Two new releases

The first release is my effort to take what action I can for Gaza. It’s hard not to feel powerless against the human rights violations being committed by Israel. You might have seen the video by Israeli film director Naomi Levari. So here is a piece of music I composed in response to it. Any proceeds will go to the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) whose aim is “…to participate in international efforts to put pressure on the Israeli state to cease its oppression of the Palestinian people”.

“I call on the Israeli government to behave like leaders and put an end to this bloodshed now!”

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The second release is Amplituhedron, a collection of ambient tracks from the forthcoming album. If the news is getting to you, switch it off and let yourself get lost in these pieces 🙂

About the music

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For Gaza is based on a very minimalist piece I demo’d back in 1992 using a Sony TC-200 tape recorder and a Yamaha CS-5. It was just the pulsing bassline and a riff that has now developed into the Turkish style strings. I visited Tunisia in 2004 and was inspired by their pop music, most of which comes from Turkey. Using modern time and pitch manipulation tools, I was able to combine the bassline with a rhythm track I had done in 1992 using the Casio SK-5 sampling keyboard. Helped by the lo-fi sound of the Casio and the Sony recorder it is hard hitting and militaristic sounding, inspired in part by the Art of Noise track A Time for Fear (Who’s Afraid?) which was a response to the invasion of Grenada and the craziness of war.

It was a coincidence that the track came together during the horrors in Gaza, so I poured a lot of emotion into the strings as I composed them on the keyboard. The track is not perfectly 100% polished but it hits the soul I think. I just had to try to do something for Gaza, however small. I will be remixing it for the album.

Chinaphone was inspired by a woman having a very loud phone conversation on the train from Bournemouth. I recorded her on my iPhone and added some Fairlight and tape echo when I got home.

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Slow Movement is another old piece, from around 1994. It was created using the rather cool step sequencer on the Casio CZ-5000. Cool because it lends itself easily to changing time signatures. I read about how Brian Eno used slowed down pianos for his Ambient 1 Music for Airports album, so I tried it with this piece and it worked much better than the original hi-energy dance track version 🙂

Voice Crystal is a piece I worked on with Michael O’Sullivan in 1994. Again it was a fast hi energy dance track on the Casio CZ-5000 with his wonderful acoustic guitar playing on top. It worked really well slowed down to about 10% of the original speed with Elastic Audio in Pro Tools, but with no change in pitch as I had done with Slow Movement. Using Melodyne I translated Mike’s guitar into the bright FM guitar sound at 25% of the original speed for a nice hypnotic effect.

Amplituhedron is a piece I demo’d in 1991 with the Casio SK-5, and again I slowed the tempo without changing the pitch. The sound character of the Casio gives the crystalline effect, which inspired the title. An amplituhedron is a geometric structure that enables simplified calculation of particle interactions in some quantum field theories (Wikipedia)

Slowing down these old compositions was not a mere gimmick. In the case of Amplituhedron I originally couldn’t make it slow enough because the Casio sampler was so limited- it didn’t have time stretch like most professional samplers of the time. The sequenced tracks originally had a youthful over exuberance and naievety, and were just a bit cheesy at speed. Slowing them down I think brings out their best qualities, they sound more mature- and they’re finally finished after twenty years! 🙂

Lovely!

I was going back through some emails and came across this lovely one. I sent an email to info@abbeyroad.com and got a lovely reply. 🙂

On 12 Sep 2009, at 6:36pm, Tomás Mulcahy wrote:

Hi,
Can you please pass this message on to the Beatles remastering team, especially Guy, Steve and Allan? Fantastic job, it’s like rediscovering the Beatles music all over again. Wonderful sound, well done. Beautiful packaging design and presentation of photos.

Thank you all!

Best wishes,
Tomás.

On 18 Sep 2009, at 1:11 pm, Newson, Jackie wrote:

Dear Tomás
On behalf of the team at Abbey Road I would like to thank you for the courtesy you have shown in emailing us with your kind words. When we embarked on this project we realised that it would be impossible to please everybody, particularly in view of the fact that this was The Beatles. However once we had decided on the approach that the team wished to take to satisfy ourselves, we then had to get the approval of Apple and EMI. Once that had been achieved the job was done, we were happy, Apple and EMI were happy and we are gratified that you too are happy.

