9th February 2014

You know when you take on too much at once?  My current workload:

Releasing The Last Swifts of Summer and split with Wet Eyes on Bullfinch in a couple of months;

Waiting for release of A Time After Computers on Knife in the Toaster;

Looking for a label for a tape of out-of-print synth music;

Dubbing the first batch of Bullfinch tapes;

Starting promo to make sure people know that Bullfinch is coming;

Beginning to organise the second batch, including artwork;

Recording material for splits with Five Minutes Alone and EL Heath for release later in the year;

Sorting out label stuff for first album and EP by Middlemarch;

Sorting out label stuff for second Sturmazdale album;

Keeping up to date with progress from Dimitris and Craig about recording progress for upcoming Middlemarch and Sturmazdale albums respectively;

Finishing first Merganser release;

Working on some noise-based stuff with Joaquin for future Winter of the World releases;

Curating Terminal Radio Transmission 13 for broadcast in late March;

Curating the third Terminal Window album;

Writing stuff for Absent With Concept (completely behind with this, once again);

Working on the second Captain Busby record when I get chance to see Gregg;

Working on the first Duggan! album on the vague occasions Thom and I get our arses into gear;

Why do I do this to myself?  If my medication stops working anytime soon I’m going to have some sort of breakdown from this insanity.  Send me money/love/free tapes of nice music while I work through these one step at a time.

1st January 2014

2014 update, on two different matters.

1. Music of 2014.

This year will see the release of my new album The Last Swifts of Summer (or possibly Phose – but I think I’m going back to the swifts again), probably in late spring.  This will be part of the first batch of tapes on Bullfinch.  There’s no exact date yet – all depends on finances – but things look to be coming together nicely for that.  Alongside this will be a tape from The Glimmer Room’s Andrew Condon, which is really exciting and I cannot wait to release.  I’m very glad to be putting this out, as it means I’m really going to have to put the effort in giving it the promotion it deserves, which is a good way to start the label!  Fingers crossed there’ll be a release from Modulator ESP too, and possibly a split between Nmesh and Akkya.  So a broad range of styles, which is always good.  Hopefully more tapes again at the end of the year.  I’m looking forward to doing this as it’s giving me a specific project to work on, and hopefully tie in my other music with too.  I’m hoping to put out as many of my own projects on Bullfinch as possible in the future – notable exceptions being upcoming releases by Middlemarch and Sturmazdale, which are both being negotiated with other labels currently.

2. New year’s resolutions &c.   I have been quite critical of new year’s resolutions in the past, largely because people so often feel forced into committing to them, which usually ends up with them being broken very quickly.  So mine are vague, and will tie in with my moving to somewhere nice in the first half of January.  But I have decided that it seems a good time to get some of my life in order.  There are many things I know I can do, and I’d like to try doing them to make me feel better.  I really want to eat healthier, partially because I’m getting to the stage, for the first time in my adult life, that I’m struggling to fit into shirts; partially because I’m finding my often rather unhealthy diet is actually making me feel kind of shit these days, and only seems to exist out of habit.  I’d also like to cut down on dairy, particularly in unnecessary stuff like regularly eating ice cream and chocolate.  I’d also like to cut down on drinking as I’ve sort of stopped enjoying it, and it seems to lead to so many problems.  Not going tee total, but just being sensible with it.  Getting unnecessarily wasted seems actually quite unappealing these days.  I’d like to get good with my money.  I want to pay off some debts and save some cash, as well as put money towards things that are useful and constructive (putting out tapes, getting decent music gear) rather than lots of impulse buying of snacks and music.  I’d like to spend less time wasted inside at the computer and more outside in the real world, and enjoy nature and the countryside more. Finally, I’d like to come off anti-depressants this year, and hope I can return, in some way, to a normal state of mind.  Maybe return isn’t a good word, as I want to be moving forward, so moving towards a new sense of wellbeing.

These are all relatively obvious things that many people strive for at the start of each year, but they’re all things I’ve made progress with in the past, only to lose it as my life’s been tipped upside down once again.  Hopefully, this year should provide the right time for me to start getting on top of them.  It might be slow, but hopefully I’ll be there.

New music coming from Warpaint, Dementia and Hope Trails, and FSOL, and hoping for announcements from Idlewild and Max Richter amongst others.

