Death’s “Human” – https://open.spotify.com/album/6AvvqTkgRqq3L4bD9qYfjD
Cory asked me to send him the most extreme metal album I liked, knowing that the toughest thing he’s into is Mastodon. This is what I came up with.
It took a long time because as I listened I realized that almost everything I like, relative to what he likes, pushes one musical element to the edge but lets other things be a little more conventional. For example, Sleep has clean vocals, but the riffs are slower and more repetitive than anything Cory’s probably listened to. Skeletonwitch has harsh vocals but the riffs are accessible, like Iron Maiden on speed. Condor is blackened and evil, but are kind of a basement punk band at heart, and it shows, and they know it.
Death stands apart. Human is a classic in the sub-sub-genre of technical death metal, two sub-genres I normally have little to do with. Death metal is fast, abrasive/harsh, evil, and often lower-fidelity; tech is like it sounds, using weird scales that can almost sound like 12-tone music (no tonic note), fast changes, and very precise playing. Tech is the intersection of metal people and math/music theory people’s interests.
But there is something about this record that bangs for me, something about the band’s ‘voice’ that works and is relate-able and awesome. I only checked it out because it was on some top metal albums list I’ve since lost track of, and for whatever reason, I hung with it. It’s not catchy, the vocals are pretty harsh, the riffs and underlying rhythms change completely every twenty seconds, it’s not even really heavy (though it’s aggressive in a different way), and it’s mostly nothing that I like about metal, but I keep listening to it.
Long-time readers may recall my opinion of song fade-outs (quite negative). Spiritualized’s 1992 album Pure Phase is good, maybe even great, but it has a ton of fade-outs.
I had some fun playing with them to see if I could make the record flow more smoothly to my ears. If you want to check out the results, here’s Pure (Unbroken) Phase (Mr. Furious edit): https://we.tl/yxepnXUh5d
The link expires in 7 days.
This project will not mean much to you if you don’t know Pure Phase pretty well (though you may enjoy the music!). Most of the changes are subtle cross-fades between songs and moving the points at which one track breaks into the next. “These Blues” got the only significant edit, and if you listen close there’s a tiny Easter egg in Feel Like Goin’ Home.
My brain can finally breathe, after a four-month push to track bass for the h&s record. Most of that time was spent developing the Wheeler Leveling Amplifier pedal (pictured below) after my initial pedal setup proved unsatisfactory. Actual recording has happened in the past three or four weeks.Now I intend to do miscellaneous, mostly non-musical stuff for a couple/few weeks before setting up mics for vocals.
The record sounds really cool. After a couple years of talk, prep work, and drum/sax tracking, the guitars and bass put down over the past six months have transitioned it from a place of hopes and plans into something concrete. While we have a ways to go, now you can tell pretty much what it’s going to sound like, and that’s exciting.
I’m confident we’ll be sharing and celebrating it next summer.
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And here’s what I wrote, lightly edited. Forgive me if my reference points are sophomoric.
Here’s a good intro (tracks 1-6; this looks like some special edition thing with bonus tracks): https://open.spotify.com/album/7EOQggjtK8JCqeRz9IG33e
“Moanin’ ” is a classic jam.
Mingus was a bassist, and what I love about him is he combined boppy proggy Coltrane-type stuff in his horn lines, Ellington-style compositional ambition, and yet stayed rooted in blues and gospel and doing substances and ripping the hell out of some tunes. He’s so strong in both the head and the heart. I can think to Mingus, or just enjoy the wailing.
Mingus and Erroll Garner are my jazz favs. Erroll is brilliant, but mostly gives me the feeling of Nat King Cole singing carols while being appropriate year-round and absent any religious/nostalgic/whatever baggage. He just captures the feeling. I could have a whiskey, listen to Erroll, and get misty about how time is passing and the past is irrecoverable and I’d try to be Buddhist and accept impermanence but he’d be reminding me about love lost and simultaneously reminding me that this moment is ok and it’s good to be listening right now.
https://open.spotify.com/album/0EnTJ3I9hXDkNdIdm0TRce You are in for a treat
With luck, the next post will be after I finish h&s bass.
