Fripp and Eno, “The Heavenly Music Corporation”.

Okay, so today, in the process of trying to mix and master last night’s first-dart-in-the-board soundscape recording (it’s updated now with a second candidate), I dragged out (No Pussyfooting) by Fripp & Eno.  (One of the things that Graham Cochrane at Recording Revolution suggests, for the practice of mastering, is the use of a deliberately chosen reference track to work against.  Not really being in well-trodden territory here, I thought that might be an appropriate place to start.)

And oh man, does that record hold up well.  I’ve owned it for years and always liked it, but at the same time I’ve never heard it like this–now listening to it both in the producer’s role and also the soundscapist’s role.  What an amazing thing to have done at that time, with only those resources!

I was struck by a few things, listening mostly to “The Heavenly Music Corporation”.  The natural decay of the analog tape is fascinating to hear with intentional ears;  not only does the volume level decay, but the EQ shifts as well, losing more high end with each iteration than elsewhere in the spectrum;  each loop sounds successively “darker” and essentially subsumes into mud with enough time.  By contrast, the digital decay of the Ditto X4 I’m using seems to keep a pretty consistent EQ profile throughout the decay process, and I suspect that at some level (certainly beyond where I’m at now), a player will respond differently to the unique sounds.

And of course as a player one can’t help but think of Robert’s description of the ambient soundscape as a place of “hazard”.  Indeed!  I can certainly hear some obvious places in my own soundscape in which I fail to negotiate the hazard successfully, and thus resort to the Crafty Guitarist’s credo, as articulated by Hellboy #1 Tom Redmond:  “If you play a wrong note, play it again.”  Now…this is pretty easy to do when said note comes right back around automatically 6-8 seconds later, several times, which is at least partly what Robert was talking about!  But this is part of the excitement of doing full improv, isn’t it?  I might really screw things up!  And so I am actually pretty jazzed about developing things further myself, warts and all.  I consider myself fortunate that I can listen to the genius of Fripp & Eno in their pioneering work to create a whole new genre, and rather than get intimidated, get juiced instead.

And I am.  I’m finding myself thinking about all kinds of ideas of what to do in the future when I hear the flub go out into the loop and need to respond to it.  Listening to both (No Pussyfooting) and Let the Power Fall today also reminded me that I should further develop the practice of fixing the loop for a time (stopping overdubs) to be able to play an intentional line on top of it.  And with the Ditto X4, there is also that second loop to consider as well.  I don’t know exactly how that might best be used, but I intend to experiment and see if ideas arise.

In the meantime, I needed to gush a bit about “The Heavenly Music Corporation”.  Man, what an enormous statement!


Test: first ambient recording.

So just this week for the first time I committed an ambient improvisation “to tape”.  I may discuss further details of that later, but for now I’m trying to figure out the best way to ramp up storage for such things, and naturally, there are stumbling blocks.

So, for now, I’m going to try a direct link to the .mp3 file in a public Dropbox folder.

That is here.

Note that depending on what I set up etc. etc., this post may wind up being overtaken by other events, but for now, we’re a-testing.  Stand by…

Also, for anyone who does find himself here, please understand that this file is pretty raw:  a very simple edit (clip trim, start and end fades), one additional reverb plugin added, and the most rudimentary volume adjustment to get it up above the (roughly -18dB) recording level.  By no means has it been mastered, or even really mixed–and the signal processing settings felt very arbitrary in the first place.  (Understand it is quite literally the first recording of an ambient improv I’ve ever done:  I am new both to the end-to-end of production, and also to the art of soundscaping as a player as well.  It sure promises to be fun, but right now at least I am the quintessential n00b!  🙂  )

UPDATE:  Here is a second release candidate, after having applied some more mixing and mastering attentions.

Michael Manring, ‘The Enormous Room’.

So there is at least one human being capable of this:


I’ve been aware of Michael Manring for a while now;  I find his solo piece Selene to be one of the most gorgeous pieces of music I’ve ever heard, and in general I think it’s fair to say that his Hyperbass has been a gloriously worthwhile investment.  Manring is, for me, firmly in the short list of bassists who have done things that (far as I can tell) nobody did before;  he is so far beyond the “best of the Jaco clones” reputation that launched his early career, that he can no longer be dismissed as derivative.  If Jaco was the Hendrix of the fretless bass, and Percy Jones something between its Robert Fripp and Fred Frith, then Manring might arguably be something between the Michael Hedges and the John McLaughlin.  (To use, you know, comically simplistic analogies.  🙂

Ain’t nobody sounds like him.  For that, alone, he earns my respect.

But it’s not that, alone.  Just listen to what he does with it!  Even watching his hands in real time, it’s still hard to believe, sometimes, that one man with one bass can do that.


The ambient signal chain.

A few notes here, about my nascent interest in understanding the proper signal chain for doing the sort of ambient soundscapes that Chords of Orion has introduced to me.  For anyone who either happens across this post or who got sent here by me (upon threat of being made to work in the squirrels’ nut mines):  I would welcome constructive or enlightening comments to advance my understanding of what is a new area, but one of great interest, to me as a player.

Continue reading The ambient signal chain.

Dipping the toe in ambient.

Okay, so based on the ideas I picked up from the first few clips of the Ambient Guitar series at Chords of Orion, I went and tried to see if I could, using the very limited amount of gear I have, create a signal chain that would let me approach the same landscape.

In short:  it works!

Continue reading Dipping the toe in ambient.

Ambient guitar resource.

Bookmarking here what looks to be a major-caliber resource, at least for someone as new to electronics as I am, for approaching the live-looping-delaying universe first called “Frippertronics” and later “Soundscapes”.

So there’s this YouTube channel Chords of Orion, which has this fairly substantial series on the -fu of “ambient guitar”.  Installment #1 is here:

I’ve made it up to about #10 in the series thus far, and will be reviewing more soon enough.  This fella seems pretty well thought out, and the landscape this suggests is starting to poke at my hindbrain a little more insistently.

Continue reading Ambient guitar resource.