State of Origin: Willimbong

The video above is for a remix I've made for the Naviar Records State of Origin project:

The Assignment: Record a piece of audio using sounds from your surroundings. The idea of the exhibition is to represent how the local environment can affect the artistic process: composers are to record the sound of their own environment and develop an original piece.

The idea of being influenced by the environment has been a theme in my work for much of the last decade. Elsewhere I've discussed how the Wagga Space Program inspired me to consider this influence and how I started remixing field recordings, beginning with a remix for the Ninja.Trax project on their Ableton Live-themed compilation using samples I'd recorded for their field recording compilation.

In more recent years I've been remixing playgrounds around Leeton for my For 100 Years project to celebrate the centenary of Leeton. Some of this material appears in this remix, specifically recordings made within my suburb Willimbong. Waipukurau Park has been the setting for many recordings and you can see the slide and swings, as well as fences and treetops in the videos here.

Willimbong has a mix of industrial and residential properties, as well as the Park that centres around River Red Gums. As well as birds like the noisy gallahs, the ambient noise includes the hum of the rice co-operative and trucks and sometimes I can hear the orange-juicing plant that is at the northwest corner of the suburb. This hum is buried in the remix but the gallahs feature and they are a sound I associate with Leeton, leading me to write and record the track Raucous Chorus.

The final remix (above) was the fourth attempt at the track and includes Native Instruments' Absynth VST. Earlier drafts were more upbeat and used the same samples. Below is the third attempt, which I also like but didn't seem to be quite the right vibe for the suburb. I think I got a bit more of a Boards of Canada sound in the final version, using a tape-style delay for a bit of warble and an amp simulator on the drums for a bit of grit.

AND, 20: Steady Boil

Is kettle-tronica a thing? I ask because my last album also had a song made from a boiling kettle. This track differs in featuring a kettle that whistles but, like the earlier one, uses only manipulated sounds from the recording to make the resulting track.

Although, if you watch the video above, you'll see a finger snap and hand clap are used for percussion.

This track closes AND because the whistling kettle causes some anxiety among tea-drinkers. I wonder if it doesn't also produce a Pavlovian response and they start salivating at the idea of a cuppa. Anyway, I thought it best to minimise the risk it would cause a listener to turn off the album.

The title is a nod to the track Slow Boil on my first album, SHAKES.

AND, 19: Here Comes A Train

Alright, the penultimate track on AND is a remix of a story being read at my local library. The Junto was in June and asked for the beeps which accompany checking out a book but the award-winning Saturday morning story sessions were what came to mind. It was an interesting exercise to remix a different kind of field recording.

The sound of the story concluding leads into a remix of the material, with drones and a simple beat constructed using Ableton Live. The Junto only allowed for one minute of library and one minute of making something out of it, so on the album I've extended the track a little although I don't think it adds much to it. My partner reckons it's one of her favourite tracks and I wonder if this might be influenced by the familiar voices. Leeton is a small town, so I recognise Sandra the librarian and Cade, who shares a class with one of my kids.

AND, 18: Shall I Compare Thee

Track number 18 was inspired by the weather on a summer day, as part of the Sonar Vortex project for the Disquiet Junto in January this year.

The track was recently heard at the Regional Arts Australia Summit in Kalgoorlie during the handover near the end when the next conference was announced for Dubbo in 2016.

In the video above and the version on AND you can hear it is a bit grittier with Space Echo added to the bass than in the original piece embedded below.

AND, 17: Bare Bones

So, when I was finalising the album I went looking for tracks to put together. Above is a version of Bare Bones that was mashed with a Yellow Dog cover. Both were Disquiet Junto projects and this track nearly made the album AND but I wasn't entirely comfortable with my singing.

Bare Bones is the barebones of a funk track, recorded as an interpretation of this New Yorker cover by Saul Steinberg. Below is a video, showing that both drums and bass were recorded in single takes, which was a limitation I set myself for no real reason except to make making a video easier.

AND, 16: Six-note Song

Disquiet Junto 133 asked for a six-note song and this is what I recorded.

The idea to layer three takes was an idea to create a sound more like that of a piano, as the three notes at the start are my favourites to play on a piano with heavy sustain to enjoy the decaying chord.

Disquiet Junto 147 Slight Noise

The idea to "Record 8 seconds of white noise in your own personal style" comes to the Disquiet Junto via Taylor Swift, who was credited with an accidental eight-second noisefest on her recent album.

