mix" from Jaded; and the original published version of "Lily White" was replaced with a version with remastered vocals and slightly altered instrumentation that appeared on Jaded. Now, my original intention was to only make this Anniversary Spin available for a week, during which I failed to publish an article for it on this blog. However - even though I distinctly remember clicking the "remove this album forever" button on NoiseTrade - when I went to publish the new version of Selenophilia, it was still there! So, now we have both Libration - The Anniversary Spin and Selenophilia 2.0 available for free download.

The original Selenophilia was the first non-commercial EP to follow the publication of Occultation (being released on September 1st, 2015; click here for the original release article), and therefore made four of its songs ("The Last Waltz," "I, Supplicant," "Slowly Scooting Closer," and "Wrong Pocket Kinda Day") available for free download. Actually, it would be three of its songs, since "Slowly Scooting Closer" was originally published on the non-commercial compilation Nefelibata (a title I'd like to reuse in the future because it's such a great word!), but I digress: it was an Occultation-centric release. It also offered a glimpse of what was to come on Jaded, including the first version of "Umbra," and a demo of "Lily White" on which I sang to give listeners (and, later on, Alejandro) an idea of what I was aiming for. As a hidden bonus track, there was also a song called "Mattresside" that turned out to be a rough-draft of "The Tranquil Isles." So Selenophilia 2.0 has all those songs from Occultation, along with the Alternate Spin of "Umbra" and the final version of "Lily White," and it closes with "The Tranquil Isles." 

The original Selenophilia was extra-special for containing a newer (and ultimately final) draft of "The Cloud Walkers" than appeared on Occultation. I later subtitled this the "Selenophilia Spin," as its differences were significant enough that it warranted a special distinction. It's definitely my preferred version, and when I removed Selenophilia from the Snail Tunes store, I couldn't stand to not have that version available as part of my "official" discography for long. I decided to include it on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, even though I had the feeling that Selenophilia would someday be rereleased in some form, and I'm glad that I made that decision, as Selenophilia 2.0 (as with most non-commercial releases I'm putting out these days) will only be available for a limited time. How long is a good question; I'm thinking that I'll take it down when I release my next EP. Since Libration - The Anniversary Spin is (accidentally) still available, I figure I'll leave it up until then, as well.

My goal as of now is to put out a new EP (although it could be more of a four-track "single" such as Cold Sunlight) by the Days of the Dead (those holidays coinciding with the triduum of Allhallowtide), aiming for a Halloween release to Patreon patrons and a public release on November 2nd. Although it would be lovely to do the rerelease of Nyctanthous at that time, I'm not sure if that's what is lining up right now. The plan for that release is to have a small collection of short stories about Jade and her friends to publish as a companion for the extended/altered version of that EP. The record itself it to include (as planned so far) five of the original tracks with the Alternate Spin of "Jaded" and a new rendition of "Jade's Theme," as well as the Nyctanthous B-sides "Sublime Like Swine" and "The Between" with newly recorded vocals. Actually, it's my hope that Matt Warneford's remix of "Sublime Like Swine" will be available for it as well. So while I could probably compose a new version of "Jade's Theme" (which I'm already cogitating on for another project) and record new vocals for those songs by the end of this month, the stories and Matt's remix are not likely to fall in place.

But speaking of the other project for which I've had the idea for a new version of "Jade's Theme"...  As I mentioned earlier, I've been thinking that it's a good time to examine the work I've done so far, and part of that is to call from Instrumentality to Elemental a good span of time to draw from for the track list of Nothing Left To Lose, the album I still hope to be my first release on CD and possibly vinyl. So, as a nearly-finalized demo for this album, I put together a playlist of the twenty songs I consider to be my best achievements and/or essential to such a release. The opening track is the second Alternate Spin of "Introducing...", the song that provided the melody for "Jade's Theme." What I have in mind is to take the cello from "No Introduction Needed," record a variation on the piano from "Introducing...", write new parts for the accompanying synths, and record new beats. While it will stay truer to "Introducing..." and "No Introduction Needed," it will likely be considered a new rendition of "Jade's Theme," which is what the melody has become known as.

