My latest album started as kind of a joke.
“Famous Monsters” began as one or two tracks that didn’t really fit in with anything else I was doing at the time. They were both standout and standoffish, not wanting to be paired next to other songs I was working on except for ones exactly like them. So there they were standing off in the corner by themselves, not sulking or glaring but keenly aware of their difference while watching the others like predators at the outer edge of a campfire in the wilderness.
The joke part is I never really took this kind of album seriously. I mean I love Aphex’s “Selected Ambient Works” as much as the next guy as well as stuff by Rapoon, Zoviet France, Lustmord, Eno GLobal Communications and countless others. I used to love listening to WZBC in Boston late into the night on Thursdays when Gary Geiserman would play that stuff under tapes by Alan Watts and Terrence McKenna.
But I never saw myself making “ambient music” yet as I started to play the tracks for people like Jay or Raab from Component they really liked it. I mean really liked it. Which surprised me. And while normally I might be offended they didn’t like other stuff I’d done as much as these tracks I was actually kinda psyched and not a little bit proud. While I always love atmospherics in music I never quite got into the idea of a full album of ambience, soundscapes and more amorphous pieces.
Thus the album gradually grew longer as I wrote and added tracks. This isn’t to say every song I wrote in this style is on here. Nope. But it’s probably the first and only album of mine where the song sequence is in the exact order they were written, organically produced as it were. Each came about in a rather painless process of creation for the most part. I fretted than they needed more time to develop and I wasn’t working hard enough on them; yet every time I messed with what I’d originally created the song broke down and lost what had originally intrigued me about it.
So I gave in and let them become their own thing and each song developed from some odd sources. “You, You and You” is mostly recordings of my wife teaching a yoga class and my cat purring. Both are tuned down two to four octaves below recording pitch and stretched and strained into an unrecognizable state. “Join The Circus,” “Deep Space Device” and “Music for Storms” all came from parts of other songs where I couldn’t quite explore the themes I worked them into on this album. Some are from samples taken from out of context and warped well beyond recognition and back to the point where they’ve lost all of their original intent and shape and become something wholly new.
Right around the time I wrote “Groping for Air” I’d hit a kind of impasse in the album. It was at that point where it was almost half done where I wasn’t sure where to go from there. The well seemed to have run a bit dry by that point. I found what I was creating with intent to use as part of this album was feeling forced and tawdry, like I was writing dark ambient for hire - a hilarious concept. But then as I let myself wander and experiment the song came together and soon enough it was done.
As with all really good, timeless music there’s an element of surprise in these songs even for me. “Groping for Air” for instance has a rhythmic element in it I never really intended that is clearly audible in the right side of the stereo field for most of the song. Other songs have that too, where new things will pop out at you on repeated listens. I won’t give them away as I know you the listener will find them on your own with your own hearing.
One thing that’s obvious is there’s very little in the way of drums, drum loops, beats and or drum machines. This is very odd for me as I usually try to pack in 3-4 full drum parts into each song. And while I know most music that falls under the category of ambient or dark ambient doesn’t usually have drums and shuns that well what can I say? Some of the songs had to have drums. This is most apparent on ‘All Hail The Fragment’ the big album closer which ends with a kit made from these weird orphan samples that I have no idea where they came from.
As I began to work solely on this I found myself in a rather strange headspace which I can’t really attribute to one thing. I was listening to tracks to review them only at night during my commute home from work. This did often give them an eerie, otherworldly quality and lent a strange soundtrack to the backroads of Lewiston-Auburn, Durham and Freeport as I drove. I think I kind of miss that in a weird way. Guess I can always find more dark music to listen to on the ride home.
I hope you enjoy this strange album of weird music from a chronically weird guy. May it find it’s way into your mind and heart like worms and either give you nightmares or bad ideas. Either way it’s not my fault.
Listen loud, too!