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!

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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.

Seven-headed Crim: ‘Starless’.

This needs a bookmark.  Another teaser from the 2015 tour of the “Seven-headed beast of Crim”;  this one the ’70s-era staple “Starless”.

Most previous observations still apply, at least at first viewing of this second clip.  I found I wanted Collins to be much louder in the mix here, as his presence on the original ’74 recording is just breathtaking.  It was cool to see the drum parts scattered among the frontline, especially including Rieflin, who is also the keyboardist.  And it was a treat to watch the “circulated” pivot notes between the two guitarists late in the 13/8 windup.

But man, check out Robert Unrestrained from 10:45 – 11:10, especially that top-of-the-neck harmonization at 11:00.  Holy smokes!

Like I said–this needs a bookmark.  🙂

King Crimson, ‘Sartori in Tangier’.

Because YouTube.

I gushed a bit about this one a while back on the Blogspot blog, and wanted to have it documented here too.  Because seriously, who else sounds even remotely like Robert, as a player?  One doesn’t even have to like his playing style, to acknowledge that it is like no other.

Dang.  Just–dang.

New old Crimson…wait, what?

A sneak preview of the 2016 incarnation of King Crimson, playing…”Easy Money“.

Wait, what?  King Crimson doesn’t usually repeat itself.

But the way I’m understanding it, this new Crim is indeed “reimagining” some of the older tunes.  That seems to be at least part of the point.  Okay, does that somehow mean that Robert’s gone soft all of a sudden?

I suppose we’ll see, but somehow, I doubt it.  In my book at least, he’s earned a lot of trust in that regard.  And who knows, maybe it’s me that’s gone soft, because at least on first listen, I enjoyed this a great deal:

Cry fanboy if you must–guilty as charged–but there is a lot in here to like.  Based on this performance alone, I’m not entirely convinced on Jakko as frontman, but he does seem both reasonably precise and endearingly earnest, and I look forward to seeing more before making a real judgment.  In a similar vein, given the use of the word “reimagining” to describe this edition of KC, I was a little surprised at how canonical and straight-up this edition of “Easy Money” seemed to be.  Again, I don’t know how indicative it may be, and I ain’t castin’ a judgment until I’ve seen more.  (Besides, it’s a great song, and as much as I have loved KC’s long insistence on new music over old, I’m in no way above the idea of re-Crim-inating some of the catalog;  if that’s what the muse is interested in doing now, I’m happy to go along.  Again, the trust has more than been earned.)

And boy, do I hear some treats in there.  It is always a pleasure to hear T-Lev in a Crimson group, and the return of reedman Mel Collins holds a lot of promise.  Watching and listening to Robert, it is obvious that he is playing the old piece with all the context of his subsequent work, and that is just a-okay by me;  it’s also quite a charge to see him smile like that!

Finally, there is that triple-drummer frontline, and wow, does that sound fantastic.  The stories of Mastelotto, Rieflin, and Harrison focusing on being a single drummer with one brain and six available hands–yeah, I’m believing that.  The interplay here is magnificent, and true to intention, there really is no overplaying that I can hear, just a solid, collaborative percussion line that demonstrates much of the richness that Jamie Muir brought to the ’72 Crimson.

Yes, please, more of that!  I do look forward to seeing what else they have in mind.