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.

Cassette Tapes

*Several months ago I started to write about my newfound affection for cassette tapes but never made time to finish writing it so I decided to pick this back up to finish it and share it with you guys because its all still quite true and since writing this I have fallen even further down the resurgence of cassette tape releases. So lets dig in.

I recently found myself realizing how many cassette tape releases I had collected from small, independent musicians and labels so I took to the net to find an affordable portable tape player so I could put them to better use. I never once thought about it being an outdated format during my dig, I only felt sad that the only new players left on the market are more or less junk which left me searching the depths of eBay for those willing to sell nice old players at a fair price.

My research lead me down a rabbit hole full of old Sony Walkman players among which I was left digging around a specific line of cassette tape Walkmen that I assume were manufactured somewhere toward the end of the tech’s lifespan as a popular medium. I discovered a number of thin, pocketable players constructed from metal rather than plastic and knew I was on the right track. These were actually some really great devices, even by todays standards. Many of the nicer later models were not all that much bigger than the plastic cases that house most cassette tapes. After settling on one that appeared to be in good shape I went digging around the fringes of Amazon for a couple of batteries and a charger to make it work and haven’t looked back since.

After a week or two of carrying it with me from day to day and doing my best not to get pigeonholed as a hipster with vintage tech in one pocket, iPhone 6 in the other, I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed having it around. It lead me to a few interesting observations on the state of physical media today and the illusion of its demise.

I see cassette tapes as an intentional format (in a similar way that vinyl or polaroid film is). It represents a physical connection between music and the listener and causes the listener to be intentional in his or her decision to listen to an album. There are no features to get in the way, just start, stop, and fast forward which could be seen as primitive compared to digital music access but it has the benefit of forcing you to simply leave the music playing and enjoy it beginning to end. Physical media is true fan service.

Looking at it from another angle, cassettes offer me something that vinyl does not, a portable, personal experience to add to the already intentional act of picking a tape or two to take along for the day. While some question the fidelity of cassettes and joke of their irrelevance in todays world, I would greatly prefer listening to a tape over a badly encoded MP3. In fact, later tape technologies were actually pretty well refined and balanced in the full frequency spectrum and had even all but eliminated the tell tale hisssss of older ferric tapes.

There are many of you rolling your eyes right about now and thats fine, I get it, it sounds frivolous at best, surely I have lost my mind. But keep in mind, I’m a romantic. I love the feeling of deliberate fandom in buying a physical copy of an album from a band or artist that I really love and want to support and in some circles there are some amazing artists who have been releasing exclusively on tapes and for good reasons.

The most obvious is the fact that even quality tapes are vastly more affordable to make than pressing records and a lot more fun than selling boring old CDs which may as well be a digital download as far as I’m concerned. Tapes have a long, tried and true presence in the music industry as a method of releasing music independently and have recently been discovered once again as a perfect middle ground for fans of musicians that want to buy a physical copy of their favorite new album but can’t afford to shell out $20 for a vinyl copy.

So, how about you, what do you think about analog formats? I still hold close the belief that if you really love an artists music that you will do more than toss pennies into their hats with streaming services and buy their music outright so why not do so in a collectible and satisfying analog format?

50ft radio cover

50ft Radio Volume 15

I have had a new mix sitting in iTunes for ages. I started it back at the same time I started the last one and it has since evolved into what we have here today. It’s a catch up mix, music I meant to share long ago plus some recent favorites in there for good measure. Mostly laid back again, next time around I will kick it back up to a danceable pace!

This one is a little shorter as well, hope to start getting these out more often and part of doing that is not hoarding music for quite so long and make these a little more reasonable in length. Oh! This time around there is a 50ft original hiding toward the end, also a snippet of a recording from Kyoto because why not. Speaking of music, I have a music of 2015 post in the works as well, better late than never right?

Still have a podcast feed going for these though its not published on any podcast sites because I would rather keep these more in the underground. You will have the excuse the messy notes that show up though, I’ll sort that out at some point or another. Heres a link to pop in your favorite podcast app: http://fiftyfootshadows.net/feed/podcast If you would rather, a direct download can be found here.

