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The Exquisite Corpse



Big & Twigetti have announced a new collaborative album in conjunction with Moderna Records. ‘The Exquisite Corpse’ is based on the surrealist game of the same name. Taking my piece 'Little Phase' from the
Big & Twigetti Summer compilation as it's starting point, the piece has been/will be reworked by a series of composers and producers to create an album of tracks which continually evolve as each new version is passed from one artist to another, adding to and transforming material from the original piece. The group will be releasing a new track from the album every 2-3 weeks with the full album available in April 2017. My own contribution will be coming in early 2017. Watch this space x
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Duchess (Scott Walker cover)



In late October a few friends and I went in to Visconti Studio to make a track and 'learn how to use the new kit'. The timing was good, as the God Is In The TV Zine had recently asked me to contribute to their Scott Walker covers compilation Plastic Palace People. With help from fellow KU music colleague Alex Evans, and my very good friend Andrew Wiggins, we knocked out this version of Duchess in an evening: me on piano, vocals, drums and mellotron, Andy on guitar, percussion and bvs, Alex on Hammond organ, mellotron, percussion and bvs. Fun!

Leah on the drums, Alex in the control room.

A photo posted by Andrew (@alboreto) on





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Little Phase

Here's a new thing from me, using bits of an unused composition written for the Notes on Blindness film, the Visconti Studio mellotron (my Bae) and some laid back beats and other hazy electronic bits.

From the Bigo & Twigetti limited edition
'Summer' release.



Notes On Blindness

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I was thrilled to be able to contribute some original music and instrumental arrangements to this wonderful film, working in collaboration with my partner Ben Dawson, under the guidance of my good friend James Ewers who wrote and produced most of the original soundtrack.

Based on the Emmy Award-winning short film of the same name, Notes on Blindness is the debut feature from Writer-Directors Peter Middleton & James Spinney, whose work explores new approaches in the documentary form. The project is based on the audio diaries of writer and theologian John Hull, who – after decades of steady deterioration – became totally blind in 1983.

To help him make sense of the upheaval in his life, he began keeping a diary on audio-cassette.

Over three years he recorded in excess of sixteen hours of material – a unique testimony of loss, rebirth and renewal, which excavates the interior world of blindness. Neurologist Oliver Sacks described John’s account as ‘the most extraordinary, precise, deep and beautiful account of blindness I have ever read. It is to my mind a masterpiece.’

Embedding original documentary elements within cinematic interpretations and textured sound design (from acclaimed Supervising Sound Editor Joakim Sundström), the filmmakers take the viewer on an illuminating and deeply personal journey deep into what John calls “a world beyond sight”.

The film will be released in the UK on July 1st with Curzon Artificial Eye.

 ”Elegant, evocative and deeply affecting”   Wendy Ide, Screen Daily

“One of Sundance’s most visually arresting documentaries”  Patricia Thomson, American Cinematographer




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'Kyrie' remix

Here's my remix of 'Kyrie' from Jim Perkins & Tom Gaisford's upcoming 'Byrds' release. Available to preorder here, out on the 24th of May.



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Variables (various artists)




From the 24th August and over 7 days, I was invited along with some other bigo & twigetti artists and special guests to assist in collaboratively writing, arranging, performing, recording, editing and mastering an album from scratch to release. The experiment is complete, and you can stream/download Variables on Bandcamp now.

The album features contributions from Jim Perkins, Tiny Leaves, Lucy Claire, Chris Perren (Nonsemble), Antonymes, Richard Talbot (Marconi Union) & myself. For an experiment in subverting individual process and authorship, I think there are some genuinely lovely moments that have come out of this. It's also received some nice feedback from Stationary Travels and was "approved" by Complete Music Update. Richard Allen at A Closer Listen called it "sublime", commenting further that "the collaborative spirit is alive and well at bigo & twigetti; we congratulate the artists on a beautiful set that seems like it might have taken a year to complete, had we not known otherwise."