Also for Nothing Left To Lose, I'm planning on producing a new mix of "Winter's Salve" that will be more minimalist and closer to the original than "Winter's Remix 2.0." But other than these variations on two of the songs, the "finalized" (still subject to ain't actually final until it's published, right?) track listing for Nothing Left To Lose is as it appears in the following playlist:

I really think this is the loveliest, truest representation of my work so far, and it would be an absolute dream-come-true to have it realized as a physical album, but to make this a reality, I either need the help of a label, or more patrons on Patreon. For now, it's just this little playlist that I've made exclusively available here. And even though all these songs are available on other releases, I put together a digital download of it with some unique artwork for my top-tier Patrons. To contribute to the cause and gain access to the download, you can make a pledge of $10.00 USD or more at

Well, that summarized everything I've been up to lately. I hope you all can forgive me for taking so long to bring you up to date. May your inner snails remain resilient and determined.

Monday, August 22, 2016


Many of you who follow me or read my shit know (or have guessed) that I am friends with a certain industrial glam-rock band called (IAM)WARFACE. At least, "industrial glam-rock" is how I describe them. Another reviewer once described them as "if Nine Inch Nails and Placebo had a baby, and it's pissed off," and while I find that description to be apt, I'd be careful to compare them to Placebo, a band that I love but has its glam-rock roots firmly fused with the music of the '90s. (IAM)WARFACE has its roots firmly planted in the '80s, but brings it forth into an era evolved from metal, post-punk, and industrial music. There is also a pop sensibility to this music, that means it is catchy and accessible, but a hardcore stranger always lurks in the shadows.

If you haven't already guessed, this is a review, my first since considering making reviews a regular part of this blog when I reviewed Max Lilja's Morphosis (an album I really didn't do justice to, and remains a regular part of my life's soundtrack). However, I felt I'd be remiss if I didn't review WARFACE, to belatedly celebrate their success in releasing the EP Say My Name and their status as the winners of Starlight Music Chronicles' Artist of the Year. You see, a long time ago, I promised frontman Matt Warneford that I'd review his song "To Die For." I failed to do that (which couldn't have helped his self-esteem), but he kept on sending me music and making overtures of friendship which have cemented a lasting and lovely relationship. So here is the review, at long last, that I owe him!

I would like, however, to not focus on a single song or achievement of WARFACE, and to preface by saying that, yes, I am a friend and a fan, but I'm going to do my best to give an objective and honest account of my relationship with the music of this band, and how it has evolved to become a lasting part of my psyche, and to be on permanent rotation in my life's soundtrack. How it started was with the song "The Vampire," which was recommended to me on SoundCloud based on my appreciation of the music of Suzerain (who, incidentally, are personal friends of WARFACE and have since become online friends of mine as well).

"The Vampire" is pretty unique among WARFACE's songs. It focuses more on a speed-metal style of guitar, one that I am no stranger to as a former vocalist for various metal projects, which initially drew me to this music. This song still has its roots grounded in the '80s, and there's plenty of pop sensibility in its lyrical hooks (as well as the almost-universal appeal of Matt's vocals) but this is a song that made me want to bounce off the walls every time I heard it, and that I wanted to share with the metal enthusiasts amongst my friends, fans, and followers.

