Taken from the journals of Otium:
I had the name of the record before I even started to make it. Vensaire was making its self-titled EP. I wrote a song called “Apollonian” and in doing the research for the song (about The Iliad) I discovered the idea of Nostos. I found that Nostos not only served as the etymological root of Nostalgia, but also represented the idea of returning home. Since I had already conceptualized and written the follow up to the Vensaire EP, entitled Perdix (a record about The Odyssey among other things) well before the Vensaire EP itself came out I knew that the prototypical example of the idea of Nostos was Odysseus’ journey home. Yet I didn’t feel as though Perdix was a suitable place to explore the idea of what Nostos fully was. So while we worked out the arrangements and recorded Perdix, I always kept the project Nostos in the back of my mind, assuming it would be Vensaire’s second LP. Unfortunately, yet perhaps fatefully, Vensaire would dissolve and the project of Nostos would become my sole responsibility to create.
The project was truly an amalgamation of many iterations of myself: “Delzetta” was written in 2009 before I had started Vensaire. “The Wind” was written in 2013 while I was on tour with Vensaire. “New Flesh”, “The Crystal Pixel”, “Motions of a Life” and “The Night Mirror” were all written in 2014 during a particularly productive couple of months at my home in Bushwick. Conversely, not all the tracks came together before I began recording; “Out Here On My Own’’ was written in the summer of 2015 during the final months of the recording and mixing process and almost wasn’t included on the record at all. “The Boy Leaves Home with His Friends” and “The Boy Looks at His Home from Afar” were both written in the last couple of months of 2015 on a trip to visit a friend in Montreal.
PART I: ACCUMULATION
In the fall of 2014. I was asked by Vensaire’s violinist Renata Zeiguer if I would be willing to look after her mother’s house and dog while they were away on vacation. I had just been fired from my job and I thought it would be a nice change of pace, so I headed to the last stop on the 1 train with my sampler (an sp-555) and set in for the week.
I entered a beautiful house full of walls adorned with crystals, shells, knick knacks, and other collectables. I found her mother had kept sacred a slew of eclectic media and home videos from Renatta and her brother Ari; learning to rollerblade, rehearsals of piano and violin, birthday parties, trips to Europe etc. I spent a week being inspired in that beautiful time capsule, and sampled a few things here and there; kids having a party from the old home videos, the moon landing on flexi disc (which is a mix of both a 45 and a thin sheet of plastic), a long section of a record on the proper use of electricity, an LP of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, medical 45s of heartbeats and some Saint-Saëns children’s poem LP of Carnival of the Animals.
There was the glass patio surrounded in green plants, with a grand piano in it’s center and a wooden marimba from some far away place in the corner. I took some marbles and some paperclips I had found somewhere in the house and prepared the piano to create an almost glitch like sound, I then sampled every key on the grand, played some chords and arpeggios and logged them away for future use. I wrote a song for the record on that piano but it didn’t make it to the final stages of writing or recording, but incase I finish it or it makes it onto a future record it was called “Are You Listening?”.
The last couple of days there Margot came to stay with me, and Lauren Gesswein came and took photos of me in Renata’s incredibly landscaped yard for what would be my promotional photos for a couple years. The week went quickly enough but looking back it seemed like so much of the record came into being at that point, as if the gates of some ivy covered door had been opened and I was stepping in to see what i could discover.
I would spend the next 2 years looking in every thrift shop or pawn shop for unique things to sample, or obsolete musical equipment no-one wanted.
The idea of accumulation is one very central to this record and film. In the time of writing this and perhaps in all future times after and before, human’s have the need to hold onto a semblance of themselves through objects or media. Yet, often those collections sit there collecting dust, they merge into the landscape of our lives, and those objects often lose their tangibility or connectedness to the person we are or have become. In 2016 we have the ability and the insatiable desire to document every aspect of our lives, whether we are taking a photo of a loved one or what we ate for lunch, taking a video of a concert or a small snippet of a loved one, by writing a blog, or in a diary. We are obsessed by remembering but not necessarily experiencing; how much of that media goes to some part of our computer to never be looked at again? We are always putting some sort of recording device between ourselves and the world around us. Is it that we are afraid of forgetting? Is the act of allowing a device to record the moment in reality telling our brain that it doesn’t need to remember the moment? Every generation has sought to create their immortality, whether it be through the writing of histories or portraits, or old home movies. We are afraid to forget and hungry for nostalgia. We want to keep slices or samples of our lives to experience again as if for the first time, yet we are looking at a mirror in the dark.
