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CD front cover showing light bulb hovering over a green seaThis project was started in Janary 2010, completed in March 2011 and uploaded to LastFM. Subsequently it was discovered that LastFM appeared to have discontinued this service, and it was re-uploaded to this server 13th May 2017.

This was another sharp stylistic break. It was the first project to be produced with Logic Express on a MAC, instead of with Music Creator on Windows. It was the first fruit of what was a large cost investment in music - well into four figures.

Vocals return, although about two thirds of the CD is instrumental.  It's quite a bit longer than anything I have produced before, with a running time of around 71 minutes. As usual the tracks form a sequence of sorts.

The music on this CD is necessarily experimental. I was working out what the software would do and what I would do with it. Hence we have for instance Eastern mist (a personal favourite), Synthetic lines and The bass place. There was a concept of sorts - I would be deliberately writing about things that were difficult to put into music. This ambition gave rise to The colour red for example, and Asia.

I also wanted to have a go at songs with lyrics, as I intended doing more of these in future projects. I already had lyrics for two future projects and didn't want to touch those. I was still writing new lyrics at intervals, and during the long 14 months that it took to complete this project my six year relationship with Oona ended. This was inevitably always going to lead to lyrics revolving loosely about how I felt or had felt, and since these were as good as any and I was experimenting, I used them. I wasn't deliberately trying to put across a message about relationships; I just used relationships lyrics because I had them and they weren't earmarked for anything else. Hence we have Bittersweet for example, written while the relationship was in the process of ending; Farewell words, which was the last song to be recorded for the project and represented what is clearly looking back at the event from a later perspective; and Your own way, which is clearly a looking forward to a better future and moving on.

The pace is much more varied than it was on Beach sounds. There are more hard, fast tracks like Sweeping up for example, and I deliberately added more of these towards the end of the writing stage as I felt that they sounded particularly good.

I spent a very long time editing these tracks - about four months - to try and make them as good as I could. The whole of my first project in 2006 had only taken four and a half months. I won't say that the result is perfect, but I am very proud of it. The only problem is that it might be a hard act to follow.

I expect to have a small number of CDs of this project available for a time if anyone who knows me cares to ask for one. This album has been re-uploaded to this server (links to individual tracks follow).

1. Idly wonder - this was the first piece of music written with Logic Express. It started as a test piece called Tune 1, at that point consisting of only a piano and strings. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to produce it. I hadn't particularly intended using it, but I liked it, so I did some more work on it, in the end quite a bit to make it sound right at this length. The title comes from the stressing pattern of the main rhythm used, you'll hear it if you listen for it.

2. Asia - this was an attempt to be exotic, and I deliberately used Asian instruments for it. I wrote it quite oddly, and it is possibly the most obvious example of a very experimental track on this CD. Being non-commercial does have advantages, and one of them is that I can please myself what I write without having to worry about what anyone else thinks of it. I do have to admit however that one 'Asian' instrument was a bit of a cheat - it was actually an accoustic guitar with a slide inserted at the beginning of the notes!

3. Just noodling - I was indeed 'just noodling'. This track is based on a number of guitar loops. Very unusually for me I have four guitars going simultaneously here - I do use guitars but they don't normally dominate. I had to edit it quite carefully to avoid it sounding aimless, so rest assured, noodling or not, it has been thought about.

4. Synthetic lines. This was one of a number of tracks that explored the capabilities of the synthesisers supplied with Logic Express. By the time this was recorded I was around two thirds of the way through writing Abstracts. I was using the fairly anonymously titled ES1, also even more anonymously known as synthesiser 1, a peculiar green coloured thing. I experimented with what appears to have been a stepper, although the synthesiser appears to refer to it as a filter pad, and also noticed a patch that had a different tone to it depending on the frequency of the note. Late on this track acquired an echo that emphasised the stepper. This was one of several fast tracks that I listened to quite a bit just because I liked hearing it.

5. Farewell words. Although this comes early on in the collection it was actually the last song to be recorded. The reason is that it's actually a later perspective looking back on an earlier event. I was trying to explain why I was unhappy about what was said and how I had felt about it at the time. It took a while before I realised that this is actually an angry lyric. There is a lot of sentiment in it, but the essence is the contrast between how I had felt at the time, and what was actually said; it was the sort of abrupt stark contrast. This song was going to have a gentle, syrupy type backing, with soft strings and so forth. Some of that is still in the finished track, but after a time I realised that given the anger in it this song needed some teeth. As a result it ended up as a mix of different styles. It also features what you might call a virtual duet, although I did take one of the vocal tracks down in the mix. This song would have been even angrier had I not toned down the lyric (twice).

6. Don't blame me. It just so happened that while working on Abstracts I had been to one of my favourite haunts, Tate Modern, which is at one end of wobbly bridge in London. I find modern art entertaining, although I can't help feeling that a lot of it isn't actually terribly artistic. The lyric on this song is nothing to do with relationships - it's a (fictional) modern artist explaining his latest work. Although I clearly don't share this character's perspective, I did give him a good argument. He says near the end, "I'm not conning anyone, they all get what they see" i.e. nobody has to purchase modern art if they don't want to. True, but I'm not sure that excuses it.

