safernoc

13th February 2013

All of my past music that’s available has now been added to my main Bandcamp.  This basically brings together past work as Second Thought and The Curse of Kevin Carter under one banner, which is certainly not how I originally imagined things, but I’m now happy to just say ‘this is me’.  I have included a wealth of bonus material in here, too.  First off, Purlieu has been rounded off with a 30 minute collage collecting various related unreleased material of similar style, from the Purlieu, Leaf Pass and East of Evening sessions.  Since Every Hour is Too Late has been expanded to include a selection of synth pieces from the same sessions, and closes with ‘May Revisited’.  There are also bonus remixes and live takes included in the downloads of Vacuum Road Songs and Safernoc.  Finally, the lost Second Thought album Aeolian Landform is available in its original format, after a short appearance under my Obliquity monker a couple of years ago, in its rightful place amongst my other records.  This now gives the whole page a rather strange feel, collecting together ambient techno, modern classical, lo-fi acoustics and various other genres, but why should genres matter, really?

All of the albums (except East of Evening, of which there are still a few tape copies available) are available as name-your-price downloads, so there is potentially eleven hours of free music to grab there, although I am saving towards some new gear which I’ll be needing to work on my next album, so all donations are very gratefully received.  Enjoy!

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.

12th December 2011

Last December I put out a free EP called Christmas, as a thank you to everyone who’d stuck with me through the overbearingly tedious series of releases put out in 2010. I wanted to make the ‘free Christmas download’ a regular thing, and this year I decided to release a compilation. Another Setting Sun is a collection of unreleased or otherwise impossible-to-find tracks dating back to my first computer recordings and forward to this year. It began as an archive collection, but encouraged by how well Leaf Pass came together, I built it up to be a fully collaged album at the beginning of the year. It is out today, fittingly on No-Source, the label run by Tim Dwyer, the person who’s been listening to my music longer than anybody else other than myself and my parents. The album ends with the muffled lyric ‘I’m finally happy’, and it’s a very fitting end. With Autumn tying up the 2010 excess that I was so unhappy with, I leave Second Thought behind with a discography to be proud of.

This will be my last journal entry as Second Thought. A project which began, in its own way, twelve years and four months ago, but feels like it began several lifetimes ago, is finally over. It’s been a very strange ride. In 1999 I was creating potential CD sleeves for mine and Dale’s techno tracks, yet when in late 2000 I finally made a CD to fit one of the sleeves, it was solo material. In 2003 I finished the album I’m most proud of; in 2009 I came out of a six year writer’s block with Vacuum Road Songs to show, and a new album brewing. During my absence, a whole new MP3 and CDr scene emerged, and sadly my response was to flood it with half-baked ideas; even two more albums I’m incredibly proud of couldn’t change the fact that I’d made the Second Thought name – one I never liked much to start with – redundant. And so it ends.

Second Thought will always remind me of Hinckley, of my parents’ front room where almost all of the music I’m proud of was recorded. Three pieces in particular stand out as the most important tracks I made. ‘Station’, in May or June 2002, was a massive leap forward, thanks to an important lesson in music production. My tracks before were largely laughably amateurish sounding bleepy computer pieces; suddenly, I was making music as high quality as CDs I bought (even on its re-release in 2011 on Leaf Pass, ‘Station’ received much praise). A few months later I wrote ‘Rooftops’, which had almost everybody who listened to it gushing: not only had I made music that impressed me, but I’d made music that impressed others. ‘Rooftops’ got the attetion of Joe at Project Aristotle, who then wanted to release Purlieu – suddenly I felt like my music was validated. When I recorded ‘Savernake’ in February 2009, I’d almost given up Second Thought for good, but gave it one more go. Somehow, I managed to record something much punchier and ‘professional’ sounding than ever before; not only that, but the track was great! ‘Savernake’ rescued Second Thought.

Those aren’t my favourite tracks, just the most important. If I had to pick my favourite tracks recorded as Second Thought, they would be ‘May’, ‘Aqueduct’, ‘Machine’, ‘Time’, ‘Gone Forever’ and my collaboration with Full-Source, ‘The Significant Other’. They might not be the most representitive pieces – barely any piano! – but as individual tracks they work marvellously. I can’t say any more about them.

