Several well-written reviews and features in Pitchfork lately, including those on Rema, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Sigur Ros, Shellac, and Ray Charles, have me realizing that the site is on something of a hot streak.
I’ve read the site for close to twenty years, and watched it work through phases of zine-like underground discovery and critique, breathless mid-aughts NYC-centrism (remember when Cults were going to be huge?), and overly woke poptimism.
The recent standout pieces – and there are many more – evidence a willingness and secure vulnerability to take all music on its own terms and talk about what’s great, and isn’t, about it. The poptimist revolution is complete, the old hierarchies and canons have been dispersed*, and we got the good version of the poptimist future; the one that circles back and includes the best of the old favorites and finds new gems that had been overlooked in previous critical structures.
(For another blog; perhaps this is only possible after music’s cultural influence recedes, lifting the weight off of opinions about it)
* Narrowly within music criticism, I mean. Political and social hierarchies remain, and Pitchfork isn’t immune from reflecting them
Long story short I’m loving some Ray Charles this morning, because of Pitchfork.
We have re-launched MR|signal, our reverse-chronological label-plus-extras compilation, on Bandcamp.
Like the weather on the great plains, if you don’t like what you’re hearing just wait five minutes.
As of today I’ve gone about halfway back to the start of all this music; the other half is coming later this summer, and I’ll throw on some of the really old h&s and Shacker pre-MFR stuff in the spirit of those extras (I’m enjoying having “Be Still” and Five Star Crush represented in this version of the comp).
Because people ask, what I’ve contributed to each song is below the fold:
I impulse-bought a drum machine (far left in the picture) and set up a new synth recording rig to do some rhythm-focused pieces. It’s an Arturia DrumBrute Impact and I’m very happy with it, especially with the unquantized sequencing and randomization features.
Some of the ideas I’ll be working on are little polyrhythms I’ve written down over the years from tapping on my knees and whatnot. Others will be exploring the extremes of the settings of the DrumBrute, or whatever patch ideas occur to me. The MS-20 is there and patched up to just add a bit of pitched sound, mostly blips and bloops and sweeps more than Western scale-type stuff.
This will end up being the next-but-6th or something Night Mode record. We have a wild amount of stuff stacked up. Roughly:
- Trio record “Load Exceedance” out this fall, with 2 alternate takes
- Drew’s 2nd solo effort “Gentleman Scientist” out this fall
- My 2nd solo effort “Your Pain Matters” with the Come In Alone / Stuck On You single, aiming for February 2020
- Three collaboration records exploring the different possible duos among our trio; Howie-Damon (90% done, very drone-y), Damon-Drew (various options here, Damon’s sent Drew a couple different things to overdub on I think), Drew-Howie (double LP recorded live over the past couple months)
- Who knows what the other guys will have ready by this point – likely 2021 – but I have two more *already* 90% in the can, “Working Bears or Barely Working” and “Only Mostly Dead”
- Yikes! Making synth records is super fun
V for Voice out 8/3 on Bandcamp and major streaming platforms
8/3 – Lawrence, KS – Kaw Valley Public House
8/9 – Crete, NE – The Brew House
More details to follow. -h&s
Get in touch, I’m designing one and will build a run later in the summer/fall!
It’s based on the fOXX Tone Machine, but I have a few twists in mind. Haven’t tried them yet – I’m just getting pretty much a straight clone up on the breadboard for now – so more details after I’ve done the exploration.
Scott was down yesterday to put his on the record. Show announcements & release date coming, as soon as later this week. No later than August!
I made tone stack boxes for the effects loops of the VHT Special 6 Ultra amps Drew and I have.
I love these little amps but the tone-shaping controls unusual and don’t work great with my main guitar (Epi 345). The amp just can’t get bright enough, and it’s a bit thick / congested in the mids with no way to dial that out.
It has a completely fixed FMV (AKA TMB) tone stack (the sort most amps, including classic Fenders and Marshalls, have), with a guitar-style Tone control, a “Depth” which adjusts the frequencies amplified by the power stage from full-range to emphasizing treble, and a “Texture” which offers two levels of something like presence reduction (or no reduction) (it’s not a normal presence circuit, it’s just a capacitor dropping high treble to ground post power transformer).
This box, which gets inserted into the amp’s effects loop, is a low pass filter (bass) and high pass filter (treble) with variable cutoff frequencies in parallel, and a balance/blend control. (So, a super tricked-out Muff tone stack in pedal nerd terms.) The intended use case is dropping a mid notch wherever you want it, plus offering additional bass/treble balancing flexibility, and it does that. But it also does some cool bandpassy/mid-bumped things when you cross the filter cutoffs over each other.
I anticipate mostly using this amp+box for overdubs; record a main guitar part, then dial this in for a complimentary tone to record the overdub. But just by adjusting the box the amp can do a decent Fender-y clean, Marshall-y crunch, Vox-y treble thing, etc., so it could definitely see duty as the main amp on songs that call for those types of sounds.
The general principles in the box should have wide applicability to other amps and pedal designs, but the particular component values I used have been optimized for these specific amps. I don’t have any other amps with loops to test on, but I’m curious how it will sound with other amps.
Bonus: it’s the rare tone stack that is actually designed to sound neutral with “all knobs at noon” It’s not completely flat; there’s a bit less mid/low mid, addressing exactly what I like least about the VHT and presenting its basic tone in a slightly more flattering light to my… ears. Eyes. Whatever. (Leave the mixed metaphors to the professionals, kids.)
With the vacation time payout from my job at MAAC, I bought a Korg MS-20 mini synthesizer, summer 2017.
On September 4 of the same year I loaded the first demos of recordings made with it into iTunes.
For about a year and a half I collected recordings made with nothing but one pass (no overdubs) with the MS-20 and guitar effects pedals. Originally I was working toward a double LP-length (80 minutes or so) album of shorter (3-6 minutes) pieces. I quickly blew through those parameters.
About a month ago I tore down the bedroom synth recording rig, having collected 35 recordings totaling four and a half hours of output. This is Only Mostly Dead.
Penciled for release in 2020, I’m sequencing it into three double LP-length digital albums and a single CD compilation Selections from Only Mostly Dead. I understand very well that this is a lot of music and the audience it may resonate with is narrow, but I love it all and hope you will give it a chance.
While the medium – manipulation of pure voltage – may seem impersonal, to my ears at least this is some of the most raw, vulnerable, and emotional music I’ve made. You will hear me improvise, which I’ve never previously done. At all! You will hear many first or second takes. You will hear imperfections galore. For all of the circuitry of the instrument itself, this is very human music, all played directly into the keyboard and knobs, no sequences, nothing automatic.
There are several other projects to share first, including other Night Mode material of my own, but I’m excited to be heading down the path of releasing Only Mostly Dead. As you wish!