They say "write about what you know", but white middle-class sixteen-year-olds don't know much. One thing they might know, however, is the pain of zipping up their flies too fast whilst going commando. My Alaskan buddy, Mr H., lent his whiney American drawl to this one-take wonder and, if nothing else, the poor quality lends an air of bluesy authenticity.
This is the result of messing about late at night with glitches - an activity that can induce odd states of mind. Part of the rhythm section sounds like a heart rate monitor, while the strings have a vaguely emotive vibrato. The synth pads add a sense of hospital-like urgency, so in TV theme music terms: Medical equipment + Emotion = Third-rate hospital drama.
Emerging from the same session as Trapped Foreskin Blues, this is about the traumatic experience of having a jam donut stuck up one's arse. The guitar riff is stolen from Ain't it Fun by The Dead Boys and the lyrics most likely came from some angsty poetry, adapted to a donut theme.
This was an exercise in MIDI composition and automation. People bitch about MIDI, but it's a nifty interface in the right hands. Sadly, the hands were mine. The track was inspired by the character, Reginald Perrin, and was my first shot at MIDI sequencing.
This was written during my journalism phase, so has a sort of shambolic feel to it. I was initially rather taken by the drum track, but also wanted something tangible (guitars) and something comfortable (synths) to fill out the mix. I also wanted a killer bassline, but was never able to pull that off; there are a few nice slides, but nothing that would stand alone as a good bass melody. This could benefit from being remastered to sound a bit more 'brittle', but it will do for now.
This is made from the four remaining Borborygmus tracks, all of which were recorded using the same technique: two microphones, fed directly into Crusher-X (an excellent audio processor designed by Jörg Stelkens). Will Stevens is the real star here, so I have mashed his ad lib waffle together with some nice sounding instrumental bits. The edits are invisible, so any glitches or strange directions in the soundscape are as they were recorded. This track pretty much sums up Borborygmus.
Will Stevens had enough crisps and wine in him to fuel a belligerent diatribe on the state of daytime/early evening television. This was, presumably, the result of having been unemployed for a considerable period of time. I improvised on double bass and Crusher-X / piano in a manner reflecting the tone of the piece. The slight radio noise was due to an improperly wired Neumann valve microphone, which was picking up interference. We didn't hear it at the time.
Richard Dawson had been drinking wine and so had his alterego, David. Being an opportunist, I recorded this and now claim it as my own. This is one of my favourite tracks. It's not always about the music; 'capturing a moment' is also critical. Richard is now a respected and dignified songwriter, and I'm very glad we've worked together. Although technically not a Borborygmus song, this slots in nicely here. The reknowned academic and composer, Sten Olof Hellström, has also commented that he likes this piece.
As the name suggests, this is the intro track to Tinkle und Tonkel's farewell début album, Actung Kinder. Unfortunately the synth settings have become lost, so this is the non-mixed original. It sounds okay though. My friend, Vesa Rahkola used this (without explicit permission from T&T) for some sort of internal marketing video for Elle Magazine and it fits rather nicely. Oddly enough, the video concentrates on children's clothing.
I've always liked this song by 'Air' and wanted to mess about with it. I had to fight against my better judgement to not 'cut to the chase' and this should probably be longer still to qualify as as one of those shitty "12-inch" remixes. Unfortunately, I've since messed about with the multitrack file and can't get it sounding quite like this anymore, so there's no scope for improvement. On the plus side, that imposes an 'end point', so this track is effectively completed.
The late night Trapped Foreskin... session
also brought about this. I was aiming for a sort of reggae Postman Pat
theme and Mr H. improvised the vocals. Some sort of dialogue was entered into, but
I never perform well in these situations and hate the sound of my own voice. It
is one of my most embarassing recordings.
When I first discovered MIDI it seemed like anything was possible, so I basically MIDI-fied all my favourite black metal tracks, resulting in an embarassing, albeit kitsch, collection of neo-classical oddities (little did I know that many Black Metal bands would go on to use electronics in the mid-2000s). Occasionally however, I'd scatter a few notes randomly and use some of the less useful members of the General MIDI soundset.
The lyrics here are nothing more than angsty rhymes about visiting Stalingrad. I quite like the chopped/reversed guitar and vocal samples - they seem to add a kind of unpredictability and restlessness. If this track were a weather condition, it would be 'squally showers'. The idea here is to have as much dirt in the source material, whilst also maintaining a robust structure. Synths provide a reasonably solid framework, from which hang the guitars, drums and vocals.
A lecturer had the lazy (though possibly constructive) idea of encouraging collaboration by arbitrarily assigning us into pairs. We improvised with noisemakers in the recording studio, then saved our material with a view to arranging and composing it at home. Alone. The work was never called in for marking, but we did it anyway. I was teamed up with Jerome Silsby, an anthropologist with an interest in Andean and Patagonian ukelele music. Nice guy. Never blinked.
Granted, the anecdote is somewhat lame, but this was the only jam session that Will Stevens and I ever had that sounded vaguely musical. Of particular interest is Stevens' Partridgesque noise at the very end. Also, the burp at 1:23 has an unnerving presence - if you're wearing headphones, it's like the burp is there in the room with you. Mark Vernon seems to come in for a lot of stick on many of the tracks featured here.
