The last year I’ve released three albums in the Études series, each featuring only one instrument. This is the first no-limitations release I’ve made since 2016’s Deceiver. I was excited to do a new project with fewer musical constraints. The result was Lithopoetics.
This release is also a major shift in how I package and curate my own releases. This is the first time someone other than myself has designed the packaging, and developed complementary films for some of the tracks. I am blessed and thankful for the incredible talents of Corey Holms (album imagery, design, and layout). Corey hand-sculpted, photographed, and composited various components to make the album cover. As an artist, it yields feelings of both extreme vulnerability and intense joy to see your work re-interpreted by others.
I traveled quite a lot in 2017, and of the many places and landscapes I visited, I was most taken by rock and stone. More specifically, the action of wind, tectonics, and water on these forms. What seemed to stoic and unchanging were, of course, totally in flux, just not usually on the timeframe that we perceive as humans.
These notions presented a lot of interesting ideas to explore: erosion, permanence vs impermanence, the majesty of eon-long processes, the sudden violence of earthquakes, the recursive folding of continental places colliding, the constant movement of sand. The opportunities for not just compositional techniques but also the emotional considerations of such themes seemed pretty obvious, and I felt that this was worth exploring.
An interesting side note is that I had developed, in parallel and quite by coincidence, an album focused on the nature of water. While Lithopoetics came together in a matter of a few months, I struggled with this aquatic-themed album for over a year. A few tracks were great, but as an album it never solidified (ironic reference intended). It’s coincidence that two elemental themes evolved at once…but ultimately only one really held together as a coherent body of work. So here we are. (The best tracks from that failed album will, ahem, leak out as singles throughout 2018.)
Technique and Instruments
This album features all manner of electronic instruments: Eurorack modular synthesizers, Buchla modular synthesizers, fixed architecture polyphonic synthesizers, and inexpensive monophonic synths. The manufacturers whose instruments and devices I used the most include Bastl Instruments, Buchla 200-series clones made by Adam “Djangosfire” Scramstad and others, Ciat Lonbarde, Dave Smith Instruments, Sputnik Modular, Qu-Bit Electronics, and Verbos Electronics.
Almost every piece features an “anchor track” that is recorded in one live take, but from there, techniques are all over the map. Sometimes that was it, with no overdubs. Some songs were re-recorded or re-amped using dodgy tape machines, others had additional elements looped alongside, and others had more live takes in the mix. No MIDI was used in these recordings, however; everything was played by hand, a device’s on-board sequencer, or via analog control voltage. As usual, my main DAW of choice is Logic Pro, which I’ve been using for over a decade.
I have mastered my last few recordings myself, as I saw them somehow as less formal releases, but this time around it was definitely time to go back to Rafael Anton Irisarri at Black Knoll Studio for mastering. As always, he’s great in bringing my voice even further forward.
What Comes Next
This album is being released in a year of great personal and professional change. While my personal aesthetics aren’t changing, the instrumentation for my next release will be radically different. I couldn’t be more excited about the music to come. Stay tuned!