Progressive Rock Artist seeks Audience

Category: Studio Diary (Page 1 of 22)

A review from DPRP

Theo Verstrael of The Dutch Progressive Rock Page has given us a fair review of the latest album. As usual, we are amongst good company, with all the other recent releases reviewed this week.

You can read the review here:

https://www.dprp.net/reviews/2020-067#prodigal-sounds

Alas, they don’t really like the cover, but generally it is a good review and I appreciate the thoroughness of Theo’s research and informed evaluation of our offering.

A couple of comments on the review:

I don’t get the similarity between Paradigm Shift and Painting Abstracts, but perhaps I’m too close to the music. Theo’s entitled to his opinion. They are both have 7/8 riffs and have similar tempos but apart from that… I’m proud of both pieces.

He’s also not a fan of the Spoken Word verses in The God Program. I respect that. I did try other things early on but kept coming back to it. It’s pretty close to how I heard it in my head, originally, and I just have to plead my lack of ability to realize it in a way that resonates for everyone. I’ve used the growly, pitch-dropped vocal technique before, in the previous album. There’s some continuity in it, but hopefully it is not a “signature”! I don’t intend to use it again.

My brother and I aren’t actively writing together because we live in different parts of the world and have done so for many years. Long-distance collaboration is not something we’ve been able to do. There wasn’t a “falling out” or anything. There’s still music that we wrote together that may see the “light of day”, but I also have more ideas of my own. Hopefully album #3 will happen.

The Blank Slate

I have this fantasy that Album #3 is a blank slate, with no material left over from previous sessions or unfinished projects.

In reality, I have lyrics and musical fragments that I’ve been working off-and-on over the last few years. I usually get my ideas while out cycling, and it is no trouble to pull over, whip out the iPhone and record the fragment into the Voice Memo app. Later, back in the studio, I transcribe the lyric into my notebook. Sometimes I’ll open my Scrapbook project and add another piano track with the melody.

That’s cool. On the plus side, these new songs will hopefully start out being actually sing-able in my comfortable range, as opposed to many projects in the past where the music came first and the melody second and was almost always not pitched comfortably for my voice. So that’s a good thing.

Outside of these lyric and melody fragments – some of which have expanded into pretty complete stand-alone song ideas – I still have a comprehensive library of musical ideas that date back to those Grey Lynn flat jam sessions in the 90’s, converted to mp3 from C60 tape cassette.

I still feel that this situation qualifies as a “blank slate”, as far as Album #3 is concerned. Every track is going to start with a new empty project, and not an existing one, worked on in years past and put on the back-burner due to lack of time, interest, energy, ideas, whatever.

Even “The God Program” from our current release was conceived back in 2003 and much of it laid down in 2007. (And consequently re-recorded, but that’s par for the course.)

So, I’m looking forward to never again having to sit back and listen to a newly recorded section of music, and say “dammit it just doesn’t have the magic of that older demo”.

*Record Scratch*

…Yeah. That was nice while it lasted.

Back in 2002 I didn’t have any plans to resurrect “The Prodigal Sounds” as a music-releasing entity, and instead explored some other new music ideas with the tentative goal of putting it out under another band name. I had three longish instrumental thematically-related pieces recorded in “pretty complete demo” form, but only titles for the other three or four pieces.

I’ve related elsewhere the story of how I got back on track with Prodigal Sounds and the “Fruit of the Steel Tree”, and consequent to that, this other project was shelved.

Long story short, I think I’m going to incorporate the music from this old project into the songs of Album #3, or one of them anyway. The music seems to fit. It’s worth a try.

So, will it be a concept album?

A better question, should it be an “album” at all? CDs are not selling much these days, it’s all about streaming and playlists and bullshit like that.

Personally, I prefer the idea of a curated collection of songs, rather than emitting the occasional single on some indeterminate schedule like a chunk of U-238.

So, yes, there will be an Album #3, unless I give up or expire before it is released.

And I do have a concept for it, although it is of a subtle nature. Tangential, even.

Better Late than Never

Well, at long last, album #2 has been released.

My previous release, Fruit of the Steel Tree, was my best effort to realize the music that Walter and I wrote back in the 1990’s.

This new release, The Inevitable Obscenity of Autonomous Weaponry, includes a few tracks from that same period. I’ve perhaps taken more liberties with them this time, relying on my own vision.

The other tracks are all “new” in the sense that they are based on material I wrote since Walter and I stopped collaborating on music, from 2003 to 2019.

You can find out more at the album-specific pages I created (see the The Inevitable Obscenity link in the blog top menu above).

I used CD Baby as my manufacturer/distributer and due to COVID-19 related circumstances, I’m not sure exactly when and how this will be made available to purchase. It *should* appear on Amazon at some point, and although CD Baby has closed their online store, they do have copies in their warehouse for distribution.