The credit for this song's inspiration, lyrics and melody must go to William Stevens, whose sentiments are genuinely heartfelt. There exists an uncut version, but it would be inappropriate to include it here. Once again, the subject matter is inspired by Mr. Stevens' many days spend in front of the television, claiming Jobseekers Allowance and, in a way, I guess he found a job - of sorts - in the end. This track later became a 'myspace classic', earning Will many plaudits and admirers.
This throwaway piece is centred on one sample, around which Herr Tonkel improvised a monologue concerning the sex lives of the Teutonic twosome. The purpose was twofold: to dispel rumours that Tinkle und Tonkel are a gay couple; and to demonstrate serious musicianship beyond the sphere of 'Krautronica'. T&T decided that a 12 bar blues would be the logical genre choice - and what a bad idea that turned out to be. Nevertheless, it exists here as an historical artefact of Germany's darkest hour.
This was inspired by, and structured around, Richard Dawson's improvised performance of a set of randomly assorted erotic poetry fridge magnets. Some of the backing noise was recorded in the studios at Newcastle University with Roger James, and this mix was arranged specifically for Project Mendel. It has been described as 'noise music with a tonal centre', which isn't strictly true, but I like the idea. Noise music is great - but pure atonal noise can be pretty brutal to work with and is also quite boring.
This is the first song I ever multitracked. The main problem lies with the timing, which is why I now avoid any form of communal music making other than improv. It was recorded prior to me gaining any knowledge of noise reduction, e.q. or mixing, so the quality is low. After transferring to digital, I addressed some or the more glaring sound issues - although this was at the expense of [what wanky purists refer to as] 'warmth'.
We were given a task: to produce two tracks in two different styles. I chose New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and 'Intelligent Dance Music' (IDM). This is the former. It's an Iron Maiden pastiche, bravely rescued by Richard Dawson's admirable screaming.
During the HND, Stu, Erno, Jonny, Alex and I each had a song of our own produced at some point. This was Alex's. We aimed for a 'raw' sound, but it's a shame about the distortion. Our alotted section of reel-to-reel tape ran into someone's hip-hop project. We liked this ending, so we kept it - but apologies to whoever's project that was.
This was written in The County pub, Gosforth. We didn't really have a handle on irony or the comedy song, but we had fun. Amazingly, Stu managed to rope in an actual girl to sing it. It doesn't hit the mark in terms of pop penmanship, but lessons have been learned and I will stick to making weird electronic music in future. Note: this is unfinished.
I never really write melodies, preferring instead to stick with guitar harmonies. It was Alex Thompson's lyrics (inspired by dream imagery) and vocals that brought this track to life. I'm pleased with how it turned out, despite being incomplete (the coda needs additional work). The multitrack is lost in the mists of time, but I'll graft something on to the end of this one day. The demo was made with an odd guitar tuning, which I can't recall.
This HND piece was a response to being asked to record a track that began in one style and ended up in another. Using Metallica's Enter Sandman as a starting point, I segued into some sort of weird dance music (apparantly via an ATB style ambient mid-section). The guitar timings are way out and the GM sounds are very weak, but this was an early attempt at doing everything within a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), which I hadn't really got the hang of.
Way back when I was just beginning to embrace the idea of mixing guitar 'songs' with synths and odd little electronic noises, I made this. I've since realised that it's a subtle art and has been done far more deftly. The main riff sounds a bit like Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others by The Smiths. This is purely coincidental. The drums are stupefyingly dull. A vocal line would also help.
This was initially intended as an ambient piece, but I ran short on patience, so dropped in a voicemail sample and some tinkly bells to liven things up. I experiment with drones from time to time, but get irritated with all the e.q.-ing. Drone music depends on fairly good mixing skills and decent monitors, neither of which I have, so the lead parts are intended to distract attention away from the failings in the background.
The inspirational Matt Sansom gave us this project - a very simple idea - to collect short samples of music that represent my individual listening history over the years. These were then effected, crossfaded and mixed to form a 'plunderphonics' masterpiece. The project allowed me to critically reflect on my influences, shedding some light on my current music. It's also a fun game of 'sample spotting' and was an interesting (though mechanically tedious) undertaking.
Whilst producing my final year BMus submission, a number of tracks fell by the wayside. The album is about surrealism, which was predominantly a Paris-based scene in the early twentieth century. This is a rendering of La Marseillaise in the style of Jimi Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner. It has novelty value, but that's all, so it never made the final cut.
As Lautreamont's shark retreats, twitching and febrile, the passion and the hunger build. Fury, tension and abstract thoughts slip between consciousnesses like electrons; blurring the boundaries of reality. I don't have the prose skills to do justice to the idea underpinning this, but it's the same reference as When Isidor (Wi). This is the follow-up and together they form a whole.