There are a lot of people I’d like to thank, most of whom I’ve probably not thanked, or at least thanked enough, in the past. Chris Sisk, for the Fruityloops tutorial in 2002 that shaped my music; Joe Dobzynski, for the passion and belief in Purlieu that gave me the courage to release it on CD; Tim Dwyer for still listening after all these years, and the countless collaborative projects; Jack Anderton for listening as a fan as well as a friend; Lucy for supporting me when everything seemed wrong; and Brian Dougans, Gaz Cobain and Graham Hicks for things I cannot begin to put into words. Without knowing it, every one of you has stopped me from giving up at one point or another.

Thank you to Thom, Gregg, Muzz, Arron, Rufus, Themis, Liam, Pippa, John Sherwood, Andy B, Andy C, Dell, Matt and Ben, for listening, caring and making it all worthwhile. I hope you find something to enjoy in the music I put out in the future.

Most of all, I’d like to thank Dale Clarke. You’re almost certainly not reading, and we haven’t been in touch in years, but it was that afternoon in your room in August 1999 when you suggested making some music – seriously this time, rather than singing along to The Shadows and Chicane – that started everything. It might have fallen apart after a year, but the enthusiasm you brought out in the both of us inspired me to take my own music that extra step, buy a keyboard, get some software and start actually writing music. If that conversation had never happened, it would have taken me years to get past the stage of just recording some tapes in my room on my guitar, and I certainly wouldn’t be in the position I am today. So thank you.

A brief diversion and something I used to do and wanted to get back to doing, my top ten albums of 2011:

Deaf Centre – Owl Splinters
Jack Anderton – The Missing Couple
Jesse Conner – Hard-A-Port
Wire – Red Barked Trees
Thursday – No Devolucion
Underworld – Frankenstein Soundtrack
Roddy Woomble – The Impossible Song & Other Songs
The Streets – Computers and Blues
Full-Source – Farewell These Unknown Suns
Jack Anderton – Riparian Forest

Honourable mentions go to Off Land and Current 93.

There’s a whole new website with a tidied up discography, news on The Blackbirds’ Revenge and so on coming in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I’ve put up some details of my pre-Purlieu releases on the front page, for the few who may be interested, and for nostalgia’s sake. I hope everybody has a wonderful Christmas and New Year. For now, thank you so much for reading, and… goodbye.

5th November 2011

I’ve got label stuff sorted for The Blackbirds’ Revenge, which is good – coming soon to a cassette label near you (or probably not, unless you live in Finland). I was thinking about how different it will seem compared to my previous albums, but in many ways it shouldn’t come as too much of surprise. It depends how you perceive my previous music. Part of the shunning of Aeolian Landform, the 2010 releases and other stuff from my catalogue was due to it not seeming personal. While my first three albums might not seem personal, they weren’t massive widescreen soundtracks either. Purlieu was based very much on the Leicestershire countryside I was so familiar with; Vacuum Road Songs started with my fascination with city life and ended with my experience of it; Safernoc explored my interest and fascination with ghost stories, myths and legends. Otherwise, Since Every Hour is Too Late adopted a track-by-track emotional approach, and Leaf Pass was more gentle, rural and even acoustic in sound, with the presence of an actual song – ‘Anticipated Lies’ (admittedly muffled and placed in the background). The Blackbirds’ Revenge – and my music to come – will continue in the spirit of all of these albums, but particularly the elements of the last two albums that I highlighted there. The music will remain as personal (and inspired by my life and surroundings) as ever – maybe just in a slightly more obvious way.

It’s rather typical that as I’m rounding things up for Second Thought – just two months to go – the name is getting more attention than ever before. I’ve had several positive reviews for Safernoc, Since Every Hour is Too Late and Leaf Pass lately, and the Nearby Forest mix is now available to download from The New Worck. And another appearance on an FSOL Electric Brain Storm mix. After a long period of self-doubt, the last few months have seen such genuine interest and passion for my music that it’s really settled my mind.

In slightly less positive news, college didn’t work out too well, for a number of reasons that I shan’t go into here. So music is slightly higher on the agenda again, but I’m still on the playing guitar and coming up with little ideas front rather than taking it much further – once I get some more recording equipment and The Blackbirds’ Revenge is out, I can maybe make some progress. Next year probably.