I went to Minnesota and stumbled across footage my mother had taken of me as a child, no real recognition of myself, no visceral knowing, just the intellectual knowledge, the story, that yes, that child was once me. Then there were tapes with footage of me and my friends causing mischief around my home town, and while the visceral connection to my past self was lacking, unlike the home movies my mother had taken, there was some, though slight, visceral remembrance there. I looked at my own collections of video and photos I took of my friends and family while i’d been living in New York over the past 9 years, feelings of familiarity and longing came flooding back, the feeling that I was there obvious, the memories more immediate. I had these many incarnations of myself on video, each one closer to now, and it made me wonder if in time all these recognitions of myself would fade, if i would see myself as a stranger, just the narrative of a memory with no true memory there.
I took the footage of myself, ripped the audio from it and closed my eyes, unable to connect with the images, instead hearing my past, I took any quotes i thought would work in Nostos. I also took incidental sounds of people walking or things falling to the ground for use as drum samples. Used sounds of myself crying, of my mother explaining what I was doing, of my brother holding up his fingers to show the camera how old we both were. I sweetened at the voice of my mother being concerned for us, making sure we had fun, saying she loved us, the sounds of being raised. With my eyes closed the audio streamed into my mind’s eye, causing an emphatic response to my family, a deeper and more meaningful connection than i had expected. After I finished listening I called my mother and told her I loved her.
I accumulated more samples, more media that elicited a feeling of my childhood, I wanted to mix the concrete reality of myself (the home videos) with the fabricated or remembered reality of myself (samples from elsewhere), knowing that distinguishing between them would, for the audience, create a cloud of confusion whether these samples were my own or was a spun reality. Would they have the same reaction as I did to watching my own home videos? Was that truly me on the screen? What is the difference between the reality and the story we tell?
it reminds me of this quote:
‘yet in reality they were just shadows pruned into memories’
PART II: THE SONGS
SIDE A: AWAKENINGS
The Boy Leaves Home with His Friends
The intro to the record begins with what I realize the briefly curious or casual listener will think is 43 seconds of silence, that is, assuming they will be listening or watching Nostos on a set of laptop speakers, their phone, or with a set of speakers that don’t have a proper bass frequency response. However, with headphones or a proper sound system this “silence” will become a growing rumble introducing us to the world. This rumble is a technique called binaural beating and it’s use in Nostos is two fold.
First, it’s operation acts as a way to encourage the listener to experience the piece through immersion. If the viewer does not engage with the piece in the way I have intended they will hear silence. Respect the work and it will give you more. The same can be said of the white walls of the gallery, or the dimly lit theatre, the setting of the audience is important, because of the benefits of psychological priming. If for instance I took a work of art and put it next to a bag of trash, the world at large wouldn’t look twice, put it within the confines of the white walls, and the security guards and the admissions, and all of a sudden the “aura” of the piece is transformed.
Secondly, the slightly different bass frequencies are each panned to a different stereo channel. In the left stereo field is 46.25hz (F#) while on the right stereo field is 38.42hz (slightly flat of a D#). These two frequencies each occupy their own channel and do not mix, yet the brain combines these two frequencies inside the head creating the “unhearable” frequency of 7.83 hz in your brain. Binaural beating which I also touched upon in Ballet 2 is related to two ideas, one is that of the Schumann Resonance, or the frequency at which the earth resonates at, and two, the frequency is supposed to sympathetically illicit the alpha brain-wave set which oscillate between 7.5 hz -12.5 hz. The Alpha state occurs naturally during a very crucial juncture in the sleep cycle called REM sleep. REM as you may know is the time of sleep when dreams are most vivid and the interaction with the dream world at it’s most solid. A bridge between the solid and ethereal, the real and imagined, earth and dream.
“In the beginning the world lay quiet, there was no vegetation, no living or moving thing on the bare bones of the mountains, no wind blew across the peaks, there was no sound to break the silence. The world was not dead, it was asleep, waiting for the soft touch of life, and light.”