The physical package is nice: an eco-sensitive cardboard wallet:

image

The artwork came out nicely but I acknowledge I used a sub-optimal font point size on the smallest text. It seemed ok in the PDF but I should have realized that white-on-black in print would be harder to read. Oh well, no big deal. The information (and more!) is all available online (see link above).

Digitally, the album is now up on Spotify and probably other streaming services as well. Yay!

Okay, so the timing for this release isn’t great: as I write this, we are still under a County Public Health “Stay At Home Order” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the economy is taking a nose-dive. Folks just aren’t going to have the disposable income (or the will to spend it) that they did a couple months ago.

Originally I’d planned for this to be out in 2019 which would have been nice, but it didn’t happen.

Since the last blog post, “Final polishing” of the tracks took longer than expected because I kept finding little things I wasn’t totally happy with. This is actually an infinite process because there will *always* be things that I think I could improve, and my tastes change over time so it’s a moving target. The trick is to apply the law of diminishing returns and identify when it is time to Let It Go.

At this point, I think I chose appropriately. It’s out there now, anyway.

What’s Next

I’ve uploaded two videos on YouTube to accompany the release: A studio “play-through” for Paradigm Shift and a second one for Cathedral with “behind the scenes” text captions.

I intend to create a third video for The Toks Invade before putting the project to bed.

I’m going to be preparing a Bonus CD (well, EP maybe) with alternative versions of some of the tracks. I’ll make this available digitally via BandCamp, no physical CD for this.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been working on new lyrics and some musical ideas and it really does look like there will be an Album #3. But that’s for later.

5 Albums

Challenged by sister Julia to choose 10 albums that greatly influenced my taste in music, I’ll respond by changing it up a bit and also to count down the days until my new album is released: I’ll choose 5 albums that fit the criteria of the original challenge, and add some commentary. In no particular order:

We start with the obvious because its influence is all over Inevitable Obscenity: Arguably the best album from Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (ELP) is TRILOGY, released in 1972. I love all their albums but if I’m super-critical then this one avoids the early unevenness of previous releases such as Tarkus, but also the over-the-top pretension of later albums. It’s got everything that is good about ELP and nothing bad: Classical adaptations; a ballad; a ragtime; brings the “heavy” and plenty of Moog Modular. “Endless Enigma” and “Trilogy” are examples of ELP at their best.

1972 is a bit before my time – but I can thank Eldest Brother for exposing me to plenty of musical fertilizer from this period.

*
Continuing the commentary on top 5 artists and albums that influenced my taste in music, we come to Mike Oldfield. Tubular Bells arrived in 1973 but I’ll chose the 1983 album CRISES as one of my five. Although I’m not a fan of the insipid “Moonlight Shadow” single, I think that the side-long multi-part composition “Crises” could be considered Oldfield’s last great work. Featuring the superior percussion and production work of Simon Phillips; perhaps the last appearance of the Gibson L6-S Deluxe guitar ; introducing the Fairlight CMI (but before it took over as the primary composition medium), and excellent production work.

*

I remember hearing music from Tangerine Dream’s EXIT at a ballet based around Night on Bald Mountain. I’m pretty sure that was the first TD album I acquired but it wasn’t the last. Exit represents accessible instrumental pieces from a classic line-up of the band. Definitely an influence (although perhaps more so is the later UNDERWATER SUNLIGHT release…)

*

The first time I heard Tony Levin and the Chapman Stick was on the 1983 live release from Peter Gabriel, “Plays Live” (thank you James Mitchell!). However I’ll choose the 1982 studio album “4” as representing the artistry of Peter Gabriel, before SO launched him into popular stardom in 1986. Shock the Monkey!

*


We finish up the commentary on the top 5 artists and albums that influenced my taste in music and perhaps the content of Inevitable Obscenity… with THE DREAMING by Kate Bush, released in 1982. I remember seeing the video of the title track on Radio With Pictures. But to be fair, her 1985 release THE HOUNDS OF LOVE perhaps is more of an influence, particularly the side-long multi-part suite “The Ninth Wave”. However I’ll stick with the earlier album to maintain my hipster status.

First Quarter End Game

January 1
In 2013, we climbed the Steel Tree. In 2020, the Inevitable happens.

January 30
Frantically trying to finish the last track; having trouble with bass+drums co-ordination, my own stupid fault. May have cracked the problem yesterday. Album artwork coming together. Forward…

March 10
Album artwork is, I think, mostly complete. Currently working on the guitars on the final track.

March 25
Album recording is completed. Mastering basically done (just a couple more listening tests on different environments).
Currently working on a teaser video.

April 23
Dithering is good for sample rate conversion; not so good for deciding when to send the mastered files to manufacturing. However, final tweaks are complete; it’s not going to sound any better, so, it’s done.

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