13th August 2011

At relatively short notice, Leaf Pass is out today, which can be downloaded for free by clicking here, courtesy of Treetrunk Records. I recently described the album as ‘the best accident I’ve ever had’ – it began life as a couple of longform Canal Seven-style pieces on a collection called Habitats 1-3, but I was just never very happy with it so I scrapped the release. Then, for reasons unknown to me, I decided to merge it together and split it into 16 tracks a la a normal album, and it all came together perfectly into a record I’m really proud of. Some of the material on the album is new stuff, some is very old – pre-Purlieu, from the Twenty-Four demo disc, for those of you who still remember it – but it all sits together nicely. The presence of pre-Purlieu material, combined with the sunny rural sounding beginnings, moving on to a more sinister end section, came together to make the album a bit of a prequel to Purlieu really. It’s a bit of a diversion from the modern classical direction of the last couple of albums and what’s to come, and was released now as a way to tie things up with Second Thought. This is the last of the five major albums.

I always intended to do linking albums, although it was never meant to end this way. I had four albums planned: Purlieu and Vacuum Road Songs, then Dead Hymns, a dark ambient/industrial album which had the listener going through a sort of ‘personal hell’, followed by Crib Goch, a spiritual reawakening based around piano and string pieces that would end the series. Instead, the hell was replaced by myths and ghost stories of Safernoc, and I took things one step further by tying the last album up as a memory of how the journey began. That this managed to come out just as Second Thought was ending is a wonderful coincidence and basically makes me very happy.

Anyway, Leaf Pass is out now. A CDr version will be working its way to a few special people who’ve supported me and bought the other albums over the years. That’s the end of Second Thought, musically, the last new material to come out, the end of the story that some people have been following since 2002/2003 when I started work on material that made its way onto this album and Purlieu. It’s been quite a ride. I hope you enjoy the album!

15th May 2011

Since Every Hour Is Too Late is available to pre-order – an immediate download as of now! I’m hoping to get the discs out on or before the 1st June release date. This is an exciting and relieving time for me. I’m very proud to get this album out, as it’s got some of my favourite work of mine on, and also it marks the end of a run of releases which has been almost non-stop since November 2009. The first track for the album was composed shortly after Safernoc was completed, back in October 2009, when I still lived in Manchester. Since then I’ve moved four times, scrapped a lot of recordings, finished four different mixes of this album and been through a lot of personal things – but come out of it in one piece and have this album to show for it. It breaks the pattern of my previous soundscape albums, containing individual tracks which each tell their own story. It is certainly my most melodic album to date, and the most personal, and probably the most sad sounding. I had a number of personal crises which led to the composition of some of the material here. Other pieces are portraits of birds I recorded for my fianceé, without whom I would not have got through this time. More than this, the album is the achievement of a long term goal. Many years ago, I was walking in Wales with my friend on a camping holiday, and the landscape, with some ruined buildings, inspired me to plan out an album of pieces for piano and strings that would reflect the ancient landscape. It was due to be my fourth album following Dead Hymns, themeatically acting as a spiritual reawakening after the trip through hell. This album might not have that conceptual wholeness which I over-planned, but it is an album of mostly string and piano arrangements, it is my fourth record, and it is in many ways a soundtrack to a time of readjustment and dealing with life. It might not have been quite the landscape record I imagined seven years ago, but it certainly is the melodic, modern classical album I wanted to record.

I’ve been working more on new material, which is definitely continuing with the classical theme, but that won’t be out for some time yet. After a barrage of material lately, this is the last new stuff I’ll be putting out until next year – it’ll be nice to get back to one or two albums a year. This album marks the end of a series of albums, and the end of a continuous run of releases (other than the outtakes split EP which will accompany it on 1st June, of course). I think May acts as the perfect closer to this era for me. Thank you to everybody who’s listened over all this time, and I hope you enjoy the album. 🙂

 

5th May 2011

Initial sessions for the next album have come along nicely. It’s nice to be working with samples again, and as soon as I opened up Fruityloops (yes, I’m going full on retro) I reverted almost immediately to Purlieu mode, which is interesting. This won’t be quite the same in overall sound, but melodically I think there will be definite comparisons. The more sinister, jarring edge to that record is definitely present, along with some influences from serialism and other 20th atonal music. The nearest comparisons to my own music so far are Parin Onia from Purlieu and Cwn Annwn from Safernoc, I think.

