Saturday, February 27, 2010

Inspiration from a griot storyteller

A griot is a West African poet and wandering musician, and Lionel Loueke is one such bard.

And an outstanding example at that.

I happened to stumble across his work this afternoon, as Concert FM were playing Episode 10 (New Faces, New Strings) of a thirteen part series called 'Jazz at Lincoln Center' as I was driving across town to a Saturday meeting; not the most typical of situes in which to find oneself graced with such an ancient and normally local-centric talent, being that I'm about as far from West Africa as one could imagine ...

Unfortunately I only got the chance to here three pieces, but all bore inspiration of the highest order and had my mind a-spin.

Dude was phenomenal.

Or rather dudes, as he was accompanied during this concert by Richard Bona on bass (upright bass, if I recall correctly).

And upon returning to my abode a few hours later, immediately hauling several of Loueke's videos up from Youtube, again found myself absolutely captivated - his various guitar/effect methods, along with his musical approach and techniques in general, was a fascinating watch.


Filth: A Supplement

Track Analysis:
Rock Pigs (Pt.1, Squalor)

I know, the essence of this song has already been covered in the most rudimentary of fashions here, although (to more authoritively complete the annals of this Canute Whispers documentation) I'd already written the following piece but had instead opted for the concise nature of visuals over text; a method which would probably also stand as a fairly worthy dissenter of this entire track analysis malarchy I've been doling out over the past couple of months ... 'tis an instant yet ultimately unsatisfying means, however.

And so, in an act of gratuitous consummation, here be the original text

This track is a re-recording of an electric demo originally destined (and still fated, I suspect) for The Deviant Flux. Its initial title was Filth, although after a multitude of shambolic attempts at capturing the desired feel of the song, it was rudely abandoned and discarded. Never before had such horror been bestowed upon my laptop - the shitty old Yamaha RGX-110 guitar I employ exclusively (and only) for recording electric demos normally such an easily coaxed muse.

Frustration at oneself is best bled upon a shitty-sounding acoustic though, one whose strings are so dull they demand violence before endearing upon thine ears even a modicum of usable sound - and so that's how it's battered corpse is found here.

Essentially it’s an unplugged demo version of a rock song that doesn’t even exist (at least not beyond the safety of file encryption, that is) ...

As an interesting aside to all this, and relating to the initial 'Dairy Queen' post and the embedded videos therein of Nick Oliveri and Blag Dahlia, I realised afterwards that I actually have the autographs of both these men. Which, considering that I in no manner went out of my way to obtain them, is something of a curiousity.

Nick Oliveri's came via an apology for a merchandise delay.

Blag's was in a signed copy of one of his coffee-damaged editions

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Album release

It seems a strange and grandly perverted happening that the release of Cnut Whispers; and still the lowest ebb doth run should coincide with the anniversary of Andrés Torres Segovia's birth in 1893, for he'd surely view such a recording as a monumental abomination, though I'm reminded of (and my shame tempered slightly by) Kurt Cobain's quote, "I can't play like Segovia. The flip side of that is that Segovia could probably never have played like me."

I'm also now slightly disappointed that my beloved Segovia SJ-90 fails to make even a token appearance on the album, which would've perhaps been akin to Cobain satisfying his retribution upon jocks by taking up basketball ...

But anyway, pointless analogies aside and asunder, this smouldering scrap of Enceladus' flesh has been hurled into the unforgiving wilderness of the internet; its gored remains now found wandering the chambers of Mediafire:

The album will be a digital release only and has accordingly been released in FLAC format (an unfortunate though necessary behemoth of Mb), as it was discovered during several pre-release compression trials that various other formats were substantially inferior - and far too much time and effort had been invested in the album to then perform auris seppuku on it for the sake of a modern (perceived) convenience. Not all media players specialise in decoding FLAC however, although it's well-supported to varying degrees by many different software applications. For more information, see the Wikipedia entry.

It's presently envisioned that tracks will be made available for individual download shortly, and the entire album will also be uploaded to The Internet Archive, which accommodates streaming (or so initial investigations would seem to imply). This will more than likely take me a couple of days to properly organise though.