Imagine my surprise when the mind behind this music, who seemed to have hundreds - if not thousands - of followers, graciously accepted my praise on SoundCloud and accepted my friendship on Facebook. Matt Warneford has been almost-famously accessible to his fans, and has befriended many fantastically creative minds because of it. He also has a pretty devoted following. It seemed foreign to him to accept that yes, I was a friend, but that I was also a fan as well. His humility and self-doubt have been a part of his winning public persona and the wide appeal of his music. But I shall try to refrain from praising the band's composer and frontman too much; I will, however, also mention that he's an accomplished 2D artist (he created the cover of my album Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), who accepts commissions and has prints available on his main website (

I have to admit that, when approaching the rest of his music, I wanted more of the sound presented in "The Vampire." I have never been overly fond of the music of the '80s, with its overly apparent synths and overly-stylized electronic sound. I do, however, have a passion for Goth fashion, industrial music, and the homoerotic presentation of glam-rock. These are all very apparent in Matt's music; he once said that, if he had a different job, it would be as a drag queen. And he makes a beautiful drag queen! There was plenty for me to appreciate about the rest of his musical endeavors, from the music itself, to the artistic presentation, to the live performances I've sadly only seen on YouTube. 

Regretfully (and blessedly), I've gotten most of my (IAM)WARFACE illegally, though some if it has been from the artist himself, and I do have what is legally available in my Apple Music Library, in rotation on my "Another Soundtrack for Another Life" playlist. But there is so much that isn't officially published! Still, every song I was able to get my hands on went onto that playlist so I could hear more of it, and many of them have taken their turns as my "favorite," replacing "The Vampire." They have the ability to get stuck in your head with their catchy hooks, and to make you marvel at the composer's ability to coax such unorthodox sounds into cohesive arrangements. I must say that "Wake Me Up" has become one of my favorites to find myself driving to, while singing at the top of my lungs. But before that - as I was still more of a novice fan, and more enamored with another musician who considered me a peer - I was swept up in the publicity that surrounded WARFACE as the Artist of the Month for Starlight Music Chronicles in the month of June, 2016. I was thrilled by Matt's success and engrossed by the publicity circus surrounding an exclusive-to-Starlight music video for the song "Fear the Future." Of course, I had to listen to that song over and over as an overture to it's fitting Halloween release, and then rewarded with a creepy and disturbing social commentary that was all I had hoped for and more.

This video represents so much of what I love about the compositions and the image that Matt has crafted. The macabre and blatant commentary on man and his demons in modern society enveloped so much of what I respect about subversive artists, and was a stunning demonstration of what director Yohan Forbes can accomplish on a small budget. It also shows that this music has potential way beyond that of shallow or self-centered pop. Though Matt has said he wishes his music was more emotionally honest, I believe it speaks louder than he might expect. While one of my most prevalent criticisms would be to agree that his music could benefit more from raw emotion rather than catchy pop hooks, his music admittedly has a wide reach and the potential of having an iron grasp.

It was mostly with the release of this video and the creation of the fan group that I realized I was a poor (IAM)WARFACE fan. There was still so much of their music for me to explore, which was mostly made accessible to me by other fans. I found myself hearing songs as if for the first time (and sometimes it actually was the first time) and being blown away by their ability to strike an emotional cord with me, or to move me physically. Much of this is music to dance to, or sing along with. I am admittedly jealous of Matt's ability to accomplish this while still maintaining undisputed status as an avant garde composer. This is pop music for fans of industrial-metal. This is complex, modern music for fans of the '80s. And there's so much material to draw from that a full-length album could easily be accomplished, yet there were only singles and a demos first as A Major Work of Friction and then Golden Army before we were finally treated to an official release, the EP Say My Name.

Prefaced by the release of this fantastic music video - featuring the current band's line-up playing together - the EP treated newcomers and current fans to four tracks that, in my opinion, are wonderful, but not Matt's best work. The title track is definitely one that is catchy and memorable, and grew on me like a fungus, despite my initial dislike of the backing vocals. It is now amongst my favorites, and I get excited every time it comes up on my iTunes shuffle. "Trigons" is a fantastic display of Matt's abilities as an electronic composer, being primarily instrumental, though when vocals come into play, I wish they were louder, because they are a haunting juxtaposition with a song that could otherwise be categorized as "electronica." And let's zero-in our focus to Matt's vocals for a moment: sure, you can compare his music to Nine Inch Nails and Placebo, but neither of those bands have vocals half so strong. He may not scream like Trent Reznor or vocally bend his gender in the manner of Brian Malko, but his voice is powerful and gripping, and he can wield it deftly in ranges varying from your standard post-punk frontman, to devastating falsetto. Say My Name, while not consisting of my favorite WARFACE songs, nonetheless demonstrates Matt's strengths as a composer and as a vocalist.

