6th March 2014

Having done a lot of trawling through various hard discs, backup CDrs and DVDrs, and other headache-inducing madness, I have finally come up with the goods for the 10 year anniversary edition of Purlieu.

There will be two editions:

1. Standard CD re-issue

2. Limited edition CD + 5xC30 tape re-issue

The limited edition will feature a box of C30 tapes, including the whole album on cassette for the first time, and two tapes of outtakes, alternative versions, demos and remixes (some previously heard, some unreleased).

The most exciting part (for me) is the discovery of the very first mix of the record from October 2002, when it was originally mooted to be an EP to follow my Twenty-Four CDr album. It exists as a 15 minute track and is a lot more abstract than the final version, although all the elements ended up on the final CD.

More information coming soon. Still hoping for a May release date.

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.

19th September 2011

In an interesting turn of events, The Tree and Where Do We Go When the Roads Have All Cracked? seem to have merged into what is becoming my first acoustic-based album, I think. It is nearing completion but I keep making tweaks and changes, which is all good.

I have put together a nice collection of my favourite pieces from the 2010/2011 era to replace the rather poor ‘Estuary’ collection which I realised I don’t like very much! This new one contains some remixes and reworkings, and a couple of actual tracks. It’s more melodic than Estuary was and definitely escapes from the mire that bogged much of the era down, I basically started it as a way of collecting my favourite tracks from that point together to listen to without flitting between records, but decided I’d share it so other people can enjoy the tracks too, as comes next year most of my unsatisfactory material won’t be linked from my website. It can be downloaded for free (or money if you care to donate!) from my Bandcamp page. It is called Autumn. 🙂

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.

4th September 2011

Some people might be mistaken in thinking that being one of those people who is constantly recording is a good thing. It’s not! Well, it has its down sides, at least. For a while I’ve been worrying that I’m actually working on too much music, but then I remember even around the time of Purlieu I was recording that, and almost an album’s worth of material that didn’t make it onto the album, and a couple of 2T Records, and a So Far So Good album, and some nonsense as Rory and the Smendles, and still at college and persuing a social life. So perhaps it’s not so odd that, given the fact I have nothing to do at the moment, I’m coming up with a lot of new music. It’s all being put into different boxes on different themes. I’ve decided to revisit the original ideas behind Vacuum Road Songs (long before it turned into the maddening journey through a city story it was planned to be a more grim sounding soundtrack to a rather scary part of a city – think Burial’s first album in mood), a ghost story themed album inspired by a car trip near Hinckley, the electro-acoustic experiments I’ve spoken of before, the old tape collage, and a box for general stuff that might get used in the future. I’m getting in touch with labels to see what will be released where and when. Hopefully a few bits and bobs will be out over the course of 2012.

I spent much of yesterday playing with a melodica, writing, recording, manipulating sounds. It works very well at forming an ambient backdrop, and I came up with some great sounds. I think I really need to get a guitar very soon. Given the opportunity to write tracks, rather than piece them together on the computer, it should slow down my progress without stopping me from being musical!

1st September 2011

This afternoon I’ve been piecing together some of my favourite bits of those old tapes I wrote about some months ago (nearly a year ago!) A lot of the strange noises and collages were inspired by The Beatles’ Revolution 9, and I’ve been putting those together in a fashion befitting their origins. Nostalgia is a funny thing, that led me immediately to consider my past and my music again, and, having had a couple of drinks, I felt quite nostalgic about Second Thought. Not that I’m regretting ending it, but just… memories, really. When it all started, ups and downs, how it ended.

Anybody with an ear for some beautiful music should listen to Tectonic Grind by Sensible Nectar. The tape’s out of print so it can be downloaded for free in the Out of Print section of Rainbow Bridge. Some of the noisier stuff might be hard to get through (I’ll be honest, it’s not really to my taste either), but the melodic guitar stuff is wonderful. The last track, Unsafe In My Own Shuffling, Weak, Dreaming Arms, is probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard and really should be listened to. If only I could create that sort of thing with my guitar.

If only I had my guitar!

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!