Just keep going until you get to the top

Just Keep Going Until You Get There

Album Progress Update

After a couple of weeks where I was getting a lot of other things done – like researching what to do if Soundcloud suddenly disappears (and actioning what I found out) – I’ve managed to make another dent in the heap of significant things-that-need-doing to finish a second album.

I recorded vocals for Solitude in Numbers and Niagara this evening and did some more work on the mix for Of Space And Time, one of the tracks from Tune-A-Day-June, as well as sorting out a few glaring problems with the backing track for Solitude in Numbers.  I haven’t reviewed the vocal takes for Niagara yet, so I may have to do that song again, but that won’t hurt – it’s a difficult song to sing, so practising it is a good idea. (Note to self: try to write some songs that you find a bit easier to sing… )

I’m not 100% sure that Of Space & Time will actually fit in with the rest of the album, as it’s steadily becoming more and more of a triphop album, but we’ll see. I might have to hold that one over for the next project, depending how weird the mix of tracks seems once I have enough tracks for some to be considered ‘spares’ towards the end.

As ‘No. 1 Fan’ was disappointed that I didn’t include Solitude in Numbers in the Sleepwalker album, I have sent her a mix to see what she thinks. (And to prove I’m really going to include it this time!)  It was one of the first tracks for the first album, and No. 1 Fan had heard my first mixes. I felt pretty bad about leaving it off when I saw her reaction, but it wasn’t in good enough shape to go on Sleepwalker.

Solitude in Numbers is the song that wouldn’t completely behave itself, no matter what I did to it. I hadn’t learned to mix when I put the first version together, which certainly didn’t help. The mood of the initial mix was upbeat and poppy, and although I’m all for sad songs sneakily hidden inside happy tunes, it wasn’t working, even after a remix. So a few months back, I started to record the song again completely from scratch, slowing it down a bit, and making the arrangement incredibly sparse this time, whereas the original version had been crammed with all sorts of unnecessary sounds which only served to make the track more difficult to pull together. At first, the new version sounded too empty, and needed more momentum, but it is now well on its way with what I hope are the right sounds and effects. This time, without the clutter, you can hear the lyrics better, and feel the message behind them. I think this version does the song a lot more justice than my previous attempts.

I’m sorry, but I am going to have to keep it to myself for a while yet, though, as I want as much of the material on the album as possible to be new to listeners when it is released. (There will be a few of the Tune A Day pieces on the album as well, though, and it’s probably not all that hard to guess which ones I’m thinking of using that I’ve not already mentioned in the blog!)

Putting my Business Hat on (Part 2)

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Still not a business hat, but I don’t have a bowler hat… this is probably the nearest I’ve got!

In my previous post, I explained how I’ve been in contact with TrickJazz studios, a company making games, and how I had put together a kind of business case for them to use my tune.

Christian Facey, the company’s founder, got back to me at the end of last week to confirm that he wants to go ahead with using my tune Sunset Landscape in one of their new games that they are putting together, called Dreamwalker. (Funny coincidence, that, with it being one of the tracks on my Sleepwalker album!)

The track is scheduled to be on the game’s menu page, which will mean that it is heard many times, so it’s a great opportunity for me. The difference with the series of games that TrickJazz wants to develop is that they plan to include information within the games about which artist’s work you can hear. The games will launch subject to a successful Kickstarter campaign.

I should also mention that at the same time this has been going on, I have been working on some backing vocals for a track by Manipulant, an electronic artist in Pennsylvania, USA.  The track is called Run, and will be on his upcoming album. He’s got another track on the album which features Dr Fiorella Terenzi, who sounds like she is the US/Italian equivalent of the UK’s Dr Brian Cox from her Wikipedia entry. Run is already nearly complete, with just a few adjustments to go with the mix, which Manipulant is doing himself.

If you would like to check out some of Manipulant’s music ahead of the album launch, he already has an album, “Méthode de Narration”, on Bandcamp.

 

Niagara & Album Progress

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Fountain in Lincoln Arboretum. (I’ve never been to Niagara Falls, so have no photos of it that I own the copyright for).

Earlier this week, battling a migraine, I tried to take stock of what material I have for Albums 2 & 3 and get myself a bit more organised towards getting these both out of the door.

Album 2 is a ‘fake filmscore’ based on a book that is quite well known in the UK. It needs another track mixing then all tracks mastering, one of the trickier parts of the process for me, that could delay its release. It’s looking like it will be 35 minutes long, unless I have some last-minute inspiration for a further track or add any bonus items. (Either one of those scenarios could happen at this stage – I’m planning to get a significant portion of Album 3 ready before I release Album 2.)

There’s already quite a lot of potential material for Album 3, but the styles are rather mixed, so I could need to prune it back drastically to make it a coherent body of work, and I may, therefore, need to write some more new tunes to make it hold together better. There is a huge amount of work that still needs doing on most of the tracks for Album 3: many are in just the early stages of production and some are currently just a loop of an idea.