This begins with some rejected footage from a free improv session with Will Stevens. I don't believe those pretentious theories about 'the sounds inbetween being equally valid' or that 'noise is also music'. It may be, but I don't like listening to it. However, I liked this radio recording, so I segued from it into an ambient synthy soundscape. The rhythm section imparts a jauntiness which I particularly enjoy, but the delayed piano is decidedly 'Robert Miles'.
This was made from leftover bits of voice and an adapted version of Bigmouth Strikes Again by The Smiths. Initially intended as a cover version, the idea seemed to distance itself from the final piece over time. This is no bad thing, since my intentions are almost always misguided. The master is a little hot, but clarity is there. The vocal samples (if you were wondering) aren't anything sexual; they're just sliced out of context from recorded conversations.
Set is a paean to the sheer pleasure of making lists. This could allude to the relief an OCD sufferer feels when items are quantised; the satisfaction of consolidating tasks into a 'to do' list; or the sheer joy inherent in the sound of a pencil drawing lines on a clean sheet of paper (my own motivation). The sound of a drawn line hints at boundaries. The list contained therein is all that matters. We don't need to know the subject or contents. There is order - owned - in a graphical form. The line is final. It both sectorises and marks the end of a list. Overdubs were added to represent amendments, reorderings and the generally dynamic nature of working lists. This chaotic quality reflects the mindset of the list maker, providing a schizoid/paranoid narrative.
I got such good feedback from When Isidor... that I decided to use that extensive sample set and make a follow-up, Isidor #2. I subsequently made this piece from crackles and piano, and only afterwards noticed that it bears a similarity to the two original pieces. As such, it was designated an informal 'part three' of what had just become a tryptich. It is redolent of the band 'Murcof' and I quite like the suspense/tension held in those long reverb tails.
Occasional partner in crime, Will Stevens, seemed rather taken by the idea of free improvisation, so we recorded some Borborygmus filler material in this way. He reads a lot of beat literature and so is comfortable spouting pseudo-meaningful verbiage. I did the instrumentation, while he wandered in and out of the room, providing vocals. This was during our 'red wine' phase. It's pronounced 'Glonker', incidentally.
Despite appearing on Achtung Kinder, this was recorded a long time before that. It was an HND project in which I had to record a cover version of Stand and Deliver by Adam and the Ants in the style of Kraftwerk. It turned out not too bad, considering the technology used (a really old, unstable softsynth), but I'd love to get my hands on the multitrack to give it a proper remix. The tutor marking this compared the vocal style to that of Phil Oakey - a dubious compliment to Richard Dawson, who kindly sang.
Project Mendelev was taking a while to complete, so I did something new instead of endlessly locating, inspecting and tweaking old tracks. Perhaps a little creativity would give me some fresh impetus. I'm not entirely happy with this, but it's a pleasant enough slice of electro blip. Interestingly, this is the only title in my periodic table that is actually a real molecule, rather than an imaginary element.
I still hadn't improved as a guitarist. There seems to be greater separation and tonal variety here, so perhaps this was after I'd bought the Boss GT3 effects processor. For some reason, there are only three tracks, which is odd, given my youthful penchant for distorted solos. Also, had the GT3 been employed, there would be a far more esoteric sound palette, so perhaps I was actually trying to concentrate on the song. I never write leads or melodies; this must be 'unfinished', or possibly awaiting a vocal.
(See also [Mc], directly above this). This ended up being a weird mashup between Massive Attack's Unfinished Sympathy and Pantera's Cowboys from Hell. It didn't work particularly well, but it fulfilled the remit set by Newcastle College.
I'd sampled an 'Alabama 3' loop, so this track evolved around it. Apologies to 'Faith No More', for stealing the piano riff from the end of Epic. The original multitrack is missing some audio and a lot of controller information, so I've remixed this into a definitive 'Mk. 2' version. There seems to be a fusion of styles here. The sounds are fairly weak, but the musical intent is there.
At a point when I had no music software, the fact that this sequencing programme (Dance eJay) turned up in a box of breakfast cereal was quite handy. It worked instantly and came with a reasonable array of samples and loops. This was my first ever attempt at some sort of dance track. Structurally, it lacks a lot, but the segues are quite nice and the samples meshed really well.
There was a party at my parent's house and I left a minidisc recorder out with a Mac omnidirectional mic. The original recording is full of gems, but one of my favourites was Stu's 'Scientology' rant and Jonny's subsequent wresting control of said mic. This was cobbled together purely for novelty value, but also because I was beginning to experiment with 'found sounds'.
Having developed the idea that I could stock up on VSTis just by downloading them off the internet, I was testing these out for my imagined 'Perfect Virtual Studio'. This brought me to the conclusion that the ones I was using - chosen primarily on the look of their user interface - were crap. I was also beginning to experiment with using guitar as a sound generator, rather than an instrument in itself; the start of a gradual abandonment of 'playing'.
Rik was a Big Issue vendor who used to produce a free photocopied publication called The Small Tissue. He had good craic, but was often hounded off campus by security. One day, Rik decided to give away a CD with his Small Tissue, so I produced this track to go on it. Then he disappeared. The monologue is satire. The deconstuction at the end represents the idea that, despite its monolithic presence, the university 'machine' is clunky, archaic and complex. Like a big old house.
