20.4.15

Jaded/unjaded


I felt a bit jaded about my music listening recently. Nothing quite hit the spot. I was saved from this luxurious problem by hearing a band called Algiers on the NPR All Songs Considered podcast. Their full-on, powerful song ‘Black Eunuch’ blew away most of the cobwebs.
I was also helped by Camille’s classic (well, classic to me) album, Le Fil. This is my go-to album when nothing else works.
Finally, I heard the new Andy Sheppard album, Surrounded by Sea. Jazz is always hard to define but I came to this because it’s on the ECM label which rarely produces bad albums. The line-up is double bass, drums, sax and guitar. The guitarist adds textural support, rather than shredding and strumming. I’m intrigued by this use of the instrument and putting it in a jazz context makes it more compelling. I’m aware this is a personal taste and became even more aware of how subjective these things are when I checked out reviews for the album. In the Guardian, John Fordham wrote “the addition of Eivind Aarset’s guitar playing “…gives the music even more breathing space.” In the Telegraph Ivan Hewett says the music is “…suffocated by Eivind Aarset’s electronics and heavily pedalled guitar.” I greatly enjoyed the album and recommend a listen.

3.4.15

Centrozoon

If you like music that moves outside the mainstream (whatever that is) then listen to some centrozoon. It's deep, immersive stuff. Full of emotion, power and even a little humour. I love it. Tell your friends!

30.3.15

Scores for Touch Guitar


I’ve written a lot recently about the touch guitar. I’ve also mentioned Trey Gunn’s score book which, as far as I’m aware, is the only published collection of touch guitar music available. The printed version of the book is a lovely thing, but you can now buy the digital version, which contains extended scores for some of the pieces. If you know the King Crimson tune The ConstruKction of Light and ever wondered what it looked like on paper, this is for you.

The touch guitar is still a new instrument and having this score book is a real boon. Trey Gunn and Gabriel Riccio have put in a lot of hard work to make this a worthwhile resource. It’s also, from a muso pint of view, great fun.

 

You can get the book here.

25.3.15

Back to the Touch Guitar


I have been getting really excited about playing the touch guitar in my bad over the last few months. After owning the thing for many years I began to feel that I was finally using it. Noodling in kitchen recordings is fine but playing with real live musicians is the best.

Then the prospect of gigging came up and things changed. Our first gigs are likely to be small scale support slots with little room to move. As well as this we’ll probably be a little nervous, despite our confidence in the songs we’ve written. So, the sensible thing to do is keep the equipment simple. Having two instruments, which require different amp settings and are tuned differently, seemed to be asking for trouble. I toyed with the idea of playing everything on the touch guitar but that was when I had to admit I‘m just not up to speed enough. So, to make things easier, I re-learnt all my parts on the bass.

That solved the problem as far as the band was concerned but I couldn’t help wanting to find a way to get better at the touch guitar, so that, when the time was right, I could play it with as much confidence as a bass. So I did what I’ve never done with an instrument before. I asked for help.

Markus Reuter, someone who helped me when I was looking at getting my touch guitar many years ago, is arguably one of (if not the) best touch guitarists in the world. He’s also a composer of note, a member of several groups that I admire and the man who redesigned the touch guitar and started the Touch Guitar Circle. I’ve known (in an internetty way) Markus for years and so he seemed like the perfect person to help.

One Skype call with sixty minutes of advice, ideas and tuition later I felt ready to clean the slate and approach this fabulous instrument in a fresh way. I now have a new outlook, a set of exercises and a lot of work to do, and that’s just what I needed.

10.3.15

What's up

It’s been a highly mixed year already. I’ve had two spontaneous breaks away from the nightmares of our house, my musical life is moving up a gear and I survived another birthday.
 
Alongside this my mum has been unwell and has been spending the week in a ‘care unit’. Not an old people’s home, not a hospital. Technically it’s a rehabilitation place, although there doesn’t seem to be much rehab going on, possibly because mum doesn’t need much. By the time you read this she should be home again. That’s a mixed blessing. I imagine she’ll miss the company at the rehab place, but will be glad to be in her own space.
 
There are some things coming up which I hope to write about here though.
 
 
I also owe you, gentle reader, an update on my 50 at 50 list. That’s coming soon. Expect some excuses.

24.2.15

RPM Challenge - an embarrassing update

The plan to make an album in February was going really well. Lyrics written, music for two of the tracks complete and I even managed to maintain the feeling that I could finish it.
But then my family and I were offered a chance to cat/house sit in Penzance. We love Cornwall and all needed a break from the hassles of daily life (the ongoing fight with Sovereign Housing and the neighbours, for example). So, after celebrating my mum’s 89th birthday various family members piled into the car and headed south-west.

That was lovely of course but it took a week out of my recording schedule, such as it was. I now have, by my reckoning, one evening to record seven songs.

And as is always the way with these things, having a week away from the technology has opened up all kinds of new ideas. We’ll see where this leads.

23.2.15

Soundscaping

Some live soundscaping gigs coming up. I'm working on the least amount of gear possible (aside from amps). This is one idea.