Still Life

For over ten years now I have been sharing photos, stories, and thoughts on life and technology but there’s one small part of who I am creatively that has not managed to show up among these pages, at least not very much, and that is music of my own creation. Photography and stories come easy, they are universal, focused, easy to accept for a wide audience, but music… music is an entirely different animal. Sharing original music feels so much more venerable to me somehow. A lot of what I have shared here over the years has been to fight a fear of judgement and underlying anxiety about my creative work and this long standing hesitation is no different.

That said, a couple of months ago I decided to shake off that anxiety and share some music I have been working on over the course of the past year. After choosing which music fit best together as an album, working on finishing up a few of the songs, and doing a bit of at-home mastering, I am happy to present “Still Life,” a full length album of my own music. It has heavily ambient leanings and was largely inspired by a desire to collect memories through sound and music.

For those of you interested, I thought I would take a few minutes and let you know a little bit about my history with music making in general, the story behind this collection of music, and the details of its release. Not interested? Thats cool, you can jump over to the release page on Bandcamp here, but if you would like to know more, lets press on.

Electronic-centric music and I go a long way back, to the late 90’s/ Early 00’s when I started to discover how weird and wonderful it could be through the likes of Aphex Twin, Autechre, Nobukazu Takeura, Clark, Four Tet, Squarepusher, and countless others who were paving the way for a new generation of exciting new sounds and boundless creativity. I started making music with a friend of mind under the name A Drop In Silence and we had a nice run making the craziest music our young minds could come up with but life caught up with us and my music making slowed more or less to a halt over time.

About a year and a half ago I found an opportunity to pick up a Teenage Engineering OP-1, a magic little box of synthesis, sampling, and multi track recording, and it inspired me to start setting aside time to create music again. Using the OP-1 along with other portable hardware including the Roland JP-80 (which I forgot to put in my liner notes, oops), Organelle, Volca Sampler, nearly all of the Pocket Operators, a piano, and a cool verb+delay guitar pedal called the Avalanche Run, I started to put together songs from time to time, and by that I mean, whenever I could manage to actually find more than a few short minutes to create something concrete. This simplified the recording process greatly; many of the tracks are first takes and all were recorded on the fly one layer at a time.

Music making has become a meditative processes for me, all of this music was made in reaction to the circumstances at the time each piece was recorded and to accent the theme of this music being about memory and meditation I stated to listen through old field recordings that I made while traveling in Japan and India, and also incorporated sounds from the environments in which I created these songs such as the top of a mountain, inside a diner or coffee shop, or at the shore of a lake or ocean. These recordings ended up feeling as much a part of the music as the melodies and sounds so I left a number of them to have breathing room of their own throughout the album.

Which brings us to the release. I have chosen to distribute this through Bandcamp because I don’t have the time or money to deal with getting it distributed to a wider set of platforms. Bandcamp releases are a big part of what inspired me to put together an album of music and release it to begin with. It is, hands down, the best platform available today for independent musicians and labels. You can stream the whole thing there on the product page before and after purchasing it so I figured there is no need to mess around with the cumbersome mess of Soundcloud or Youtube for previews.

The base price of a digital copy is just $5 and the digital version contains additional “bonus” tracks which are edits to three of the songs on the album that I had made while working on putting the album together and thought they were worth sharing.

Last but not least, I have a physical copy of the album for sale as well that I am pretty excited about! A physical release was something really important to me to offer and because I only wanted to make a small batch of the physical version I knew the perfect format would be cassette tape, oh yes, you read that right. I fully realize that my audience here on fiftyfootshadows contains a large amount of tech elites that will instantly loose track of their eyeballs as they roll out of the back of their heads in bewilderment but hear me out.

The physical release could have just as easily been a rock with my logo stamped on it, it could have been a collectable little sculpture, a USB stick in a funny shape with the music on it, anything, but I chose a cassette tape as the collectable object to sell as a means to commemorate the release which just so happens to also contain a great sounding copy of the album in an analog format. The tapes were professionally duplicated with Type II Chrome High Bias tape and they sound great, truly! It’s a rich, uncompressed copy of the music with a low noise floor and a nicely balanced tone and dynamic range. Scoff all you want, I was pleasantly surprised at just how great the album sounds on the format.

I chose to skip the fragile plastic shell cases and old school J Cards of yesteryear and put together the packaging myself. The cover is a die cut chipboard sleeve made by a great printer in Oregon called stumptown printers. I used a custom stamp as minimal cover art and rounded out the packaging with a photograph, liner notes, and a sticker.  Each copy was assembled and numbered by hand.

The photograph contained in the package is also on the digital cover art seen at the top of the post here. It was an image captured on film while traveling in India. It jumped out to me as a perfect image to represent the album as a whole because of the weight it holds in my memory. I shot it just after waking up on the top bunk of a sleeper class car on a train. The memory of traveling by train in India is distant but has stayed with me though the years as a visceral experience. The dust of a desert blowing through open doors and windows, chai tea breaks at stations, seemingly endless amounts people pooling through the cabins; at times, a peacefulness formed amid the chaos that I often miss. A lot of the music on this album contains memories like this one hiding in the sound and mood of each track.

So thats that! I would greatly appreciate your support in spreading the word of its release if you enjoy it or if you know someone into this kind of music, I don’t often ask but in this case it would be great if you could give me a leg up. I realize its not going to suit everyones taste but I certainly have enjoyed working on it and I am excited to release it into the world.

One last time in case you missed the link, here is is on Bandcamp, if anyone has trouble with the service let me know, I don’t mind considering selling it directly here on the site digitally as well.

Bonus, desktops of the images below are available via the links also below.

Comments

  1. sfemet - June 7, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    I’m new to this genre, I love how you transition from music to sounds and back. I can feel my breathing slow, my concentration feels “zoomed in”. Really nice. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  2. Abhishek Mukherjee - June 7, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    I cherish my memories of traveling in sleeper coaches between Bombay and Calcutta. I spent my days gazing endlessly into the fast changing rural landscape of India that is so rich in colors and texture. I would retire to an upper berth in the evenings to read and sleep. Traveling alone gave me a different kind of joy, as did traveling with family.

    I purchased the tape and I need to find a walkman like you did. I have a small collection of tapes from India (mostly Bollywood and some Indian pop) and listening to them can bring back memories.

  3. SoundMan - June 14, 2017 at 1:50 am

    Wonderful. Just orderedthe cassette and downloaded the digital file. Very atmospheric and soothing.

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