Some photos from my activities in the week:

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Violist Ariane Alexander

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A broken harpsichord I found in a store room


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Feather Hammer throwbacks

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forty eight - EP

Created working in turns, collaboratively over 48 hours last weekend with other B&T artists:




Memory Machine

I have three new tracks on Bigo & Twigetti's Spring 2014 sampler, dropping later this month.











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B&T Winter Sampler and 'Name Your Price' Day

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May I draw your attention to this beautiful little compilation from Bigo & Twigetti. Click the artwork to go to the Bandcamp page, where you can stream the tracks. Listen to it while you watch the rain through the window.

If you like what you hear, you might be interested to know that the label is holding another "Name Your Price" day. It works just like it sounds, you can pay anything (even zero*) to download anything in the label's catalogue. Starting at 12.00am the 11th of February, for 24 hours you will be able to decide what you wish to pay for any and all of Bigo & Twigetti's releases on
Bandcamp. Set yourself a reminder to check it out, you could get a whole heap of brilliant music for a bargain.

*if you decide to pay 'zero' to download my stuff, can you promise me that you'll listen closely, all the way through at least once? thx

Finally, I feel like I need to share this great
review of Three Preludes by R. Andrew Lee, that has just been posted on I Care If You Listen. Obviously it means so much when a pianist you admire greatly praises the piano music you have created. BTW if you're a fan of piano music and minimalism you should drop what you're doing and check out his recordings, if you haven't already. I recommend it all, but especially Duckworth's Time Curve Preludes and Dennis Johnson's November.


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Three Preludes EP - Out Now (updated)

If you're interested in listening, it is free to stream from Bandcamp and Spotify, and available to purchase from Bandcamp and iTunes and most other online music retailers.

A limited edition of 50 hand painted physical copies with artwork by Jim Perkins can be purchased
here. I've even written out the CD inlays myself...

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Orann

Constructed with the mistakes and accidents and little unintended thumpy squeaky piano sounds that occurred during recording of the Three Preludes.




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The Three Preludes EP (18.11.13)

The Three Preludes were written for pianist Ben Dawson. Conceived first as a birthday present, and secondly as a small experiment in ‘people processes’, this EP focussed on music’s changing states: from score to performance to recording and beyond.

Working in the studio on my own compositions, everything is exactly how I intend it to be; when you press play you hear the very version I created for you to hear. But when somebody performs a score (essentially abstract system of symbols and instructions), it is different every time. That got me thinking about the value of performance situations: what would this score sound like if it was being read for the first time - where would the player trip? would they gloss over inaccuracies, cover up and continue or stop altogether? If he was going to rehearse a difficult passage, what speed would he choose and where would the passage start and end? What would it sound like through a wall as background noise to some other activity? Capturing these 'versions', and seeing accidents and anomalies as variations, I felt the pieces evolving into something else - something bigger than what I had started with.

I peppered the score with moments of vagueness and 'unplayable' bits designed to force the pianist to make a creative decision in the moment, and we recorded the first read through and initial rehearsals. The extra musical material created off the back of these preludes was used to inform the final recorded versions, and provided the all of the source audio for the three accompanying experimental pieces. 

The Three Preludes EP will be released by
Bigo & Twigetti on November 18th, 2013. There will be a limited physical release featuring hand painted artwork by Jim Perkins - I'll post more information about that soon.

Three Preludes

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Fighters - Remixed




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Guest blog for Ruthless Jabiru

Kelly invited me to write a blog post on the Ruthless Jabiru website about KICK, my new work for string orchestra specially written for the group. In it I explain what KICK is and what inspired its creation.

Click here to check it out.


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"Kick" World Premiere, 09/05/13

Ruthless Jabiru is to give a public concert next month at Australia House, London. Conducted by Kelly Lovelady, the programme includes works by Brett Dean and John Adams and will feature the world premiere of 'Kick', my new piece for string orchestra, commissioned for this very event.

