Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Well, now that's out of the way (see the previous article to find out what "that" is), I'd like to take the time to introduce Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the fifth "official" full-length album by The Lady anoNYMous, and to give various updates, including what's currently going on at Patreon and The League of Extraordinary Snails.

The theme of this album, featuring beautiful artwork by (IAM)WARFACE's Matt Warneford (visit http://iamwarface.com for more of Matt's artwork and to order prints; commissions accepted), is training oneself to react differently to one's perceptions. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently a popular psychological term and practice, one in which I am actively participating in my own therapy. It seems like a healthy exercise, and it can be applied to most of the songs on this record. It being current and relevant in my life, I figured why the hell not? and named the album after this pop-psychology practice.

It begins with an alternate version of "Recovery" (first published on the EP Interlude), the original writing of which followed a relapse into binge-drinking behavior after two years of sobriety, making this a good place to start for an album revolving around different changing one's responses to outside stimuli. In this case, the response was celebrating two years' sobriety with a drink. In retrospect, that probably wasn't healthy. While I've stated that I don't entirely regret it and I'm holding to it (I think I'm slowly building a healthier relationship with alcohol that doesn't involve daily drinking, day-drinking, or binge drinking and doesn't revolve around abstinence), celebrating sobriety with a drink just seems, well, silly. And I'm just full of silly reactions. 

Anyway, there's a synth in this song that I've found I can tweak to make many wonderful, unique sounds, but in the original version I had manipulated it to sound quite similar to how it sounds in the song "Safe in Cars," and also used in the beginning of that song. This synth is actually used throughout the original version of "Recovery," but is so much on the low-end that it can barely be discerned over the song's other instrumentation except as an occasionally distracting hiss. For this Alternate Spin, I went back and tweaked it again until the hissing - which can't be avoided, it's inherent to this particular synth - was less distracting, while also making the sound more apparent throughout the song. There's also some changes in instrumentation, most notably the electronic sawtooth bass, which was overused and not harmonizing well in the original version. The song is also remastered in general, and overall I think this a superior recording.

The album continues with "Roughspun," which was an exercise in a different approach to composing for me, one that was fast-paced and guitar-based. It's a rougher style of music than my usual neoclassical/post-industrial stylings, for which I thought the definition of "unpolished," and "rough and ready" for its title was applicable. And CBT is all about doing things differently.

Instead of going through this album a song-at-a-time, as I was just in danger of doing, I can break down this songs included into four categories: the "best of" my post-Revolutions compositions; alternate versions of post-Revolutions compositions; songs "lost" during the Snail Tunes Spring Cleaning; and new songs. So, to begin with, I included what I felt were my strongest songs from Carnivale, which were "Fervens," "Quiet Holler," and "Safe in Cars"; "Interlude" from Interlude; and  "Microcosms," "Roughspun," "Darkest Dreams," and "Mr. Douter (Sin Palabras)" from Dissonance. Yeah, "Darkest Dreams" and "Mr. Douter (Sin Palabras)" aren't actually post-Revolutions compositions; "Darkest Dreams" could fall into the category of those songs lost in the Snail Tunes Spring Cleaning, while "Mr. Douter (Sin Palabras)" is just "Mr. Douter" (from the album Jaded) without the spoken-word track, and was previously exclusively available to Patreon patrons. But this is all just confusing the categories that I just laid out. Moving on...

Aside from the Alternate Spin of "Recovery," I also did one for "Interim" from Dissonance. Really, I just tweaked the electronic bells synth that I used for the main melody and then recorded it an octave higher. That, and I changed some notes for the "theremin" part, and did some general remastering. A new version of "Once More With Feeling" is also included. For this recording, I started completely from scratch, rerecording the guitar part (which stays much the same) and backing it with completely different instrumentation and experimenting with a new drum machine. I fucking love how it turned out. I hope y'all enjoy it as much as I do.

The "lost" songs include "Odd Gastropod" and the Selenophilia version of "The Cloud Walkers," both of which I thought it would be a huge shame to not have on a record after the Snail Tunes Spring Cleaning, and both of which I wanted to include on this record more than the songs that remained from the post-Revolutions releases. "Gastropod," originally from a "non-commercial" EP called Revival, is really just an updated (and, I think, superior) version of "Trip-Hop Thing" from Instrumentality. This recording is different from the one that was on Revival, however. I replaced one of the synths entirely, I rewrote some of the instrumentation at the beginning, and I remastered the song as a whole. The overall effect is a much more polished recording. As for what I'm calling the "Selenophilia Spin" of "The Cloud Walkers"...well, after Occultation (on which the song originally appeared), I kept on listening to the song and finding new ways to tweak it in minor ways - the rerecording of a synth here, the interchanging of acoustic guitar parts there - and at first I thought these changes were so subtle that only I would notice them. But the more I listened to the different versions, the more the overall effect seemed jarringly different to me, and the more I preferred the Selenophilia Spin over the original. As I consider this song to be my magnum opus, I couldn't let my preferred version of it be erased from availability, and so I decided to include it on this album.