So one of my nagging questions for Matt is always (aside from "where is that remix you promised me of 'Sublime Like Swine?'"), "When will we have a full-length album?" But Matt's primary concerns are elsewhere, from touring and promoting, to cementing his live band and getting a record deal. All of these things are on the verge of happening, if they're not happening already. A distraction may have come in the form of the prize for the winners of Starlight Music Chronicles' Artist of the Year (an achievement accomplished just a month ago), which may send the band to LA for an exciting apprenticeship. Needless to say, this is a band accomplishing much - thanks primarily to the talents of a single remarkable man - and they are not going anywhere. We may have to wait forever for the first full-length album, just as we did with Suzerain, and which we are currently also doing with The Arcane Insignia (forgive the name-dropping, but I love these guys and their music), but it promises to be worth it! No pressure, though, know you can always vent on me.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Elemental, My Dear...

Wow, my bad! It's been a whole month since I've written in this blog, the second-longest period of absence my dear readers have endured! While I haven't been off on another bender, I have been a bit off the rails, lately. Some big changes are headed my way in my personal life, the biggest being that I'll be moving from the outskirts of Kansas City, Missouri, to the outskirts of a tiny town in the middle of nowhere in Central Missouri. Why on earth would I move to a land mostly populated by ticks, poisonous snakes, snapping turtles, and rednecks with the Confederate flag painted onto or flying from their trucks? Unfortunately, I don't have much choice in the matter. I'm in a physical, mental, and financial state where I have to live with family, my mother being the only family I have left, and she's marrying a stubborn old goat who owns 33 acres at the described location. On the plus side, he lives on 33 acres, which means plenty of surrounding forest for me to wander in (I haven't lived in the woods since I was 19) and plenty of land for my dog to roam and explore. I've spent the some of the past month visiting this place, and my dog has passed the off-tether test (he always comes back, and usually comes when called), and I find the place to be peaceful and invigorating for my soul. I'll have to adjust to living with stepfather number four, but that will be the biggest challenge. The second-biggest is poor Internet service, which will hopefully be remedied around the time I move in. As you can guess, Internet access (particularly high upload speeds) are essential to my job as an Internet-based musician, so my visits to my home-to-be have somewhat hampered my productivity, as has my anxiety over my life's impending changes.

So, y'all will have to forgive me for a record that is mostly rarities and Alternate Spins, with only two new songs, though once you give it a listen, I'm sure you will. Personally, I think that (aside from Dissonance) this is the best EP I've put out in a while. I'm just so enamored with each of its six songs, and so thrilled to share them, that I can forgive myself for its not consisting of all-new material. And it has the very attractive quality of yet again featuring artwork by Cyril Rolando (of the EPs Carnivale and Interlude), but this time in a different way, as this is somewhat of a companion piece to a series of his called The Human Orchestra. This is most apparent in the Artist's Edition of the record, which expresses this theme in individualized track art and a PDF booklet of artwork and liner notes. While all the Artist's Editions available to my Patreon patrons have individualized track art and PDF booklets, the way I've attached them to Elemental is unique, and I've decided to share this with you. Hopefully, it will do something in making up for my absence.

First, I'd like to draw your attention to the parchment-style piece of Cyril's, "The Human Orchestra," in which several of his other pieces play a part.

Now, on its own, the series tells the stories of 12 characters from 12 individual pieces of artwork. When I was casting about for a title and artwork for this EP, I had already decided to look at pieces from this series. But I had never looked at this particular piece. I found it absolutely inspirational and wonderfully imaginative, the way he weaves stories and two-dimensional artwork, and then interconnects it all with the iconic zodiac-style wheel of instruments, elements, and emotions at the top. I couldn't pass up using that wheel for the cover image of the new EP, and it instantly gave me its title.

