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.

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