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.