Cory wrote this to me, and suggested it would be OK if I posted it here. It’s eminently worth mentioning that since receiving the below, he also said he’s been listening to a bunch of Monk, which I endorse.
I will try to turn him on to Mingus, I promise.
For me, 2017 was the year of jazz. I’m embracing my participation in this near-universal cliché. The jazz phase is inevitable for so many of us, like the Led Zeppelin phase, or the trying-real-hard-to-care-about-Leonard-Cohen phase. I knew almost nothing about jazz before I dove in, which has made it even more pronounced. I’m glad I waited until 35 to do all this, because if I’d have done it in my 20s, I’d have been insufferable. No one wants to hear anyone else talk about jazz. I know that from being on the other end of the conversation many times.
So far, my favorite record is “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis. It’s the kind of record where, when you hear it for the first time, you feel like you’re the only person to know it. It feels like a secret. It’s moody, it’s dark, it’s heartbreaking. Of course, everyone’s already in the loop except me. Howie’s got a cat named after him. But I’d rather be a little late to the party than sleep through the whole thing, I guess, especially when there are trumpets!
Favorite group/artist: David Brubeck Quartet. They do everything that I really love about jazz. It’s mostly beautiful, often jarring, atmospheric, and experimental without being up inside their own butts. If I’m feeling sentimental, Vince Guaraldi Trio is also great. It’s amazing to me that his music was used for children’s programming (“Peanuts”), even though it’s clearly made specifically for heroin addicts to have something to listen to.
A few pedal repairs, listening to a bunch of Doomtree records, Sleep show tonight…
Somehow I still feel like I’m getting nowhere. <shrug emoji> <grimace emoji>
What’s your musical weekend been like?
The day itself was last Thursday, but I haven’t done much more than flip it on and noodle around until today.
This is an Akai AX-60, a six-voice analog synthesizer built in the mid- to late-80s. My first purpose in getting it was for pads for Night Mode and other stuff, but of course it will make all kinds of great bass, lead, key, string, and brass sounds.
I’m already in love with the arpeggiator; it has a mode that arpeggiates the notes in the order they’re played so it’s very musical and responsive. I feel like I could base an entire record around just that.
There’s a song for the new h&s record that I’d planned to layer a Micron sound and a digital B3-type sound for, but I’m starting to wonder if it would be better to write a pseudo-B3 patch on the Akai for it. Worth a shot, at least.
Some time this weekend I’m going to go through the manual and figure out saving presets, splits, and the rest of the deeper features that may not have a single-function hardware control.
<arpeggiates off into infinity>
In other words, a synthesizer and an iPad in a bedroom.
The signal path is: Korg MS-20 mini main out > various pedals > MS-20 External Signal Processor > iPad headphone jack breakout box I built > HarmonicDog MultiTrack DAW running on an iPad mini.
I’m going to make at least a couple Night Mode albums with this rig, and recorded a track for one earlier this afternoon.
GarageBand highpasses and compresses any signal coming in through the headphone jack, even on its “Clean” setting, so it wasn’t suitable for me for serious recording. The HarmonicDog app does nicely, once “Measurement Mode” is turned off in the iPad Settings app.
The breakout box + iPad make a decent field/remote recording rig as well, because the box can accept 1/4″ mono, mic, 1/8″ stereo, and 1/8″ mono cables. I could take a guitar, a decent dynamic mic (like my EV RE320), and the iPad to a cabin in the woods and make my “Nebraska,” no problem. Even a basic full band record, with some combination of minimalist mic techniques and/or pre-mixing before the breakout box, would be possible.
It will be a lot of fun to be able to pause whatever massive recording or soldering project I have going and make a synth song on a whim.
I’m about halfway through updating the h&s mixes to kind of see where we’re at, post-recording-guitars. I think bass is up next, provided I can coordinate gear with the Mars Lights mixing process. (We need bass gear for that too, to re-amp my DI signals.)