Also I know how much you guys just love spoilers with these mixes though I encourage you to listen through once before looking, here is the track list. The mp3 has chapters inside as well so if the listening app of your choice supports chapters then you will get links and artists names.

Last but obviously not least, this series is about the love of music and spreading that love with all of you. If you enjoy a song then by all means, look up the artist, buy their music directly from them, go to a show, shake their hand. The closer the better. They can’t keep doing what they love without us.

 

50ft_radio_cover

50ft Radio Volume Fourteen

Finally, after over a year of its absence I think its high time to get the 50ft Radio series back up and running. I have had a few playlists in iTunes brewing this whole time and while at first they focused on specific genres, I ended up mixing them up for a more eclectic mix with a number of different genres making an appearance. Going forward I hope to keep the running time right around an hour and see what I can do about getting them out more often again, at least seasonally.

Please, respect the music, respect the mix, and respect the artists found here. If you love the music then seek out the artists and buy their albums, go see them live and shake their hand, support them in any way other than Apple Music or Spotify if you truly want to support them.

Now, on the backend. Starting with this mix I am trying out a couple of new things, first off there is now a podcast feed. It will not be broadcast to iTunes and the like, it will only be available here for those who want to follow along this way. Just pop this into your podcast app of choice: http://fiftyfootshadows.net/feed/podcast

Speaking of which, I am back to mp3 again and will most likely stay here for the foreseeable future. Now that there is a handy tool to add chapters to mp3 files I am making the move because Apple has clearly lost interest in enhanced AAC files. The only issue here is that you need a playback app that supports chapters in mp3 if your interested in the ability to jump around and see what you rare listening to. I am jumping into all of this untested so I may have to back up and try again but heres hoping everything just works for everyone, just hang in there while I iron out the kinks.

A direct link to the mix is here for those who simply want to jump in and listen or store it away wherever you would like. DO NOT link to this file, share this file, take apart this file, etc. Again, have some respect for the music it contains and I’m sure everyone will get along just fine. Simply enjoy it for what it is and if you want to share then point people here. Thanks for your understanding and enjoy!

Update: As requested, here is the playlist.

2014

My Year In Music 2014

Sure, I may be a month and a half late but catching up on a years best music is a great excuse to remember what music made an impact on my life over the course of a year. That said, I had a look back among albums and singles released 2014 and came up with a short list of music that stuck with me over the course of last year.

This is not so much a top music of the year list as it is a music that stuck with me the most through the year list. I have decided to focus the list this year on songs rather than albums because not all of them came out of full length LPs and I liked the idea of having a nice playlist of favorites from the year. The songs found here were those which lifted me up and kept me grounded through the year as only great music can do.

Pardon my candid writing style below, I simply put on this playlist of music and wrote what came to mind as I listened to each song. That said, in no particular order, here is a handful of songs that really stuck with me in 2014, hope you find something new to enjoy! Feel free to drop your personal favorites in the comments below. (more…)

Vol. 13

50ft Radio Volume Thirteen

It’s a new year so I think it’s time I wrap up my latest mix and share it with the world. I have been piecing this one together for quite some time now. It’s stuffed full of ambient tunes mostly devoid of words but this time around I took a couple of detours along the way including a little bit of found sound and a few songs with percussion to give you a little something to gently nod your head to.  I tried to imagine this mix as a soundtrack because I love moments in life where music amplifies my senses and shows me something I may have otherwise overlooked.

That said, I hope you guys enjoy it. As always, if you enjoy a song heard here then by all means, look the artist up, buy their records or even just the song you love. Streaming them online is nice and all but when it comes to truly great musical discoveries I think it’s best to support artists as directly as possible. Please, respect the mix, don’t repost it anywhere else online and if you would like to share it with a friend simply send them to this page. I create these to spread my love for music and help the amazing work of these musicians find new ears.

Listen without spoilers here, or see the cheat sheet here. Still hanging on to enhanced AAC files so artists and song names should show as you listen. (or as an mp3 here if AAC isn’t working out for you)

50ftradio12s

50ft Radio Volume Twelve

Some of you may or may not know that I have long been associated with music, both in its creation and amplification as an audio engineer. My technical prowess revolves around concert audio but my heart lives in the music itself. While I have not actively made any music in years now I have slowly rekindled a love for playing out as a DJ.