This was constructed from outtakes and has never reached a satisfactory end. I'm annoyed with it and intend to bury it here. There are three equally bad versions. The lesson here is: just because you have some left over sounds, doesn't mean they should be used. I had been aiming for some mechanical sounding long drum loops, contrasted against a maudlin synth melody, but never quite nailed it. Such is life.
Mark Vernon is a good guy but lays himself open to a lot of ribbing. He has Welsh relatives. This message was left on my answerphone a long time ago when he was having issues with them. I don't know what a 'Pikahead' is, but it sounded good in a loop. Stephen Hedley saying 'Vernon' was recorded with an old sampling keyboard donated to me by Will Edmondes. This track was originally on Achtung Kinder as Secret Trák (feat. Pvt. Zimmer), but has nothing to do with Tinkle und Tonkel.
I didn't have the means or the skills to make proper studio recordings at this point and instead preferred to meddle around with softsynths. The production values here reflect that, but I enjoyed layering harmonies and imposing silly, chopped up drum patterns. Its sheer MIDI-ness is somewhat naff and the title is a bad pun, based on the horn section sounding slightly, er, 'regal'. With vocals, better separation and mastering, this could be okay.
My friend, Izzy, worked for a media company who wanted one minute of looping background music for their showreel CD. I knocked up three MIDI tracks, one of which was chosen (Mo#1). It was nice hearing my work on a professionally produced and distributed CD, but I felt a little self-conscious that this was 'unfinished'. The abrupt start/end points are because it's designed to loop.
Another 'Idea' track that fell by the wayside. The original files are missing, so although something could be done with this, it's frozen. There are a few changes I could make that would vastly improve the track - but it's the same story with a lot of Project Mendelev, so I'm moving on. I must have discovered delay lines for drums and also chopping up audio, since these are predominant here.
I had initially envisaged a project using an array of different voices with various accents. After collecting a number of these, my interest waned, but I was left with quite a lot of random quotes and voices. This track emerged from some free improvisation, over which I dropped a couple of 'Winnie the Pooh' based samples. AA Milne would be proud. I can't remember how I achieved the weird distorted 'violin' sound at the end, but recall being quite pleased with it. Beneath is a coda-only mix which, although twee, I also quite like.
This was Vesa's swan song. He left it as an answerphone message a long time ago. Luckily, I know Vesa and I also don't automatically red-flag the 'S' word - so I turned it into a track instead.
This initially started as a soundscape, with some fairly gruesome samples sprinkled over the top. It then developed a rhythmic element, which nearly took a turn towards the 'Nine Inch Nails / Ministry' areas of industrial metal - but I abandoned that idea. It was topped and tailed, with an American Evangelism Minister's sermon scrobbled over the top. I'm not sure if it works and need to remove the stubborn delay on the vocals, but the little bits of speech that are recognisable are really weird.
There is plenty of Boris audio on the internet, so I decided to plaster some all over this backing track. It would be easy to cobble together a 'Cassette Boy' style takedown, but I'm not aiming for biting satire here; just audio interest. Plus, the word 'Bollocks' always sounds good. I'll tidy this up at a later date - need to reconfigure the samples a bit. Give it structure.
The offical Tinkle and Tonkel press release for this reads: "...cold, electronic timbres, contrasted against camp, emotive vocals, highlight the inherent absurdities of the 'war machine', whilst repetitive lyrics cock a snook at the brainwashing techniques used by dictatorships to instil obedience and belligerence". Closer inspection reveals some synchronisation problems with the lead synth, as well as poorly controlled vocoder. Tinkle and Tonkel apologise for these oversights.
I had a loop but very little creative impetus, so I borrowed the chord sequence from Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb and worked it from there. The vocals were generated from an online speech synthesiser (useful for the non-singer who doesn't really like singers) and the guitar solo was improvised in rather a hurry. The chords overlap an an interesting way to create lots of strange musical artifacts, now buried deep in the mix. This song is dedicated to the archivist, Steven John Hughes.
Attempt number three has some RHCP influence to it and seems to be drenched in awful distorted guitar - another indication youthful hubris. Thank goodness I never reached virtuosic standards, or I'd have become completely self-indulgent. There's some violining, the bass playing seems a bit more thoughtful, and there's even a key-change, so possibly I was exploring 'techniques'.
We were given a ropey vocal recording and had to come up with some new backing music. I had been working on a track anyway and shoehorned these two pieces together. It seems that by the middle section, the vocals and the music are woefully out of tune. Embarassing - but it happens.
This was recorded shortly after Sigur Rós released their third album, [parentheses], which almost certainly bore some influence. Will was visiting often and had some nice musical instruments. He wanted me to create an anthem with them, but I encouraged him to improvise, resulting in something experimental, yet vaguely palatable. The electronic noise is the result of an earlier concept to do with sleep that was later abandoned - this involved mangling the end of a live MIDI cable with a knife.