New songs include "Whitecaps," "Horizons," and "Dead End." For "Whitecaps," I had a frenetic, bowed bass-line stuck in my head, and when I recorded it, it seemed only fitting that I should be mirrored by some death-metal style electric guitar. With the accompanying piano and strings, however, it's hardly a death-metal song. More orchestral post-metal with electronic, trip-hop elements. It brought to mind turbulent waters when I tried to think of a title for it, and the word-association game led me to "whitecaps." With "Horizons," I wanted to do another light-hearted trip-hop ballad in the vein of "Quiet Holler." I took the same basic elements of twangy acoustic guitar, piano, organ, and strings, and came up with what definitely sounds like a sister to that song. There's another new song that's very much akin to those two called "Cerebellum," but I decided to use it to close the Artist's Edition. "Dead End" - a dark, downtempo, post-industrial tune that slowly builds energy for an electric climax - was originally a bonus track on the Artist's Edition of Dissonance, and is now made publicly available on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Speaking of Artist's Editions... The extended Artist's Edition of this album is now available on both Patreon and MIME! As usual, it features individualized track art and a PDF booklet of album art and liner notes. This edition includes two bonus tracks - the aforementioned "Cerebellum" and a radically different Alternate Spin of "Gravity Bites" (the original of which is on the EP Interlude).

After publishing the Artist's Edition of Patreon, I noticed that my page was in severe need of updating, so I went through and cleared out all the old and irrelevant posts and made several changes to the offered rewards. Sadly, A Waltz for Giger - The Completed Collection and The Occultation Sessions are no longer available. The entire point of Sessions was that it offered altered and remastered versions of songs from non-commercial releases (that are no longer in existence) only available on Occultation. As the versions on Occultation are now the only versions available, Sessions is now completely irrelevant. As for Giger, a decided to opt for offering a rotation selection of rarities instead, of which various versions of "Giger's Lullaby" will be a part of. That selection currently includes the "Step Softly" remix of "A Waltz for Giger," the sin palabras version of "The Between," the Alternate Spin of "Gravity Bites," and "Cerebellum."

Also now available to patrons pledging $1 or more is a mini-album called Embrace, for which I selected three each of the most popular songs from Occultation, Jaded, Revolutions, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (as the Artist's Edition of Instrumentality is available to these patrons, it seemed it would be redundant to include songs from that album). This track list includes, in order: "Reticulated," "Slowly Scooting Closer," "Darkest Dreams," "Simplify," "The Seventh Swan," "Matriculating," "Mr. Douter (Sin Palabras)," "Wrong Pocket Kinda Day," "Revolutions," "The Last Waltz," "The Cloud Walkers (Selenophilia Spin)," and "Cold Sunlight." I didn't put too much consideration into what songs would be included beyond their popularity, which made it extremely simple as to what I would include - popularity was measured in radio rotation and amount of plays on streaming sites, which often coincided. As for the track ordering, I've shuffled these songs so much for various releases that I have great instincts for how to make them flow together, and all in all, this turned out to be a terrific little collection when I gave it a listen. I think it truly exemplifies what the albums have to offer.

I also put together a "best of" Revolutions and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy EP for patrons pledging $5 or more, titled Revolutionary Dissonance. Those patrons already have access to the Artist's Editions of Occultation and Jaded, so I thought I would also give them a taste of the two most recent albums. These songs include, "Matriculating," "Fervens," "Passage Through The Veil," "Darkest Dreams," "A Different Story," "Dead End," and "Solace." Rather than including these songs based on popularity, my choosing was based on my personal favorites and how well they would flow together. Patrons on this tier also have access to the 24-track Patreon-exclusive compilation Vjetor.

The Artist's Edition of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy now accompanies the rewards for patrons pledging $10 or more, which also includes the Artist's Edition of Revolutions and the 22-track Patreon-exclusive compilation Love Letter from a Virgo.