I hope everybody has a wonderful year too.  🙂

19th December 2013

Another year down, then.  It’s been a very strange year for me, musically, kind of all over the place.  It started strongly with East of Evening, which I am incredibly proud of.  Much of the year was taken up by Terra Incognita, which went through many incarnations (the initial and final mixes sharing only a few minutes of music), which is now finally out!  In personal terms, a whole new load of crises appeared this year, which I’m finally overcoming, but things seem to have ended well, with a move to south east London planned for the start of January.  The place is absolutely lovely, with lots of natural open space a minute from the house, yet the convenience of having all that London has to offer – and for cheap rent!  Seem to have finally landed on my feet there.

This year has also been fantastic for music, with some surprisingly brilliant comeback albums from the likes of Bowie and Suede, and Autechre and Wire producing some of their best work to date.  My top 30 albums (as also posted on Absent With Concept):

01. Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe [Goodbye]
02. Karl Hyde – Edgeland [UnderworldLive]
03. Dementia and Hope Trails – Pure Magical Love [Rainbow Bridge]
04. Luke Howard – Sun, Cloud [self-released]
05. Jack Anderton – Vale [Sirona]
06. Wire – Change Becomes Us [Pink Flag]
07. Aaron Martin & Christoph Berg – Day Has Ended [Dronarivm]
08. Broken Chip – The Wonga Pigeon [Flaming Pines]
09. Suede – Bloodsports [Warner Bros.]
10. EMS : Piano – One [FSOLDigital]
11. Rad Wolf – Content [self-released]
12. Rat Rios – Broken Fold EP [self-released]
13. Pure Bathing Culture – Moon Tides [Memphis Industries]
14. Amalgamated – Trudge/Slap [((Cave)) Recordings]
15. Off Land – Tidewater Pulse [Psychonavigation]
16. Sabri Meddeb – Between Dawn and Dusk [self-released]
17. David Bowie – The Next Day [ISO]
18. Autechre – Exai [Warp]
19. Inappropriate King Live – Datboonbaat [Rainbow Bridge]
20. R. Sawyer – Attention [Bridgetown]
21. Piper Spray – Epigraph to the Bright Star Catalogue [Singapore Sling]
22. Marcus Fischer – The Crow [Flaming Pines]
23. The Rainbow Body – Magnetic Highway [Tranquility Tapes]
24. The Amorphous Androgynous – The Cartel [FSOLDigital]
25. Blackhill Transmitter – EP [FSOLDigital]
26. Modulator ESP – Inner Cosmos [Fort Evil Fruit]
27. Sand Sound Folly – Salient Moons 1973 [FSOLDigital]
28. The Glimmer Room – A Return to Cromley Hall [Silent Rookery]
29. Off Land – Overtide Recon [Stasis]
30. Dementia and Hope Trails – I Am Still Shaking Because of You [Sacred Phrases]

Next year I am hoping will finally be the resolution to several years’ personal issues, and also a consolidation to what I’ve been doing musically since late 2011.  The last two years have been a retreat from the madness of the end of Second Thought, and I feel as if I’ve moved far enough away to finally be back at that comfortable place again, making music purely for the love of it, and releasing a solid album every year, rather than several half-formed projects.

Bullfinch Art & Tapes should be finally making a much-delayed appearance at some point later in the year – I have a few tapes for that lined up, and hopefully those Finches art prints will go on sale eventually!  I’m also planning on getting myself a bit more music gear at last, some pedals and a synth, at least.  Something I can play about with.

Happy midwinter and New Year, westerners, and I hope you are all well.  🙂

19th May 2013

It’s interesting, as I look for the right label to release Terra Incognita, to discover just how many tape labels are slowing down their output at the moment, whilst there’s quite a surge of new ones starting up at the moment.

The difficult thing, I’m finding, is the ever-changing popularity of certain styles and approaches – Berlin School-type synth stuff is definitely becoming more sparse, and… am I noticing an increased interest in stuff with a techno influence these days?  Either way, more often than not, the labels who are the most open to really strange stuff (for the record, TI goes from synthpop to solo piano to spoken word + field recordings in less than ten minutes – no, I don’t make it easy for myself) are often those, like Hooker Vision, Chemical Tapes &c., who are more established and tend to pick artists who they already like.  Which is far enough, as that’s how I’ve done Second Thought / Jerky Oats / Bullfinch in the past.  I’ve never released a demo I’ve received.  As always, the best way in is getting a bit of a live following – sadly, I live in Maidstone.

Anyway, I’ve been in touch with a couple of labels who do seem pretty open and interesting, hopefully somebody will be able to appreciate where I’m coming from and enjoy the strangeness.

