Bliss Within Agony

Moving (not very) swiftly on...

"Bliss Within Agony" was the fourth release on ARC, coming out in July 2001. The title refers to the concept of deriving pleasure from pain. I should point out that I have an extremely low tolerance of physical pain, so this isn't about being bound and whipped for fun. It's more to do with the idea that the music was meant to stimulate sensations, thoughts and feelings in a dark, loud environment that weren't necessarily "nice" but were nevertheless enjoyable.

The release starts with "Sticky Fingers". A very basic track recorded in October 2000, it remains one of my favourites. It leads in with a kick drum that's quite heavily limited on the attack so it has a nice sustain. The vocal sample that filters and echoes once per bar caused some issues in the cutting room, I seem to remember, and on some decks can cause the needle to jump if not weighted correctly. All that really happens in this track is an off kilter synth line fades up and gradually gets more aggressive. It feels like it's constantly getting higher and higher but I'm sure that's an illusion, as the range on the EMU Audity synth probably wasn't great enough for me to be able to keep increasing the cut-off frequency for four minutes. The synth was sequenced using the Latronic Notron, hence the odd pattern, and an LFO causes the pitch to waver up and down giving that seasick feeling that I tried to create with many of my tracks. I love this one. It has a relentless, single-minded vibe.

Next up is "Eastern Rumble". Some might recognise that this track contains elements of the remix I did for Takaaki Itoh. The rumble referred to is a sample taken from his track "Step To Makin'". I recorded this track in September 2000, immediately after finishing the remix that made it onto the Electracom 12", while the sample was still loaded in the Roland S-760.

This track has a disorientating, chaotic feeling, created in part by the pitch LFO I constantly used on the Audity and also the pitch shift sequence used for the a cowbell sound on the Boss DR-660 drum machine. Also, it fades in rather than starting from a set point. I can't remember exactly why I did it that way. It's not the "DJ friendly" method of starting a track, but perhaps it sounded rubbish starting any other way. After the event, I liked the idea that - although an audience on a dancefloor would probably never be aware of it - the fade in signified that the track was coming "from" somewhere; that it didn't start at a specific moment, and when it fades out at the end it went back to where it came from. Or perhaps the listener did, after a brief glimpse into the maelstrom; a place / feeling / memory of something... heavy. OK, that's all a bit mystical, but a lot of what I was always trying to do with music was to induce in others feelings that I had personally experienced at one stage or another, often while listening and/or dancing to techno. As the record title suggests, these were not always "happy" or "nice" feelings, but intense, powerful feelings that afterwards one understands as valuable, even if one is doubtful as to whether a repeat experience is desirable.

First track on side-B was "Backlash Boy", recorded way back in December 1997. The title is an adaptation of the name of the band from which the main sample was taken. I'll leave you to work that one out...shouldn't be too hard. I would sometimes stick the input lead of the sampler into the output of a radio and just sample whatever was coming out at the time, and this was one of those occasions. I'm not fond of this track. To me, it feels like a track that was made on a day when things weren't really working, but I felt like I should push myself to record something anyway. Similarly, I suspect I included it on this release because it seemed like there was something about it I didn't understand, but that perhaps others may appreciate. And maybe they did...perhaps it's your favourite of the bunch. I don't want to spoil a track that others may like with my negativity about it, but I can't recall ever wanting to play this after it was pressed, and I don't think I would play it now either.

The last track on the release is "Home Is Where The Hate Is". This was made  in March 1998. Like the noise track on "Walking Wounded", I made this track some years before I really understood that there was a lot of dark, nightmarish music which already existed and formed part of a long tradition of alternative music making. Much of the electronic music I was familiar with at the time which was not aimed at the dancefloor (I consider this track just right for the dancefloor, depending on the circumstances!) fell under the "ambient" banner. It was more of the "nice" variety, and this track is definitely more inclined towards the "nasty". It grinds, whines and wheezes its way over six nauseating minutes. Great fun. 

Files are in 320kbps mp3 and lossless FLAC formats. Both are compressed from the same WAV files which in turn are taken from original digital recordings. I’m willing to provide WAV files to individuals who specifically request them and for whom FLAC isn’t sufficient. If requesting WAV files, please let me know which tracks you want.