7. Bittersweet. This one was written quickly, as I remember it while the relationship was breaking up. For some reason I felt that it matttered tremendously to get this song right, and I worked very hard on it with a strange sort of fierce determination. At times I was wiping away tears while working on it. After having done a fair amount of orchestration, I felt unhappy about the tone of it, scrapped almost all of it and started again. This time I used a short snatch of melody (just eight notes) that had been going round and round in my head for ages, months as I remember it. I flogged this absolutely relentlessly, partly to get rid of it. If you listen to the backing in the background you can hear it going round and round, as it did in my head until I wrote this song. I was expecting the recording of the vocal to be very emotional, as the writing of it had been, but to my great surprise it really wasn't. I felt very calm while I was recording, and even had to act some emotion in order to get it into the vocal.

8. The colour red. This was literally an attempt to musically recreate red. I felt that it was a brash, eye catching colour, it grabbed attention, but it could also be elegant. The track therefore starts with a trumpet fanfare and a very ostentatious drum rhythm. Trumpets feature very prominently, before the mood calms near the end. There does appear (though I didn't know this) to have been a track called Red previously, apparently a rock piece composed by Robert Fripp, and even another composed by Andre Previn and performed (late in his career) by Frank Sinatra. There's a song also called Red (I assume a different one) on you tube, performed by Daniel Merriweather, but that one isn't trying to do the same thing as mine, it's about a relationship, Red is just a title. There doesn't appear to have been a piece of classical music called Red.

9. The bass place. This was another synthesiser experiement, this time with "ES M" the "monophonic synth". The strings are ES E (the ensemble synth), the drums are drum kits, everything else is ES M.  The first twenty bars, or about 39 seconds, are a sort of rolling organy sound. This was what I originally intended the whole thing to be like, but I felt it would get too samey and needed more zip to it. After another ten bars there is a very abrupt  change. At bar 103 there is a return in a manner of speaking to the original theme. For some reason I had problems with the drums and had to use a denoiser to remove a hissing noise. Originally there was no bass after bar 30, but given the title I felt there ought to be, so I added some during editing.

10. What isn't going on. Some while earlier I had heard Marvin Gaye's album What's going on, the cover notes to which even included the statement "this is sacred music". However, I felt that despite the artistic ambition involved - he was I gather trying to comment on the state of the country (the USA) at the time - it was a tiny bit pretentious, it didn't amount to quite what was claimed for it. (My rather sarcastic paraphrase of it was, "Lots of stuff on how the place has changed".) At work there were a couple of conspiracy theorists that used to talk at length about how almost everything under the sun was a conspiracy. One of them even seemed to say that the whole world is secretly run by a retired American politician (who he named) who led a conspiracy financed by the (American) banks. I was never entirely sure if they were just winding me up, but I got sufficiently irritated to get my notebook out and write a lyric that is part satire on Marvin Gaye and part sideways swipe at the conspiracy theorists. I wrote it in an Indian style - I've always liked doing Indiany music - and having listened to authentic Indian vocals I tried to emulate them, although the result (on the lead vocal) is probably a cross between western and Indian vocal styles. (There are also backing vocals, one of which was a determined attempt to sound Indian.) I spent some while working on the drums to try and get the right amount of punchiness. This track features an Erhu which has a lovely vibrato in it. This was inherited from the MIDI loop it got it from - it's actually the same note copied and pasted into different places as different notes. The effects on the lead vocal were a late addition, and took a lot of fiddling to get right.

11. The tune. This was a slightly sarcastic parody of my mother's usual response to my music - apparently only 'great composers' write 'tunes'. Anything I write can't be 'a tune' because I'm not 'a great composer'. Why am I not a great composer? Why, because I don't write tunes of course. (Yes, I know.) I deliberately wrote the backing in a classical-type style. As of this writing, I don't know whether mother thinks this is 'a tune' but I doubt it.

12. Sweeping up. This was another synthesiser experiment, this time with ES P (the polyphonic synth). One of the factory presets on this synth is called big sweep - hence the track is sweeping up.  Apart from the drums and the strings, there are only actually four instrument tracks on it. In case you're wondering, the fast strummy guitar type sound is a Brazilian Cavaquinho. The meandering metallic-sounding wail is actually synthesised strings. I was deliberately trying to make different sorts of sounds.

13. Do you? This is another song from a later perspective. It's not quite about a relationship; it's about the aftermath of one. She's probably never going to see him again, it's definitely over, time to move on... and yet, he can't help wondering - does she ever think of him? How does she remember him and their time together? Perhaps she remembers him warmly, or perhaps she is scornful of him. Perhaps she's just totally indifferent. He'll never know of course, she'll never tell him, but he just can't help wondering about it.

14. Trying. This used several synthesisers. The idea was to write a piece of music expressing an earnest attempt to do something - an abstract, in fact. I was quite concerned about this track for some time, and if I'd had to drop one from the CD, this would have been the one.  Late edits made this crisper. There was a wrong note in the strings track towards the end for quite a long time until I fixed it while editing.