20th March 2012 – Releases!

I am very happy to announce that Revolution 2 is now available to download. You can grab the collection for free from my Bandcamp page. I am also doing handmade CDrs for anybody who wants them (the CDr comes with liner notes and a unique photograph – email me if you’d like one for the cost of shipping, I’m up for trades too – rossbakeruk [at] gmail [dot] com). It’s nice to put out a bunch of tracks I’ve worked on without the ceremony of a ‘proper’ album. ‘Clouds in the Shape of Clouds’ from that should be appearing on a 50th release compilation on Tim Dwyer’s No-Source Netlabel soon too.

The only two tracks from my 2011 ‘electronic classical’ sessions that will appear in their original form are now available as part of Terminal Window 2, the second FSOLBoard album, put together by my Sturmazdale partner Craig. That’s also a free download from Bandcamp, and contains a wealth of excellent material – the tracks from Nmesh, Akkya and cubus are particular highlights. The record also contains the first material from Sturmazdale, in the form of an exclusive track entitled ‘Caves’. Speaking of Sturmazdale, there’s now a Soundcloud page boasting a four minute piece from Rooms and Trees, plus extracts from the entire record. That should be coming out on a Ukranian label, Turbinicarpus, later in the year in a nice handmade sleeve.

I recently got a new, very cheap MP3 player, which I was happy enough to discover has a record function on. On a trip to Hinckley I used it to record some improvisations I had worked on whilst there. It has a wonderful warm, fuzzy quality and, bizarrely for digital, a sort of wobbly sound with the pitch at times which sounds like a tape sticking, which give it a lovely lo-fi quality. I’ve also used it to record some words which I couldn’t write satisfactory music for, and an acoustic version of ‘Countryside Melody’, my first ever composition. The pieces have all been added to the new tracks folder, but I don’t really have any release plans at the moment. I considered labelling them ‘Revolution 3’, but I think for the moment I’m just going to record and see what comes together over the course of the year. I think 2 is such a great set of compositions that I want to retain that quality control. I also have my delay pedal with me now so am going to spend some time experimenting and seeing what happens.

22nd January 2012 – Frustration, and other minor things

It’s funny, seven years ago I found myself in very much the same situation as I am now, waiting for an album to come out, and feeling guilty for making progress on future music. The Blackbirds’ Revenge has been added to the ‘coming soon’ section of the Jozik Records website, which signifies that things are definitely in motion, so hopefully that’ll be out soon. The lead times on self-released physical stuff and net releases are so much shorter that I think I’ll probably be going down the path of a combination of those in the future. Over the past year I’ve become increasingly turned off by the whole physical ‘product’ release thing. On a related note, I don’t think Bullfinch Records is really going to be happening anymore. I might retain the name for my own releases though. Similarly, I shan’t be compiling the second FSOLBoard album, Terminal Window 2; Craig (Loose Link) is putting that together though, and a couple of pieces from last year’s unheard electronic-classical sessions will be appearing on it.

Elsewhere, my good friend Tim Dwyer is currently working on an Off Land version of my Second Thought track ‘May’, which will fall somewhere between remix and cover version and will hopefully be released this May. It’s sounding great so far and I can’t wait to hear the final thing! Speaking of Off Land, Tim recently produced a podcast for Stasis Recordings called Reconnection, which features my Obliquity track ‘Erosion Reversed’. That can be heard at the Stasis site here, or on iTunes here.

I recently declined a slot for one of this year’s Awakenings shows, as in all honesty I don’t think the music I’m currently making would be at all suited to an ambient/electronic music gig (folky guitar stuff not prominent in the EM scene), and more importantly, I have no idea how I’d transfer it live without other musicians anyway! This is the last year Jez is doing Awakenings, so unless somebody takes over the reins, it could be the last chance to go to one of these gigs! So I’m hopefully going to be attending as many as possible, what with moving back to the midlands at some point.

Composition-wise, I’ve been playing with some more stuff on my 4-track. I took some speech from the television for one track which is sounding rather nice, on the only synth-based piece I’m really working on at the moment. No title for that yet. I’ve also updated the writing page with lyrics for some songs I’m working on at the moment. I’m not sure what the instrumental:song ratio will be in the future, although it’ll still be more instrumental based I think. Listening-wise, I have been going through a Talk Talk phase recently. Their progression from 80s new wave to longform, experimental acoustic post-rock is incredible, their albums come highly recommended to anyone who isn’t familiar with them. And I think that’s probably enough ranting for now! 🙂

29th September 2011

This week I started back at college, studying horticulture. The workload is… ‘significant’, shall we say? Certainly unlike anything I’ve done before, what with my course at Leeds Met being an absolute joke that required no work at all. With this in mind, realistically I’m going to have to knock music on the head for the next nine months really as I won’t have much time. I am going to still play guitar in my spare time, but generally as a way to relax really, and I don’t plan on doing too much writing or recording over this time. I’m also calling it a day with Jerky Oats – that stopped being fun ages ago, and I don’t have the time to really do anything with that at the moment.