Commanding voices were required to distract critical ears from the backing music, which I wasn't too proud of. The script went through a Bryon Gysin / William Burroughs style 'cut up' treatment to obfuscate the original message - though it must be emphasised that there was no mischevious intent in terms of 'quoting out of context'. The vocals were performed admirably and the source recordings have provided good fodder for other tracks, such as Before You Wake Up (Bw), so I'm happy with this.
Featuring the creamy tones of William Stevens' 'Magnus Electric Chord Organ' and a variety of vocal contributors, this track evokes waking up to a crisp early dawn in Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris. It inspired a visit to the same location more than three years later by the [now defunct] band, Wildlife Producer, of which I was a member. The crackling noise, designed to evoke the rustling of twigs and leaves, is the 'Snap, Crackle and Pop' of Kellogg's Rice Crispies.
This was a response to a certain music lecturer who, when challenged about his dismissive style and arrogant critique, advised me to "Just get confident". Looking back, there was some wisdom in this, but I took it badly at the time and still think it was an arsey thing to say. The noise at the beginning and end was created by mangling the end of a MIDI cable routed to my computer's default GM synthesiser.
The chaotic noise at the beginning was created in FastTracker 2, and the waveform following it is an Amstrad CPC464 data cassette played in an audio tape machine. The answer message, strangely, had looped by itself. I stole some music by Erno Helen to use as scaffold to end the piece. This found its way on to a commercial compilation (Rhythms You Lik, released by Ginglik Records) under the less offensive title BMused.
This track features samples from William Stevens' broken autoharp. The lead part is a Yamaha DX7 programmed to sound like an electric guitar. The DX7 put me off FM synthesis for life. A certain amount of inspiration was provided by the stop-motion films of Jan Švankmajer. My guess is that there is a submission titled BMused every year on the BMus degree.
Another track based on Père-Lachaise Cemetery. The lyrics comprise a list of residents and also constitute a nod towards Daft Punk's Teachers. In the case of Daft Punk, the names are all influences on their work, whereas in my case, only a small handful are influences and the others are just well-known. Nevertheless, the theme is solid and also provides a fun game to play when visiting Paris. My timing is out with the vocals, but it would be too difficult to re-record these now.
One trait common to many Surrealist paintings is object fetishism. Salvador Dalí made prominent use of ants, floppy clocks and Lenin's head. Similarly, I have a fetish for the sound of pencil (and to a lesser extent, biro) lines being drawn on paper, the origins of which I can place quite accurately, but won't discuss here. Elements from this recording underscore many of the tracks on A Stabbed Dove, also comprising a piece in their own right. This track is dedicated to Trian Fundudis.
The source material for this was created by gently destroying a Steinway upright piano in the Armstrong Building at Newcastle University. Two AKG414 microphones and a number of blunt objects were used, but no further audio processing was involved. The arrangement was specifically inspired by stanza 13, second canto of 'Les Chants de Maldoror' by the Comte de Lautreamont in which, following a shipwreck, the protagonist makes love to a female shark.
This is the result of a friend and I drinking too much absinthe etc., then overdramatising a relatively ordinary situation. I passed this off academically as 'Induced Critical Paranoia' and arranged the audio according to Bryon Gysin's 'cut up' method, to produce a collage effect in the surrealist vein. These explanations work perfectly well, but were not the initial intent, although the narrative remains chronologically faithful to the original recording.
The Oakley (sunglasses) catalogue lists one of their materials as 'unobtanium'. The vocals here consist of the spec's (pun intended) list for a set of their 'eye jacket' sunglasses. There is no real point to the piece, but I found a way to bodge it into my final submission under a fetishisation (of mundane consumer products) theme. There is too much reverb, but that underlines the soullessness - yeah, totally intended.
Many softsynths use the QWERTY keyboard to trigger 'note on' events, lending the idea that words can be translated into melodies. Assure Us (an anagram of 'Saussure') uses the words ‘Andrew Fletcher’ and 'Maldoror'. I also used the anagrams 'Refract Lewd Hen', 'Clad Her Wet Fern' and 'Moral Rod'. Ferdinand de Saussure's investigation into anagrams in classical poetry gave rise to the idea that these are more than just accidents and add an extra dimension of meaning. As for the music, it's not that good.
Jamgasm was a free improvisation session. We set up an array of microphones and let rip. I distilled the best bits into this, capitalising on the natural topography of the recording. It's mainly a straight take - preserving its integrity - but I'm not precious, so a few samples were shuffled around. In retrospect, it doesn't really come from, or go anywhere, but the recording itself has a nice fidelity.
Free improvising with a jack plug, bass guitar and long delay, formed a canvas for the vocal sample library I'd made earlier that year. The original idea was to have 99 people sum up their lives in one word, then bodge these together into one piece of music to demonstrate our insignificance. That never happened really materialised. Eventually, I allowed the vocal samples to slowly deteriorate and become lost in an audio 'stew', which kind of worked. This drags on slightly too long, but stops abruptly just before genuine boredom sets in.
The original version of Safety is missing; only the mixdown remains. The Fours Remix (2008), named because everything seems to happen in groups of four is therefore now the definitive isotope. Running with the surrealist theme, the source material for this is synthesised, but began to sound like a fire extinguisher being dragged along a concrete floor. In the spirit of 'critical paranoia', I allowed this to be my motivation for the purposes of tying it into the thematic scheme of the album.
