Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Other Half - Sublimate

So now I give unto you the darker, more experimental half to this back-to-back release. We begin with "Overdrive," a previewed song first exclusive to this blog, then released to the public as a SoundCloud single. It's also been included on the extended Patreon version of Jaded, along with its precursor "Passage Through The Veil," which comes later on this track listing. I've been very pleased with "Overdrive"s' reception on SoundCloud and Google Plus in particular, and am excited that it's now publicly available on a proper release. This bit of subtly darkwave dance rock that build and builds to its climax is quite infectious, from its catchy and slightly eerie opening piano riff, to its pounding post-metal climax.

Following it is "Xenophobia," which was a bitch to write. I  began with a piano riff in a peculiar time signature and found it very difficult to accompany at first. My initial attempt has been altogether scrapped, and the attempt that finally found its way into a cohesive whole took a lot of experimentation, with a lot of removing and rewriting various chunks. I got really mad at this song at times, but there were so many good ideas and wonderful new sounds at play that I kept coming back to it with fierce persistence. I'm proud of the final result, but it's taken me until last night to be able to properly enjoy listening to it after the struggle of writing and recording it. The title comes from often envisioning Giger's xenomorph (also known as the Alien in the Alien film franchise) in my head while writing and listening to it, but I didn't want to straight up call it "Xenomorph." But it makes sense to me that the Snail could encounter this creature in a world where Giger's influence is already felt, and so this song represents their encounter. And yeah; it scares the holy crap out of the Snail. So while you can definitely interpret this song as representative of fear of strangeness and otherness, in story terms the title means "Fear of the Xenomorph."

After that is another new song, the title track of Obfuscate. As I explained in the article for that EP, I'm pulling a System of a Down here. See their albums Hypnotize/Mesmerize to get the reference. I wrote this song at the same time as "Xenophobia," and this, by comparison, was a breezy relief that I came to during breaks from that song. In fact, that's how this song started. I needed to relieve myself by writing something that would manifest a bit easier, and played around in a familiar key of F in the familiar 4/4 time signature. What came out started a lot simpler than the finish product, as I was inspired to go back and rewrite bits into more complex riffs, but it all came out smoothly and quite inspired, and probably helped the process of writing "Xenophobia" considerably. As for the title...well, I think I'll get to explaining what motivated the titling Obfuscate/Sublimate as a whole later in this article.

"The Creeps" flowed out rather easily, but was also highly experimental. I first recorded this song while I was getting up the courage to record vocals for "Sublime Like Swine," and have since come back to it and rewritten or re-recorded parts of it many times, and the mastering has undergone several attempts to get everything balanced. However, the initial writing, and how the lyrics and vocals came to me, was a relatively short and painless process. That aside, this is also a song I've been hesitant to share, particularly because it includes lyrics and vocals, and I've been slow at getting practiced and comfortable in that arena. I'm still not entirely comfortable, but I've had a lot more practice, since the initial recording of this song, at mastering my vocals. The positive reaction "Cold Sunlight" has been receiving has been very encouraging, and I'm still keeping vocals and verse in mind when writing certain songs. As before, they may or may not be included, but I don't think this was just a passing phase for me. It won't, however, replace my instrumental compositions as my modus operandi. That I was just paid the compliment that it's "obvious that you, my friend, are a skilled pianist" by a Google Plus user (just now, as I'm writing) reminds me yet again that I am, first and foremost, a pianist, and I hope to never stray from showcasing that.

"Passage Through The Veil" may be this Phase's equivalent of "The Cloud Walkers." It's an epic, meditative bit of trip-hop/industrial fusion that reminds me greatly of my previous (but not, I think, replaced) magnum opus, and I'm extremely proud of it and enjoy listening to it greatly. It was also a joy to write and record, and I could think of no better song to express the experience of glimpsing beyond this world, of brushing aside the veil for just a moment. This could mean many things to many people: of passage to the afterlife; of having a glimpse of faerie; of momentary understanding of greater things; of a hallucinogen-fueled epiphany. I tend to think that it means all those things. We are limited in our perception, confined in our experience, yet the potential is there to see and understand more, and damned if we aren't constantly trying to create vehicles of new perception through science, drugs, and spirituality.

