Archive for April, 2021

The small time

My albums are getting less popular – EVEN less popular! These things are all relative, of course; “The Way Through” scored twelve downloads and it’s been downhill all the way since then – this latest one has just two downloads.

This isn’t a whinge, I observe this more in amusement than annoyance – as I have said before I don’t do this for the money, or even adulation, and I think I understand what’s going on. But I’m not about to change.

My first few albums were pretty awful, in my opinion. I didn’t really know what I was doing in terms of production or even composition. I just threw a few ideas into the DAW and kept the ones that didn’t sound terrible – which was the point of RPM challenge of course, only I adopted it as normal workflow. Things started to get a little more organised after that, but they were all still very much improvised. 

“It’s not a Game” went quite well for downloads(ten). These tracks were basically layered improvisations, I would put down a synth track and then see what I thought went with it and what it seemed to need. “Diversions” was a halfway house between those earlier albums and the new one, a bit more structured and more upbeat, but still quite ‘loose’. “Felix Variations” is very structured and quite upbeat, it’s less relentlessly depressingly and there is more ‘music’ – in the sense of chords and, to some extent, tunes and beats.

I think process this really took off when I started taking piano lessons; I developed more of a sense of harmony and structure, and less tolerance of the very loose approach to improvisation I used to have. My teacher would be pretty strict on keeping my improvisations within the required bar lengths and also not too far away from the home key – all sensible things really, the first pretty much essential if you’re going to do this with a band. My ‘old’ approach to improvisation was very much, “pick up the violin (or whatever) and play some stuff, ideally inspired by whatever else is going on”. This caused me all sorts of odd problems when mixing/arranging (they were largely the same thing in those days) in trying to make things fit, especially as it was almost impossible to do retakes without getting something different.

For this album I’ve laid down structures quite strictly before working out what should go into them; this was helped, deliberately, by it being a “theme and variations” album so I had an actual melody or chord progression to work to.

In my opinion, this makes the new album is less “weird” than previous ones, though it has been still described as ‘very experimental’, so maybe that’s just my perception. I thought I was heading for the mainstream – especially with “Jasmine”/“J.M.” which I even released as as single! Obviously I’m kidding there but I’m certainly heading for less “just mad noises” and more “music” in what I do.

So the collapsed download figure is, I am assuming, the people who started following me for the mad noises and dark depressive textures not being into what I’m doing now, and that’s fine. It might be that I’ll attract a new audience for what I’m doing but I think that’s unlikely, I don’t really know anybody, and I’m famously atrocious at publicity (oxymoron alert). It could also be that I’m not, yet, good enough at what I’m doing that it’s comparable with actual good stuff in that arena. It’s not for me to judge, but I hope I will continue to improve anyway.

In the meantime I am resolutely heading in the right direction for the “No Audience Underground” as Rob Hayler would phrase it. Even if that’s not exactly what he means.

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