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.

16th February 2012 – Release updates

Well, finally there is some actual news! The Blackbirds’ Revenge will be out on Jozik in March, as part of a batch of four tapes. It will come in a rather lovely fabric sleeve (see the Jozik website for examples of this)! I should hopefully have some concrete news on an actual date (or rough date, at least) nearer the time.

There’s some further news on some collaborative pieces, too. The Off Land version of ‘May’, ‘May Second’, should be appearing on Tim’s Bandcamp page on… May 2nd, funnily enough. He’s done a wonderful job reworking the track, starting with some deconstructed versions of the main chord sequence, before heading into a really beautiful climax section and eventually fading away again. Elsewhere, my collaborative work with Craig of Loose Link is complete, and will bear the name ‘Rooms and Trees’, under the cunning alias of Sturmazdale. He’s taken a lot of my basic tracks and put them into a very different context, reflecting his current life in Melbourne. It’s not quite as dark as the original Sturmazdale, A Room and The Tree – although retains a fair bit of the sinister mood. I’m carting that off to a couple of labels who may be interested in it. Oh, and Jerky Oats closed, finally, a couple of weeks ago, with great releases from Thom and Gregg. Quite relieved not to have to go through the stress of releasing stuff there again.

It’s nice to finally have a release date for The Blackbirds’ Revenge, as I’ve recorded pretty much all I can in Maidstone with my current equipment. I need to do some mixing, mastering and a lot of listening to work out what I’m going to do with my current set of compositions. I reckon the next one will follow close behind Blackbird, but given that album’s ‘transitional’ status, that might not be such a big deal.

11th January 2012 – Recording update and website bugs fixed

I’ve given the site a quick revamp due to some errors people were having with the frameset. To tie in with this slight redesign, all of the Second Thought stuff has been moved to my Bandcamp site. You can even get your hands on a Safernoc CDr there as I’ve put the remaining few copies on sale.

I’ve recently started recording some of the ideas that I’ve been writing over the last few months. A lot of them seem to be based around guitar picking. Probably due to the fact that they’ve been written on my classical guitar, and strumming generally sounds shit on a classical. I could do with a steel string acoustic really, I think that would help mix things up. The 4-track has taken a bit of getting used to, but I’m teaching myself and getting there. Hopefully! I’m not making too many plans about releasing them, as I’ve lost interest in the music industry standard ‘follow-up album’ approach to recording – I quite like the way I used to make tapes of my music to give to friends, without worrying if they were ‘proper’ releases or not, so I’m hoping future releases will retain that casual nature. It certainly worked for Aphex Twin and Peter Broderick in the past!

A few months ago I sent my friend Craig – better known as Loose Link, who I’ve remixed in the past – a lot of the unreleased material from the modern classical stuff I put together last year, and he’s working on making an album out of the session files, which will be interesting to hear once it’s done. I’ll keep you updated on that as the year goes on.

Been listening to a fair bit of stuff lately, going through a bunch of old albums I’ve got back recently, a bit of nice nostalgia there. My favourite album of recent times has been my friend Thom’s fourth Jesse Conner album, Hard-A-Port. I’ve always liked his work, but this is the first album of his that has really bowled my over. There’s a folky tinge to a lot of it that I’m hoping he continues with in the future. It’s lo-fi in a subtle, natural sounding way, and the songwriting is astoundingly mature – in an intelligent, melodic way, rather than a boring one. It’s a free download on my old Jerky Oats label and I highly recommend giving it a listen!

That’s about all for now. Should hopefully have some details on The Blackbirds’ Revenge in my next update. You can always follow my Twitter for more recording updates.

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. 🙂

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!

19th June 2011

I sat ruminating on the various ways in which things have changed lately, particularly in regard to my music, how successful (or not) it is, and how I share it. Back around the time of Purlieu I was part of a few online music communities where many people shared their tracks, collaborated, worked on various remixes and generally enjoyed the whole process of sharing music with each other. This was one of the keys to the success of Purlieu upon its release, and its high sales. These days, there’s so much free music around that these kinds of places have little to no purpose anymore. My old haunt, the ArtistServer (ElectronicScene as it was at the time) forum is, like most music boards I read, plagued with continual ‘check out my new free release’ threads without any desire to engage with people. The whole online music world changed so drastically during my five year absence that I’ve not really managed to find a niche since returning a couple of years ago. Certainly the difference in sales and general interest between Since Every Hour Is Too Late and Purlieu is startling; this can be explained by both my lack of participation in relative music scenes, and the onslaught of music I’ve released lately – I’ll admit I wouldn’t be able to (or even want to) keep up with someone who’d released as much music as I have in the last 18 months, so I don’t blame people for giving up some time ago.