Instrumentally, "Mr. Douter" fits onto this record, and also as an (albeit more polished and tried and true) experimental tune. With its industrial rhythm and darker tone, it paved the way for some of these songs, including "A Different Story," which is an epic that began simply with an experiment in creating a rhythm section from tweaked synths. This is an area that I want to become more accomplished in, and I hope my experiments haven't been offending your ears too much. I think I'll need better tools before I'm anywhere near the level of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross in this arena, but my aim is to get there, while maintaining a neoclassical sensitivity rather than post-industrial pop or dark ambient noise. In other words, I'm striving to be, musically, the child of Tori Amos and Trent Reznor, with classical arrangements layered over industrial rhythms. We'll see if I ever achieve that, and it's a hell of a goal, but this is the direction I try to keep myself aimed in.

Now, to discuss the titles: Obfuscate/Sublimate could collectively be called Coping Mechanisms. If I had thought of that sooner, I might have called these blog articles "Coping Mechanisms" Parts I and II, but I didn't until writing this one. Obfuscation is a form of evasion, of fogging things up intentionally or unintentionally to escape understanding or to be deliberately misunderstood. It's something I've been guilty of, but as a person who considers themselves hyper self-aware, I deliberately try to avoid it, just as I am hyper conscious of every moment when I'm manipulating another's perception or emotions. We're all manipulative beings. How conscious you are of it is up to you and your level of honesty with yourself. Obfuscation is also often used as a tactic of manipulation. When it comes down to it, it's a tool for coping with your reality or maintaining your functionality. As is, much more obviously, sublimating.

Sublimating is something I've been doing quite a bit of lately. Inexorable Change has been affecting my life quite a bit as of late, and my response has been to create at a furious rate. Therefore, between these two EPs and material from Jaded, I already have enough songs to put together a fourth Snail Tunes compilation, but I'm holding off while I write new material and revisit the songs at hand to see if they want to change in any way, rather than just wrapping up this Phase and delving into the next. What you can look forward to from me, dear folken, is a continued celebration of my first year at this. An "Anniversary Spin" of Progress Report is on its way to you, as is an "update" on The Hypnotic Jamboree, before I begin to think of releasing this Phase's compilation, which is titled Radiate. Most likely, the release schedule will be something like: Revival (the Jamboree update) in a week or two, followed by Progress Report: The Anniversary Spin on February 19th, with Radiate either falling between them or following soon after. Whichever order best satisfies my need to share my music. In the meantime, Matt Warface and I are still working on a collaborative version of "Sublime Like Swine" (actually, it's more like I've handed it over to him and said, "have fun with it," and he's been like "how does this sound?" and I've been like, "sounds great! Have fun with it") which we'll be releasing together as a commercial single.

Before I wrap this up, I'd like to draw your attention to a couple of things. First is that The Lady's YouTube channel (which you'll often see referred to as SnailTube, such as in the right-hand side-bar) is growing beyond just playlists of the commercial albums distributed by DistroKid. I've taken it upon myself to start publishing music on YouTube, and to monetize it (therefore, there are ads; this blog will forever be ad-free, but I have to make money off my music somehow, and the songs are still free for you to stream, of course), and therefore new songs have started being published on this channel. Original video content may follow: I may start to vlog; I may post some behind-the-songs bonus content; I hope to collaborate with animators for videos for these songs. So: calling all animators and illustrators! If you have clever ideas or inspirations that have anything to do with my music, please, contact The Lady through Google Plus! Anyway, please, check it out, and subscribe to keep updated and to see when the newest songs appear.

Also, I'd like to remind y'all that the Lady is currently participating in the Starlight Music Chronicles Artist of the Month competition on Facebook, and would greatly appreciate your vote. There's no registration or obligation required, just a Facebook account and five seconds of your time. Follow the link and check the box next to The Lady anoNYMous and you're done!