In the past year I have started to play around town with a couple friends of mine who are fellow vinyl junkies. We get together with a few crates of records and trade back and forth through the night. On our recent weekly gig we started to invite others to bring out their favorite records to play as well which has added a lot of diversity and community to the typically singular act of DJing.

While digital DJs have taken over the landscape (for obvious reasons), there is something about thumbing through a small crate of records that I have fallen for. It’s not about being different, or being hipster about it. This is about an honest love for vinyl and music and the act of sharing with others what I love so much. No tricks, no set BPM, no theme, just unpredictable fun.

With this edition of 50ft Radio I wanted to share a few tracks that I have enjoyed playing out recently as well as a few that I don’t have on vinyl but wanted to share here anyhow. It’s an hour of laid back dance music for the end of the summer, Hope you guys find something to enjoy.

I know my most popular mixes tend to be my ambient, calm ones and I’m happy to say, I have a new one well on its way already and I will get that out in time for the calm days of fall. Should be a good one, its shaping up nicely.

On a technical note, I am back to using an Advanced AAC file with chapters, artwork, and artist names for reference. I will continue to use this format until its no longer supported. May as well!

Respect and support the artists showcased here! If you love a song then head over to your favorite online shop or streaming service and pick up a copy for yourself. To grab volume 12 simply click here. Spoilers here.

50ftvol11s

50ft Radio Volume Eleven

Back at it again with another edition of the 50ft Radio series, it’s one I have been whittling away at for a few months now and I love how its come out. You will find a few of my favorite artists as well as newly discovered ones I am excited to share. As always I encourage you guys to dig deeper if one of these songs speak to you. Pick up an album, check their tour listing, share on social media, most artists can use all the love you can give them these days.

For me, I choose to make mixes to share the music I love with others. A well considered collection of songs can tell a story, share how you feel, or in this case, spread the love of ones favorites with friends. Music is the soundtrack to my life and it provides the beat to which I walk and the rhythm of my heart. Sharing it is second nature and something I love to do.

While with this series I often try not to go too far out in left field and often try and choose music I feel anyone could enjoy, they still represent something about me and my personality. This time around I set out thinking I would make a mix of all americana/singer songwriter music but as usual it quickly evolved into my usual eclectic approach but overall I kept things pretty calm. Maybe next time I should finally get some hip-hop into a mix? Seems I have never knocked on that door with these.

I love coming back to mixes years down the line and digging through the songs like lost photographs, or old journals, each bring up a unique set of memories and emotion. My favorite part of sharing these though, and the reason I continue to make them is because I love hearing from you guys about discovering new music. It is always encouraging to hear that someone has picked up a few albums based on the music heard here.

At any rate, the format has changed this time from an AAC file to a good old fashioned mp3. Apple seems to have all but brushed the enhanced format under the rug and I see no reason to continue to use it which is a real shame because I will really miss enhanced audio files capable of multiple chapters and artwork, I feel it was never utilized by enough people and podcasters which was such a waste of a cool technology.

Let me know if you have any issues with the download, I’m still trying to keep it simple. The track listing is available HERE and the mix is available HERE. PLEASE, do not re-host this anywhere else and if you would like to share it link back to this post, thanks so much for that.  As long as the MP3 tags stay in tact I have embedded the track listing in the lyrics section of of the file for quick reference.

vol10

50ft Radio Volume Ten (Podcast Side B Bump)

Posted to add Side B of Volume 10 to the Podcast feed. Full details on Volume 10 can be found on its original post here.

To whom it may concern,

IMAGES FOUND WITHIN FIFTYFOOTSHADOWS.NET ARE ©JOHN CAREY AND MAY NOT BE USED FOR ANY COMMERCIAL USE WITHOUT PERMISSION. 

DO:

• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.

DON’T:

• Post desktops elsewhere online.
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• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
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If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J

——

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Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)

fiftyfootshadows.net

fiftyfootshadows@gmail.com