The performance, to be held on 9 May, will be hosted by the Government of Western Australia, alongside a reception of West Australian fine wines.

Click here for ticket & RSVP info


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I Care If You Listen - Spring 2013 Mixtape

Click on the cover image to check out the Spring 2013 mixtape, a free download compilation put together by the guys at I Care If You Listen, which I'm very chuffed to have been included on.

Lots of fabulous music that you can download and enjoy guilt free. :)

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Lyrics

I've had a few people ask me about the lyrics and if they could read them, so I thought I'd oblige and post them here for everyone to find.

If you're interested in that sort of thing,
CLICK HERE to see the lyric sheets in full, as sung on the album "Machines", with the original spam messages alongside.

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Machines available for pre-order now

Machines is available to pre-order now from Bigo & Twigetti's Bandcamp, with the full release coming on March the 1st. There's even a preview of the opening track "Incantation" featuring the ever wonderful Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz on vocals:




Exciting times! Meanwhile, you must forgive me for laying low for the moment; usually I would be plugging an album launch event and promoting the hell out of things but it appears that I'm chained to my computer writing up my PhD for the next two months. The plan is, once I have handed everything in, to throw a belated album launch party/event and schedule some live performances of Machines in late spring/early summer. Watch this space for updates. x


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Machines - coming March 1, 2013

Check out the cover art for my next album! I commissioned my extremely talented artist friend Kristian Purcell (who was also responsible for the artwork on Feather Hammer) for the photo and I couldn't be happier with the way it has turned out. I adore it so much!

Machines will be released by
Bigo & Twigetti on the 25th of February, 2013, and features guest vocals from Australian soprano Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz and the lovely Catherine Saumarez on Cello.

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"... and darkness came"

I was so chuffed and honoured to be asked to contribute a track to this amazing benefit compilation curated by Headphone Commute. It's a killer lineup of artists, featuring many personal heroes of mine (Clint Mansell! Hauschka! Nils Frahm!), who wouldn't be honoured to be in this crowd? The aim is to raise money to help people who were affected by Hurricane Sandy, with 100% of the proceeds being donated towards Doctors Without Borders and The Humane Society. It's a gigantic release featuring 87 artists and over 6 hours of gorgeous music; $10 = bargain of the year!



Here is info from Headphone Commute:

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… and darkness came

December, 2012
$10+ USD

Headphone Commute is incredibly proud and honored to announce a colossal benefit compilation, with 100% of the proceeds being donated towards two charitable organizations, Doctors Without Borders and The Humane Society, to help all those affected by Hurricane Sandy!

Available as a download via above link on
Bandcamp (320kbps MP3, OGG, FLAC, etc.), this digital release is sold for only $10 or more if you wish to donate towards our cause. The selection of tracks comes from some of the world’s top talent in ambient, modern classical, and experimental music.

Clint Mansell • Nils Frahm • Hauschka • Machinefabriek • Valgeir Sigurðsson  • Christoph Berg • Hummingbird • Simon Scott • Marcus Fischer • Peter Broderick • Black Swan • Rival Consoles • Lawrence English • Kate Carr • Ólafur Arnalds • Waves On Canvas • Maps And Diagrams •  Dalot • Good Weather For An Airstrike • Leah Kardos • Ezekiel Honig • Radere • Fabrizio Paterlini • Netherworld • Stephan Mathieu • Talvihorros • Pleq • Antonymes • Brambles • Clem Leek • Minus Pilots • Olan Mill • Ian Hawgood • loscil • Bersarin Quartett • Hammock • M.Cadoo • Jóhann Jóhannsson • Rafael Anton Irisarri • Helios • Mike Jedlicka • Christopher Willits • :papercutz • Dakota Suite • Kreng • Aria Rostami • Peter Prautzch • The Frozen Vaults • riverrun • pinkcourtesyphone • David Wenngren • offthesky • Autistici • Strië • A Bleeding Star • Kane Ikin • Sun Hammer • Roel Funcken • Wabi Experience • Another Electronic Musician • Scanner • Erik K Skodvin • Julien Neto • Absent Without Leave • Last Days • Stray Ghost • Trifonic • Marcus Fjellström • Gen Ken Montgomery • David Newlyn • Boy Is Fiction • SaffronKeira • Ben Lukas Boysen • Ex Confusion • Seth Chrisman