Big shout out to my Patrons who pledged their support to Obfuscate/Sublimate and made these releases freely available to everyone! Much love to ya, say thankya, and to everyone: may your inner snails remain resilient and determined!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Starlight Music Chronicles Artist of the Month

Hey, folken! As you may have read in the previous article, The Lady is participating in the Starlight Music Chronicles Artist of the Month competition for the month of February! Normally, I'm not much for competition, or asking people to Like, Share, or vote, especially in my favor. This is kind of new territory for me. What I'm going to ask is this: if you enjoy my music, why not go ahead and vote for me? And if you're going to take the time to vote, do you perhaps also have time to check out these other fine artists in the competition? This whole thing, after all, is simply an exercise in independent artists doing what it's most difficult to do, which is getting our music heard and spreading the word. That's how I see this, at any rate. So, if you do take a moment to vote, please keep these other artists in mind and give them a chance when you have a moment. Thank you, dear folken. Good luck to us all!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

And So It Begins...Obfuscate

Well, here it is folken, the first EP of Phase IV as well as 2016.

As Selenophilia with Occultation, this EP serves to start making tracks previously only available on Jaded freely available to the public, so we have the latest rendition of "Jade's Theme" making an appearance, as well as "The Seventh Swan," "Dorian," and "Cold Sunlight." Patron, Leaguers, and blog readers should already be familiar with "A Good Mourning."

New to everyone, however, are "Solace" and "Sublimate." The choosing of these songs is in keeping with a lighter tone for this record - or at least, not so darkwave, goth, or metal-influenced as most of the previous Phase. I'm saving that for the next release, which will be coming very soon. Much sooner than usual.

With so much new material that I've been sitting on while holding off on publishing, and then promoting, Jaded, there's been a lot of backup, and therefore there's also been a lot to choose from. Rather than publishing everything in the order it's been written - as my patrons will no doubt observe - I've decided to do a back-to-back release of two EPs that are sort of a yin and yang to each other, and somewhat ripping off System of a Down while doing so. As that band did with their Hypnotize and Mesmerize records, I will be publishing Obfuscate and Sublimate back to back (well, a week apart). Also, as System of a Down did, the title tracks for these records will be on their "opposite," meaning the song "Obfuscate" will be included on next week's release.

The week-long gap will give me time to promote the seven songs at the usual song-a-day rate, while letting Sublimate's songs sit on my head, giving me an opportunity to tweak them and put in some finishing touches, should inspiration occur (as it no doubt will).

This back-up of material also means that already have enough songs written, recorded, and mostly ready for a new compilation album already, which is not-so-tentatively titled Radiate. I'll be holding off on publishing that until sometime next month though, while I continue to write and prepare for the follow-up to Jaded. In the meantime, leading up to the one-year anniversary of the debut EP Progress Report on February 19th, I have a few more tricks up my sleeve, which I think I'll exercise some of my new-found skills for patience and surprise and not disclose here.

I will announce, however, that in a couple days time, the open-to-the-public voting will begin for the Starlight Music Chronicles Artist of the Month for February, and I'll be running. Please vote! I won't directly say "vote for me," but...you know who I want you to vote for. So keep your eyes open for the link, which I'll be posting here on the blog when the polls open! Wish me luck, folken. I have another Starlight Music-themed surprise for y'all to help sway your vote in my favor, so keep your eyes open for that as well!

I really don't have that much else to say right now, which makes for an exceedingly brief release article for this record, but I guess if I think of anything else, I can always blog about it later. Until then, may your inner snails be resilient and determined, and please, enjoy the new record!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

An Extended New Year

Something you should understand is that I'm experiencing an extended New Year this year. Not one for observing the traditional Gregorian New Year as something other than an excuse to drink champagne (because any excuse to drink bubbly wine is a good one), the passage of years is usually marked for me by my birthday, as well as the passage of seasons. New Year's has always seemed like an excuse to let Christmas linger, and why not? It seems to me that the clusterfuck of winter holidays is more of a coping mechanism to stave off seasonal depression than anything else, so let it serve its purpose.