Thank you.

Allan Rouse
Project coordinator

Going Under

Here’s a track from our forthcoming album. The song celebrates the heroes of Chernobyl.

After the explosion it was determined that all the water that was being dumped into the reactor area to quench the fires was in fact pooling in rooms below the now molten reactor core. If the core melted into the chambers below the steam explosion would kill everyone on site, and render an area of hundreds of miles around completely uninhabitable from fallout. The radiation within the buildings was immense.

Three divers volunteered: Alexei Ananenko, Valeri Bezpalov, and Boris Baranov. Their light failed almost immediately, and they were forced to procede underwater, through the dark. The sluice gates opened some time later, and the water was drained. The men never left the lower chambers, and were entombed when the Sarcophagus was built around the site.

Nik Kershaw at Cork Opera House

So, Nik Kershaw- he’s now a well off millionaire who likes performing and writing music. The last time he was in Cork I was eleven. I nearly missed it this time, the Opera House are not the best at advertising these days. I heard about it from his mailing list, but since the gig there must be five or six people who exclaimed that they’d have gone if they’d known about it. The market’s there, but unfortunately the Opera House is not tapping in to it.

Nik is doing the tour with an acoustic guitar and a loop pedal. Hence No Frills. So is it any good? Read on…

So the venue was slightly  less than half full. The balcony was blocked with a cool white tent roof. The atmosphere was great and the sound was excellent. Nik used the new Fishman Aura acoustic guitar pre amp, and it sounded really good. He didn’t get the loop quite right on the Boss pedal for the solo on the first song, but he played on.

For some songs he was not enjoying it, just going through the motions. But on most songs he was inspired and happy. He did a wonderful version of Dancing Girls in 3/4 time. The original was an advanced synth arrangement worthy of Detroit or Dusseldorf; this new version was the the dark inside of a man’s head. He performed some songs that are not on his current acoustic album, such as Faces (which was brilliant) and the Chesney Hawkes hit I am the one and only. He said “If I had a pound for every time I played that… oh wait, I do!” He’s actually quite funny, and has strong political views also- he performed an anti Bush song inspired by Michael Moore’s film Stupid White Men: “…a fundamental christian, ya fundament is right”.  He also did an old hit that sounded like a Hungarian folk tune for the verses, but I can’t remember what it was.

Don Quixote was a great example of his subtle musicianship. Using the loop pedal in the outro, he built up a three part harmony over three bars. He just did the three bars and that was it. A lot of effort for a short motif, but absolutely worth it! His voice was almost always syncopating over the guitar backing, crossing the bar lines in a wonderfully fluid and free manner. He is a gifted performer and he definitely still has the X factor.

All his old albums are on iTunes. I chose to record my vinyl copies instead, because the CDs are around STG£23 on Amazon. But do get your hands on the songs one way or another, and then treat yourself to his No Frills album, which is basically the current tour on CD. He has revised his old songs incredibly well, getting all of the original orchestrations into the guitar parts, shedding a new light on the old themes.

Barcelona

I was inspired by another great European city. It was amazing to visit a Gaudi house, where everything even the furniture was designed with one vision. It makes a very calming environment. The city is very well run and is excellent for tourists. They are very proud of their city, and rightly so! I even bought some music gear, the street prices are the same as the online retailers like Thomann. So considering all of that, sometimes I wonder why I live in this country. Cork city has the potential to be a Barcelona, both cities have some excellent 19th century buildings. Unfortunately the City Council are unable to get bast internal bickering. Maybe someday!!

Click here for pics.

Dynamic Range Day

Well, I missed it! But this is very important. I just got the new Ellie Goulding and Marina and the Diamonds CDs, and they’re distorted to make them sound loud. Such a shame. It gets annoying, I can never find a comfortable level to listen to this music at. It’s fine in the noisy environment of the car, but on an iPod or home hi-fi it gets irritating.

Recently I mastered The Butterfly Graveyard, and they were AOK with not distorting it. It sounds like a well done CD from the mid nineties. So there is hope!