Three bells chime, a fourth lower than the others, a herald to come join, a signal of the beginning. A barren landscape; a fresh sheet of paper that we will begin to populate.
The Intro was created by using the GR-55 to create the bass sounds and synth sounds, they were then manipulated with the Sony MDS DRE1 minidisc sampler. I then took the completed intro played it through my monitors and rerecorded it through my iPhone, I then blended the two sounds in and out to create a feeling of “Z depth", or three dimensionality. This idea of “Z-depth” was actually one of my main goals with the record in general. The x and y were more straight forward to accomplish in the mix but i wanted to create the feeling that the person was actually traveling in a 3 dimensional space, and the mind’s eye helping to populate this space.
The creation of New Flesh was in three stages one when I was 15, one when I was 20 and one when I was 25.
When I was 15 me and my friend Jay decided to take mushrooms on the fourth of July, I had a bad trip and ended up being picked up by my friend Jolene who I fancied at the time, the basement of her house was covered in taxidermy.
When I was 20 and in college I was asked to create a short story about a loss of innocence so I wrote about the bad trip I had when I was 15. The story is below.
When I was 25 I was living in Brooklyn off of the Kosciusko J stop, I was in the middle of creating the record of which I already had four songs for “The Crystal Pixel” “The Wind” “Delzetta” and “Motions of a Life”. I was watching David Cronenberg’s Videodrome with a friend of mine, i was affected by it, especially the line at the end “Long Live the New Flesh”. My studio was actually set up in the living-room at the time and I had been playing around with an arpeggio effect from my Eventide H9 pedal earlier in the week, so after watching Videodrome me and my roommate Ben Borden, broke out the drum machine (electribe smkii) and guitar and started to jam. Using the H9 preset I had made early that week I started strumming one note at a time and singing “here comes the new flesh” we jammed for a while but nothing concrete had come out of it just the kernel of an idea. Later in the week i revisited the recorded session of the jam and began to think of that time I had tripped mushrooms and thought how the theme of it would be a perfect addition to the record. It is very rare that a song comes as quickly or as directly as New Flesh had, I wrote the lyrics all in one go, adding the intro a short time after. I fiddled around with the actual notes of the arpeggio for a while and wouldn’t have the correct note sequence till a couple of months later.
The arrangement and feeling of the song was very much influenced by the narrative of the song. The intro is a flash forward in time; the boy has been picked up by jolene and is looking out the window up at the stars, his skin electric and raw, the wind blowing on his face, he wonders about his place in the world about his permanence and his vulnerability, he is in the throws of being reborn. The arrangement then reflecting this rawness, pushing and pulling out of time. The vocals put through and effected by the very same pedal that will later convert the strums of a guitar into a rush of arpeggios. As the intro comes to a climax the song explodes into a flash back. The beginning of the mushroom trip and the words “I am not afraid give me the key” is faintly heard. The rest is probably better explained through the lyrics themselves.
‘Here comes the new flesh
starting to mushroom out
the whispers to turn to shouts
now we laughing Jay
and i’m glad that you're around
somehow it’s more profound
let’s walk outside
to where the cars are blood-cells
of the road tonight
While we are dancing
and the fireworks explode
I start feeling so old.
Now i am crying out
for my innocence
but it’s only loneliness I find.
“come lay in the grass and i’ll listen to
you as the night goes past”
Maddie my mother is taking care of me
I’m just an infant,
in a bad dream.
Scott you have gone blind
from rolling in the light.
John is pensive,
sitting on the truck,
being the lonely moon
and Jolene you’re coming
to pick me up and
put me in your crystal room
and she was right ,
about her basement
skins are found
so put me to sleep.
We end up where we left off with the intro lyrics:
where those skins are found
so put me to sleep.’