This came about when I got my first mobile phone, a Motorola v8088. After the novelty had worn off, I discovered it had a minijack out, enabling me to record conversations and use the audio. The first thing I sampled was this answerphone message. It was named 'Secret Track' because I'd just completed an album and decided to include this at the end, unlisted.
This formed part of a media manipulation exercise. The task was to create and disseminate rumours in the music press that the band Westlife had split up. I sent this to various sources as a 'coming out' song, with a view to it becoming Mark Feehily's debut solo single. The rumours did receive some press coverage, but the song remains unreleased. I'm quite pleased with the recording, considering the lack of expertise or decent equipment.
My first mobile phone was a snazzy little Motorola with a record function (mentioned in Sc). I used this to surreptitiously record conversations for later musical [ab]use. The first - hence the crude nature of this track - victim was Matt Coleman. I was also heavily into Aphex Twin's glitchy electronic patchworks and stark lead lines. The beats were made using tracking software and the rest was assembled in Cakewalk.
One of my favourite ex-housemates, Jamie Collings, has nephrotic syndrome. He's also overweight, depressed and cynical, which is why he hates '80s pop music and loves The Smiths. Jamie once impaled himself on a fence in Manchester, right through the groin, resulting in a 'cheesewire scar' caused by his jeans. It ain't pretty. I made this song for him. The lyrics aren't smart and it's one of the few times you'll hear me sing - also not pretty.
There is a piece of software called 'Melodyne', which enables the user to control audio as if it were MIDI. I applied it to a female vocal sample (sounds like Alison Goldfrapp, but I'm not sure), but didn't really have a song idea to embed it into. I'd also been listening to that weird brand of late '80's / early '90s piano-based rave music, so decided to conflate the two. The melodies fit together, but other than that, this track has no brains.
I had recently acquired a version of Native Instruments' Limelite, a standalone drum program, which was fun, but wouldn't work as a VSTi and was therefore of limited use to me. The rhythm here is based around a Limelite experiment. It sounds very mechanical, but the samples were okay and there's an 'almost falling over itself' quality in places. The vocal was created in Beaumont Terrace during my 'vocal sampling' phase and the synths were added to pad it out.
Another 'new software' experiment; there was a programme called vSampler, which played a weird combination of samples that sounded like a man saying "Let's Beep Fletch". I made a bleepy backing track to underlay this. The original sample has since gone missing, so I've rejuvinated the peice using other programmes and renamed it. The original version still has a decent 'spit' to it, so I've included it here for reference.
This was a reject from one of our Megamos Transponder sessions. We have a policy of never ever paying for software (unless it's written by someone we know), so we got a lot of nag inserts, which were carefully edited out. For some reason, I kept this one.
The 'Idea #' tracks were originally short pieces composed to test out new softsynths or plugins. Many were thrown away, but others seemed to contain the germ of an idea, so I developed them. There was no intention of making proper songs; just of showcasing the little 'idea' that had inadvertantly emerged. I like the bass here, but I'm not sure about the sharp lead line, which occasionally verges on feedback before disappearing into a mulch.
Elvin Jones, the jazz drummer, died in 2004. It didn't mean much to me, but my good friend and housemate, Will Schrimshaw (a drummer), wanted to commemorate Jones with a remix album, so he sent out a sample of his drumming to all and sundry. To my knowledge, I was the only person to actually do anything with it - this was played at a concert once (King's Hall, Newcastle University). In retrospect, perhaps the drums should have been forefronted, but I was never an Elvin Jones fan in the first place.
Jonny Coates is an excellent songwriter from Belfast. He has a tendency to become drunk and shout "I've Got No Choice" (his catchphrase). This track embeds that catchphrase into an almost electroacoustic soundscape. It is actually one section of a longer piece, which is unfortunately lost. The source material came from the same party mentioned in Church of Scientology (Cs), earlier on in the decade. My intention was to create a sort of 'heavy electronic prison', but this is what emerged.
Erno Helen, who appears in various places on Project Mendelev, is sampled here, questioning the quality of the microphone (it was the ubiquitous grey, omnidirectional mic that came with many early Apple Macintosh computers). That microphone was used for most of my early recording and I loved it. The backing is one of my favourite classical pieces, 'smeared' to create a sense of 'essence', rather than any particularly ordered notes. It was an interesting experiment, but not a hugely compelling piece of music.
This is a series of vocalisations, layered on top of one another, which make specific reference to random little songs and ditties I'd made up for my girlfriend, Hilary. We lived apart at the time, so the idea was to create a CD of my 'presence' for her to listen to on headphones while I wasn't there. In retrospect, I could have done a better job, but the idea was spontenaity and I'm not much of an improviser. The sounds are a bit silly, but the intent was comfort and humour. It seemed to work.