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Ruthless Jabiru

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Ruthless Jabiru, performing at the City of London Festival, 2011, conducted by Kelly Lovelady.

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Artistic Director and conductor Kelly Lovelady. Photo © Paul Talbot Photography


I'm so happy to announce that I have been commissioned for a major new work by Kelly Lovelady's all-Australian London-based chamber orchestra Ruthless Jabiru. Aiming for a premiere performance in London in March 2013, it will be a 15 minute piece for strings that abstractly explores themes of modern sensuality and sound. Here's a little snippet from my proposal that explains what I hope to achieve:

Focussing on a language characterised by texture, timbre and harmony, I would like to compose a continuous 15 minute work for string orchestra (Ruthless Jabiru) that abstractly explores ideas of modern sensuality, in particular aggressive feminine sexuality, and notions of power and control. Nothing timid or pastel here, nor will it be overly dark and morose, but a picture painted in vivid beautiful colours. I would like to tease out some ideas about the language that is implied by the contentious term "woman composer" and twist them around, subverting expectations. 


The string orchestra is the perfect ensemble to orchestrate with a view to pinching ideas from the realm of the studio composer/producer, where the sonic and timbral possibilities are so diverse and flexible, and yet from a sound world so well worn and timbral language so familiar. I want to play with compositional and sonic concepts that I commonly hear being exploited in studio based music production, but rarely in orchestral writing; ideas that relate to perception, psychoacoustics and the communicative power of timbre. Observing the internal listening process, which is coloured by context, and then trying to recreate that sensation externally in a concert hall. I want to try and emulate the throbbing compression effect of  "ducking" to play with sound priorities in a live performance space - perhaps turning tiny sounds into giants and the well known big sounds of a string orchestra into something very distant and small. Real and 'fake' reverberence to achieve illusions of distance and size. 


These are just some of the ideas I wish to play with, to add new colours to the tonal pallette in order to furnish and illustrate a (what will probably be quite dirty) story.

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Incantation

I'm so happy to be writing about this, finally! I had full intentions of getting it done over the summer break, but the work got pushed back and pushed back by commercial things that I just couldn't say no to (gotta eat, etc). Never mind, it's coming together now, only a few months later than planned.

My next record for Bigo & Twigetti, which is still yet untitled but currently being referred to as "Machines", is a song cycle based on themes of technology, loneliness and the human condition. All of the texts have been taken from various spam emails that I have been collecting over the past few years, using the cut-up technique to find new combinations, meanings and narratives - an idea nicked from Burroughs via Bowie. I'm not wanting to give the world the impression that I spend all of my spare time pouring over every unsolicited email (bear with me), but over time a few messages that I've seen have caught my eye, seemed poignant; the random texts generated in a few created nice images and juxtapositions in my mind. Overall I was arrested by the notion of humans trying/wanting/needing to reach each other for whatever reason, and the kinds of things they will say in order to seduce, ensnare, or foster feelings of trust. What lengths we go to to be noticed.

These kinds of things:

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From here, and the resulting cut-ups, the cycle began to take shape; songs about intimacy and insecurity, greed, automation and screaming into the void. I could yap on about it all, but I think I'll leave that stuff for another time. For now, there's a little snippet from "Incantation" (still a work in progress, featuring the gorgeous voice of Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz) on the Bigo & Twigetti soundcloud:

http://soundcloud.com/bigoandtwigetti/leah-kardos-incantation-clip/s-3EBLR

More to come very soon, I promise. x

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CUBO on Deep Bleep

Check out this mix by Brazilian producer CUBO for Deepbleep.com - the last track (at 32.11) is a collaboration with Cubo and Ana Eliza Colomar that uses some takes from Feather Hammer's 'The Waiting'. I think it's just lovely.