That said, it’s definitely given me food for thought and I realised I really do need to get involved in things more if I want people to recognise my music. I am hopefully going to work with different labels with my music in the future as I have neither the time nor money to distribute my music through Jerky Oats at the moment without the diminishing returns of late. The other thing I’ve realised is that live performance and getting involved with ‘scenes’ and such is an important factor. I’ve been sincerely worried about future live stuff as the direction I’m taking is much more towards the avant-garde, modern classical, experimental end of things, so the beat-laden synthfest of this year’s Awakenings show will be a long way away – but I’ve not had a clue how on Earth I’ll actually do it. Anyway, some reassurance from Lucy has given me more confidence, and I’ve begun putting a few ideas down for what I could do live. Ideally at some point in the future I’d like to take it away from a pure laptop thing, as I’m becoming increasingly interested in the use of acoustic sounds, but for the moment it’s a stripped back attempt, just using Ableton, but I’ve definitely come up with some interesting ideas which I’ll be expanding upon a lot in the coming months. I really would like to get some gigs next year and with a move closer to London on the horizon, I should be in a reasonable position to look for them!

Some titles which may be heading your direction next year… Talnoa, Sturmazdale, Upper & Lower Path.

3rd March 2011

I have this unbeatable talent at stressing myself out, and at starting things with no real way of seeing them through. Lemony Nougat became a chore by the third release, I was so happy to see the end of it. I get this desire to work with musicians because I like their music, but end up offering releases out and suggesting a series of split CDr releases and all sorts, but realistically it was a silly idea and I’ve scrapped it. I’m spending too much time at the computer and on the internet at the moment anyway, the last thing I need is more reason to! I’m scaling down Jerky Oats for the foreseeable future – it originally started up as a way for me to release my own stuff on a whim/to keep control of my own releases, and to help friends out with their first release or two. I suggested, for example, that Jack release his album The Moment on the label instead of simply uploading it to last.fm, and then his Archive albums were a way of making his previous ten album back catalogue a little easier to navigate for those who’d discovered him through The Moment. Since then he’s moved on, had a successful release on Bump Foot and is now looking at possible physical distribution for his next album. This is what I wanted Jerky Oats to be – a way to help out some friends so when they start looking for labels and promoters and such they already have some releases behind them. Anyway, since then it’s begun to get bogged down with all sorts of stuff – none of it bad, of course, but just not what I wanted to do with the label. JOAT023 came out recently, and I already have up to JOAT033 lined up for release at some point, not to mention 10 and 18 which are still in the works. The last of those will be out next February! Twelve records is too much to upload/release and promote when I’m trying to get away from the computer and the internet. Stress stress stress. So yes, the five or six CDr splits have gone and releases after JOAT033 will be invite only special occasions! That, and the reworking of a future album last night have sorted things out in my head quite a lot. I really do have the next year sorted in my head and feel enormously happier.

In more pressing matters, the discography section of my site is now split into individual pages and has sound clips for each album. Moreso, Purlieu and Vacuum Road Songs are now available through Bandcamp, meaning your purchase will give you immediate download in the format of your choice, plus a CD in the post – at no increase in price. How’s that for a bargain?! Note: the last two songs on Vacuum Road Songs currently refuse to upload so that’s a pain in the arse.