I wanted to play around with the idea of sympathetic body responses similar to the way I had with the binaural beats, but this time i wanted to try and use heartbeats to get the listener to feel excited or relaxed depending upon which section of the song they were at, so the first verse has a heartbeat on the one coming in once a bar, the chorus has a sort of syncopated beat the kick still coming in on the one but with an extra beat on the “and” of beat four, creating a groove with slight disorientation. Verse two comes in with no heart beat, a moment of breath after the chorus, a feeling of freedom of the wind against your face, then the heart beat again on the one, the boy going with the flow, until suddenly with the lyric “I start feeling so old” ushers in the heart beat on the one and three the next lyric “now I am crying out” the anxiety starting to rise, a bit of panic. Then Maddie says “come lay in the grass and i’ll listen to you as the night goes past” and the beat becomes syncopated, the emphasis now on the two and the four, until it explodes again into the chorus. The chorus ends and the heart beats much faster hitting on every up beat, really making the listener feel out of control, but then it is gradually replaced by four down beats, while fast it feels somewhat more manageable and rhythmic, the beat slowly fades the boy’s focus turned elsewhere, the corporeal fading as the boy is let loose into the night sky.
The chorus was in a way it’s own separate creation. I had helped my friend Hunter Hawes move some things out of his storage locker, and I took a few things he said I could take, one of them being a sample pack of Hanna Barbara sounds to be used on the radio. I loaded them into my Electribe and started to create different rhythms discovering what sounds I could use for snares or hi-hats or kicks, it took quite a while, to understand, but it was a great learning experience that would help me later on in the recording process. The kick was especially difficult to get to a satisfactory place. I ended up as I usually do when i’m stuck trying to think through the problem conceptually. Why does the kick have this timbre? What is it’s purpose in the beat? Thinking of the kick as a grounding force I decided to take a sample of Barney Rubble saying “ then I come home to relax”, I then chopped it to just “Come home” then pitched it down reversed it and used as the kick.
The idea behind using these cartoon samples came from my psychedelic reflection of the child I used to be, the person I was now, and the directionality of time; the futility of trying to return to a home that was no longer there. The memories of me as a child watching cartoons, with friends in the neighborhood, or alone at night, a child in front of a TV the world dissolving all around him, and the innocence of that, yet the strangeness of those old cartoons. This all made the manipulation of these samples the only real way to express the frenetic memory of that night.
The Wind was originally entitled “Margot” for probably pretty obvious reasons, but the more I went over the lyrics and the ideas of the song the more I realized that while I was talking about heart-break, the first lyrics really told me more about the meaning of the song than I had originally understood.
‘Did you know?
The Wind is silence,
is silently silencing?
Less your ears hear it hissin
Less the buildings start to groan
Less the trees leaf it thrashing
Less the mountains start to moan
Less the windchime
in its purpose
shows the ghost in its throne.’
I found these lines hidden somewhere in my notes, they weren’t written for The Wind, or with for any project in mind. Yet I found came across these lines while I was writing the lyrics for the song and for whatever reason, maybe a subconscious recognition of intention, I decided to put the lines in the song. The Wind was one of the first songs I recorded and was in an almost completed form to what it sounds like now before I wrote the majority of the Nostos. Therefore I had time to let the songs meaning stew. The longer i thought about it, the more I thought about it’s place in the record. I thought about those first lines a lot, and I decided that the song, while about my ex-girlfriend Margot, was fundamentally about inspiration, how it comes and goes like a lover, about control and chaos, about a hidden fundamental. So after a bit of internal debate I decided to change the name of the song from it’s superficial title of “Margot” to the more nuanced and true, “The Wind”.
For the ancient greeks inspiration was “enthusiasm (enthousiazein)” meaning possession by the gods. For the romans the latin was inspirare or “to breath into”. Both the greek and latin ideas relate to an ethereal entity that manifests itself through a human host. A muse doesn’t seem to have the ability to create something on it’s own, instead it “possesses” something in order for it’s presence to be manifest.
Can we ever really see the reality of the situation as it’s happening? Are we only capable of gleaning a semblance or shadow of a deeper reality? Is there a Fundamental Object or is an object simply the amalgamation of its affects in the world? What is the wind?
‘the meaning was late
it’s the saddest
cause happiness is unacknowledgeable,’
Is temporal distance from an experience elucidating or obscuring the truth?
Intrinsically a moment in the present will gain meaning over time, as it’s effects blow into the causes of future happenings. Nostalgia then, may act as a strange mirror of the past, instead of showing you the way things are, it shows you the way things came to be; reflecting the proverbial “butterfly’s wings” of your life.