If you can understand Portugese, check out a short interview from the man himself over on
deepbleep.com.br



00:00 | DIGIGARDEN (with Panais Bouki) – Chronos 01 | 2008
03:12 | PABX (with Estevan Sinkovitz) – Chuva [remix] | 2009
06:25 | CUBO – K7 Demagnetizer: It’s A Fine Day In The Hidden Place [mashup] | 2011
09:30 | NEUTRA (with Fernando de França) – Under Empty Places | 1998
13:15 | THE LAPTOP BOYS (with Panais Bouki) – “Wonder”, to Claudia Wonder [demo] | 2006
14:18 | CUBO – Cry feat. Dot Allison [remix] | 2008
17:40 | CUBO – Copal: Sétimo Sonho (with Astrid Hage and Gabriel Levy) [demo] | 2009
19:35 | CUBO – K7 Demagnetizer: Intro + Rolling In The Time [mashup] | 2011
23:06 | VISAVIS (with Panais Bouki) – Despedida | 2004
25:37 | PABX (with Estevan Sinkovitz) – Rádio [remix] | 2010
29:05 | VISAVIS (with Panais Bouki) – Degradê | 2005
32:11 | CUBO – Copal: Dia (with Leah Kardos and Ana Eliza Colomar) [demo] | 2009

And while you're listening to the mix, you really should feast your eyes on this wonderful art book that accompanies the project:

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SEQUENCE3

cover
futuresequence is a wonderful experimental music label and magazine that have been putting out these amazing SEQUENCE compilations for free download, sharing and promoting gorgeous new music, making the world a better and more interesting place by doing so.

I am so very happy to be included on their latest release
SEQUENCE3. It features a never-been-heard-before alternate version of DFACE (Practice This Video) from Feather Hammer.

Click here, or the gorgeous cover art to the right, to stream or download the whole 39 track release, it's beautiful. Or click below to hear my contribution.




Feather Hammer is coming 19:09:11

This might be welcome news for anyone out there who has been following the progress of various demos and Feather Hammer experiments on this blog over the last few months. The finished album will be available from 19th of September! Behold the beautiful album cover art by Kristian Purcell.

I've taken down the demos from my soundcloud account - big thank you to everyone who listened and commented and helped me. The finished album will be available from Monday the 19th of September from my bandcamp page, which you can access instantly by clicking the 'music' link on the site menu above. I'll be back soon to post details about the album launch/premier performance event happening on the 25th of November at The Wilmington in London. Exciting times!



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dface (Practice This Video)

Another demo of a Feather Hammer piece [edit: the Feather Hammer demos have been taken down] "dface (Practice This Video)" uses the audio track from an instructional Youtube video (included at the bottom of this post) and a collection of patterns that mostly use the notes DFACEG, the spaces of the treble clef, though not necessarily in that specific range. I'm not sure how close to the finished product this piece is, there are about 3 very different versions that exist and one of those could very well make it on to the album. However, in making this particular version I tried out a new method of writing that I thought was worth a comment.

Approaching this piece the primary aim is creating interesting textures and playing with the proximity of those sounds. A secondary aim is to recall the feeling of early piano lessons and repetitive practice routines, pattern based technical exercises, the warmth of harmonies built from 3rds. After recording the various patterns using a variety of mic types and positions, I used Logic's space designer, delay designer, some FabFilters, in addition to scissors, stretch and flex-time to manipulate the material. Each "part" to the arrangement is a unique pattern that repeats, so my starting point was this thick texture of all of the looped up cycles working at the same time. The arrangement you hear in the demo below is the result of "carving" into that cyclic material, editing, erasing and eliminating certain bits to create some sense of form. This way of working reminds me of a method my artist friend Kristian Purcell often describes to me, of applying thick layers of media and then carefully stripping it away to reveal the piece.