My interpretation is a simple vocal rendition of white noise. I'd also considered collecting examples of white noise from my day, like the water sizzling when the percolator boils over or the sausages frying on the barbecue.

AND, 15: Antipodean In The Antipodes

You know, I think I might've found a track that needs more work. Listening back to this video makes me wonder if I might've overcooked this merging of two Disquiet Junto projects (107 + 115). Dunno.

The original Junto asked for a track responding to the rhythms of wind chimes, which I think was something Aphex Twin has done but I'm not sure since Marc's book is more about the album after it's release than the background ( -- so this track sorta thematically follows on from Background Beats!). I ventured out to collect samples and also managed to borrow a nice set of chimes from my outlaws.

Soon after a Junto asked for a performance accompanying a song in the next room. I played drums along to the wind chimes, although I didn't plan much for it and my timing drifts.

A bit later I had the idea of combining the tracks. Then I made the video above, then I started putting together the AND album and it was suggested to me that my drumming drifted too much. This led to extensive editing and experimentation in making the drums better support the wind chimes. Did I go too far? There's something about the production that reminds me of a couple of Ninja Tune tracks circa Funkungfusion, I like that.

AND, 14: Background Beats

The track Background Beats on AND began as a cheeky Junto, using Marc Weidenbaum's text as a rhythm for an interpretive piece.

Marc's book on the second volume of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works was still in front of me from writing a piece for Cyclic Defrost. Sadly my composition is nowhere near the elegance of Aphex's works but I did use the idea of a background beat. In hindsight it seems kinda obvious to use the author of the Disquiet Junto.

When I returned to the track recently, I started thinking about what could be added and settled on a text to voice speech. It was recorded through the closed lid of the laptop on the inbuilt mic.

AND, 13: You Know I Don't Know

When I was finishing AND, I asked my collaborator Jo which of her performances she preferred on the album and was kinda surprised when she nominated this track. I can understand it sounds better, because my skills at de-essing seem to be improving, but for various reasons I prefer Raucous Chorus.

The lyrics in this song had been sitting in my Gmail Drafts folder for a while. I started experimenting with delivering them over this C major chord progression, then recorded the chords for a Junto project which asked for a soundtrack to an art video.

A little while later, there was a Junto asking for a cover and I decided the song I wanted to record was this one that I'd sorta recorded earlier. There wasn't much time to record the vocals. I think they would've sounded more polished if Jo had come back a day or so after learning the lyrics. Usually you can hear how much more confident a singer sounds delivering the material but, I dunno, the tentative nature of the lyrics seemed to be implied in this slightly doubting delivery.

Elsewhere I've described the process of recording this song as "arse-about" but it worked out okay, I think. The atmospheric synths weren't my first choice for backing track but work better than the guitar part recorded for the vocal part.

AND, 12: High coup

As mentioned earlier, the 10th and 12th tracks on AND are alternative versions. This one also appears on Album In A Day Vol. 8.

The other version was recorded for the combined Naviar Haiku Disquiet Junto. I was chatting with Lee Rosevere around this time and he said he was busy with Album In A Day and encouraged me to consider joining. Plans had been made to go to Wagga, where I found time to record the riff I was riffing that week in a quiet spot under the house while my kids watched television.

Unfortunately the gating on the version heard in the video is quite distracting. I think it sounds better on my album AND.

AND, 11: Keith Cameron's Sculptures

Keith Cameron is a sculptor outside Lismore. I met him earlier this year while visiting an arts project at his property.

Cameron is shown at the beginning of the video for the track named after his work on AND, which is created from recordings made using a Rode video microphone and my Nikon digital camera.

It was on a foggy Sunday morning that I looked at the numerous works on Cameron's property near Tabulam, nestled in the hills the lead away from Lismore toward the Great Dividing Range in Northern New South Wales. Some of the pieces were created from recycled machinery, others were structures built from various materials. It was quite magical in the thick fog, which lifted to reveal another sunny day.

I like to think it's got an Amon Tobin sorta vibe. While this is one of the few tracks that didn't result from a Disquiet Junto, the material recorded at Cameron's property appeared in the loop used for a filtered melody.

Disquiet Junto 146 Swyping Silence

This week the Disquiet Junto asked for a short piece of music based on a symbol for the word 'silence' with this gesture outlined in the image.

The word 'silence' brings to mind a story my partner tells of visiting an Italian chapel and hearing the word 'Silencio' broadcast loudly over and over without irony. At first I was tempted to record myself playing a short chord progression without plugging in the instrument, but I kinda wanted to make an electronic track.