Cnut Whispers; and still the lowest ebb doth run is released under this Creative Commons Licence.

I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

VAMP: The devil dines on the details

Indeed. And so here wallows my pendanticism; prepare thy feet for the guggliwugs ...

The main objective behind VAMP is essentially a fairly simple one: to preserve a musical performance's original dynamic in its eventual recording. Admittedly, however, proof of my having done this was the true motivation, although initially only because this seemed to be the approach taken by several other groups similarly disheartened by the 'sound' of contemporary music.

Again, I am in NO way an authority on this matter - beyond being a musician with ears, that is; which to critics may seem a convenient use of a literal interpretation under the guise of a subjective one.

Anyway, an excellent article pertaining to this subject (entitled ‘The Death of Dynamic Range’ and written by Robert W. Speer of CD Mastering Services) can be found here, which discusses the 'noise war' currently being waged in the music industry. From my rudimentary understanding, there's a tendency for contemporary releases to have as much 'volume' squeezed into each track as possible, which naturally comes at the expense of dynamic waveforms. Essentially it's art sacrificing its essence in order that it might be heard above the rising noise of its rivals; phyrricism.

Prior to my re-discovering of the above article, I'd spent many hours trawling through various internet discussions and arguments, most of which seemed to be based around an impressive array of numbers and calculations, which did nothing but result in my already tenuous grasp on the subject diminishing rather rapidly ... and along with it, any hope of confidently displaying my allegiance to any one truly desirable protocol ...

The simple, graphically displayed information contained within Robert Speer's article though (revolving around screenshots of actual waveforms as opposed to merely bombarding one's senses with a mass of convoluted figures) instantly seemed like an obvious solution. Perhaps a little too obvious for an impatient layman such as myself, and so I'm somewhat prepared for this concept to be proved virtually worthless in the very near future ...

I was hoping to make the argument for my album’s effective dynamic range fairly transparent by way of providing a PDF containing a screen-capture of each track's waveform as it appears on the album. And I polished the idea with a name and a logo too, because, well, why not?

Long story short (albiet in mention far, far too late!) - I'm hoping for a screenshot to be worth a thousand words.

Soooo, if this makes any sense to you at all and you want to become involved, or if it makes absolutely none whatsoever but you want to offer me some suggestions on what to do differently, please feel free to email me at

Listed below are some sites attempting to address the same issue, all of them far more organised than mine!

And for those who've just tuned in and don't know what the hell's going on, here's what all my fuss about, yo.

The first image is a screenshot of In the Old Attic, to save the City, build a house of your own by Cnut Whispers.

This next image shows the heavily-clipped waveform from another project, which by today's standard's isn't particularly severe. Still, with every clipped wave, dynamics are lost.

The top waveform will obviously be quieter when played on a stereo, but if you raise the volume it's played at, it will sound far superior to the second one; more movement, more depth, and more of the essence from the original performance will be present - which, as a listener, assuredly brings me into closer contact with the more alluring aspects of music: those mercurial frustrations known as intangibles.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Mission: Chapter 8

So, in the process of readying this album for release, I found myself increasingly concerned (and side-tracked) with various semantics, most of which related to preserving the dynamics of my original recordings (as discussed previously).

No longer meekly content to release lossless FLAC's and consider my goal achieved, I've decided to step rather more boldly from Octave Mirbeau's Torture Garden to start a movement dedicated to maintaining (and furthermore, proving) true dynamics within music. Seeing as I'm no sound engineer however, nor a scientist of any measure at all, perhaps (if we're to keep matters strictly bowel-related) the term 'obstruction' might yet prove more apt.

At any rate, VAMP is now a monkey dangling from my colon, and here be strewn the logo:

The idea may very well prove to be flawed (and badly) in its execution, but its conviction is absolute.

Once the album and all its innards have been made available for download, I'll expand upon the reasons behind starting VAMP and also discuss some similar alternatives I've discovered around the interweb whilst in search of viable solutions.