The arrangement for the The Wind began as all the songs on Nostos began as a folk song on guitar, however, playing with the GR-55 gives a lot of flexibility when it comes to the timbre of the instrument and so I decided the sound of the guitar would be wind chimes, while originally it was just a sound i stumbled upon while experimenting with effects, it became conceptually relevant later as I fleshed the lyrical content of the song out. At the time of recording I was inspired by many things but in particular the song Pop That by French Montana. The song seemed to be the anthem of that spring and summer and I loved the overwhelming energy of the song. I had just acquired another drum machine (Korg Electribe SX) and after playing around with it discovered I could create instruments from individual samples so I took the middle C from the piano I had prepared at Renata’s mother’s house and used that as the driving arpeggio. I then created another instrument from a wind-chimes sample for the transitional elements. I then ran a microphone into the Electribe, and programmed a sequence of on and offs to read “Janus” in Morse code. While I was recording my vocals, I split the signal so it would run through the Janus sequence, creating a glitchy breaking feeling onto a separate track. I recorded the whole track, including all effects, live into Ableton, the only plug-ins and automation was an EQ and basic reverb. I encountered so many problems attempting multi-take composite recordings during The Wind that I decided to move to Logic as a DAW for all the remaining songs.
‘give it up a while
and cut your hair in spirals
leave it for the morning
and see your trimmings blowing’
‘and you're buried with care
I was scattered
cut like a curl’
OUT HERE ON MY OWN
The creation for Out Here on My Own as discussed earlier was the last song created for Nostos, it was a product of burning myself out on the recording process. During the main throes of recording I would sometimes spend 8 hours or more getting the guitar or vocal takes perfect, leading me to burn out both physically and mentally. So in an attempt to unwind and clear my brain I would sing and play guitar without any intention of creating or recording. Out Here on My Own was written during one of these moments. It would have most likely been just another note in my phone, if my roommate hadn’t stepped in to tell me he liked one of these “unwind songs”, encouraging me to record it. So I decided to keep working on it while I recorded part one of The Nightmirror.
I had been feeling disillusioned about the dissolution of Vensaire. Feeling abandoned and as though all of the hard work we had put into the creation of Perdix was for naught. It was a cathartic opportunity. I seldom write music from a place of anger, or rather i seldom allow myself more than a sporadic indulgence, as I usually find anger to be an obscuration of understanding. However, the fire of Anger can sometimes help clear the field, burning the dead, then quelled, making way for new blossoms.
Misunderstanding: What is it to be alone? How much can we really understand another person? How do we align our understanding of ourselves with the understanding others have of us?
I learned to sing while in the car, and I figure like most people I never quite knew all the words to the songs, not for lack of hearing a song enough but from mishearing it so many times that the lyrics I thought I was hearing were not anywhere near the correct meaning, I think my favorite mishearing was in Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” I thought he was saying “hold me close oh Tony Danza” I don’t really even know how I knew who Tony Danza was and had no idea why Elton John would want him to hold him close, buteither way this misunderstanding became a way for me to express the idea of the world knowing you in one way but what you actually are and do being much different from that perception. Our true selves, an entity that not any one person is completely privy, becomes like a misheard lyric, the assumptions about you becoming, over time, reinforced. Is there an opportunity to correct the lyric?
Here are some examples of my own created mishearings:
‘Here I am
a starved foolish man
but you’re hearing my words all wrong’
‘There you are
a line in the song
but i’m hearing your words all wrong’
These are the official lyrics if you were to look them up. However, I’m not singing these words. What I’m actually singing is
‘Here I am
(a star forced to land)
but you’re hearing my words all wrong’
‘There you are
(a lion in the sun)
but i’m hearing (my) words all wrong’
In the first verse I see myself as a “starved foolish man” while you may think I see myself as a “star forced to land”. I really wanted to show how unfortunate misinterpreting others can be, while you may see someone as full of themselves and an egoist, in reality that person may not have any feelings of self worth and just wants to be loved. The interpretations though opposite reenforce each other.
Yet misunderstanding goes in both directions.
In the second verse I see you as a “lion in the sun” a king basking in the glory of accomplishment, but the way you feel is like a “line in a song” just a footnote, or a cog in the apparatus. I may realize that i’m hearing “my” words all wrong but they are still my words and interpretation of you, and so in the lyric sheet i replace “my” with “your”, because i’m really misinterpreting your words and the way you see yourself.