25th February 2011

Finally, the time to take a break from music is here. All releases for the foreseeable future are complete, artwork is done, a release schedule has been planned out and I’m finally happy with things. Expect the Safernoc follow-up (and related EP) in the summer, then something around New Year, and hopefully another live recording in the future. It feels like I’ve finished another chapter in the Second Thought story, one which started with the recording of Treatments in late 2009. Of course, you won’t hear all of this for a while yet, so I won’t do too much of a ‘chapter closing’ rant just yet…

I’ve also been doing a bit of tidying and re-arranging of the discography (again), as some re-evaluations of last year’s work and a realisation that people coming to my music for the first time might be a bit confused have left me updating the ‘experimental series’ a little – that is now for drone, noise and other things which are most definitely unlike my main musical projects. Anybody who discovers me through Oncoming Storm or Thatcher With a Dick or… whatever, will be able to find related works in that section as it is now labelled as such. This leaves Canal Seven rightfully among the normal EPs (given that it contains work from the Twenty-Four and Safernoc sessions, this is only right), and 60 Degrees South will be appearing in the albums again later in the year (this will make sense at the time). It can still be bought direct from AmbientLive anyway. Despite all the annoying moving around, I think this does leave the discography more sensible in the long run.

Immediate future – Songs of the Emptying Race is coming out on Bump Foot on 13th or 20th March (confirmation soon), and the Live From Folkestone EP at the same time on Jerky Oats. Even more excitingly for me, Safernoc discs should be arriving today so the physical version will be around from the 28th. As of Monday, the Safernoc era will finally be over. This means I should be able to confirm stuff for the next album in the next few weeks. 🙂

12th February 2011

Thank you to everybody who’s bought Safernoc – or tried to! The FSOLDigital store has thrown up a couple of glitches, but please do use the contact form if you have problems. The reaction to the album reminds me of when I released Purlieu, and it’s great to know that people are interested and willing to fork out a few pounds for the record. A reminder of how decent people are.

Now, I make no apologies for moving on from this record very quickly as I’ve been talking about it for over a year (“Safernoc news very soon” was promised in November 2009!). There are more updates regarding the album coming in the future, but that’s very much additional stuff rather than the album itself and aren’t too important. What’s important to me at the moment is the next album, but I’m not here to talk about that just yet. Before that comes out, I need to clear the vaults of other things that were completed before then – i.e. the remix collection and live EP which have just been added to the discography. The remix collection harks back, originally, to 2004 when I asked people to remix tracks from Vacuum Road Songs for the album’s accompanying remix collection, Songs of the Emptying Race. More recently, I asked artists and friends whose work I enjoy to remix more tracks, and a double disc collection has come together. It’ll just be an mp3 release, but formatted so it fits onto two CDs for anyone who wants to burn the album to disc. The album has retained the title Songs of the Emptying Race. I’m currently finalising the track order and release details, which will be up in the discography soon – in the meantime, a tiny thumbnail of the cover is there. A million points to the person who can say what it is. After the success of my Awakenings performance, I’ve decided I want to release more of my live work, so following on from the Awakenings 2005 mp3 release, a live, in-studio performance from last December will be out on Jerky Oats, with artwork to match that former release. When I was rehearsing for last week’s performance, I initially drew up ideas for a 40 minute synth-based set, which I then scrapped due to finding it less enjoyable to play than the more rythmic set I eventually decided on. I did one final performance of the piece via the internet to a few friends, and that you will find on the EP. It’s mostly synth stuff, largely from 60° South, with a 60° South-esque interpretation of Fences, and a more faithful version of Aqueduct to the one performed at Awakenings. The version of Degrees seemed particularly icy to me and, being so utterly different to the album version, eventually became Part 2 of the Christmas EP.

These are planned for a March release. Then all of that’s behind me and I can steam on with album #4 – I’ll reveal more news about that in a coming entry.

12th December 2010

Yesterday I scrapped the live set I was planning for Awakenings, on the grounds that it was so structured that, after ten or fifteen rehearsals, I was completely bored of it. Also, it was very ambient and drifty and lots of keyboard improv, and in all honesty I don’t enjoy playing that half as much as I do beats and stuff. The show will instead be more improvised, playing with sounds and loops and effects and building up things and taking them in whatever direction I feel at the time. I’ve given it a couple of vague runs through now and both times it’s started in the same place and ended very differently – which is nice! Expect drastically altered versions of familiar (and soon to be familiar) tracks.

Fittingly, some of my rehearsals in this manner a couple of months ago came up with some interesting results, the first of which is available to download on the new compilation from the Underworld ‘Born Dirty’ forums. Called Ice Haven, the track is loosely based on Ice Shelf from 60° South, but instead of that version’s bubbling synthscapes, I’ve moved it towards a fusion of breakbeat and techno. A lot of the music I worked on between last November and this September was incredibly ambient, so I found rehearsals and this return to a more contemporary, dance-infused style quite liberating. Jamming live is a much more enjoyable way to construct this kind of music, too, and the direction will feature heavily on (distant) future releases.