Here's where I got the sample from:



Big thanks to PianoforteMaestro for letting me use it.

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CUBO: COPAL

I'm so excited about this. You may remember back around new year I was posting a few improvisations with the curious title "Copal". It was for a collaborative project with Brazil based composer/producer CUBO, aka Nivaldo Godoy.

We met (in the virtual sense) on the Steve Reich remix contest in Indaba, and he invited me to take part. It started with a facebook group, initially with people posting videos and pictures of dream-like subject matter. I responded to the stimuli with some improvisations, and from there the music passed through many hands - singers, guitarists, composers, arrangers, sound designers - so many talented people have their fingerprints on this thing. I'm glad I got to be one of them.

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More AV from Spider & I

A couple more AV realisations have been created for the AV performance project. First up, a reworking of a Black Mouth of August movement III: Silent Movie. This loosely improvised track uses a MIDI foot switch to drive various digital effects - bit crushing, delays, static. These effects are also linked to the video mixing.



The next piece uses/recycles parts of the Feather Hammer sessions, working with infinite loops and sampling/retriggering. The warped piano sound is a beatmapped filter effect I just discovered by accident, which made the whole thing sound about 80% more evil than I originally intended! The strange video just adds to the "eraserhead" vibe.

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Core



This video is a demo for a live audio visual project I have developed with Matthew Greasley - something about creating experimental textures and surreal imagery that we can manipulate and improvise through live performance. At the moment we're collecting a new live set - the stuff is mostly being drawn from the Feather Hammer project, but a few older pieces might also get a look-in (like the ill-fated Black Mouth of August project, for example).

This piece, Core, is an unusual one for me as it started life as a poem. I'm a terrible poet so there's no chance of me posting the thing here, I only mention it because it's a strange way for me to work - from words; taking a picture in my mind and abstracting it with imagery and language, then further abstracting it into music and sound. The best bit is passing the music over to Matt Greasley to see what he sees in it. The final beautiful abstraction that gives the whole thing a new context.

I am loving the imagery Matt is coming up with - the perfect soft/heavy subject matter to match the style of the music.

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Experiment in Subtraction

While playing around with piano textures - notes and ambient noises - I came upon this interesting thing. I took an improvised piano solo recorded in December (Copal 1, you may have heard it from a few blog posts down), and used other sounds from "around" the piano to support it in an arrangement - to create atmosphere, texture, mood, a pulse.

Then I took out the core element, the improvised piano solo, and just left the "around" sounds. It's an interesting result, the empty space left by the missing piano part is almost like a silhouette.

[edit: I've since taken these demos down, since they became The Waiting, both versions appear finished on the Feather Hammer album]

I'm reminded that I've done this kind thing before - back when Helzuki were writing in the studio, many of the arrangements started with piano parts that I had written. As band members added their layers to the arrangement, we all found the song worked better if we took the original part out, leaving all the stuff that had been constructed around it to hold the thing up.

Imma try out this method some more. It suits me, since my improvs sometimes come out sounding a bit basic and obvious. This could be a cool way to use that material in a backwards kinda way.

In other news, the My Lithium & Me project is being noticed and listened by the best people:
sweetoblivion blogged about it, Boy George downloaded and listened to it, and it was featured on David Bowie's very own site as a news item. Fair to say I'm absolutely chuffed at the reaction it's getting. In little over a week since releasing it I've had over 5700 plays and nearly 2300 downloads via soundcloud, which is just awesome! Thanks everyone!