In order to get everything clear before delving deep into the world of Botanical Latin, I’ve spent a couple of weeks going over and rearranging all of the music I’ve written this year in order to have a release schedule sorted in my head – one that’s not going to have me thinking and worrying about it at every available moment. Sturmazdale has been sent back to the drawing board, but may turn up again in the future in a very different format. With that out of the way, this is, tentatively, what will be happening between now and when I get back to recording:

The Blackbirds’ Revenge – most importantly, this is the first ‘proper’ album. When breaking down all of the releases, as mentioned in previous blogs, I managed to fit together an album of all the potential tracks I had. It’s mostly acoustic instrumentation, both electronically treated and in its natural state, and is formed from four long pieces (8-25 minutes) and two shorter tracks, one of which features lyrics. There’s no overall concept or story here, and it doesn’t all flow together as a soundscape, there are GAPS between the tracks (gasp!). It’s very much a new approach and draws a line between Second Thought and Ross Baker. I’ve kicked down a lot of barriers that prevoiusly restrained me to come up with a much better album than I would have if I’d kept up the ‘flowing conceptual soundscape’ approach that I’d run into the ground. Whichever way you look at it, I’ve enjoyed writing, recording and compiling this album more than anything since Safernoc/Canal Seven/Leaf Pass in late 2009 – so I’m taking it as a very good sign. The final thing is very good too, if I do say so myself! Otherwise, there are a couple of short records that should appear too:

A Room – the twelve-tone serial record that I’ve spoken about before, which runs to about half an hour – as it is effectively a modern classical work, the length is fitting. It’s arranged for piano, field recordings and orchestral samples. I’ve spoken much about it before. This effectively marks the end of my obsession with academic/formal composition. Might be out early in the year.

Revolution – a twenty minute collage of my early musique concrete/experimental tape work recorded throughout my teens. I’m hoping to have this released on tape.

That’s about it for 2012. I’m not putting together anything else between now and the end of the course. Jerky Oats has four releases left – Austin Cassell, Jesse Conner, Gregg Jackson and Memphis – so a nice balance of two song-based records and two electronic works. Bullfinch will start up properly next summer once I have the time and money. I’ve just completed work on the design for the Ross Baker website (the second one actually, the first seemed to fit my pretense of being a contemporary composer, but wasn’t very honest).

All my talk of ‘breaks’ in the past has never lasted for more than a few weeks, even if not directly creating music I’ve been doing artwork, arranging releases and schedules and so on. I do have some demos to send out soon, but other than that this really is the end of a huge long music-obsessed period which started almost two years ago – upon my arrival back in Hinckley in November 2009. It does feel nice to be taking a break now, as it’ll give me chance to get back to music being something I do as a form of relaxing, rather than the main part of my life, and when I return to properly writing and recording next year, hopefully I’ll have a whole better attitude towards it than I have for the last couple of years.

I’ll still keep everybody updated when anything exciting happens, of course. 🙂

7th September 2011

I was reading back over my music journal, right back to 2004 when it started, and I noticed a huge, dramatic difference: back then, I was posting mainly positive things about my music, recording progress, and thoughts about music I’d like to make, maybe; in the last year, I’ve done a lot of complaining about my own music, my approach to writing and so on. I’d like this to change, I’d like to be more positive about what I’m doing and the music I’m making. In fact, I’d like not to have things to find fault with. I want to be pleased with what I’ve made. I want to appreciate my own music for what it is, not what it should be or shouldn’t be. I think the Ross Baker name should give me some freedom, not only because it is, in itself, vague and non-descript – there’s no artist name to live up to, I shan’t have the trouble with the whole ‘Second Thought sound’ thing, but also because it takes me back to my pre-Second Thought days when I recorded tapes just as Ross Baker. Sometimes I’d do tapes which were designed to evoke a particular atmosphere or mood, sometimes I’d just make tapes of music I’d written.