I try not to talk to much about the distant future as I’m a long way ahead of listeners in terms of release schedule. I’m just about done with the follow-up to Safernoc, typically. The recent trawl through cassettes began a reassessment of why I make music and where I gain pleasure in the whole process. Back in the day, I’d record a cassette because I really enjoyed recording it, then I’d label it up, complete the artwork and put it in my collection. It was nice having a collection, being who I am, and that’s all that mattered. It all started getting a bit serious (unsurprisingly) around the time my music became releasable to some extent. For a while it seemed almost quite corporate, doing album + single, then waiting a couple of years and recording a ‘follow-up’. I suppose the scrapped series of themed concept albums played into that a little too. I did massive promotional campaigns, set up my website to represent the artwork for each album (three bloody times in Vacuum Road Songs’s case), and most importantly, made sure the albums sold and got as MANY FANS AS POSSIBLE. At what point did me owning the only copy of an album, with occasional tapes compiled for my auntie stop being enough? Now, I’m not saying I don’t want people to listen to my music, or I don’t appreciate the fans I do have, of course. The genuine passion a few people have for some of my music is touching and is one of the few things that makes me feel worthwhile, at times.

A lot of the reason behind it comes from timing: I released music at the end of a period when smaller and independent artists could still pretend they were big and famous, when I was the only musician on forums I posted on, when having a CD out was a big thing. Luckily I was fairly established when Purlieu came out; by the time of Vacuum Road Songs, it was no longer such a big deal. Despite a number of netlabel releases this year, for a while I still had a sense in the back of my mind that these are smaller releases, experiments, EPs, side-projects… when the ‘proper’ albums come out, I’ll still do promo campaigns, and release one album every year or two, maybe with a single/EP (the accompanying Syophonic EP for Safernoc is a great example). There’s still an element of sucking the joy from it all in this, and a focus on ‘product’. The joy I got from having a tape in my own collection, to listen to whenever I like, that’s not present in trying to work out when an album should be released to benefit from as many sales as possible.

I also looked at two artists I know, Jack Anderton and John Sherwood (4m33s). Since 2005, Jack has recorded one or two albums a year, and until I put out The Moment on Jerky Oats this summer, he’d not really ‘released’ anything other than uploading mp3s to his MySpace. John releases his own music and all of his live shows on his own label, AmbientLive. Some of these are big conceptual statements, some aren’t even advertised on the label’s website. The albums are there completed and can be bought by anybody who’s interested if they wish. There are a lot of albums, two or three one year then none the next. I really, really admire this as it’s very honest towards the most important thing: the music.

So what does this mean? Well, it means that the initial plan to release Safernoc in early 2011 and its follow up in 2012 can bugger off, for a start. Why wait around when I have a nearly-finished album I’m proud of ready to go? Once Safernoc is out, I’m going to send off some demos and hopefully find a label who’ll be interested in putting it out. Unlike the highly unsuccessful VRS demos, I’m not going to aim at Warp and Rephlex (I mean seriously, what the fuck was I thinking?), but some smaller labels who might be interested in the sounds I’m working on. If all goes to plan, we’ll be looking at Safernoc in early 2011 and that in the second half of the year, which leaves me free to continue recording new material and put out another album in 2012, hopefully much nearer to its completion date! I think a couple of albums a year is a sensible rate to be working towards. Despite this, I’m definitely not going to do another ‘experimental series’ style barrage – that was a case of getting releases and showing musical progress rather than completing an album to be proud of, so quite counter-productive in this sense.

I won’t say much else about the Safernoc follow-up for a while now, other than to say it’s a stylstic continuation of the newer elements of that album, and takes a slightly different approach to previous records, and is something I’m very proud of.

In other news, Pete sent me the Cubus Lemony Nougat this week, and I’m fucking bowled over. It’s easily one of the most marvellous pieces of music I’ve ever heard. I am grateful to be releasing a real masterpiece.

I’ll shut up and go to bed now. Download that Dirty compilation!