Normally, when creating the track art for my Artist's Editions, I create a background derived from imagery associated with the album and then feature the release on which the song originated in the foreground. However, I felt that, when using this piece by Cyril, I had a certain responsibility to keep the focus on his artwork, and to tie this record into The Human Orchestra as best I could. I've taken some liberties to best fit his imagined worlds to the songs I was presenting, and it makes me feel somewhat guilty, as what this piece really deserves is a 12-track album with a song devoted to each character, featuring their instrument, and one day that is exactly what I hope to accomplish. But for now, this is what I was able to come up with, and I'm relieved to say that Cyril was delighted with the results.

Starting off the EP is something of a rarity - the instrumental predecessor to "They Delving 3.33." First introduced on the limited-release "Christmas" album Yule Tide Carols, this version has actually become my favorite version of this song. I love version 1.0 for being the original, and marking the beginnings of several new approaches I was making to composing; I love 2.22 for having the best vocal recordings I've achieved for this song; and I love 3.33 for its intentions, which would be to have the best instrumentation and the best vocals, though it fails at the latter. But this version does indeed have the best instrumentation, and I often come to love the instrumental versions of my songs over their con palabras counterparts, with the exceptions of "Cold Sunlight" and "Lily White." I had always intended this song to have a dark, industrial edge, creating a "piano-industrial" style uniquely my own. I started achieving that with version 1.0. But, to me, "industrial music" is practically synonymous with "industrial-metal," and if there's no electric guitars, it doesn't quite fit the mold. So when I went through and added electric guitars, among other changes, I took a big step in accomplishing the original song's intentions. I succeeded at making this song (as I have with several other songs since) piano-industrial.

Notably, the track art here isn't from the Human Orchestra series. I just didn't feel any of those characters, their stories, or their pieces quite fit with this song. So I took a look at Cyril's extensive back-catalog of work, and came across two images that might fit. I didn't feel the need to fit the imagery with the existing Snail Tales mythology for the song, so I really just needed something that reflected the song's title. One very appealing image was of a ship following a treasure map across the landscape of a naked woman's body (guess where the treasure was), and the other was this piece, titled, "I Want You To Talk To Me." Since it could be seen that the camelback riders are about to make a descent into the giant ear, I felt this image to be the most appropriate. I was sad to deviate from the Human Orchestra series, but I feel like I made the correct artistic call.

I'd been wanting to take a crack at "Vainglorious Wrath" again since my self-perceived failure in "Inglorious Wrath," an alternate take on the tune that ended up in the limited release Revival and the "anniversary gift" Progress Report - The Anniversary Spin. Although "Inglorious" seemed to be well-received by audiences, I found that I still preferred "Vainglorious" and, to me, that means I failed. In fact, I never feel the urge to listen to "Inglorious." As far as I'm concerned, that's a pretty big red flag that I didn't do something - if anything - right. It would be unfair to say that the song had no lessons to be learned from it, though, and I applied those lessons when I went to work on "Vainglorious" again. This time, I didn't remove any of the piano. Instead, I listened to it intently, rerecording where I felt the timing was off and remastering the rest. I followed suit with the rest of the instrumentation. I changed the drums to give the song a better flow, and I really brought out the bass, while trying not to diminish the treble. I played around with adding more synths, but only one actually stuck. Man, it's a really strange sound that I absolutely love, but I was careful to keep it subtle. Probably the most glaring change in this Alternate Spin is the addition of more electric guitars. It seemed to me that the original guitar solo was rather lonely, and I rerecorded it and changed its levels to try to really make it pop while not making it overwhelming, but it seemed to me that, when all the instruments come together in a fury at the climax, the electric guitar should be right there alongside them. It was a bitch to compose a guitar part for that section of the song, and even more of a bitch to play, but I'm satisfied with what I came up with. 