________
Update - here's a video demo by Matthew Greasley to go with the non-piano version of the track:



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You Cant Hide Beat

You know I'm a massive David Bowie fan, right? I'm not ashamed to say I'm a little bit obsessed. Hidden away in private fangirl seclusion, I've often enjoyed bashing out the odd cover version to myself - mainly the piano-driven ones (Time, Changes, both Ladies, Grinning Soul and Stardust, that kind of thing). Almost like a ritual, it’s another way to experience and appreciate the music from the inside out. Generally speaking, I despise most cover versions of songs that I love - why mess with something that already exists and is pretty much perfect? For this reason, I've never done this sort of thing in public often, and when I have it's only ever been for an audience of friends and fellow fans.
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The first of the three Bowie cover gigs I’ve performed was for Trevor's 49th birthday party. Trev is a lovely man and Bowie fan of legend who I had gotten to know through BowieNet (www.davidbowie.com). He had asked my band to come and play the gig - I was fronting for Helzuki at the time. The band couldn't make it but I decided to offer to play some covers instead. Lugging my red furry piano, I pitched up and played a set of slightly more obscure/unobvious numbers. I met a few quizzical looks, but on the whole it went down pretty well. He invited me back the following year for his 50th birthday party - again with my piano, again with a new set of slightly off-kilter interpretations. Standout surreal moment of that party: singing Under Pressure with a Bowie impersonator.

The third, and last, time I did this was for Phil's 40th birthday party in February 2010. For Phil (another lovely man and Bowie fan of legend whom I had gotten to know via BowieNet), I wanted to do something a little bit different. With the party being held in a venue in SE London, it was impossible to lug my heavy piano across the city on the Tube. I decided to perform with my keytar, doing a set of songs in an electro style. I thought it might be funny and give the fans a bit of a laugh (while solving my
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transport issues, since the Roland AX-7 weighs about the same as a cricket bat). I created some backing tracks in the studio, going for a Lady Gaga meets Goldfrapp kinda vibe. I cut the drum loop from the beginning of Soul Love and used it to accompany my new version of Always Crashing In The Same Car. I took the piano riff from Aladdin Sane and used it to flesh out the backing for I'm Deranged. So cheeky, I thought, and only a fan would have the awareness to spot it. After the gig, I had mixed reviews - in the eyes of some I had desecrated the holy relics, others loved it and asked if they could buy recordings from me. This was the best reaction yet, I thought to myself. Mental-note: I should record these for a laugh.

Once the summer hols had started, and I had a bit of spare time, I decided to get Liz to come up to Bedford and help me get the vocals down. I'd chosen six tracks, some new and some from Phil's electro birthday set. We got drunk on Jack Daniel’s and I bellowed out the lyrics while she pressed record in the control room. It was FUNNY. The productions were crude, bashed out quickly in a DIY-bedroom style. We joked about getting gothed up and posing for a cover photo in the woods sitting in a tree, and about how horrified the fans would be when they heard what we had done.

But, as time passed, it started getting serious, with the suggestion of a possible news feature about it on BowieNet. Liz arranged for the artwork to be done by the infamous Rex Ray, whom she is friends with. I started to panic - I enlisted my friend Paul Ross to help me with the productions. I started all the arrangements again; for the first time I had to really think about what I wanted to do with these songs - how could I put a modern spin on this, without taking the piss?

Inspiration came from everywhere - starting with Bowie's own back catalogue, which I scoured for usable samples to embed in my arrangements. Anyone who reads my blog will know that I'm really into this idea of using recordings as resources to construct new things, so I figured why not try it out here? At best, it might suggest new shades of meaning through association and memory; at worst it would be a type of treasure hunt/guessing game for the fans. Other inspiration came from a general desire to make a modern sounding trip-hop record - something that I have wanted to do for ages now; mixing the deep downtempo sounds of 90's-style trip-hop with more modern timbres you might associate with current pop or dubstep.