This happened when Tinkle und Tonkel were drinking red wine and messing about on the internet. During their research, T&T were alerted to the book Penetrating Wagner's Ring (DiGaetani, 1991). The recording isn't particularly funny, but is nevertheless part of the Tinkle und Tonkel canon and thus exists as the final track on their album, Achtung Kinder. Tinkle and Tonkel have asked me to stress that they are serious musicians, which is why they were researching their musical heritage.
As an alternative to Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai seemed like a good bet. I also like his name, so knocked up this little track. It has some irritating and inexplicable noise on it, which I can't seem to get rid of. The vocal drone towards the end says: "Aaaa-oooh, Mugabe" and the little vocal punctuation says: "People eat meat", an observation whose origins are lost in the mists of a drunken pub session. It's an odd little track and not that good, but it's probably the only song about Morgan Tsvangirai you've heard.
This is far noisier, on account of me using the X3's inbuilt microphone - a design flaw resulting in machine noise being recorded. However, this allowed me to use an acoustic guitar for the rhythm (left channel), which enabled far greater tonal range than the Strat copy used everywhere else. Listening back, this seems to be a very early precursor to ATARI Rastafari (Ar). The open-mic adds a sense of space or 'air' to the recording, which the previous three songs distinctly lack.
Martin McAloon asked us to compose some 'music of the spheres' (or musica universalis, for the pretentious). This was a sort of Holst-like journey, launching from the sun and ending up at Pluto (then still a planet). I also made up some bullshit about universal base frequencies buried in the mix - this may possibly mark the start of my realisation that art is all about lying.
Gwilly Edmondez and I were jamming in the (now defunct) Armstrong studio when the studio technician, John Ayers, walked in to enquire about the whereabouts of four Shure SM58 microphones. The jam wasn't particularly special, but unplanned interruptions can be fun. The slightly 'off' sine wave is one of my favourite instruments - the Tibetan singing bowl.
This was presumably recorded on July 4th. It has various 'movements', enabling me to shoehorn a few extra titles into the MMus album for my own amusement. I also wanted to include a few decent examples of Megamos Transponder, since the band had emerged from the academic side of my musical education. In these respects, this (and some other tracks) could be considered filler material. I had issues with authenticity and the ethics of creativity at the time... Looking back, it's all perfectly valid, and fits in nicely with what I was trying to achieve.
The title refers to the initial field recording, made at the site of the (now sadly defunct) Haymarket Concrete Men in Newcastle. This much maligned architectural gewgaw was definitely a bad idea, but lasted a good couple of years, during which time, the residents of Newcastle came to love and cherish it. The concrete men were demolished in September 2006 and this track, for me, is their epitaph. Gwilly Edmondez commented that he likes my comments at the end. I was tired at the time.
A cover version of the 'Animal Hospital' theme music by Ron de Jong. I would like to contact Ron to inform him about my version, but notice he's composed a number of extremely banal themes for media and television, the tedious nature of which suggests a tedious mindset that may be inclined to sue. He may be lovely and not litigious at all, but I'm not prepared to take that risk. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but I'm not proud of it. In fact, it's kind of childish.
Due to the consensus that it would be difficult to transfer the Megamos experience to a live setting, this constitutes a Fluxus practice known as a ‘happening’, which aims to blur the boundary between audience and performer. The ‘gig’ was thus performed down a telephone line (via Skype), which subsequently forms an essential part of the piece – we wouldn’t have been able to call it ‘Megamos Live’ had the live element not been recorded onto the track itself. I made a couple of calls. You can hear them somewhere in the middle.
A purely academic exercise, this. Like so many pretentious arts students before me, I read Jean Baudrillard and decided to encapsulate his concept of reality from Simulacra and Simulation here. I don't know why I chose The Smiths as a vehicle for this - perhaps because I'd already made a cover version of There is a Light that Never goes Out and didn't want to see it go to waste. Plus, I like The Smiths.
These are radio adverts for the Tinkle und Tonkel album, 'Achtung Kinder', which was produced during the balmy summer of 2006. I felt the album was worth signposting, so made these adverts (with full permission from the artists) to drop into other projects. Legitimate German, Heinrich Täller, kindly contributed his voiceover skills to lend an air of authenticity and to negate any implication of xenophobia.
I had a Fluxus moment, which led to an unsurprising array of studenty artistic stunts. There was a wardrobe in my house which contained a mysterious pair of trousers. Not wanting to see these go to waste (they didn't fit), I submitted them as part of my major project. Instructions both legitimises this action and informs the listener what to do. I do not know if the trousers were worn during the marking process, but felt it worth outlining the reason for their presence.
The same album contained a secret track - a counterpoint - urging the listener to wear the trousers as per the instructions. The track was pretty well buried and I don't think anyone ever heard it.
REMOVED BY SOUNDCLOUD - FIX THIS
Originally titled Copper Burps, this is a poem made from words I have taught my mobile phone's T9 dictionary. Some are invented, many are swearwords (or variations thereof) and some are simply obscure. The delivery is bad (I'm no poet) and buried in datasmear, so I'm not happy with this mix - but the underlying lyric-generating concept is sound.