A new arrival to my patron-exclusive downloads, which I actually finished recording while writing this blog post, is this new song, "Fistfuls of Whimsy," which I've decided to share with y'all as a private stream:

And with that, I'll wrap this up with one final announcement: I'm now offering my entire discography at the Snail Tunes store for 50% off! Of course, if you decide to try out membership to The League, you can get most of my discography with support exclusives for $10...just saying.

Well, that's it for now! May your inner snails remain resilient and determined, folken!

UPDATE: This album is now available on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify, MS Groove, and TIDAL.

Monday, June 20, 2016


I've been having a terrible time at starting this entry. You see, I happened to be oblivious to the recent shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando while I was publishing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on the very same day. When I found out, after the fact, I felt guilty - guilty for avoiding the news and current events as much as I do, guilty for going about my daily life in the wake of this tragedy, guilty for finding out about it through social media, and guilty for releasing an album on the day it occurred and promoting it the following day, when I should have been observing a moment of silence and processing this horrible event. When I did find out about it, I did that horrible thing of trying to put it furthest from my thoughts while continuing about my business, while all my queer family were posting about how upset they were and their reactions to the media's and other people's reactions. I couldn't undo releasing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and I still had an album to promote. 

I also didn't know how to post about the massacre without making it all about me. All my friends were full of such righteous anger, and so was I, but it felt seemed so inappropriate to be expressing it on the likes of Facebook. But where and how is one supposed to express such anger? When I think about it, it seems like every outlet is inappropriate in some way, and ultimately hopeless. Someone is going to judge the way you choose to express it, and it's not going to do anything about all the hatred and injustice in the world.

One Facebook post I read quoted that most righteous line of Ani DiFranco's, saying, "silence is violence." So, if I wasn't supposed to be somber and observing a moment of silence, while speaking out seems exploitive and pointless, what was I to do? In the end, I felt I had to do something, as anger was bubbling up inside of me, fueled by the social media posts of others, and the conversations those in my immediate vicinity were having. I heard my parents discussing the most recent posits of the right-wing media, making the massacre into another ISIS terrorist attack instead of a hate crime. I saw the posts of dear friends making this another case for gun-law reform. Other friends were furious that attention was being drawn away from the fact that this was yet another hate crime against the LGBTQ community, while still others were making it an issue of general hatred and violence. I felt myself mostly empathetic with the latter, that this is a crime of hatred of human-against-human, not Islamic hatred for queers. One friend of mine (who, I have to say, I consider to be kind of a nut-job) ranted and raved about how this is evidence for the world that, as a gay man, Muslims want to kill him, and this is why we, as Americans and, more specifically, gay Americans, should hate Muslims. All I can see there is hatred fueling hatred. Fear creating fear. Violence feeding violence. Killing for killing. That painful, endless cycle that just makes me want to shout, "Wake the fuck up!" And, as I saw more and more of this, I felt I had to say something.

It's hard to speak out without making it all about you. It's hard to risk being judged as exploitive. It's hard to know when silence or screaming is appropriate. Every time I've thought about typing the words, "I had the misfortune to release my album on the day of..." I've cringed, because this isn't about my misfortune. My misfortune pales in comparison to the misfortune of those were at Pulse on that terrible night. And I can't take back releasing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy when I did. It's too late, the damage is done, and it's important to not dwell on it, because that is not what matters. What matters is that I do have some feelings to express, and that silence can be just as harmful as acts of violence. What also matters is that it is the fucking duty of artists to provide social commentary, because when you get right down to it, that's what art is. Furthermore, I've made myself into a public figure, and it's the duty of public figures above all others to speak up. So this is how I've decided to express my reactions:

This is my way of acknowledging that, yes, this is another heinous act of violence against queers, motivated by hatred, and all it has accomplished is fueling more hatred. Even now, people are using it justify further acts of violence, notably against the Muslim community. But this isn't about Muslims vs. Gays. This is about hatred fueled by xenophobia fueling more xenophobic hatred. And that's why I've chosen these songs to express how I feel. First, "The Creeps" and "Xenophobia" is about fearing and hating what is strange to you, what you don't understand. Whether you fear Muslims, or you're "tolerant" of gays but don't believe they should have civil rights, or you're a closeted self-hating queer, these songs are about you and the hatred you have or don't admit you have.  The next two songs are to put beauty in hatred's place. "Horizons" is an optimistic look toward the future. "Solace" is to offer comfort.

Downloads are free. Share or don't, this music is to do with what you will. It's my voice. It's my way of speaking out. And it's my hope that, in some way, it makes a difference.