Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dialectical Observations

     

A year ago, I released my first EP after Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Elemental was - and remains -  an EP I was extremely proud of and excited about. It may have contained three relatively old tunes, but it also contained three new tunes, two of which started my journey toward this album. "Signor Fancypants" and "Fistfuls of Whimsy" represented, to me, a raising of the bar in my abilities as a composer. When I isolated a single note in the persistent piano track that had been bothering me - the change prompting the altering and rerecording the metallic guitars - an Alternate Spin of "Fistfuls of Whimsy" was created, and I counted it among my most epic achievements, alongside the now-dated Selenophilia Spin of "The Cloud Walkers," and "Passage Through The Veil." I was very pleased when it was accepted by, and put into rotation, on both indie and mainstream radio stations.

Matching the quality of those two songs set a challenge that I met head-on, crafting two Patreon-exclusive B-sides to Elemental, which were tacked onto the end of an extended Elemental Artist's Edition - the first EP to have a running theme through its track art, all of which was derived from works by Cyril Rolando, whose generosity in our trade arrangement remains a massive contribution to my covers and Artist's Editions. These songs were "Movement" - a song that remained solid in its original form for almost an entire year - and "Less Sinister Cousins," which has evolved ever-so-slightly in each of its subsequent publishings. While the former was the best example of what I call piano-metal (but is more accurately described as an industrial-metal/piano-rock fusion) that I had written in quite a while, the latter captured my heart. I felt it was the best example of the odd combination of neoclassical and industrial elements that I often seek to achieve.

Those two songs were eventually made public on the EP Counterbalance, somewhat at odds with a sociopolitically-themed record. I blew smoke out of my ass to explain how they could be interpreted as being part of that theme, but I was mostly taking advantage of its release as an excuse to publish them publicly. However it was with those two songs, along with those two fine achievements on the prior EP, that made it feel appropriate to start crafting a new EP or album. I started with a track list of "Signor Fancypants," "Fistfuls of Whimsy," "Movement," "Less Sinister Cousins," new song "Familial Germs," and the bonus tracks from the Artist's Edition of Counterbalance - an instrumental version of its title track and a more acoustic, intending-to-be-balladic version of "Matriculating." I also had two more songs that were still under construction but looking promising, "Butterflies on Ganymede" and "Fleeting Fractals." However, the softer and more ambient songs "Quietly Matriculating" and "Butterflies on Ganymede" were shoved to the side of a track list that was wildly in flux, as was "Counterbalance (Sin Palabras)" for being too electronic, though I tried it as the album's (yes, it was pretty clear I was constructing a full-length album) finale several times.

I was being more focused and deliberate than I had ever been before as I was crafting "Ganymede" and "Fractals," and they took much longer than any song had before. The mastering process was grueling, not helped any by trying to nudge the volumes on isolated sections of two tracks - on each song - only to find that some idiosyncrasy of my DAW was preventing me from doing so. It took forever to find a way around that, but I believe my extreme attention to detail was quite successful on "Ganymede," which became a must to be included on the album. It was one of the first concrete new songs. However, I thought that "Fractals" was more of a crowd-pleaser, with trip-hop and post-industrial elements that were very apparently inspired by How To Destroy Angels, even though it turned out to be more of a piano-pop song. I made it an advance single to try to generate enthusiasm for the album. Unexpectedly, I think "Ganymede" accomplished that goal to a greater degree, especially among fans of ambient and neoclassical music. Still, I was able to get "Fractals" in rotation on my most supportive radio allies.

During all of this, I was playing around with a much more somber composition of cello and piano over recorded rain. Yes, I recorded rain specifically for an ambient-rock song, because it seems as though pretty much all composers of ambient music inevitably use rain in one of their songs. Hell, even Tool has done it, as they lean more and more toward ambient and atmospheric styles. Anyway, what I found myself writing and recording was an evolving theme of a neoclassical/ambient style, eventually accompanied by throbbing, sustained bass kicks and muted hand drums, bringing more familiar elements in my music into a melancholy ballad. This song, of course, became "When Anchorage Became An Island." Although the title was originally inspired by the SyFy series The Expanse (as was the title for "Butterflies on Ganymede") it took on a very intensely specific meaning for me, when applied to this tune. Anchorage was the site of a double-homicide within my family, and it was a very divergent event for me. It was split from the rest of my life, a separate world. So you see, this gracefully sad song's atmosphere was a natural fit. And I think the cello of this song could also turn into a recurring theme, such as "Jade's Theme." Fun fact: there actually is an uninhabited Canadian Arctic island named Anchorage. Anyway, this song seemed natural for the opener of an album; I immediately made its position concrete, even though it was still an evolving composition.

All of the songs that made it onto the album turned into continually evolving tunes in order to fit together, and were remastered, cropped, extended, rerecorded, altered, or otherwise "improved." In the end, there is not a single song on here that is as it was previously published. "Familial Germs" had two measures cropped; "what if"s that were subtle in theory evolved into a new Alternate Spin of "Movement;" "Signor Fancypants" had a guitar chord added and was cropped into an abrupt ending in order to be deliberately cut off by a new intro to "Less Sinister Cousins," which had a small section rerecorded with slightly adjusted levels. Even "Fleeting Fractals" and "Fistfuls of Whimsy (Alternate Spin)" were remastered for this album, the latter having its opening piano chords rerecorded. Then there was the comically-named straight-up ambient-rock tune "Man Seeking Cocoon (For NSA LTR)" - No Strings Attached Long Term Relationship, for those who don't get it - that had so many "concrete" versions, I'm surprised I ever felt confident enough in it to make an incarnation public.

So here we are, a year later, with an album that - albeit short - has been meticulously constructed to be what I consider my finest album yet. I like to think of it as a "cinematic" experience, and I hope you all have an opportunity to listen to it from the beginning, to the end. Its construction has been an emotional roller coaster for me, and I hope that it has such an effect to listeners. As of now, it can be streamed on YouTubeSpotifyGoogle PlayApple Music, and TIDAL. I've also posted a playlist at my YouTube channel. You'll notice that "Signor Fancypants" and "Less Sinister Cousins" are combined on my playlist. It's because "Cousins" intentionally cuts off "Fancypants" with its new intro, and I wanted that effect in there. I'm also considering changing "Anchorage" and "Cocoon" into a single track, as the snare-edge tapping at the end of "Anchorage" flows nicely into the synth that runs throughout "Cocoon."

This album can also be purchased at GoogleiTunes, Microsoft, and Amazon, but you're better off purchasing it directly from me at my Snail Tunes store, where you'll find it for its lower price. Purchases include a download in a format of your choice - from standard MP3 to lossless audio - as well as unlimited streaming on Bandcamp and the Bandcamp app, which are worthwhile in themselves. An Artist's Edition (see previous article) is also available through my Patreon.

Now, because I always like to end with something special, I'm now letting everyone download the single version of "Fleeting Fractals" for free! Or you can tip anything you'd like to support me and art...



I hope y'all enjoy the music, and that your inner snails remain resilient and determined.