Although technically slander (it is, apparently, also defamatory to presume what may be going on in someone else's head), these tracks act as humorous interludes to my MMus project. Along with Hogghausen, these three represent an impotent three-pronged attack on the academy. Ian's was inspired by his love of Fado, a traditional Portugese musical genre, and Paul's aped an initially postmodern, 'datasmear' effect, before segueing into a more modernist 'Philip Glass' style repeating string motif.
This piece employs the phasing technique developed by Steve Reich. Used on vocals, this is best exemplified by the piece Come Out, by the Reich. I applied it here to a William Burroughs sample and some sort of synth loop I'd been working on. It's quite hypnotic, but not particularly groundbreaking. It was actually a bit of a pain to do in a digital context, but I mainly just wanted to use that particular sample in an artistically valid context.
Jaike Stambach once gave me a compilation CD containing the track Transit by Christian Fennesz. The piece is beautiful and inspiring, so produced this awful acapella version of it. Two straight-take vocal tracks were recorded and the xylophone replicates the original lyrical melody. The sudden cuts are due to a harsh noise gate, but the vocals are otherwise clean. This bears little resemblance to the original, but the act of singing (usually anathema to me) was quite enjoyable.
This is another Megamos Track. It contains a variety of samples (which we never kept a record of) used to menacing effect. I particularly like Dave's 'Geordie gadgie' and Alex's slow build harmonica. One of the samples is a follow up to When Isidor..., which never saw the light of day. Addendum: It did see the light of day - in Lautreamont Pt. 3 (L).
This is a straight up noise piece made from broken keyboards donated by occasional collaborator, Gwilly Edmondez. I think it's overcompressed, but it's very loud and there was no other way of making it presentable. Noise music is surprisingly hard to do well. Despite the relatively narrow dynamic range, the tonal range is okay, and I quite like the way this track undulates and trundles (trundulates?). There are various sections to this (including a 'swing' segment) and I've left a nice surprise at the end.
This should belong with Academics, but is different in one regard; I couldn't imagine the sounds inside Bennett Hogg's head, so I stole a load of his samples from an HD recorder in the studio. Thankfully the recordings were good, but the composition still didn't take very long to complete - it's all just reverb, e.q. and a high boredom threshold. So much for electroacoustic music.
The extraordinary pianist and darling of London's burlesque scene, Chrys Columbine, approached me to "make some dark beats". I engineered the piece, while she provided the audio material and general direction. The samples were largely of an industrial nature and the structure fairly loose - so this sounds quite noisy. However, it gives the sense of forboding that I think Chrys was after. I added the vocal sample later.
This was submitted for Matt Sansom at Newcastle University. We had to explore Native Instruments' Reaktor synth and build some music that would affect the body in some way (the original title was Listening Bodies). I did my usual thing of making ominous noises, then working out how to fulfil the brief by way of a crafty write-up. A better job could have been made with the arrangement, but the sounds were the focal point, and I quite like these.
Initially titled Token Short Piece, this featured on the end of The Complacent EP. It was made from left over bits of sound from that album. Subsequently - and with knowing tawdriness - I decided to make it my '9/11' piece. I changed the name and made it more rumbly. It sounds like a building collapsing from the inside in slow motion. The album Invisible Colours consisted of ten sub-one minute tracks, so this eventually found its way on there.
This was inspired by a dream about a man working in a factory, who sees a jellyfish that projects visions of the man's family in states of distress. This disturbs him so much that he doesn't notice the malfunctioning and crumbling machinery around him until it's too late. As with most dreams, something is lost in the translation.
I wanted to experiment with unexpected stops and unusual delay lines. This version sounds a bit clinical; the original contained artefacts and quirks that were a result of using an unstable version of Cubase. Having corrected these, the idiosyncracies have also gone. The piece was composed while I was going through a phase of getting up really early in the morning. It was very pleasant and I think this track reflects that.
I briefly lived with Joss Crooks, a DJ, owner of a long white dog, and all round nice bloke. He once had to teach the inmates at HMP Durham how to make music, which meant I had to teach him how to use Cubase. This is our practice project. It's not the kind of music I'd come up with on my own; Joss made the decisions. Although not as powerful as the pre-packed dance stuff generated in Acid or Fruity Loops, it has a rather nice 'home-made' charm.
This was another idea in which I clearly tried to acquire the patience for long segues and mild techno loops. It doesn't work here and can't find the original files anyway. However, I like the 'bounciness' and sparse bassline. The recording isn't too bad and I think there's a 'Smiths' sample buried deep down. At this stage of Project Mendelev, I've reached the 'uneditables' and my memory of this is somewhat fuzzy.
I was obviously having some fun with drum and bass loops - very muddy sounding ones at that. The segues are good here, but the samples are noisy and the quality is pretty poor. Perhaps some cymbal hits or stabs or something might emphasise the structure. There are hints of bad 'Prodigy' here, but their samples are pristinely clean (if loud), whereas mine are just loud.
These final slots are reserved for a) more recent tracks that I've started or b) some Megamos Transponder work when I eventually get around to editing it down. To be honest, I've kind of given up on this project but it's nice to have a bit of headroom. I mean, the actual periodic table has gaps for theoretical elements, so I can too, right?