I've worked hard on this, and I'm proud of the result. I'm honoured and humbled by the volunteered involvement of so many talented and creative people:
Kristian Purcell painting my face to look like Screaming Lord Byron and taking the cover photo, Rex Ray volunteering to design the cover and make a fangirl's dream come true, Matt Greasley and Izzy Foster for making those beautiful videos, Paul Ross, who helped me raise the bar on this project and spent many long evenings after work making my voice sound good, my boyfriend Matt for putting up with my absenteeism and helping with the mastering... and not forgetting Liz Tray who was there, drunk and giggling with me in the beginning, who really championed this project and pushed it from being nothing more than a joke to something we can both be proud of.

Here it is:

You Can't Hide Beat

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Feather Hammer

Unelma oil
I am so pleased to finally be able to write about this project!

The Feather Hammer is an ambient piano record I have just finished writing and am about to commence production on. The artwork to the left will be the cover, a wonderful piece by Kristian Purcell called "Unelma 1".

The record will comprise of piano sounds - played music and ambient sounds recorded "around" the music (a longer more detailed blog on this aspect will probably come soon) - and location recordings taken from around Bedford, mostly the college campus where I work.

Strongly inspired by Bjork's
Vespertine, with its percussion tracks utilising soft intimate non-musical sounds (shuffling cards, clinking cutlery, footsteps through snow), and Amon Tobin's Foley Room where textures of found sounds are built up to create heavy, thick ambiences. Other influences come from the Harold Budd/Eno collaborations and Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works. The focus will be on combining and manipulating recorded audio, avoiding synthesis and most digital effects.

At the centre of the production is a collection of 9 solo piano compositions that have been traditionally scored and performed by me. I am quite excited about this project as it is the first where I really get to try out all my fancy PhD process ideas and experiment with production concepts gleaned from psychoacoustic research. It's an extra treat that I get to perform on my favourite instrument. Due to me not being able to say no to anyone or anything, it's been on the back burner for a while... but this is where my heart is at the moment, it's all I want to work on. I don't want to say I'll have it done in early 2011, since I have a pile of commitments bearing down on me over the holiday season. As progress is made I will update the blog with news, ideas and demos but for now... isn't the cover just lovely?
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2x5 Movement III (remixed by me)

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it's little bits of nothing...

cover art by Kristian Purcell
I cannot believe it - the Helzuki EP that has been taking over a year to pull together has finally arrived! All it took was for me to sit down at 11pm last night and finish mixing the sodding thing - something I have been putting off for months and months.

The songs took a while to record, and even longer to mix. The recording process was veerrrry casual - maybe one or two wine-fuelled evenings a month at best we would get together to spend on it. And we wanted so many layers, despite being only a three-piece band - the attraction of the newly built studio in our house made us want to experiment and see how much we could get away with. Then came the mixing...

At first we struggled with the mix, partly because of the number of layers we had put down, but mostly because we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. Then we stopped mixing because I got a new bit of kit in the studio and I was convinced that we had to start again - I think it was when the Liquid Mix arrived. Then, when Matt had mixed the first three tracks, I decided that I was ‘sick and tired’ of the songs and left it in his hands (his slow, methodical but admittedly consistent hands)... I was all “I don’t wanna know about it, don’t wanna hear those songs again!”. I think I was just frustrated with the slow pace of things.

Then, I started my PhD studies and suddenly all my spare time was gone. Matt was sort of mixing this project on and off, just to get it done and out of the way... and around this time we somehow decided that our old studio monitors were too coloured (which they were...) and we replaced them. Hence the need to start mixing again. Then, shortly after that I bought some sweet mastering plugins, and at this point I was just like “oh hell, give me those mixes, I’ll bang them out in an hour”. Which, after all the previous drama, is exactly what I did in the end!

All said and done, I think I am proud of these songs. They represent a fun time of experimentation and sharing of ideas, and a super steep learning curve in many respects - I learned so much about multitrack recording, and even more about my own creativity and how I can work with others.

The E.P. is available for free from
www.helzuki.co.uk, and will be on iTunes and Amazon and everywhere else in a few days. Hoorah!


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