But this winter has been an anniversary for me of my first year composing music as The Lady, December 29th being the closest I can pinpoint through an old Facebook share. And in less than two months will be the anniversary of the debut EP, Progress Report. Therefore, my musical New Year has the effect of stretching to a length of almost two months. It seems silly to separate the dates when they're so close together and are celebrating much the same thing. And I feel as though I'm going to be riding the high of I've been doing this for a fucking year now! for about that length. So, bear with me y'all. I'll do my best not to be insufferable.

So, to begin the celebration, I began thinking of a Year One creation. A boxed set of some sort? How could I create a boxed set when my music doesn't come in physical form? Same with double-disc album options. So, the best I could think of was a lengthy digital download. Something that has essentially replaced A New Era almost three months after that record's release. Right about the right time, actually...

Okay, that's essentially what this has turned out to be. The successor to A New Era; a compilation album for Patrons that's becoming part of my new pattern. A compilation special per phase, as it were, although this usually happens after the first EP of the phase. I guess the first EP would have come sooner if I hadn't held out on releasing Jaded for so long... As things are, my scheduling of releases is a bit out of sync with my work output because of Jaded. I already have enough new material written and recorded to put out the Phase Four compilation album, and I have yet to even release the first Phase Four EP. This has me questioning whether or not there will be the usual three EPs per phase or what... Whatever, this phase is probably going to fly by and culminate with an album of some sort (Phase Four compilation or something else? I don't know) on February 19th, the one-year anniversary of Progress Report.

Back to the release at hand: after a failed attempt to assemble a Year One: Part I playlist, I had the random inspiration to look up the word "annual" in other languages and chose Albanian just because it looks cool (and I'm pretentious enough to go with that even though I don't know how to pronounce it) - Vjetor. Somehow, the name, and putting together a cover using "Emerging Ballad" by my Tsu-friend Tyrone Webb (of the Occultation cover), made the track list come together almost effortlessly. In fact, I only switched the ordering of two songs during the first listen. Otherwise, it's as I assembled it on a random whim:

01. "They Delving 3.33"
02. "The Seventh Swan"
03. "Dusk Devils"
04. "Jade's Theme"
05. "Sublime Like Swine"
06. "Slowly Scooting Closer"
07. "A Most Resilient Snail"
08. "Jaded (Alternate Spin)"
09. "Waltz with Lilith"
10. "Passage Through The Veil"
11. "Simplify"
12. "No Introduction Needed"
13. "The Tranquil Isles"
14. "The Nocturnal Dervish"
15. "The Cloud Walkers (Selenophilia)"
16. "A Good Mourning"
17. "Cold Sunlight"
18. "Mr. Douter"
19. "A Not-So-Minor Distraction"
20. "Wrong Pocket Kinda Day"
21. "Winter's Salve (Alternate Spin)"
22. "The Ground Up (Rebuild)"
23. "Overdrive"
24. "A Different Story"

I'd like to go on about the pains of having to choose "essentials" from such a lengthy discography and lament particular song that were left out, but it cane together so quickly and organically that that would be a load of BS. It's a very satisfactory, very enjoyable, well-rounded playlist, and I'm proud of it coming together so easily, and there were no painful decisions. I love it the way it is and haven't second-guessed it once since my first listen.

Some noteworthy things about these songs: Most should be familiar. "The Seventh Swan," "Sublime Like Swine," "Cold Sunlight," and "Mr. Douter" are all original to Jaded, while "Jaded (Alternate Spin)" and "The Ground Up (Rebuild)" are both on that album, but are the latest renditions of songs from previous releases. On that note: so many of the songs from Phase One (maybe all of them?) have had newer incarnations that very few original versions made it onto this record. The Alternate Spin of "Winter's Salve" might as well be the original version of that song, and "Dusk Devils" has lately had a lot of appeal for me, though it seemed sacrilegious to not include "The Nocturnal Dervish" as well. 