See further comments on the label art concept and track titles here.

Please get in touch if you have any problems downloading, unzipping, or playing the files.

P.S. I've just switched on an option that displays a mobile version of the blog if a mobile browser is detected. Hope it works for folk.

Speech Emphasis

Before I get into this post, I'd like to apologise again to anyone who may have been waiting for these files to be posted. I hope to pick the series up again and get it finished as soon as possible. As I mentioned a few days ago, I have been and continue to be very busy with various things going on in life....most of which are positive, but none of which are music related.

OK, to the next release then. I've decided to skip over the small collection of remixes (ARCN04) for now. I'll come back to it later. I appear to have lost the original CDr that Hardcell sent me so would need to produce a decent copy of his track. I tried to contact him a while ago but never received a response.

So, I'm skipping on to the next in the sequence, which is ARCN05, "Speech Emphasis", released some time in 2001. Three of the tracks on this release have vocal sounds in them, but the title isn't an intentional reference to anything in particular. It was simply two words spoken by my friend Ed during a conversation. I thought they sounded nice next to each other and probably noted them down somewhere at the time, for later use.

This record was subtitled "Elegant Manoeuvres part II", the second in an occasional series of loosely related records that started with the first ARC(ANE) release. As such it had to my ears at least a subtle difference from the sound of ARC and the sound of other ARC(ANE) records. A little bit more funky, less dark...maybe?

The first track, "Got To Get Down Again", uses the same vocal sample that featured in a brief skittish track on ARC02 ("This Weak Flesh"). The bass line for this track is the same sequence which fades up towards the end of "Divine Confusion" on ARCN02 ("Storyteller"). I almost never saved patches or sequences across studio sessions, and all these tracks appear in sequence on the same master CDr. This suggests that all of the aforementioned tracks, which made it onto different records at different times, were started and finished on the same day in March 2000. Except for some 909 ride cymbal from the Novation DrumStation, all percussion sounds are from the Boss DR-660 drum machine, and the synth sound which pops up came from the EMU Audity 2000 rack-mount synth. I manually switched between vocal sequences somehow during recording, to produce the sections in which it repeats more frequently. I'm still very fond of it.

"Mapped" is a deliberately plodding track, recorded in September 2000. That plodding feel is largely down to the TB-303 bass line, which is just three single hits on the first, second and fourth beat of each bar. The other sounds, which seem to combine a sound reminiscent of the TR-808 toms and another spiky sound, was probably created by me randomly hitting a bunch of keys and quantising the result in the Alesis MMT-8 sequencer. I think those sounds are from a percussion bank on the Roland JD-800, but I could be mistaken. I do remember that the spiky sound with a delay on it caused concern during the cut at The Exchange, almost making the cutting stylus jump off the lacquer. The only thing which does much here is a sampled sound which shifts up and down in pitch, giving the track a bit of momentum. I wanted to make something which was unexciting and uneventful but still hypnotic and engaging. I think I may have played this track during one of the warm up slots I played at Lost some years ago (2005/2006).

"Overcome" is next. Recorded some time during summer 2000, it's a muddled affair. It combines a 6/4 rhythm pattern, two vocal samples, a vocal waveform from the Audity 2000 synth, and a filtered sample sequenced on the Notron, to finish up with a track that doesn't really seem to know what it's doing or where it's going. Perhaps that's a good thing. I've nothing against confusing a dance floor, in fact that has always been one of my aims. Still, I'm not sure if this would confuse for the right reasons.

Last on the release, recorded in May 2000, is "Electric Olive ver.2". I like olives, but the title has nothing to do with that and everything to do with the source of the stab which appears in the first beat of every bar of this track. The looped synth sound and clapping sequence was pinched from somewhere else....I'm not exactly sure where...but it was off a friend's CD lying around at home. I guess it was an electronic music CD and as such I probably was going a bit too close to home again for sample source material. These are combined with a kick/hi-hat rhythm and looped up into a simple, repetitive sequence which changes very little throughout. Because it hardly changes at all, one notices the few moments in which something does actually happen. A few times the stab lengthens and seems to unfold deliciously into a female vocal sound, and a TR-909 ride does the "techno thing" of notching the vibe up and down every so often. Despite the slight unease I now feel about the sampling, I like this track a lot; it's one I sometimes listen to repeatedly as I find the feel of it very comfortable, and comforting.