I chose to interpret the gesture through the rising and falling lines, which led me to pick up my fretless bass. The starting letter S was next to A so I started on A#. The next letter O is only a few steps below S but elsewhere the gesture seems to move backward, so I decided to go up a few steps in pitch to D then drop back to A because that would be a bit lower than the A#, right? And for ease I kept E as E, with a little dip down to C via C# since B seemed out of key.

As the word 'silence' has seven letters, I chose to use a 7/8 time signature as I'm keen to explore alternatives to 4/4 at present. This led me to title the track 'Silence Over Solitude' as 'solitude' was the first sensible eight-letter word to come to mind.

And the bell-like chimes remind me a bit of a chapel, I guess.

AND, 10: Cool High

Tracks 10 and 12 of AND are largely the same, in terms of composition. In terms of production, the former is electronic and the latter is performed on acoustic guitar.

This song was recorded as a response to a haiku and the instrumentation aims for an icy effect. The percussion is meant to emulate the crunching of footsteps, and the reverb (of course) a cathedral.

Seems strange it was only March this year that I first encountered the Naviar Haiku project. As I recall, I'd signed up for their updates and it coincided with the Disquiet Junto adopting it for the week.

AND, 9: Mistletoe

This composition for bass was a response to a Junto in the lead-up to last Christmas, asking for a sonic equivalent to tinsel.

It's not the most obvious response but it was, once again, a good excuse to record a riff. The Junto's limitation on length gives it brevity but the version on the album AND adopts the idea of looping the piece, so it's almost twice as long.

I recall that originally it was a more measured series of arpeggios but at the last minute thought I should give my playing a bit more groove. This last take had me grooving in my seat but it was especially encouraging that my neighbour's kids were also in the kitchen and dancing as I recorded.

The flatwound strings on the bass give it a beautifully dark and woody tone.

AND, 8: Chilled Glasses

The Disquiet Junto has an annual exercise which involves recording ice in a glass and making something of it.

On my previous album WHILE, the ice-in-a-glass track is Solitary. On AND it's Chilled Glasses. This year, as you can see above, I made a video showing the ice cubes and glasses that supplied the sounds.

I'm happy with how different these two tracks sound, now that I've compared them. I remember Solitary was a deliberate decision to do something less percussive because I'd been making similar sounding tracks at that time in 2013. In 2014 I was returning to making sample-based music after one of my increasingly regular flirtations with bass guitar or drums.

The video-making drew on the techniques I'd developed during the FOR 100 YEARS project, particularly using Ableton Live to edit footage that's then composited together in Motion.

AND, 7: Trio at sunset

The seventh track on AND is a personal favourite. The track was recorded for Naviar Haiku but, like many, it really was just the excuse to record the riff I was riffing on that week.

The haiku started me thinking about roosters and I ended up thinking about Westerns. It was a bass driven riff but the aesthetic chosen by the gunslinger image really shaped the result. I recorded the guitar and then the drums, which aren't the strongest but mostly work. For a while the track didn't seem to sit right and then, when I was re-exporting for the album, I changed the reverb and it seemed to all fit together properly. That was an interesting experience, hearing how my perception shifted.

AND, 6: A Rest

This is a song about Marcel Duchamp, arguably one of the most influential artists of the latter 20th Century. Specifically this -- the sixth song on And -- is a song sorta about his heart rate at rest.

Once again this is a track that was recorded as part of a Disquiet Junto. As I recall it was written in Ableton Live while on holiday at Valla Beach, which is where I shot the lightning bolt shown on the cover of the album AND.

The album version differs from the Junto draft, the drumbeat is less obviously different since vocals now dominate the track. Voice wasn't an obvious choice but, like Wind-up, I was thinking about Andrew Weatherall's advice to producers.

Disquiet Junto 145 / Naviar Haiku 40 There’s a Lifetime In

This week the Disquiet Junto asked for a track inspired by a haiku. Image shown with Marc Weidenbaum's poem is by Geir Tønnessen.

This morning I recorded the two clicks of a screen door lock. Then I worked on a few riffs that showed promise. Then I decided I was being too literal in my interpretation of a track inspired by the poem shown above.

Then I remembered the track I'd started making last night. It was sorta inspired by the riffs I've been riffing but for some reason I decided to try a 3/4 time signature. I think the deep-ish house track is now a waltz. Is waltzhouse a thing?

There are only a few parts. The bassline started as an accordion, then in a later draft I started using an analogue-flavoured preset in Massive. The chord progression is mirrored on Operator and Phosphor synths.

