Sleep is now available

We all need more Sleep, right? Now you can download my latest album for free from Bandcamp.

Sleep began as a concept for my 6-year-old daughter. Last November, she asked me to record an album for her to listen to as she fell asleep. The first track I recorded at the time was what became “Rapid Eye Movement,” and she immediately declared it a failure… it was too creepy for her to fall asleep to, she said.

I quickly realized that any album I made about the concept of sleep was going to veer off into dark and mysterious territory not suitable for peacefully lulling a 6-year-old off into dreamland. And maybe that’s the point. Sleep is not just peaceful rest. It’s a dark and strange landscape where our minds confront their deepest fears and desires, where our subconscious comes out to play… or to wreak havoc. Sure, there are also moments of peace and bliss, but sleep is many different things, sometimes all at once. This album seeks to capture the essence of sleep in all its complexity.

After my daughter wrote off the album, I largely did too. Or so I thought. But over a period of months I accumulated a grab bag of musical sketches and partially-complete tracks, composed primarily late at night on my iPad as I lie awake in bed. Then in mid-June, my 9-year-old son drew a surreal picture he called “The Super Weird Face.” It had a strange, dream- (or nightmare-) like quality. Immediately I knew it was the cover art for the album, and it inspired me to collect all of these stray musical ideas I had been working on and turn them into the final collection of 17 tracks that comprise the finished album.

My one sentence summary is this: The album is a sonic journey into, through, and out of the landscape of sleep and dreams.

Please have a listen and let me know what you think! (If you really like it, you can also buy the CD for $8.99 from Kunaki.)

Front cover art

Insert art

Jewel case back tray art

CD print art

A Grotesque Over-Indulgence in Flatulent Analog Synthesizer Wankery

When it comes to vintage (pre-digital) keyboards, there are a few legends: the Hammond organ, the Rhodes electric piano, the Mellotron, and of course, the Minimoog.

I don’t own any of those actual instruments, of course (although an old friend of mine has over the years possessed a large number of them, and used them on some recordings we did back in college), but I have been extremely impressed with the generic replications of these timeless (OK, hopelessly dated, but eternally retro-cool) trademark sounds that Apple has provided with GarageBand. (OK, there’s no Mellotron in GarageBand, but as I’ve learned and demonstrated, a dead-accurate add-on is available.)

Most of the recordings I’ve made since I started using GarageBand (in early 2007) have been brimming with these sounds, most notably the electric piano, and only slightly less notably the organ. Although I’ve been obsessing over the Mellotron lately, my favorite keyboard sound to employ for solo parts is the “Analog Mono” synth, which is fairly similar in tone and timbre to the venerable Minimoog.

I’m currently at work on a “top secret” collaborative music project. (OK, I don’t know for sure how “top secret” it is, but since I’m not in charge of it, I’m keeping mum until I’m told it’s OK to blab.) So far I haven’t nailed what I’m looking for for that project, but along the way I did produce this… interesting track. Recorded entirely today (July 29, 2008, which of course is yesterday now), it’s a fairly static, spacey/electronic jam, 7 1/2 minutes long, with some nice big reverb-y drums and of course an interminable, excessively excessive (yes, that’s possible, and if you doubt it, just give this track a listen) quasi-Minimoog solo. Probably not most people’s cup of tea, but I actually find it kind of cool to have on as background noise.

This track is unlikely to ever be released, at least in anything near its current form, so I provide it here as a curiosity. It was mainly an experiment: an effort to try out various “distressed” electronic sounds, to play around with recording a drum track straight through (instead of perfecting a few 4-measure loops), and of course, going totally batshit crazy with the synth solo, in a number of ways: experimenting with the octave and pitch transposition buttons on my 2-octave portable MIDI keyboard controller, trying out some adjustments to the synth tone, and finally (after about 15 years of improvising solos) dabbling in the realm of scale substitution. Music theory FTW! (I was going to say “Yay, music theory!” but I already used “yay” in a post within the past few hours and I just can’t bring myself to do it again. Plus, this was an opportunity to once again demonstrate my 1337 skillz.)

Now that I’ve proven why this blog is called “Blather,” here’s the freakin’ song.


Fall Out Boy falls into GarageBand

Geez, writing headlines like that I could get a job at Entertainment Weekly.

Anyway… although I would not consider myself a fan of Fall Out Boy (in fact, I’ve never even knowingly heard any of their music other than that snippet of the song that plays on the annoying workout guy’s cell phone in the commercial that seemed to be all over TV at one point last year), I can definitely get behind their lead singer Patrick Stump’s embrace of GarageBand. I’m not a pro musician, but I do have a B.A. in music, so I know a thing or two about it. I spent several years doing home recordings with Pro Tools LE (which, as far as I know, is limited from the full version only in the models of Digidesign hardware it accepts as dongles), and I hated how it broke with every OS update (because it was “breaking the rules” of how software should interact with hardware) and how ridiculously convoluted it was to do things as simple as set up a click track!

GarageBand has revolutionized my music making (including my latest project which I just finished as part of the 2008 RPM Challenge, and as Apple’s profile of Patrick Stump shows, it’s had a similar impact on how Fall Out Boy records.