There's some minor changes in the instrumentation where I had the inspiration to try a "what if." A few things were rerecorded simply because I felt that, with more experience, I could accomplish a cleaner sound. And, all in all, I came up with a version of this song that I may actually prefer to the original - at least, I'm so excited by the end result that the original has gone to the back-burner - coincidentally on the day my longest financial supporter, who once said this was her favorite song on The Hypnotic Jamboree, had her birthday. So I released this song as a Patron-reward as a birthday gift to her.

When constructing this EP, I was very tempted to leave this song as a Paton-reward and a rarity. My initial plan had been to construct 5-track EPs leading up to albums, but I already broke that rule with the 7-track Dissonance, and I was too excited about this Alternate Spin to not share it. Hell, I was too eager to share all six of these songs; it was impossible to choose one to leave off. When it came to trying to choose one rarity over another, I decided, to hell with it - which is how this became a 6-track EP.

Now, I'd used this piece by Cyril - "An Outburst of Violince" - before as the cover art for Wax Whimsical, which I'll get to later on. Therefore, it's also used as the track art for the YouTube uploads of "Signor Fancypants" and "Fistfuls of Whimsy," which were first released to Patreon patrons on that demo album. For this release, I almost used it as track art for those two songs again, falling back into the pattern of having the track art reflect the song's origins. When creating the track art for this song, however, I decided that this piece really went with this song - what speaks of wrath more than a violinist using a sword on his instruments? - and that was when I decided that, no matter the song's origin, each tune was going to have a different piece by Cyril attached to it that reflected its name or content. As there's also a lot of violins in this song, I found it doubly fitting, and that was the clincher.

What can I say that's ever bothered me about "The Between" other than the vocals? I'm not talking about the scream-singing. Recording that bit in a single take and being immensely satisfied with it was one of my proudest moments. When attempting vocals-and-verse tunes for Jaded, I was still on (and am still on) a long road of recovery from a period of hospitalization, during which I had ruptured varices in my esophagus, and I have yet to have my once-proud singing voice restored to me. So when I did that bit of screaming, that was a huge accomplishment. However, there's a reason I had sought out guest vocalists for both this song and "Sublime Like Swine," but no one was able to make my self-imposed deadline. So I recorded and rerecorded the more melodic vocal bits for this song over and over again, but I never got it right. I still plan to give it another go, or to (ideally) finally convince Alejandro Saldarriaga Calle to do it for me, for a rerelease of Nyctanthous with alternate versions and B-sides somewhere later on down the road. But for now, whenever I hear "The Between," what I hear most is failure. Not in the latter half of the song, nor any of the instrumentation, but in those "I exist on both sides"s leading up to the screaming. Hell, the "trapped inside a mirror"s sound okay, but that other bit stands out like the audio equivalent of a sore thumb.

So I seek refuge from my failure by listening to the version without any vocals at all, which had until now been reserved as a rarity for Patrons and Leaguers. It's mere existence has been because I believe there are those who appreciate me for (primarily) being a composer of instrumentals, so therefore, those people would appreciate the instrumental versions of my con palabras song more than their counterparts. And when I listen to this version, what I hear is a damn fine composition, a well-constructed piece of industrial-metal. Truth be told, if there were any song I would have chosen to leave off the track listing for this EP, it would be this song, except that it fit the neoclassical/industrial theme of this release too well to leave out, and I felt it had been relegated to being a rarity for too long. I wanted to finally share it with the world, and this release seemed to be the perfect vehicle for doing so.

As for the track art, derived from Cyril's "Defy The Sky," well, it doesn't really take a genius to figure this one out. If the electric-guitar-featuring piece from The Human Orchestra were to be matched to any song on this record, it would have to be the song in which electric guitars play the biggest part, and that would be this one.