I think because this song came late in the development stages of the record I wanted the song to be more stripped down, not only because i was kind of blown out on long intricate sample arrangements, but also because I thought a more raw stripped down feel would suit the concept of the song nicely. I wanted the song to blend with the rest of the record and decided the guitar arpeggios would be nice for the choruses.
The idea for the Acid bass lines came from my roommate who works a lot with synthesis and while talking about the arrangement he had shown me some experiments he was working on with cutoff filters and he thought something similar would help propel the choruses.
The question of using a click track is always something I have struggled with, in particular how to maintain the fluidity and emotive response of music performed live while existing within the framework of a grid. Tempo like volume and play style should lend itself to the emotive quality of the music, this “sway” was for a long time always present in performing music, but with the advent of electronic music and in-ear click tracks this sway has been eliminated from live performance; an aspect of expression relegated to machines. With this track I wanted the focus to be on emotion and decided to play through the track without a click, find the natural rhythm of the song then set the tempo to slide along with that play style, so the chorus begins at 77 bpm slowly increasing to 90 bpm at the chorus, then decreasing to 85 at verse two and returning again to 90 at the second chorus. I set the click track to these tempos and then re-recorded the track to the variable click, while this may seem counter to the idea of “sway”, I wanted to show that a grid while helpful for the placement of drum samples and the creation of rhythms, can be malleable expressive.
The addition of rain samples and lightening was to create a setting for the song to exist in, in New Flesh I had used recordings of the highway and the field recording of my hometown of Lakeville at night for setting, while The Wind field recordings of wind wind-chimes. The idea of creating a place for the song to exist in came to me from John Cage’s 4’33” where he showed that the audience noise itself could be the music, and i’ve been using the idea ever since.
It was upon completing this song that I realized I had stumbled upon a string connecting all of the songs together, the finally line of the poem, a poem about independence. What began from an unwinding became the spool itself.
'When it’s time to turn the page you’ll hear the chimes'
SIDE B: DREAMS
Delzetta was the first song I wrote for the record. Having originally written it in the summer of 2009, I had the most time to think about it’s eventual recording. When I would go home to Minnesota and visit my grandparents I would always make sure to get recordings of my grandma Delzetta with the intention of using her voice to populate the song. When the eventual recording of the song finally came to fruition, my grandma had sadly passed away from the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s, and the song which I had hopes of showing her became a elegy.
Here is a few selected lines from Delzetta, I don’t want to overly explain these and ruin them so take them as you will,
‘It’s in the agates scattered glowing in the drive
in the jay tree’s i’d climb
in the basement where delzetta would sew
in the cement of the barn
in the lone tree that stands amongst the corn
in the sheep’s call and the cocks early horn
in the wrinkles of the shallows
in the bulbous and the wild’
I sat with my eyes closed in my studio and listened to the handful of recordings i had gathered from my visits to the family from. I found myself at her dining room table at thanksgiving playing cards, in her kitchen eating Chinese food, at christmas surrounded by family. I found a small profound moment of Delzetta reading her fortune cookie, or of her talking about the problems with the university of Minnesota basketball team. It was these moments that the song had always been about, moments from my grandmother’s farm as a child, moments that hold a place in time, hold some part of myself, some type of inexplicable truth within the memories there.
I not only cut quotes from the recordings, but also separated the incidental sounds as well to use as drum samples. I think of these incidental sounds as representational of the overlooked moments in all of our lives. While we may look for the “content” - someone telling a story or saying something unintentionally profound - it is the small noises, someone coughing or a cup falling from a table that creates the setting of our lives. It is the offhanded or spontaneous happenings between the big moments that give richness to our life. These incidental sounds became the rhythm for Delzetta, serving a similar purpose to the “come home” of New Flesh.