Files are in 320kbps mp3 and lossless FLAC formats. Both are compressed from the same WAV files which in turn are taken from original digital recordings. I’m willing to provide WAV files to individuals who specifically request them and for whom FLAC isn’t sufficient. If requesting WAV files, please let me know which tracks you want.

See further comments on the label art concept and track titles here.

Please get in touch if you have any problems downloading, unzipping, or playing the files.

still alive

Believe it or not, I haven't forgotten about this blog or the series of digital re-releases I started over a year ago.

I had intended to issue one release per week over a couple of months, but over a year later I'm less than half way through. To anyone who still happens to be interested, I offer my apologies. I have been incredibly busy, although I confess that I could have found the time to keep it up if I was really determined....which I am not. The series started mainly as I was lacking anything to post about in the first place.

I will complete the series, assuming I don't die of old age first. In fact I might just get round to doing the next one this month!!!

Body Conscious

ARCN03 was released in about October 2000. Titled "Body Conscious", it is one of the releases from my back catalogue that I'm most fond of. It follows on neatly from ARCN02, "Storyteller", and may be the best example of the dark, disorientating techno that the ARC(ANE) label was created to put out.

The first track was recorded in September 1997. "Shiver" is largely sample based. Short vocal snippets and a sampled stab filter up and down, perhaps under my control or that of a random LFO. Most of the sounds, including the sampled and reversed hi-hat, are filtered through the Lexicon Vortex (pdf), a wacky rack mount effects processor which I think is great, and which played a crucial part in the formation of my "sound", if such a thing ever existed. Once I found a setting I was happy with (a stereo delay with a bit of modulation) that patch was saved, and I used the same effect to one degree or another on almost every track I subsequently recorded.

"Partly Due To", recorded in January 1999, is a murky, uneasy sounding track, with stuttering and echoing vocal sounds. I always liked the idea of dancers hearing voices in the darkness of a club, and never quite figuring out where they were coming from or what they were saying. This track is a particularly unsettling example of that idea, but having made that point I don't remember ever hearing this track played out by anyone, including myself.

"Through You We" is probably the most easily "playable" track on the record from a DJ perspective. The kick and shaker sounds provide a steady rhythm over which two or three spooky synth patterns cycle up and down in tone and timbre. Simple but effective, this was nice and easy to play out yet dark and disorientating enough to get some interesting reactions (seeing people fall over was usually the aim). I seem to have lost a master CD containing the original recording of this and other tracks, but it must have been recorded in either 1999 or 2000.

The last track is titled "Start The End", recorded in April 1999. This kicks off with a deep pulse and some sticky sounding high frequency snaps. The main feature of this track is a dramatic sounding looped sample which fades up slowly and bends in pitch here and there to create an uneasy feeling. I've no memory of where the sample came from. Although rhythm is provided by the sticky sounds and hi-hats, the kick drum doesn't appear until the final quarter of the track, shortly before the whole thing fades out.

Files are in 320kbps mp3 and lossless FLAC formats. Both are compressed from the same WAV files which in turn are taken from original digital recordings. I’m willing to provide WAV files to individuals who specifically request them and for whom FLAC isn’t sufficient. If requesting WAV files, please let me know which tracks you want.

See further comments on the label art concept and track titles here.

Please get in touch if you have any problems downloading, unzipping, or playing the files.

Walking Wounded

To start this post: apologies to anyone who happens to have been waiting for this series of digital releases to continue. I had intended for these to come out weekly. If I had managed that, they would all have been completed already. I'm not entirely sure what has got in the way of that, except "life" and its various distractions.

So, on with the show. The next in the series was originally released on ARC as ARC03 in September 2000, and is titled "Walking Wounded", a phrase I heard in a news report. I liked the way the two words went together.

The track kicks off with "Is Not Beauty", which is an abstract piece recorded in November 1998. I wouldn't call this a noise track, but it does have some noise elements in it (although in recent years I've listened to a fair bit of noise, back then I don't think I was even aware that such a genre of music existed). I think that it's my favourite track on the release.