"Fistfuls of Whimsy" is a new song, and I think it is one of my finest achievements in a while. I single piano riff that I had in my head started a cascade of ideas once I recorded it and looped it, and I found myself first picking out a melody on a glockenspiel, then as chords on the piano, and then as chords on an electric guitar. A post-metal crunch was introduced to the tune early on, and with a backbone, melody, and instruments creating a framework, the song began to demand bridges and movements, circling occasionally back to that simple, tinkling melody on the glockenspiel. And then things started to get really epic.

After I had laid down some synth tracks, working somewhat retroactively and mostly experimentally, I came up against a wall. And it was a single note, pulsed, on the electric guitar that sent me crashing through and racing toward a climax with stately piano refrains and epically sawed cellos, devolving into a solitary electric guitar floating a cloud of strings which brought the song to a close. When all was done, it ran nearly seven minutes long, and formed a song that sounded like something one of my favorite post-rock bands on Fluttery Records would have come out with. Frankly, I was amazed with myself. Some of the synths still needed ironing out, and it needed an intro (which was a bitch to get right), but overall it was a refreshing and somewhat breathtaking writing and recording process, and I was joyous at the result. And the title came so easily: the glockenspiel made it feel rather whimsical, while the guitars gave it such a hard edge that "Fistfuls of Whimsy" came quite naturally to the rough draft.

This song spurred the creation of Wax Whimsical, a 14-track demo-album that I wanted to use as a vehicle to introduce this and my other new song, "Signor Fancypants," to my Patreon patrons, as well as to demonstrate my abilities in the neoclassical and post-metal genres to prospective labels. So it seemed natural to use the album's cover as track art on this record, but when I decided to use that piece for "Vainglorious Wrath (Alternate Spin)" instead, I found myself feeling an entirely different image would be even more appropriate, being Cyril's "According To My Jealousy," which had just the right amount of humor and bite to it at the same time.

My other newest song, "Signor Fancypants," began as an experiment in layering two tracks of acoustic guitars, which I had never done before, the goal being to seemingly accomplish feats of dexterity that I am not naturally capable of. I found myself coming up with an almost obnoxiously cheerful tune, one that was in serious need of taking a 180 such as in "Wrong Pocket Kinda Day." Layering two electric guitars and a manipulated drum machine produced a deliciously industrial effect, yet as the song progressed, this new industrial-metal aspect did nothing to diminish its cheerful demeanor. Hell, it seemed to amplify it. The song took on a defiant swagger. I decided to roll with it.

A warbling synth and a whistling synth were introduced to the melody, and they modified it in such a way that some of the acoustic guitar was rewritten, which in turn affected the synths in a way that demanded they be rewritten. But that new industrial-metal swagger remained steadfast, and that manipulated drum machine demanded to be used in more and more of the song. Strings were fleshed out and then demanded to be emphasized. As soon as all the components were written, the ways in which to recombine them to achieve the climax were obvious. And the song swaggered to a close, and I was damned if I didn't love the end result. Sure, it's obnoxious. It makes you want to punch it in the face. You hate its cheerfulness and its confidence. But it has some infectious energy and style that cannot be denied. "Mr. Fancypants" just popped into my head when I thought about it like that, and then it seemed like the Italian title would give the right connotation of snootiness. Not that Italians are snooty. Just that the word signor sounds snooty.

When searching for track art for this song, I of course combed through The Human Orchestra first, and almost settled on "The Last Sound From Earth," but its character didn't have the right quality and the piece was too morose. I searched through Cyril's back catalog, hoping to find a jaunty gentleman in coattails, but had no such luck. The piece "Fall, Get Up, and Move" did immediately grab me, but I was set on a particular image in my head. When no such image was forthcoming, I decided to go with my initial instinct, figuring a literally radiant athlete in spandex was also a figure to be jealous of and gave the right connotations.