The guitar patch that i created for Delzetta is a mix between an acoustic guitar sound with a piano on the lowest two strings. The sound didn’t sound organic enough for me so I ran the recording through a small reel to reel tape machine I found at a garage sale in upstate New York; The reel to reel was not completely clean when I got it, there was sounds of some else’s family populating it, a relic the family who sold it to me may not have been aware existed. How apt then to use this tape as timbre for the guitar. Because of the nature of the reel to reel the timing of the guitar track became variable and the tuning would bend slightly creating the chorus-like effect you hear on the recording. The organ was played by my then girl-friend Margot on an organ I got at a church yard sale in Minnesota. My mother had signed me up for piano lessons as a kid because she had wanted me to play for my grandma; In the corner of my grandmother’s living-room, where we would put the Christmas tree and presents every year, was an organ, no one in my family ever learned how to play the organ, or at least i never saw anyone play it and so the organ and the piano I played in the small section towards the end of the third verse was my way of finally playing that dusty old organ for my grandmother.
THE CRYSTAL PIXEL
While the inspiration for Delzetta came from those inexplicable dream like memories at my grandma’s house, The Crystal Pixel came out of a similar feeling but in a different context. That of the glow of the TV and the world of video games. The graphical limitations of video-games, and the limitations of art in general to properly convey any sort of world completely, leads to the filling in by the audience, which allows the audience to engage and populate that world themselves. The world exists in two places, what is given to you by the art and what the audience invests in that world. The world can become somehow hyper-real because of this relationship. These digital worlds in my memories have a strange mystery to them, they have a depth and greater reality to them then I actually know them to be. It is perhaps the superior imagination of a child, or time gone by and the remembering that created the myth. This disparity between the memory of a thing and the reality of it, leads to greater implications about our personal memories and the reality of our lives. How much of our past lives can we remember? It seems like trying to reconstruct an image seen through a crystal prism.
As with Delzetta, the rhythm track of The Crystal Pixel was created using pieces of the memories they represent. The rhythmic samples were created using the video games that inspired the creation of the track. The rhythm track took me the longest to accomplish of any of the songs and was a large reason that the song took as long as it did. I eventually had to enlist outside help to finish it. Alex Jacobs who was the drummer of Vensaire and goes by the moniker Sandy K-Pax helped me flesh out some of the drum tracks by playing a midi drum pad synced to the DAW sampler.
MOTIONS OF A LIFE
Motions of a Life, picks up where The Crystal Pixel left off instrumentally – taking the same guitar idea, a slap back delay pitched up a perfect fifth – but also conceptually. Motions of a Life is somewhat of an elegy to the person I was, the person I am and will eventually leave behind, accumulating moments for them to pass by, looking at my memories as a myth or legend. The acknowledgment of a connected string of moments that make up who you are. When does the story become more myth than fact?
Again the rhythm track came from the memories that the song represents, in this instance solely the home videos I found at my mother’s house. To fully flesh out the drum tracks I used a similar recording technique to The Crystal Pixel using a midi drum trigger, however this time I employed the help of my roommate at the time James Jano (Matte Wood). The vocal synth track which comes in on the second chorus was created using the GR-55 and is the same synth timbre used on Out Here on My Own. I wanted the vocals to have a distancing feel to it, as if someone is watching events of there life unfold in front of them. To achieve this effect I paired the main vocal with that of an octave lower, to make my voice slightly unrecognizable as if channeling something outside oneself.
The second half came to me as a vision.
The sound of a clock ticking away, more field recording of my home town.
‘Up there those diamonds
are all alone for eternity
all that buzzing static
makes my skin disintegrate in the air’
The first half of the song is a from third person perspective, a way to separate both the audience and the author from the picture, an astral body hovering above the scene. A change of the audiences viewing perspective was hinted at in Motions with the inclusion of the voice at a lower octave, but while Motions perspective is purposefully dualistic, The Nightmirror has a more straight forward distancing from the subject, using the third person “the boy” instead of the first person “I”. It is during this song that we hear the voices of children, not one but many, the identity of the boy becoming even less certain. The song is broken into two sections by an etheric swirling catching the audience in a whirlwind.Heartbeat samples return to the mix coming quickly and slightly un-synced, some sort of physical form, the complaining breathe of a child is heard, the listener now unsure if it is their own, first person perspective closing down around them.
The second section begins with the quick arpeggios reminiscent of New Flesh, the perspective being almost claustrophobic, so close as to hear another thoughts. The choruses are screams with a mechanical tinge.
