Sunday, May 29, 2016

Cognitive Dissonance

Howdy, folken! I'd like to introduce to you Dissonance, a new seven-track, forty minute EP that I've put out in anticipation of my upcoming fifth album. 

This release wasn't really planned until a few days before I published it, and at that point it was to be only four tracks. Previously, my plan had been to only put out the two five-track EPs, Carnivale and Interlude, before launching the album, but found myself being very picky in my planning for Album Five, and sitting on enough material for another short release. Dissonance was originally only going to be its first four tracks, but I found myself really wanting to put "Darkest Dreams" on an "official" release. Until this release, it's only been available on the non-commercial album Radiate, which is soon to be removed from the Snail Tunes store (along with all the other non-commercial releases), yet it's been getting a fair amount of radio play on The Shift, and now on various radio stations of the 365 Radio Network (thanks again to Cailin Dana to whom I submitted "Darkest Dreams" for her show, Smoking' Hot Tunes). It only made sense to keep it available for folks to stream and download, now on the various platforms and websites that Dissonance has been distributed to.

Man, the simple act of submitting "Dreams" to Ms. Dana was greeted with an explosion of airplay. I woke up the next day to over twenty Twitter notifications of it being played on metal, rock, and indie subsidiaries of 365 and multiple shows. I was stunned, and it made for a great day. Plus, another event, that I'll get to soon, made that day even more awesome.

Anyway, I'd been preferring "Dreams" to its con palabras (with words) counterpart, "Sublime Like Swine," as of late, even though it often feels naked to me without the vocals. But I've never been incredibly proud of how my vocals turned out on "Swine," and there are often times when I simply prefer the instrumental versions of my songs that include singing. Such is sometimes the case with "Lily White" (even though I'm head-over-heels in love with Alejandro Saldarriaga Calle's voice) and "Mr. Douter" (sometimes I just don't want to hear myself ranting about my ex-husband, and I think that the dark, trip-hop instrumentation on "Douter" is some of my best work). The sin palabras (without words) versions of these two songs have long been available to my Patreon patrons, but I've longed to have them more widely available for a while, and felt that they would perfectly round out this release, and bring the track number to a magical seven. It also makes this one of my most diverse releases; at least, far more diverse than either Carnivale or Interlude.

While the previous two EPs were entirely trip-hop instrumentals with neoclassical and post-metal tendencies, Dissonance is all over the map of alternative sub-genres. It begins with the balladic neoclassical piano stylings of "Microcosms" - a song I feel is my most successful and straightforward work in the neoclassical field since the Alternate Spin of "Winter's Salve" - and immediately launches into a hard-to-define electroacoustic, fast-paced dance track ("Frenzied"). "Interim" treads more familiar territory, being a piano-based post-industrial tune in the tradition of "Jaded," "Dorian," and "A Good Mourning." Then this release radically shifts gears into "Roughspun," an industrial-metal rocker largely inspired by Nine Inch Nails' "Starfuckers, Inc." I wasn't sure I could accomplish a fast-paced tune so reliant on electric guitar being front-and-center, but I believe it turned out to be one of my best and funnest songs to date, and it was a great exercise for my brain to approach songwriting with such different intentions. Piano and strings shows up in that tune just because I felt it necessary to throw in some familiar elements, but I was definitely thinking outside of a box I had erected around myself since writing Revolutions. Much of my goal with Dissonance was to jar my brain into expanding beyond the downtempo trip-hop/post-industrial rut I had been carving for myself. With "Frenzied" and "Roughspun," I think I definitely succeeded.

"Dead End," a song that treads more familiar ground - a trip-hop instrumental with post-metal elements - was reserved for Patrons as a bonus track on the Artist's Edition of Dissonance. But I figured I'd share it in the following exclusive stream with my readers, whom I adore. It's a little more akin to stream-of-consciousness songwriting rather than following traditional song structure - similar to "Reticulated" - but I love it for that, and thoroughly enjoy listening to it.