Until then, Octave Mirbeau gets the last words:

You're obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn, and know lack all foundation. It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretenses of your civilization which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers. That's the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world.

Mister Fahrenheit ignores the word 'acquiesce'

Track Analysis:
Rock Pigs (Pt.3, Exquisite Clutter)

This track could best be described as a collab/abortion; a drunken shitfest designed to incorporate the multitude of individual personalities which (until this timely orgiastic invitation) had hitherto been content to merely waft in and around the outskirts, unnervingly eyeing each other across the room with sweaty hands planted deep in open-pocketed trenchcoats.

And so here lies the moment when upon this album’s grave all dances shall be danced, all abolutions satisfied, all perversions held aloft to bask in glory warranted or nay; the divine instruction of Noel Gallagher’s Masterplan resonating here in the guise of EGO; the daring request admonished by such an outwardly-simplistic lyric as, “Dance if you want to dance,” a healthy reverberation of youth we could all do with the occasional sufferance thereof.


Ahh, justification of one's self-indulgence by way of a wordy, obscure introduction; not that self-indulgence requires any introduction - all it needs is an entrance ...

... and so, without further ado 'bout nuthin’

Exquisite Clutter was developed from the embers of Rock Pigs (Pt.2, Corruption), which was essentially a rough collection of ideas without order. This structured third movement of Rock Pigs was always the intention, the 2/3 couplet an attempt at capturing both cause and effect; a rudimentary means of demonstrating the songwriting process I call upon most: the one whereby mistakes are studiously embellished upon, furiously masturbated, before finally being stretched mercilessly until consuming of enough substance to withstand the title of ‘song’.

This reincarnation of Pt.2, Corruption finds the chosen sections freshly recorded with a touch more precision than previously evidenced and the entire piece has been somewhat formulated into a single performable song; flesh upon a skeleton. Maggots upon a corpse, perhaps. Mistakes, although lessened considerably, remain scattered through, of course (!); a middle-fingered celebration disguised as a deliberate embrace of natural idiosynchrocies - a subconscious self-effacing grin erupting from behind its childish veil of perceived exoneration.


Whereas the majority of musicians no doubt strive in demanding better accounts of themselves, the patena of my own performance seems to encompass a rather colourful spectrum of technical failings and inconsistencies; all of which I consider 'nonchalant shambolism'. And I’m reluctant to refer to it as unfortunate, not least because the reasons for this are physiological and somewhat unavoidable, although when explained have the tendency to resemble a mortal whinge I’d rather not associate with.

Bah, Lachesis may have miscalculated my thread as a web, but still the show proceeds!

Fears be allayed though, for despite my seeming insistence to the contrary, the listener has (without reservation) been granted consideration throughout, for as loose as my technique and translations may be, the album (and indeed any song within its confines) was never intended as a piece requiring of endurance.

It is what it is - whilst hopefully falling somewhat short of torture.

Oh, and the title references a Freddie Mercury quote, “I want to lead the Victorian life, surrounded by exquisite clutter."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eye prefers gidiot

Track Analysis:
Guidance Hymn (Pt.1, Bilks)

In much the same way as an egg will always precede the arrival of a chicken, so too does this dichotomistic title reveal a similar curiosity, for should one see fit to organise the letters in a more sensible fashion (or, for those a little more susceptible to trends, a fashionable sense) the name of Lindsey Buckingham would be revealed as an anagram thereof it. And I bear no shame, the outstanding Buckingham Nicks album from 1973 was a big inspiration. But then so was Pig Destroyer’s Terrifyer and yet the song’s not been called Eye prefers gidiot; though the idea of making an acoustic grindcore album was given far more than simply a passing consideration.

It’ll happen.

And probably soon, because the lyrics have already been written. They simply need a blistering canvas beneath them; a feast of death and revenge freshly simmered above the bowels of hell itself before being extracted by an amateur chef and served cold to restless guests via the stale medium of shitty, acoustic guitar dramatics.

It’ll be great.