Often when I am in the process of writing a song, I will play a show and try some of my new material, making up the words as I perform. This can sometimes lead to a few good lines sticking and being incorporated into the song, but more often than not is just a way for me to work out inflections and melodies. In the case of The Nightmirror however, almost the entire second portion of the song was written as I was singing it.
Where am I where's my bed?
A needle's point
above my arm again
Like I've done something wrong.
Yet I feel strangely proud,
as my head it starts
Even the chorus written hours before the show as place holder for the chorus I would eventually write became essential to the song. While I knew I wanted the song to convey a reoccurring night terror I had as a child, I didn’t realize until that very moment the overlap it would have in my real life, that is, my friends becoming addicted to heroin. Over the course of recording this song I thought a lot about both my dream and my friends struggle, and I thought back to my mother comforting me in the dream saying to me “everything’s fine” why didn’t I put that line in this song?
‘Everything everything everything’s fine’
THE BOY LOOKS AT HIS HOME FROM AFAR, & THE INTERLUDES
I was asked by my friend Ben Borden to play an experimental set based on the Ballet 2 recordings at his new gallery in Montreal. It was the beginning of September 2015 and I had just finished the writing, recording and the preliminary mixes of Nostos a couple days before I was supposed to leave, so I bounced each song down and organized them into a new Logic session. I spent a couple of days outlining ideas for the interludes, types of samples i wanted to include, how to transition between the songs, and what elements of the story needed to be included. I hopped on the train and within the 10 hours it took to get there I had over half of the interludes complete. I got to Montreal played the set and hung around town while Ben went to school, he had the strangest sounding upright piano but I figured I would play around with some chord progressions and then record what I came up with on a more in-tune piano when I got back to NY, Ben got home and I had him video record me playing some improvised ideas I had been messing with on my iPhone. I got back on the train headed home to brooklyn, and created the majority of the interludes as you hear them on the way back, I placed the audio from the iPhone recording into it’s outro position, just to get an idea of how it all sounded like together. Upon returning to brooklyn and my studio I added some additional instrumental pieces to the interludes, specifically between Out Here on My Own and Delzetta. I arranged a time to go and record a better version of the outro at Geoff Strasser’s studio, and after a couple hours of recording I realized I liked everything about the recording I had done at Ben’s and that i would simply use the audio from the video. However, the piano at Geoff’s studio was used instead to record a small section in the 3rd verse of Delzetta.
Here is the original
recording of the piano
I cut the end of the recording stretched the chord I wanted to end on and finishing in a binaural beat of 7.83hz. Ending in the same way it began.
Are their ever really endings or beginnings? Are we not just caught here in some sort of eternal middle?
PART III: MIXING AND MASTERING
I spent almost a year mixing Nostos myself. More often than not the act of recording necessitates that act of mixing. After the record had gone as far as I could bring it I decided to let the incredibly talented mixing engineer Geoff Strasser take it to a place that I could not. Geoff’s technical abilities in mixing are awe inspiring and while I liked the songs at the place they were, they lacked a kind of power and clarity I knew Geoff could help bring. We worked on the mixes for 4 months finishing the mix towards the beginning of January, we then brought the project to Sarah Register at the Mastering Palace to get mastered. The mastering process took two months to complete leading Nostos to be completed by May.
I could write endlessly about everything that went into the mix of this record, as i spent a lot of time doing it, however i figure it should maybe be left for a different time and different place.
PART IV: THE FILM
While me and Geoff were doing the final mix of the record I had more free time to dedicate to other aspects of the project, so I started to film and edit what would become the film portion of Nostos, I created the film portion in much the same way I had created the audio, that is, by doing multiple things simultaneously. I would shoot as much as I could whenever I could, and then I would take that footage and place it in the timeline I had created in Final Cut Pro. I started filming for the project around October when I got a new iphone, the phone was capable of 4k resolutions and a friend had told me about an anamorphic lens for the phone he had heard about, so I got the lens and I started shooting anything that would fit the concept of the video. I had flipped the switch in my brain, the focus was now on video, and all of the concepts I had accrued from the years thinking about Nostos, made collecting the necessary footage go quickly. I finished the filming and editing of the project a week before I was scheduled to present it on July 2nd at signal Gallery. Every frame has a purpose but what fun would it be to spoil it all for you?