When the migraine had subsided, I finalised the lyrics & I put down guide vocals for another new song Thieving Autumn^. This song has been in the writing stage since about September last year. I was really pleased with how the vocals went and may even use them as the final vocals with a few tweaks, if I’m not satisfied with how a ‘proper’ recording goes using a condenser mic.

I’ve been arranging a new song that I’m calling ‘Niagara’ this afternoon, and recording some vocals – it has gone from being just a snippet with the main ideas in to a full demo. It’s not easy to sing this one in tune all the way through (I have failed thus far) so I’ll need to practice it a lot more to get the required level of pitch control in the parts that are going wrong.

I also realised today that I have another couple of songs I forgot to include on my list of potential tracks for Album 3. Ooops! With the work on Niagara today, that brings the total duration of the demo tracks to 1hr . It’s starting to look like I could end up with more than an album’s worth of material. There seem to be a couple of different overall genres which don’t necessarily complement each other. Basically, it’s 70s influence and indie-folk-electronica versus 80s synthwave and its progeny. It’s not clear how it will pan out though (no pun intended) as the draft playlist I created doesn’t clash as violently as it threatened.

^Thieving Autumn was provided as an instrumental exclusive with last month’s email news.  If you’re not yet on the email list, sign up so you don’t miss out! I only send one email out around every month or so. With definite emphasis on the ‘or so’.

Sleepwalker

It’s here, the day of my debut album release has arrived! (Cue whooping noises in the background). Busy day, as there’s also a gig tonight to get ready for, so I’ll just drop the link here and go rehearse…    It’s available for download from CD Baby as of today; other online stores will follow, in due course.

Note: You can hear 30s snippets of the songs on the page – these previews are in a low res MP3 format… purchasing the album from CD Baby gets you the high res MP3s AND lossless FLAC format files.  Any problems with the site, please please let me know 🙂

Stoneygate Sleepwalker album cover art

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I haven’t said much about how work on the album is going, so here’s a bit more about it.

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I’ve been working on the tracks for my debut album for a long time already; some of them have been floating around for a couple of years in one form or another. Originally, I thought I’d be final-mixing through the summer after college finished, but I really needed some time out, so finishing the album fell down the priority list for a while.

Then I had a conversation with a friend, Matt Steady, who has recently left his job to pursue a career in musicianship. “You need a project,” said Matt. “I’ve already got one, but I need to finish it,” was my reply. Matt offered to listen to my tracks and give his opinion. Around the same time, I was asked if I would play a gig in the not too distant future in another city. It turned out that these two things were the carrot and stick that I needed to get going again with the album.

Just over a week ago, after some further tweaking, I sent Matt a set of ten tracks, inviting him to be as brutal as he liked. He gave very positive, constructive feedback, and didn’t tell me to drop any of the tracks from this release. (I’d feared he might).

It’s been all systems go since then. As well as organising business cards to hand out at the gig and continuing to code graphics that can be projected onto a wall during the performance, I’ve been working on refining the mixes, working out the track order, choosing the title (Sleepwalker), designing cover art for the online store and trying to figure out what I’ve missed. There’s a growing to do list.

The most challenging part has been that the whole mixing process relies on your ears being ‘fresh’ and therefore you can’t rush it. At some point during a work session, your ears start to get tired and then start playing tricks on you. Things that you thought were loud enough sound too quiet. Your sense of the overall volume of the piece gets disorientated. This adds extra pressure when you’re working to a fairly tight deadline.

Nonetheless, the aim is to get everything mastered and uploaded this coming week – the sooner the better – with a view to releasing the album before the end of November. More hard graft, but it will be worth it. And next time around, the process will be easier. There will be a next time.

Digital Video, DIY style

I’ve already mentioned in previous posts that I’ve been working on a music visualiser application based on Digital Signal Processing (DSP) of sound, which could then be used to project images to screen during performances of my music.  It’s a significant detour from writing music itself, but would be particularly valuable for when I am performing instrumental pieces, to add interest to the listener experience. 

Unfortunately, I have a few challenges to overcome before my work so far can be used to animate live music. Namely, I can currently only use the visualiser on pre-recorded music, which obviously isn’t any good for live work, and it is only coping with small files at this stage. So, I need to learn how to get it to accept streaming audio, and figure out how to get a live sound signal into it.  If indeed that is possible.

I discovered another potential use for my work today, however, and that is to use the applications I’m writing to generate video art. It turns out that this is pretty easy to do by recording the app running on my screen with Quicktime then trimming it in video editing software.  The most difficult thing seems to be getting the sound and images to line up correctly where they are supposed to be synchronised, because recording the app running doesn’t capture the sound (unless that was a mistake on my part… I must check out if I missed any settings). I’ve probably not been completely accurate syncing up the attached example, but it’s close enough this time.

6 May: Save the Date

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This Friday, 6 May will see the launch of my debut single, Sunset Landscape. This is the track that I was making the video for using stills photography a few weeks back. It feels exciting to have got this far through the process and to be able to share it here.

I’ll post more details in the next day or two – watch this space!