As is the case with ARC02 ("This Weak Flesh") I think the techno tracks on this release are not my best and have perhaps dated more than others. The second track, "Ayaar ver.2", is in that category. As the title suggests, it's the second version of a previously recorded track. Or perhaps it just used the same sample, I don't remember. With the percussion and vocal samples, it has a vibe influenced by the prevalence of those sounds in techno at the time (it was recorded in May 2000). In retrospect I'd prefer to have kept that sort of thing off of my ARCart releases, keeping it for the MIST material that came out on Cosmic Records. This is the track I like least on the record. Typically though, it was the most popular track with other people.

"Circular Heaven ver.2" is another track made from significant parts of another, earlier track. The original version was recorded some time between 1996-1998. This version was made a day or two before the record was cut, and I remember feeling a sense of urgency about getting a track finished that would fit onto the record. ARCart releases were compiled of tracks that were made across quite a few years. The age didn't matter, it was more important that the tracks seemed good enough and that they fit together to create a cohesive release. This recording allowed me to take something that I really liked from a track which wasn't quite up to standard, and beef it up into something simpler, with more impact. I love the vocal sample; It comes from a pop song, reversed and put through some chorus, or flange, or both.

The final track, "Enclosed In The", was recorded in November 1998. It appears immediately before "Is Not Beauty" on the original DAT, so may have been recorded any time from a few minutes to a few weeks prior to that track. When I recorded a retrospective mix of my own tracks in 2008, I came across this track with some confusion, as I barely remembered it at all. I think it's made up of some drum machine and synth loops which I sampled and then looped, adding some snare and hi-hat from the TR-606, and an additional sample put through filters quite randomly without any manual control after the breakdown, which I think contains an odd number of beats.

Files are in 320kbps mp3 and lossless FLAC formats. Both are compressed from the same WAV files which in turn are taken from original digital recordings. I’m willing to provide WAV files to individuals who specifically request them and for whom FLAC isn’t sufficient. If requesting WAV files, please let me know which tracks you want.

See further comments on the label art concept and track titles here.

Please get in touch if you have any problems downloading, unzipping, or playing the files.

Tommy Gillard - "Epiphanies"

In 2001 the Exist label came into existence courtesy of Oliver Ho, with the release of the Exist CD compilation. I seem to remember that at the time a number of ideas existed, both music and non-music related, for how Oliver would continue the label. As far as I'm aware, though, no other physical releases ever appeared, as other projects took over.

One of the projects which never saw the light of day was a piece of music by Tommy Gillard entitled "Epiphanies". I'm glad, with Tommy's permission, to now make this piece available as a free 320kbps mp3 file.

"Epiphanies" was actually made up of a number of recordings going back as far as 1995. In Tommy's own words:

I made it with DAT, CD player, and (I seem to remember) a (detuned) radio! All through my [studio] mixer. I think I added loops from the [Roland] JD-800 [synth] as well. I think I had to make up some sounds and phrases, as well as the recordings, so I could mix between more sources.

P.S. Oliver and Tommy have a new release out.

P.P.S. Sorry about the long wait since the last ARCart digital reissue. I'll endeavour to get the next post up soon!

Fashions, and that

A few weeks ago a friend of mine who is studying fashion textiles at University in London asked me to come along to a photo shoot she was going to be working on for a fellow student.

I have no knowledge of (or interest in) fashion at all. I do however have an interest in some fashion photography, especially since I became aware of the amazing dream-like work of Sarah Moon, some of which you can see here and here.

On the day it turned out that I had little to do. The uni had lots of hi-tech photographic equipment, which the main photographer the ladies had recruited was using. I'd never actually been in a photographic studio before, so it was interesting on that level at least. Some part of that equipment had sensors which caused the main lights to flash every time I took a photograph with my own flash attached, which meant that it was almost impossible for me to get a decent exposure. So I had to remove my flash unit and improvise. I also had to keep out of the way most of the time, and not shoot when the main photographer was shooting. I ended up taking only a few of the model and more of the shoot itself. Only a few came out, and they can be seen here.

This is my favourite of the lot: