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!