What the hell is S.E.N.T.?
If you’ve no idea what we’re talking about you can catch up with previous weeks over on the S.E.N.T. page.
Week 2 – Germination
IDEA #1 – GARY
Gary got confused and wrote about week 2 for the week 1 blog (we are writing these blogs from the future!) but as it turns out, it was basically the same. He played drums (or percussion…whatever……it was all a load of BOOM BOOM BAP) talked about his upcoming album and referenced Paul Simon. Here’s his entry from last week and a picture of his legs.
‘So. As we’re all getting older and uglier by the second during Lockdown (admit it-you are all looking at your faces daily and wondering why you’ve aged as quickly a PM who went into Parliament all fresh-faced), we thought-instead of parading our shaggy, tired visages with our Whatsapp Sessions-that we could create a different ‘Art’. Ladies and Gentlemen-SENT (or C*NT-whatever you decide James). Basically 6 individual musical premises (premisee?),shared and added to week by week by the other H & S rogues. My offering this week? Drums of course. Well,they were already set up for my own recording. Did I tell you I’m recording a new Album…??
IDEA #2 – SI
Simon’s log 20th July
Open up Logic with Gary’s initial idea. He’s sent me an elaborate metronome. Thanks Gary. Sit down at the piano and puke a disk full of crap ideas onto the keys. Clean up. Root around and find one half descent melody and try and make something of it. I’ve got Nick Cave and carnivals and pump organs in my head but what I record sounds like The Wurzels. Time up. I just hope Fletch knows how to delete stuff.
IDEA #3 – FLETCH
My process this week went something like this…..
Had a listen – stepped away – had another listen – stepped away again for a longer time……….
I needed to do something (and recording bass parts is boring) so I went in hard on a full reworking of the song. As a raging Tory and dedicated Trump supporter I was massively offended by Si’s lyrics so I deleted a bunch of them. Then I deleted some other stuff. Found some other bits in there, deleted those. Turns out it’s way easier to delete stuff that it is to add anything useful. I kept the chorus. I really like the chorus.
The whole thing still wasn’t working for me so I did some really dirty time stretching to slow the vocal down, which Logic is bollocks at apparently. Couldn’t possibly be user error. That gave me the idea to record a clunky guitar part out of time then stretch it back into time to get all of the artefacts from Logic losing it’s sh*t. I stuck a sock down by the bridge of my acoustic to mute it and busked along out of time to the song then I pulled all the notes in time to the nearest 16th by hand. Sure, I could have just got Logic to quantise it, but I didn’t cause I’m all about process and that. Some of it sounds great (to my ears), a lot of it is nonsense. I’m hoping someone down the line will pick out their favourite bits and delete the rest.
At this point I had very little song left to play with so I went for a build. It’s less of an attempt to record the final parts and more of a ‘what if it sounded something like this??’ that I’m hoping someone else can interpret. If not, it’s their lack of vision that’s killing this project. In my head it’s frikkin epic.
The very end bit? Who knows??? It’s a question for someone else to answer (with the delete key).
Needs someone to spit some bars over it then it’s pretty much finished I reckon.
This song was Jared Leto’s face, with his strange bleached blonde eyebrows, and I am Edward Norton’s fist.
IDEA #4 – ED
Wasn’t sure what to do with this… Really liked the guitar and the chords and vibe. Deffo the structure of a song but only one line of vocal… I REALLY wish that Fletch had written more words to be honest. I really wasn’t inspired to write any music because the vibe was so delicate and guitary so I had a think about what I could do that might give the people further down the line a bit of inspiration so I dug out my partner Jen’s travel radio and recorded some passes of medium, long and shortwave radio. I was thinking that a bed of constantly changing static would give the acoustic a bit of a sense of floating in space and also mean that it might not need that much more bits to be interesting. And also that luck might give me some fragments of “My life in the Bush of Ghosts” style voices which would make me sound really clever.
When I tested the radio to make sure it worked and scanned through some shortwave channels the night before recording I got GOLD. Some call to prayer sounding like it was bouncing off the moon, fragments of heated french politics and then an excited American lady enthusing about art. It honestly was awesome. When I actually went to record… I got mainly football and boring chat about Covid. Two things that we all probably hear enough of. I got two passes of medium wave and long wave (cos the frequencies between sound cooler than shortwave as you scan across them) and they’re panned left and right and then did a couple of passes of shortwave. I did them all to the track as if I was playing an instrument so I could kinda jam on the interesting bits in response to the music and on one of the passes of shortwave just after the first chorus I came across the start of some mellow post rock guitar track (it sounded like mellow Mogwai or something) and I swear that it was nearly in time and in key and it although it wasn’t quite right it really was a bit of a moment. The rising line you can hear at the end actually came out of the radio in exactly that location! Got some other bits and then edited some takes together. Mainly taking recognisable music and words out of the recording so it didn’t add too much message. Spent ages trying to edit and bend the guitar more into time but couldn’t really make it work so in the end I gave it a little stretch so it was a bit nearer and just cut the bottom end so that you couldn’t hear the piano chords under the guitar and put a big delay on the shortwave to blur the timing a bit. Just listening now after sending it to Hux I wish I’d not bothered trying to make it fit more… Think I lost a little of the “magic”. Was kinda fun although it did take hours. Didn’t touch what Fletch had done. Stuck the fragment of REM on the end because I thought it would be funny to get sued by Michael Stipe.
NB. For all your delay needs I totally recommend Valhalla Delay ($50) which is incredibly inspirational and like all his plugins does an incredible mix of simple and deep and is my favourite delay in the world. And nearly my favourite reverb… Which you may have to use it to understand.