"Cerebellum" is a song that has never been shared with the public, being a bonus track on the Artist's Edition of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. When creating the public edition, it had really been a toss-up between including it or "Horizons," as the songs have very similar energy, and "Horizons" won out. So I decided to include "Cerebellum" on my next release. The farther I put CBT behind me, though, the more I wanted to make changes to this song, so I started creating this Alternate Spin, concentrating most on the pacing and the drums. I quickened the tempo by a couple beats-per-minute,  then began reconstructing each of the three drum tracks throughout, and then found myself adding a drum machine that I manipulated in the style of that industrialized drum machine in "Signor Fancypants." I ended up hacking the existing drum tracks to pieces, cutting and pasting them into something entirely new, all the while accenting them with gentle taps on my manipulated drum machine. But I couldn't stop there. As I was reconstructing the drum tracks, I ended up listening to the instrumentation repeatedly, and I rerecorded and remastered every niggling little detail, and even changed the melody completely in one place, while adding an entirely new instrument in another. In the end, it was almost an entirely new song...but I guess you'll just have to take my word for it, since only my Patreon patrons, with access to the Artist's Editions, will ever actually know.

I had no idea what exactly I was looking for when it came time to select track art, but I looked through The Human Orchestra and this piece, "Feral Strings," immediately grabbed me. By this point, I was figuring that gut instincts, being an artist's best friend, are the way to go, so I went with it. I couldn't really tell you why, just as I can't really tell you why I named the song "Cerebellum," except that I kind of imagine that those strings are attached to the deer's brain; that our harpist is playing the deer's cerebellum through its skull. As for the title, I just kind of felt like the initial composing of this song was a cerebral experience. I have no other word to describe it, and so I went with "Cerebellum."

So now you have a taste of what an Artist's Edition by The Lady anoNYMous is like, though this is an exceptional case, as it is much more intentional and themed, but also it lacks the usual bonus tracks. However, they are all accompanied by a PDF booklet of additional album art with liner notes. But while the Artist's Editions of the full-length albums are offered as free Patron rewards, the EPs are paid for, meaning that if you signed up as a Patreon patron today, you wouldn't be able to retroactively get your hands on the Artist's Edition of Elemental. You would, however, receive an Artist's Edition of the next EP, no matter how much you pledged (you would have pledged toward it, and it'd be yours for that price), and if you pledged $10 toward each new EP up until the release of the next full-length album, you'd be rewarded with the early release of a free Artist's Edition of that album.

And before then, you'd be rewarded with all the other free Patron rewards, such as the Artist's Editions of the past five albums, and compilations such as Wax Whimsical. Speaking of which, if you're a regular reader, you know by now that I usually try to accompany one of these release articles with a full-length preview of a new song. However, I don't have one prepared at the moment, so I thought I'd keep this Patreon theme going by rewarding your readership with a private YouTube embed of the tracklist for Wax Whimsical. Now, Wax Whimsical, like my previous Patreon-exclusive compilation albums and my Artist's Editions, comes with individualized track art and a PDF booklet, but you'll sort of get the idea.

To make a pledge today toward the release of the next EP, please visit The Lady anoNYMous on Patreon and select the rewards package that's right for you!

Elemental has been dedicated to Cyril Rolando, whose artwork continues to be a huge inspiration for me, and whose generosity has been unwavering and has astounded me time and again. I can't express how happy it made me to hear how happy his Artist's Edition of Elemental made him! Please support Cyril as you would me: visit his galleries on DeviantArt, check out his online store, give his Facebook page a Like, subscribe to him on YouTube!

Elemental is now available for streaming on Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, MS Groove, and TIDAL. It can be purchased from Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play. And it can be downloaded in a format of your choosing for a discounted price from my Snail Tunes store, where purchases directly support the artist and include unlimited high-quality streaming on your Bandcamp feed and the Bandcamp mobile app (also included).

Thank you all for your support, and your continued interest in my work. May your inner snails be resilient and determined!

UPDATE: Unable to let this Artist's Edition fade into obscurity by only being available to those who pledged toward it, I've now made it available as a Patron reward among the $5-or-more tier of rewards.