15. Buzz me. This is the one that took around two months to write. It was another synthesiser experiment, this time using Evoc 20 PS, also known as Vocoder Synth. Buzz was my characterisation of the sort of sounds I was getting out of the synth.  Buzz me of course might mean call me, give me a ring on the telephone, so I felt it had a nice ring to it. I seem to remember struggling with this for some while to get the sound right. I also ummed and erred a bit about precisely how loud the trumpets should be in the mix; arguably they're still a tiny bit too loud. This track is a good example of a track that crucially depended on the sound and feel of each instrument, rather than just on the notes.

16. Get down (to the doctor). This is an odd one that is entirely fictional. Oona was always fascinated by medical programmes, especially people having operations to fix odd ailments. I had been watching television and had happened across some medical programme or other. While I was having a shower, I thought about Oona and her medical fascination and I must have chuckled over it. Quite idly, I thought that there wasn't a rhyme with the word doctor. However, I then proceeded to think of a few ways of rhyming it, and shortly decided there were enough for a lyric. Then I started wondering what sort of lyric it would be. At this point it was just idle pondering in the shower, I wasn't intending actually writing anything. However bits of lyric started to come together in my mind, and when I got out of the shower, I went for my notebook and the lyric came out. Your guess is as good as mine as to what it means, though I do have a theory. I should also add that in a way it was eerily prophetic, but I should probably draw a mysterious veil over why.

17. Eastern mist. This is my personal favourite, I love listening to it. It was an experiment with eastern sound loops. The only parts of it that are actually written as such are the flute and one of the two choirs.  It also features three mandolins, two sitars, a tanpura, a berimbau (which is a bit of an imposter being Brazilian rather than eastern) and two tambourines, however these are all assembled from loops and effects. There are a lot of vocals on this. There are two of me on there, but mixed fairly quietly. I think I added these on impulse. There are also two other male vocals. The loud one at the beginning is officially titled Eastern Storm Voice 03. The whispering one is Eastern Storm Voice 01, and no, I have absolutely no idea what the whispered words mean, I'm just hoping that it isn't something embarassing. There's also, crucially, a female vocal assembled from Eastern Gold Voice 06, Eastern Gold Voice 04, Eastern Gold Voice 03, with Eastern Gold Voice 01 thrown in now and again. There are heavy effects applied to the female vocal, no less than ten plugins, including in particular two lots of reverb, a flanger and tape delay (that is, echo). I realised after a while that the female vocal is acting as a bassline and holding the whole thing together. I had some difficulty with the choir. I had problems with the timing of the African choir, and switched it for a church choir. Unfortunately this then sounded too plain, so I added effects to it. It then sounded too, well, mangled, so I toned them down. When I heard this version I felt my hair stand on end and knew I'd cracked it.

18. Getting together. This was another synthesiser experiment, this time using ES E (the ensemble synth). As it was synthesising ensembles, that is groups of instruments, they were (so to speak) getting together (boom boom). This is another one that I was quite worried about for a long time. Getting the percussion right helped it a lot, but it didn't finally click until I took one of the synth parts out and replaced it with a heavily distorted guitar.

19. Cedric...shutup. This was yet another synthesiser experiment, although this time there was a concept. There is a character, Cedric, who drowns out interesting conversations that other people have by plastering his words of wisdom all over them. Cedric is the beebling noise that starts off in the background and gets louder and louder. Every now and again the rest of the backing can be 'heard' saying "Cedric, shut up" and "For God's sake shut up". I didn't immediately realise that I was actually writing about Oona's nephew (in real life called Ross). Ross and I didn't hit it off at all. Oona wasn't entirely happy on my take on this, and felt that I was being too hard on the wee lad. Our disagreement about Ross wasn't the reason we split, but it did have something to do with it.

20. Your own way.  This is obviously a very late take on a past relationship, expressing a realisation that what's done is done and it's time to move on. I deliberately wrote the backing just the way I heard it in my head. A lot of songs I write I either canibalise what I originally heard, or write something quite different, but I kind of liked the way I heard this, so I used it, just the way it was. I had to work at the orchestration, especially in the middle section. I was concerned about it because I felt the middle part was too long and samey and the beginning and end were too pedestrian. The choir, which was a late addition, helped a lot. In the end I was reasonably happy with it, but it wasn't my favourite track. I felt very good recording it, I felt it had gone well and that I'd done a good job with it.

21. I was just thinking. The title came first. I wanted to write another instrumental based on the rhythm of a phrase. I thought "I was just thinking" would be a good phrase and a good title. I never have a problem with this kind of thing, if I want them tunes come, usually very easily. I can't believe it's particularly a gift, it just comes, it's almost like tuning in a radio. I did have to do a lot of experimenting with the guitar to get the right kind of sound. I didn't want it too prominent, but initially it came out too bassy and I kept not being quite happy with it. The whole thing is obviously based on a sort of back and forth interplay between the piano and the guitar. Near the end there's a round, with different instruments chasing each other, although I did have to fiddle with it a bit here and there to get it to work. I feel quite proud of this one, it's one of the best written pieces I've done.

cover which was designed using Disk Cover by Beelight Software.