Still, I'm not sure which of these songs will make it onto the upcoming album - from any of my post-Revolutions releases. There are a few certainties, but as I said before, I'm being very picky, and I decided on another short release while I continue writing songs for this album to allow myself more time and more material to work from. I can at least reveal the title, which will be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT for short, and, for you dear readers, I'd like to share what else made the day so wonderful that I discovered "Darkest Dreams" being played on multiple radio stations: the cover of CBT. I commissioned Matt Warneford of (IAM)WARFACE, who has been at work on album covers for multiple bands/musicians as of late, to design it, and it took my breath away and made the happiest little bugger in the world!

I simply told him I wanted something that went along with Dissonance (which features "Neuron Spark" by Billy Benavides, a piece I had previously used, in extremely altered form, for the cover of Nefelibata, and felt needed to be on an official release) something to do with the brain, and he created this spot-on, absolutely stunning piece! I can't express in words how much I love it. For those who don't know (though it should be obvious just from seeing this piece), Matt is - on top of being an incredibly talented musician - an amazing artist in the two-dimensional field. You can see more of his work and order prints at the (IAM)WARFACE website.

The wonderful events of receiving this artwork and such a surprising amount of radio exposure happened to coincide with an interview for the Music Manumit podcast that I'd been scheduled for for months. I'm not sure how I feel about the end result, though I was extremely excited for this chance to talk about myself and my music. It began as a fiasco, with difficulty in getting connected through Google Hangouts with the interviewer, Mr. Tom Ray. I was five minutes early by the time I had prepared myself with a cup of coffee (a single cup of which had me wired after abstaining from caffeine for over a month) and had myself situated in my garage with the laptop so I could smoke while being interviewed. I discovered then that I don't get a very good wi-fi signal in the garage since my router died and Time Warner Cable enabled my modem itself to broadcast a wireless bubble. So I wasn't able to connect with Tom on time due to that, and then my browser decided to freeze after relocating myself to the living room. So I had to quit and then restart Safari, which took an absurdly and uncharacteristically long time, and then of course log back into Google Hangouts. Somehow, all of this made me contact Tom thirty-five minutes late. Meanwhile, Tom had been trying to adjust to Google Hangout's not-so-user-friendly new interface, and tried looking up The Lady anoNYMous to contact me, only to find some very bizarre results.

Finally, the interview commenced with me spun out on coffee, mixed with my various medications (propanelol should have assisted in calming my nerves, as should trazodone, but I found myself hyper and having trouble thinking and staying on track), and my voice slightly hoarse from chain-smoking at the time. In theory, this interview should give me a good amount of exposure, but I think all-in-all it was a bit of a disaster. Still, I'm including it here just to document the event, and if you'd like, you can listen to me and Tom talking strip clubs, creative commons licensing, and how one transitions from metal projects to spoken-word theater to composing.

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As you can see, it's been a (mostly pleasantly) eventful time for me. I could go on about how the man I was dating has resurfaced with a good excuse for his absence and how that's been going, but (cellist and composer) James Radcliffe has pointed out to me that my blog posts can deviate in too many directions. I feel that my stream-of-consciousness writing is part of the charm of my blog, but I'm not entirely certain; I'd like to hear from my readers on that.

Anyway, I'm currently continuing to write material to choose from for CBT, which will be released sometime (probably early on) in June. In the meantime, you can stream Dissonance on Spotify, Apple Music, TIDAL, and MS Groove, and/or download it from Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes.

And that's it for me, for now. As always, folken, may your inner snails remain resilient and determined.

Friday, May 6, 2016

An Interlude

My little "vacation" is at an end. So is a new relationship that had picked up steam refreshingly fast and then fizzled without warning, or any sort of notice for that matter. I extended my reach beyond my self-imposed isolation, and had my hand bit. Because people suck. What else is new? I think we all know that upon the friction our adolescences cause with others, and after that we have buffers and filters and we're searching for people who don't hurt us when our buffers and filters are down. My adolescence was prolonged well into my twenties (which I think is fairly common these days) and I was never quite able to master filtering what goes into or out of me. My buffers remain bitchiness or absolute isolation. In short, I'm not an easy person to get to know. Sometimes I'm proud of that. Sometimes I wish I were someone else.

Now I'm left yet again with my music, with work. However, I've learned a few lessons from my hiatus. I don't want to be a workaholic anymore. I want to enjoy making music, rather than having it distilled to "work" and nothing else. I want to continue reaching beyond my baby steps. And I've been left with a lot of ideas to implement in the meantime.

First is the short story companion for Nyctanthous, which ideas are starting to warrant a planned series of short stories for that entire EP, with one story per song. Probably written out of order, and who knows if they'll all connect, but I'm stuck on the idea of making stories for that record, which started with an idea for a tale of a supernatural nightclub encounter inspired by "Nyctality." When these stories are finished, I'll probably collect them and rerelease Nyctanthous as a commercial record.

Which brings me to another point: y'all might want to download the non-commercial records from the Snail Tunes store while you can, because I've been itching to do some Spring cleaning. This means that all of the "pay what you will" records are going bye-bye, as the Snail Tunes store will be streamlined into my personal store for the "official" (commercial) records. I will continue undercutting all other online stores, and soon I'll be offering the collected digital discography at a discounted price. Also, I'll still be offering non-commercial "gifts" (such as the Anniversary gifts, Revival and Progress Report - The Anniversary Spin, and holiday gifts such as Yule Tide Carols) from my NoiseTrade page.

Anyway, I haven't started this Spring cleaning process yet. For the time being, you can still download all the non-commercial releases for a price of your choosing. I would recommend grabbing the compilation albums - Instrumental, Nefelibata, Wisps of Reason, and Radiate - while you can. That's the easiest way to collect most of my discography for free...but please, tip what you're able to! I'm going this in large part because I've been offering my music for free for a long time, and have had thousands of copies downloaded without a single tip, and I really want to make a living creating art. Obviously, there's interest in it, but people behave these days like music is owed to them and musicians can afford to give away their art for free. I mostly gave away my art for free for so long because (a) I wanted to generate interest in my work and (b) I've been living in a dream world where people will give what they can to artists when they're able to out of respect. And if I could afford to, I'd continue to give my art away for free. Unfortunately, I can't.

I still want to give out my art, though. I want people to have it and enjoy it, and hopefully it will whet appetites for more, when people can actually afford to pay for it. That's why I'm offering, for a limited time a free download of Carnivale, the first EP previewing the upcoming fifth album. I can't get the embed code to cooperate on this blog post, but head on over to this link for a free download (suggested donation of USD $3).

Now, onto my latest offering:

This record is my come-back from my hiatus, offering new songs with a couple of unreleased older tunes that were polished up to satisfaction after stepping away from them for a few weeks. "That Old Foreboding Feeling" and "Gravity Bites" were built on very similar bass-heavy electric guitar parts in the rhythm section, which was actually recycled for "Primordial Soup" (on the Cold Sunlight single) as well. There are tiny variations, but all three of these songs started from the same place. Interesting that they all turned into such very different songs. It started with "Gravity Bites," (which was originally intended to be on Revolutions) but there were parts of that song that just weren't working for me. I was enamored with the piano-and-strings crescendos in the song, but the melody wasn't working for me while I tried to make it piano-heavy. It wasn't until leaving the melody to the string-trio of cello, viola, and bass, with the addition of my familiar theremin-mimicking synth, that I started to find it quite catching, maybe because it's easy to hum. I also started over on the drum track for this song, using the newer drum machine that I'd employed for  "Revolutions," parts of "Primordial Soup" and the Higher Gain mix of "Momentum" (I'm trying not to over-use this drum machine; it screams "electronica" a bit too loudly). The result is upbeat and catchy, with those wonderful crescendos (which had almost spawned a new song entirely) still in place.

While "Primordial Soup" has garnered praise from followers of The Lady on Google Plus and SoundCloud, it's still a very experimental song, and I'm not entirely convinced of it. I love aspects of it, and it's wonderfully successful in some areas (I've never used wordless vocals this much in a song before), but whether or not the present version will make it onto my upcoming fifth album remains to be seen. To give it a listen, refer to the post "A Carnivale in Cold Sunlight."

"That Old Foreboding Feeling" was the song I left off on when I took my break from songwriting. I left it finished, in that it had a beginning, middle, and end, but in dire need of some editing. The song was overly complex. Too many layers at once had left it muddy, so much so that I almost felt that titling this song "Muddy Waters" - a title that went to a song featured on Cold Sunlight - would have been appropriate. Upon returning to work, my first step was to clean this song up with a lot of snipping of the layers here and there, sometimes writing new instrumentation to replace them. Feedback on this song has been rather surprising, proving yet again that I don't always know what my audience wants.

The remaining three songs were written specifically for this release. "Recovery" is meant to express the period in which I transitioned from not working and pushing beyond my comfort zone, to trying to learn from those experiences and settling back into a less extreme version of "word mode." It was the first new song I had written in several weeks. I started with a bass line inspired by the Drams song "Divisions of Labor," but nothing I wrote on my piano was working with it. It took successes in guitar and string parts before my piano and I were back on speaking terms. Truth be told, we're still experiences blocks in our communication, which I guess is why my piano doesn't have such a prominent role on this record. I've had to go back to the lesson I tried to teach myself with the song "Simplify" and re-learn that simple building blocks can result in complex and satisfying arrangements. It's led to these three new songs, all of which I'm very happy with.

"Interlude" was written solely for the purpose of creating a bridge between "That Old Foreboding Feeling" and "Gravity Bites," intended to be a mellow trip-hop experiment in sounds. It's built on three chords, but some frenetic piano work and metal-style electric guitar makes it sound more complex than it actually is, in places. I was so happy with the end result, which wound up being the second-lengthiest song on this record, that I decided to name the EP after it. The title also expresses (y'all know how I love multiple meanings in my titles) the period between publishing Carnivale and working on Interlude, where I had the most adventurous time I've had in my life since moving to the Kansas City area.

Those who've known me longest will recognize a simple but addicting guitar melody that I've been playing since my teens in "Once More with Feeling." I've wanted to, and have even tried a couple of times, to accompany this song with other instrumentation, but nothing's ever come of it before now. Although extremely simple, this is my favorite tune I've written for guitar. It gradually evolves until it gives a sense of urgency, and I've played it to myself during many nights spent alone and contemplative. I had it stuck in my head the day following the completion of "Interlude," and finally had the urge to record it with some beats, strings, and synths. This will probably end up being similar to "Giger's Lullaby" and "They Delving," and will have a few different incarnations. Nothing has sprung up on me yet, but I have the feeling that I may never be quite "done" with this song.

Currently, Interlude can be streamed from YouTube, Spotify, MS Groove, TIDAL, and Apple Music. It can be purchased and downloaded from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and the Snail Tunes store. Now, I can be almost certain that not all of the songs on Carnivale, Cold Sunlight, and Interlude will be included on the upcoming (as yet untitled) album. I've been writing further new songs to include on this album and have a few thoughts on a new take on some older songs for this outing, so the track list is pretty unpredictable at the moment. I can only say that I'm aiming to release it before the end of this month.

In the meantime, I hope y'all have been having more success than I at opening up to each other and moving through life with more optimism than I have. I'm still seeking out the right "cocktail" of medication, or the right psychiatrist, or both. My approach to life hasn't been working very well. Being so closed off and jaded clearly isn't doing me any favors, and neither has been working with barely any sleep. Interlude is the beginning to a new approach; one that, hopefully, has more balance. Stay tuned for updates.

May all our inner snails remain resilient and determined.