Monday, July 24, 2017

Dialectical Artist's Edition

Well, folken, I've done it. After giving it a test run last night, I confidently called Dialectical Observations finished and flung it out into the world as a Patreon-exclusive Artist's Edition, almost a week earlier than the album's public release date of July 30th. My hope had been to make it an actual week, but the gods laughed at me and threw some kinks - mostly in the form of technical difficulties - in my plans. I had all the artwork ready. I had the songs uploaded with the track art in place and I had all the pages for the PDF booklet ready to merge into one file. And then, of course, it took four tries to upload and then download the booklet, as I realized that I hadn't flattened the artwork into a single layer for the pages, and therefore the pages looked all screwed up once I had downloaded the booklet. It was a lot more time-consuming than it should have been. Also, my Internet connection slowed to worse-than-dial-up. One of the drawbacks of living ten miles outside the middle of nowhere. My plan (ha!) had been to download the Artist's Edition for its test run and listen to it while uploading the remastered-for-the-album version of "Fleeting Fractals" to YouTube, which I would then share in my almost-nightly Jukebox post on Facebook and Google Plus. Yeah... The download took over two hours, and uploading "Fractals" at the same time was out of the question.

I did test run the album in its entirety last night, which kept me awake until five in the morning, but it gave me the confidence that I had done my best - that this was my best work yet - and it was time to make it officially done by publishing it. So the Artist's Edition that I had been hoping to release in advance of the public date was put out into the world at around nine o'clock this morning. It felt really good to get it out there so I can turn my attention to other promoting the bastard, then publishing it publicly and doing the promotional circus for that release. Still, I've been allowing myself such a relaxed pace to make the most intentional and perfect piece possible that I was able to upload the public edition to my distributor and make it a single click away from being published at my Snail Tunes store. So hopefully this means that it will pop up everywhere at midnight on the 30th. I've been warned by my distributor that it might take it longer than a week to pass through the internal review processes of certain stores and streaming platforms, but that's mostly to avoid angry emails, I think. It's been my experience that most of the time a release is in all stores in the first week of its distribution. This is my first time getting it all out there this far in advance, so we'll see how it goes!

Meanwhile, I'm going to be really pushing for people to pledge at my Patreon. Any amount pledged before the end of the month will gain access to download the Artist's Edition, on top of the rewards in the three tiers. This Artist's Edition has been painstakingly crafted: In an unusual turn, I designed the album cover myself, from one of the tree photographs that I took for the "Fleeting Fractals" single. That led to the track art, for which I strayed from my usual formula. Instead of creating a uniform background with uniform text placement, I took sections of the cover image and flipped them or inverted the values, and then overlaid them with modified artwork by Cyril Rolando to keep with the theme of Elemental and Counterbalance, the two EPs leading up to this album. Again, the images are grayscale, sometimes with inverted values, and I've played around with the brightness and contrast to best suit them as such. Then, the titles are in shades of gray, placed where they work best and shadowed where appropriate. This took a lot more effort on my part than usual, and there were some cases where I had multiple goes at the track art entirely, or spent a significant amount of time playing around with the elements to see what worked best. The end result is that unique images are displayed for each track on media players when possible. You can see two examples of them in the previous article.

After that was all done, it was a matter of converting them for the book and, of course, creating additional pages. In addition to hi-res PDFs of the track art, the booklet includes the cover image, a track listing, and credits and acknowledgements pages, all with the same Dialectical Tree design running through them. For this booklet, I also took a new artist photograph; in all the previous booklets, I still had short hair in the photos. Well, I have shoulder-length hair now, so it seemed a new picture was overdue. Then, like I said, merging the PDFs into a single booklet was a bitch; I'd forgotten that the images need to be flattened (instead of the several layers that each is comprised of) or the PDFs are rendered out-of-whack in some way. In the end, I had to revisit each of the images to merge all of the layers and reconvert them to PDFs. Then there's the uploading, merging, and downloading process that is the consequence of doing it through a free online program. Have I ever mentioned that I had to switch to doing all of the artwork on GIMP instead of PhotoShop long ago? It was a whole new learning experience, but it's more than adequate for my purposes.

Artist's Editions usually come with a bonus track or two, but it was more important to me to work on my existing material and release the album on the anniversary of Elemental, which contains the first track published that is included on Dialectical Observations. Also, I felt that I'd want any bonus tracks to match the quality of the rest of the album, for which I'd have to give myself a lot of room to work with. So instead of up-front bonus tracks, I'm going to do what I did with the Elemental Artist's Edition and publish Dialectical B-Sides further on down the line, free of charge for all Patrons that contributed to this campaign. As with the Elemental B-sides, they'll undoubtedly be merged into a new expanded Artist's Edition, also available to Patrons free of charge.

You can expect further behind-the-music and song-specific details when the release article is written for the public edition of the album. Until then, I'll leave you with the album version of the first track, "When Anchorage Became An Island." May your inner snails remain resilient and determined!