I suppose my point is, I’ll be taking a different approach from next year. Whatever I record is fair game. I could end up with another Second Thought style soundscape album – Sturmazdale is much like that – or a shorter, more abstract mood piece like the twelve-tone serial collection and cityscape albums I’m working on (I’m expecting both to be around the 40 minute mark), or a collection of individual ideas which won’t paint a scene, but just act as pieces of music in their own right. I must remember that this is all fine (it won’t be a 2010 style ‘release any old crap’ situation, however, as I’m going to make sure I execute a lot more quality control than I have of late)! Similarly, I’m removing the idea of ‘no go’ areas and unbreakable rules. I can’t see myself returning to using VST instruments any time, but I’ve warmed to the idea of owning a hardware synth. It might not be ‘acoustic’, but who cares as long as it sounds good? I do want to get more instruments and do more musical performance, possibly even recording to tape, but I don’t want to give myself some bizarre sense of guilt for using a computer. I don’t want to feel like I’m doing things wrongly by writing music for a reason or in a manner that isn’t in some grand plan. I never used to do that until the last couple of years, and it’s very unhealthy. It stops music making me happy, and that’s the main reason I write in the first place. And this blog, there needs to be more about the music and less about my neuroses, because they’re unnecessary. In short: whatever music I make, for whatever reason, if it’s good, it’s good. I have ideas of what I want to do, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to do other things too.

I’m glad that’s out of the way. Now I can continue the blog in a manner befitting my newfound positive, music-based perspective.

Leaf Pass has now become my most-downloaded record and almost certainly my most listened-to. Thank you to everybody who’s downloaded it! It may have become my second favourite of all my records, behind Purlieu, so I’m really happy that it’s proving so popular. Fingers crossed it’ll remain that way.

The cityscape album I think will be taking the uncharacteristically long title of ‘Where Do We Go When The Roads Have All Cracked?’, which I think sums up the feeling of ruin and loss I’m hoping to portray in it (oh the happiness and joy, as ever). I think it’s going to be mostly live and electronically treated melodica and piano with a tapestry of field recordings. My girlfriend describes the melodica as sounding like a character or narrator witnessing the scene, which is a nice way of hearing the album and one I think really fits the mood. I’m incredibly happy with how it’s coming along, anyway.

I bought a couple of (very) cheap wooden Indian style flutes in Canterbury on my birthday. It’s proving difficult to get a nice sound out of them, but I will continue to try! I’m sure I can use them at some point. I’m hoping to get a new acoustic guitar soon, and I want to collect my microphones and FX pedals from Hinckley as well as they’ll prove useful when playing instruments I think.

The twelve-tone serial composition collection has been given a title and a label! It will be called A Room and will be the first release on my Bullfinch Records label next year at some point. I’ll leave you to imagine how the title and music relate to each other for the moment.

28th August 2011

It’s been a busy time in the studio over recent weeks. I think I’ve completed composition for my twelve-tone serial collection, I just need a good piano sound for three of those tracks. The rest will be electro-acoustic and more experimental in sound. I’ve also been contacting a few labels in regards to a couple of other projects I’ve been working on. I’ve received positive response about the pure music electro-acoustic pieces I mentioned in a previous entry, but won’t know any more until later in the year about that. I’m also sending out stuff for some more piano and string based music I’ve been working on with a ghostly theme. I’m very proud of the tracks, but an interesting thing happened during recording sessions: I recorded a piece for solo guitar, and really enjoyed the writing, recording and listening process, moreso than using samples and a piano synth at the computer. I decided then that from now (for a while at least, I change my mind often enough to make no permanent promises!) I want to actually stick to instruments I have. I’d like to get more instruments and work with them. Instead of going “I want to write music for these instruments”, I want to take the approach of arranging the music around what I have: a continuation of the self-limited sample palette I chose as a response to the over-indulgence in wide ranging synthesisers. I’ll still be using samples in an electro-acoustic way, but it might be a nice challenge to return to actual music – composition and performance – instead of sitting at a computer screen clicking buttons.

In other news, I’ve shifted over the physical releases from Jerky Oats on to a new label, Bullfinch Records. I want to release some electro-acoustic, modern classical and ambient music on CD in DIY packaging, and have a few artists lined up for release. It’ll be starting next year hopefully, and I want to release 2-3 CDs a year. Having a fresh label will not only help promote things, but also Jerky Oats really is a terrible name, thoroughly unsuitable for serious electro-acoustic music. So it’s much more fitting. Wish me luck!