And so what exactly does Guidance Hymn (Pt.1, Bilks) have to do with the esteemed Mr Buckingham then? Nothing really. At least not beyond the mere acoustic nature of it. And the fact that we both happen to share the same birthday, which I found slightly interesting. And the same astrological sign too, albiet two full cycles of twelve years apart. And we both foster the same bilious hatred of guitar picks. All of which is essentially pointless knowledge for one to share, let alone remember I suppose, except for the fact that I’d learnt of these coincidences long after I’d been courted by the dynamic, uncompressed wooing of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, which strangely seemed to render all of these insignificant details far more important (to me, at least - and at obvious length!) and placed upon them far greater a weight than sensibly warranted.

Bah, my apologies! For never has one dallied his audience so terribly before the first commercial, and never has an ill-watered audience longed so desperately for the drag of the intermission curtains ...

And so here be a slight, yet glorious, reprieve.

Oh yes, and after having made several attempts to quicken my fingerpicking whilst in the order of p-i-m-a-p-i-m-a-p-i-m-ad nausem, I stumbled across this interview, which covers in great detail Lindsey Buckingham’s songwriting process and playing style. And so I reversed the pattern and met with immediate success. And wrote a song in celebration of the fact.

This song.

The structure of this piece once again isn’t typical of the writing formula I'd normally employ when working on other TNB projects because I have a tendency to get very, very bored, very quickly; partly due to a short-circuit regarding my wariness of listener fatique, and partly due to my inability to hold any decent sense of rhythym for too long. Thankfully, both of these afflictions that can be somewhat overcome (overwhelmed is a more appropriate word perhaps) by the random insertion of as many tempo and chord changes as possible in as quick a time as plausible, without things getting too ridiculous. And even then, ridiculous is often a damn sight better than boring, for (like Holden Caulfield) the sound of people yelling “Digression!” will always be preferable to silence.

And so the length of Bilks’ verses can be explained by way of the song having initially been written as a demo for our band; a courteous platform of space and time freely given to our lyricist/singer around which to weave his poetic language. The same is also true of Belphegor’s Dupuytren. And Filth to some extent also, which is resident on the album but under the new guise of Squalor.

But I've already told those stories ...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Momentary lapse of releasing

Well, despite the album now being complete and readied upon Apollo's altar, the bullnose’s tendency to rear its ugly head as the end of an assignment is nigh has once again be roused; an annoyance otherwise referred to as a bottleneck through which time is unable to be rationally scrunched without the inevitable bane of hindsight tomorrow.

And so delay is of utmost importance because, prior to the augur of its entrails, each facet requires satisfaction before the hollowed corpse of its entirety may be granted rest. All of which involves indecent amounts of pendanticism, as do the majority of cathartic endeavours.

But where would catharsis be without pained details?
For therein lies its merit!

What can be confirmed, however, is that the final mixdowns have all been created, although I’m currently pondering how best to release them, as the quality of the MP3’s I’d initially (and reluctantly) considered offering for download (as this medium seems an evil that’s been accepted by contemporary listeners of music) are far from satisfactory considering the hours of tedious processing I’ve performed on the original, dynamic waveforms. It seems a waste to now automatically discard a large portion of the sound simply for the sake of a perceived, modern convenience.

And why perpetuate the problem of inferior sound quality with my own clutter when all I’d accomplish would be adding to the general noise? T’would hardly seem a suitable high-horse from which to throw any future argument ... !

Quite what the answer is though, I’m not too sure, but the next step is to look further into the viability of FLAC, as I’ve seen this format posturing as a saviour (and with some ferocity!) in too many ‘lossless versus lossy’ discussions to simply ignore it.

But aside from this obvious descent into audio geekery, it might also be prudent to mention the completion of the album’s artwork - the grimness captured thereupon pleasing to all my sensibilities.

So all that properly remains is some tidying up of the liner note credits, looking into Creative Commons Licensing, attempting to officially align myself with the ‘Turn it up’ movement, before settling upon an agreeable file format.

Then it’ll just be a matter of uploading the behemoth.

Unfortunately, however, the only answer to a lack of time is, well, time itself ... so I’m buying thyself another five days and pushing the official release date back to February 9.