In more pressing matters, I will soon be getting copies of Since Every Hour Is Too Late in the post. It’ll be nice to have that released, as with my recent working with strings and piano for forthcoming material it seems more fitting, and the initial sessions for the album were recorded in October 2009 – although it was only completed four months ago. Either way, it and its accompanying EP will be the last new Second Thought material for quite some time (until next year at least), and will mark the last material from the 2009-2010 sessions (other than the shelved album, anyway). So an important milestone there.

I finally bought that Kerkville album. It’s absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend it.

 

23rd March 2011

A quick change to update the ‘future of Second Thought’ position, as I feel like clarifying some stuff and getting some info out there! The follow-up to Safernoc situation is a bit confusing, after much assessment and re-arrangement of music. Either way, the album has two follow-ups, sort of. The first is Since Every Hour Is Too Late, the collection of works for strings, piano and synth which follow on from the neo-classical moments on Safernoc. That was due out in August, but will hopefully be out sooner – some time in the summer. The other record expands on the sounds introduced on Send More Bees, Night Train, Savernake, Moss and Aqueduct; the first half is ‘ambient dub’, and the second half focuses on synth work and Berlin School sequences. That will be out before the end of the year (I’m hoping September/October). They will both be on CDr + download format through Bandcamp.

Why say all this now and why get them out so soon? Some recent listening and experiences have given me chance to assess my music in a more considered way than I have before. In particular, I had the closest, most in depth listen to Lifeforms that I’ve had in years, and was staggered at how well the mixture of samples and synths works on that album. On top of that, there’s this from my friend Themis’s label Triple Bath. The piece comes entirely from guitar. Lastly, some trawling through my old work for various reasons has really shown the difference in my older, sample-based work and the very synthetic textures of Aeolian Landform. Much as I am proud of the album, it feels less personal and individual to me, and I really want to get back to working with audio, taking acoustic sounds, editing, filtering and changing them and making my own music from that. There’s also been a lot of emphasis on composition and performance lately, and I genuinely miss working with loops and samples in the way I used to. So once I start composing again, later in the year, I’ll be doing that again – starting from scratch, with new software to learn and a whole new range of samples to mess around with. In the meantime, I’d like to get these records all packaged up and out of the way, while letting everybody get the chance to hear them. Also, one potential show in July aside, any future live sets will probably be quite different in style to the dancey synth fest of my last couple (and the improv that will be heard some time in the future). I’ve had a lot of fun with synths, dance music and such lately, but I think it’s about time to get back to forging my own sound again.

Music I’m listening to and would recommend you listen to:

Roddy Woomble – The Impossible Song and Other Songs
4m33s – Time
Somnarium – Frost
Wire – Red Barked Trees
The Future Sound of London – Lifeforms

26th February 2011

Safernoc CDr release is officially ‘available’ – some promo copies, some for friends and some will be available from live shows in the future. With that, the Safernoc era is finally over, and what better way to mark the occasion than by revealing the artwork and tracklist for the next album! This one was half complete at the start of 2010 and has been touched up over time since then.

Since Every Hour Is Too Late

The Day You Left
Birdsongs for Lucy, I: Magpie
Birdsongs for Lucy, II: Goosander
Birdsongs for Lucy, III: Tawny Owl
Burbage Park, for Dad
Peter Pig
Glebe Road, 1998. Rain
Untitled for four pianos
Birdsongs for Lucy, IV: Stonechat
Mip and Bella, for Mum
May

This is a more personal album than before, as is obvious from the song titles alone. The album expands upon the neo-classical piano/string elements of Safernoc, with the album’s overall palette being little more than piano, strings and subdued synths, plus the occasional sample and field recording. The album features more strict compositions and less improvised pieces than any of my previous work too. The mood of the record is one of a hazy, wistful nostalgia; my dad’s photography of places close to my home town adds to this feeling, and many of the titles refer to aspects of my childhood, along with a series of pieces inspired by birds I wrote for my fiancée.

The record should be out in the summer, all being well, but I’ll post more news on that nearer the time. It feels good to be finally moving on to this album! Also, 60° South is finally in the albums section, in ‘fifth album’ position. Although some tweaks were made on Since Every Hour Is Too Late after 60° South’s release, it was conceived and mostly recorded before that album. 60° South actually expands on the synth ideas put forward on Since Every Hour Is Too Late, and is a very suitable bridge between that and what should follow it. But no more on that just yet!

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. 🙂