The drums were originally 808 but I swapped for one of Ableton's 909 kits later. I think the dance-y direction this week was influenced by listening to dance music last weekend at Burning Seed, particularly a psytrance-y set at dawn on the morning of my birthday. That was pretty cool.

AND, 5: Raucous Chorus

The fifth track on AND was written in 2013 on the way to concluding the For 100 Years project, which celebrated the centenary of Leeton. You can hear an early version of the song Raucous Chorus in the material screened around town in July that year.

At that time I wanted to add vocals to one of the 'parktronica' tracks I'd recorded and had asked a vocalist to contribute to a track created from recordings at their local park in Wattle Hill. In the end it didn't happen with the vocalist but I'd come to hear my partner Jo's voice in the track.

The lyrics were inspired by my partner's observation that gallahs are a sound she associates with Leeton. Jo has been visiting this town all her life, as she has family here. Once I started thinking about gallahs I found a lot to write about but it was mostly informed by the comments that she's made about these social birds, including how you can spot the flocks of offspring in contrast to pairs of parents -- which I wrote a haiku about a while back.

The version of Raucous Chorus on AND is an acapella over recordings of gallahs roosting. I made the decision to drop the backing track made from Gossamer Park (hear it here) for technical reasons but it also seemed a good idea to increase the variety of material on the album.

AND, 4: Restyn Park

Back in 2012 I stopped in Hanwood while driving home from Griffith and discovered Restyn Park. I'd been recording playgrounds in Leeton for my For 100 Years album and was looking for interesting equipment, so the circular shapes on the metal climbing frame caught my ear.

Later that year I returned to Restyn Park to record the playground. Images were used in an article in Audio Technology but I didn't do anything else with the recordings because I was a bit over manipulating playgrounds. I got back into it in 2013, at the close of Leeton's centenary when I screened work around town, but the files for Restyn Park remained on my desktop.

Earlier this year a Disquiet Junto asked participants to share a technique and I thought to use the sounds from Hanwood to share my Parktronica, IDM made from playgrounds using contact microphones and Ableton Live.

There are a few subtle differences between the initial version of the song Restyn Park in the video above and the AND album version below. A lot of lower frequencies were cut out and an effect on a buss adds a squeak like an old rusty swing, which is actually a sound I'm very fond of and appears on a couple of albums now.

AND, 3: Of Leeton

The third track on AND has been described as "Electro Black Flag" for infusing a punk-ish electronic track with cut-up lyrics. It was a Disquiet Junto exercise using William S. Burroughs as inspiration.

The lyrics came from a front page story in my local paper The Irrigator and, using a formula promoted by the Junto, arranged the text into a new shape. Using these words, I experimented with different backing tracks until the result seemed appropriate.

While it was recorded very quickly, the result has generated many positive comments. I've been thinking I should try an album of songs using this approach.

AND, 2: Dust Devil

The second track on AND is Dust Devil, a dynamic instrumental performed with guitar, bass and drums. It stayed pretty much the same as when it was recorded for a Naviar Haiku project earlier this year.

The haiku above was about Mars but the image I had in mind was the desolate landscape of the planet. The funky intro riff was something I wanted to use, so I began imagining watching that dusty landscape and arrived at thinking about a whirly-whirly.

I can see a cloud of dust dancing to this track, kinda erratic in the distance at first but then thrashing about around you.

It was tempting to add distortion to the guitar near the end of the track but the cymbals seemed blistering enough. I think I probably would've done more to develop this track if there hadn't been an issue with the files. As it is it's fun enough, so I just worked on EQing it to sound okay in the car stereo.

Actually, one of the biggest learning curves while mastering AND was listening to the album in the car. Suddenly I realised the inaccuracies in my studio monitor speakers, particularly in reproducing lower frequencies.

AND, 1: Wind-up

The first track on AND is Wind-up. It started like many, a composition recorded for a Disquiet Junto exercise. It was only May this year and the idea was to create a soundtrack for a fake movie, a kinda kids horror film inspired by bad video games. My own inspiration for this piece was the Poltergeist Theme and I remember it was quickly written and recorded on a Sunday.

It seemed a good opening track as soon as I started collecting material for the album but it needed something. I added a field recording and was looking for something else when I remembered the Fisher Price Clock recorded to try out my then new contact microphone. Ableton Live time-stretched it to fit the track and, once I'd adjusted the key, it seemed to fit perfectly.

I think the idea to look for something else came from reflecting on this advice from Andrew Weatherall.