For all your massive spacey reverb AND delay needs and in fact just cos it will make your life better I recommend Valhalla SpaceMassive which is totally free, crazy and absolutely amazing – https://valhalladsp.com The man is an absolute genius. If you like nerding out about this kind of thing do read his blog. That man loves manmade reverb and delay like most people love oxygen… And he designs his plugin interfaces using the NASA design manual so they’re safe and easy to use no matter what calamity befalls you when you’re trying to make a record. (Often mixing a record feels very like hurtling towards the atmosphere with very little control desperately trying to get a grip on anything that may help… At least in Apollo 13 they had someone on the freaking radio. At the crypt I don’t even get mobile signal….)
NB 2. Just realised that I’ve managed to write more words about dicking around with a radio than anyone else is going to write about actually like playing instruments and all that kind of stuff.
IDEA #5 – HUX
Bless Ed. You may have read his self deprecating words in last week’s blog, “I’m not very good at writing music by myself”. Well sure, it’s feels risky to put forward a fresh idea from scratch, but after Ed saying in our Zoom call last week that what he’d made “isn’t really music”, I thought I should big his writing up. I love it, and it sounds ace.
It took me a while to get my head around what I thought the sections in this were – and after our most recent call last night, it seems that my interpretation of where the sections fell remains different to Ed’s – perhaps that’ll prove interesting downstream.
Sooooo “what to make of Ed’s slightly maudlin lo-fi Casio beats and synths?” I thought. I tried some vocal melodies; things that could be a lead line, or a counterpoint to an imagined Wainwright vocal in weeks to come… and then I got caught up in a doubt loop of “ain’t no point in painting Si into a corner, and what if he writes a conflicting part?”, so ditched that attempt. I tried some slowish acoustic guitar with a repeated motif which reinforced the mood of Ed’s crunchy drums and shoe-gaze synth (I may resurrect this idea down the line). I ditched that too.
I took a break, and thought about how to move the song along. Ed’s part put me very much in mind of one of my favourite albums “Hope and Adams” by Wheat. Two (of the many) things I like about that record are when Wheat transition between two completely different feels/grooves while retaining the same structure/chords (a la “Raised Ranch Revolution”), and the busy but gentle bass drum on their biggest underground hit “Don’t I Hold You”.
With those two influences in mind, I took Ed’s “A section” and “B section”, copied and pasted them between the sections I thought of as Intro/Outro. I pulled out my 1987 Strat, my first “proper” guitar, and plumbed straight into my default gigging amp (Rat Amps modified Sub-zero r15… essentially a modded, badass Blue Junior) and tried the idea I’d heard in my head. This wasn’t really working for me with the existing parts, so I bunged in some looped kit (using Logic X’s drummer), edited it to have that Wheat inspired busy but gentle bass-drum feel, looped it, and doubled that on Steven Slate’s free Drum Plugin.
I then laid down the first of two blocky guitar parts that bounce from speaker to speaker – a bit of a self-reference from four Day Hombre’s “Teach Someone” – followed by the second. A bit of rough mixing, and I had an idea for guitar part three, a rolling half arpeggio/half melody, and that led to guitar part 4 – a bit of a gap filler that leads into Guit 3. So now we’ve got two separate, double guitar lines that can be used separately, or layered… in case you want alllllll the Me.
In my mix below, you’ll hear that what I’ve ended up doing is (completely disrespectfully) burying Ed’s parts. I still kinda hope that down the line that the fade/sections thing might happen (that’s unlikely I think – these are my likes, and even I got distracted from making that happen). But it’s time to pass it on, and see what Jim does with it next.
IDEA #6 – JAMES
I almost laughed out loud at how wide, polished and posh the guitars sounded already when I got this. Hux had definitely put more effort into making it sound good than I did last week (sorry Gary). I love this kind of 6/8 groove, the music sort of gently floats along but keeps a sense of forward momentum and urgency. My first instinct was to disrupt that a bit, chop it up with something a bit “other” and “shocking” without ruining what’s good about it. I tried to think what the aim was this week, last week was easy, come up with an idea. Fine. This week we had to move that idea exactly 1/6th of the way closer to becoming a complete song?!?! That is a weird concept. It also made me wonder how we are going to finish this whole project……we may not have fully thought this idea through fully but that’s future Hope and Socials’ problem. I choose to ignore those issues for now and just make some noise.
I’m really into making playable instruments from samples at the minute. Mainly due to my man crush on Christian Henson from Spitfire Audio, who preaches the importance of creating your own sample instruments as a way to finding your own sound. This coupled with Logics new updated sampler (which makes it unbelievably easy to make an instrument from any audio file) means I’m sampling anything that makes a noise at the minute. The first thing that caught my ear for this was the delay tail at the end so I grabbed that and stuck it into sampler, I think I added some effects, a couple of guitar pedals maybe. I also grabbed a short sample of the full mix and turned it into a distorted guitar chord that’s been repitched and thrown around the track. There’s a fuzz bass line added to the B section, (the chorus?) which is the only bass line I can play (root-fifth, you don’t need any other notes anyway). With any luck it will get deleted next week by Gary. I even tried out a bass solo before swiftly deleting that. Awful. By now I’m thinking this is starting to sound like exactly 1/3rd of a piece of music. Before saving and closing for another week I stuck in a few chords for a new section and whistled a melody over the “chorus” which I’m sure is from another H&S song……. which means it’s probably from somebody else’s song. Bonus points to anybody who can work out which one.
This track is now officially one third finished…….