"Devils" and "Dervish" are the only songs that share the same source material. Perhaps the most difficult thing when choosing songs for this track list was choosing from the various versions of some of the songs. Of the ten versions of "Giger's Lullaby," the original "Waltz with Lilith" seemed the best compromise. It's smack dab in between "The Last Waltz" and the original demo, in terms of variations. For pretty much all the other songs that have more than one version, I simply went with the most recent, as I'm generally most satisfied with the most recent renditions.

Because this is meant to be representative of my entire discography without being over three hours long, there's not as many unreleased tracks as there might have been. For Patrons pledging $10 or more, only "They Delving 3.33," "A Good Mourning," and "A Different Story" haven't been made available before. "Passage Through The Veil" and "Overdrive" were previously made available on Erised, but can be counted as unreleased tracks as well. "They Delving 3.33" is - you guessed it - the latest version of "They Delving"; in fact, it is the final version, which "They Delving 3.0" (on the limited Yule Tide Carols release) was the instrumental version of, this version having altered instrumentation (most notably, additional synths and a lot of electric guitar work). Because I have so much unreleased material floating around me right now, I'm not exactly sure what's going to make it onto which releases. The track listing for the next EP, Obfuscate, has changed radically recently, as I've been trying to make sure that there will be tracks new to Patrons on each release as well.

However, I'd like to share "A Good Mourning" with you now, my dear readers, as a sample of the unreleased material on Vjetor. It's a song that - though it wasn't on my mind at the time - has become a sort of belated farewell to my previous life, in Portland, OR, hence the image of the St. John's Bridge with Forest Park beyond, Forest Park being a place I particularly mourn, and I also have many fond memories in Cathedral Park underneath the Bridge.

With the release of Jaded and the addition of Vjetor, many changes have been made to the rewards available to supporters through Patreon. The League will soon be adjusted as well, and I'll be updating this post with those changes soon.

Most significant is a new five-track EP being made available to Patrons pledging $5 or more, titled A Different Story after the song of the same name, being a song that is highly experimental for me, and that I am particularly proud of. Story includes "They Delving 3.33," "A Good Mourning," "Dorian" (from Jaded), "Mr. Douter," and the titular track. It's a beautiful little EP, with a gorgeously framed piece ("The Reader's Path") by Jeremiah Morelli for the cover, and a solid musical theme.

With Vjetor and the Artist's Edition of Jaded now dominating the $10+ tier of rewards, A New Era and the Artist's Edition of Occultation now join A Different Story, Erised, and Jade & Co. in the $5+ tier, making this a prime time to pledge in that middle range. Meanwhile, the Artist's Edition of Instrumentality now joins The Occultation Sessions and A Waltz for Giger - The Completed Collection in the $1+ tier with single downloads of: "The Seventh Swan," "Overdrive," "Sublime Like Swine," "The Between (Sin Palabras)," "They Delving 3.0," "Lily White (Sin Palabras)," "The Ground Up,"and I'm about to head over there to make an instrumental version of "Mr. Douter" available as well.

That pretty much sums up all the rewards changes and covers everything on Vjetor I wanted to get to...I think. I don't know. I've had too much coffee, it's almost 6am, my brain's scrambled, and my hands hurt... Let our inner snails remain resilient and determined!!!

ADDENDUM: Okay, so the current Leaguer rewards are as follows: Currently, when you sign up for the League, you instantly have access to unlimited streaming of the back-catalog items Instrumental, Nefelibata, and Wisps of Reason on the free Bandcamp app, plus the League specials A Different Story, Erised, Jade & Co, An Abbreviated Era, The Occultation Sessions, and A Waltz for Giger - The Completed Collection, along with singles for "Sublime Like Swine," "Mr. Douter (Sin Palabras)," "The Between (Sin Palabras)," and "Lily White (Sin Palabras)." High-quality, DMR-free downloads are also instantly available to you of all items.