Chiaroscuro: track by track

It is now over a month since the release of Chiaroscuro, and in that time, Here and Now and Berlin Stratum have had radio airplay, and Comfort Zone is included on the recent free compilation album, A Journey to a Time or Place.

However back to the album itself, here is a brief insight into my thoughts and inspirations behind each track.

Berlin Stratum 
Everywhere you look in Berlin, there are layers of history, and you can feel that in the atmosphere of the city. But there’s also a modernism and sense of progression. I wanted to capture these contrasting moods in the music. There’s also the city’s musical heritage – my particular interest being Bowie’s time there in the late 70s. This all came together in a nostalgic and melancholic, yet dynamic track. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/berlin-stratum

Comfort Zone
After a reflective opening track, I wanted something more upbeat and optimistic. I entered a musical comfort zone… played my favourite chords, and fired up my favourite classic 80s/90s synth – the Korg M1. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/comfort-zone

Silver Screen
More nostalgia from a time gone by… inspired by images of 1940s and 50s cinemas and the golden age of the big screen – monochromatic romanticism. The saxophone really brings the track to life and was a big departure from my usual style. This development would shape the rest of the album.

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/silver-screen

Afterimage 
The first of three more abstract pieces. The title came first. I love the haunting description of “an image that continues to appear in the eyes after a period of exposure to the original image.”

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/afterimage

Aberration 
“A departure from what is normal, usual, or expected…” This track was originally a much longer piece, based on multiple layers of gradually building loops. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/aberration

There and Then
A more experimental piece; slow and evolving with more of a chill out feel, though reflective in mood. This track leads into the second part of the album. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/there-and-then

Neon Twilight 
A change in pace. Evening descents and the city comes alive; its streets illuminated in a frenzy of colour. An upbeat track drenched in cool 1980s vibes. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/neon-twilight

Evanescent
We move deeper into the night with a darker, heavier piece of electronica. Evanescent evolves mid-point, going from an atmospheric, pensive piece to a dynamic, driving conclusion. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/evanescent

Here and Now
The rockiest track on the album was partly inspired by one of my favourite albums, Bryan Ferry’s, Mamouna (1994). I really wanted to channel a similar mood and sound of the instrumentation as a kind of homage to Ferry’s masterwork. You’ll hear more Korg M1 and late night atmosphere. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/here-and-now

Nightowls
A track that transports you straight into one of Edward Hopper’s various night paintings, the album closes with a saxophone-led solitary piece. This was actually one of the first pieces I composed for the project, and I knew right away that it would be the final track. 

https://thelightdreams.bandcamp.com/track/nightowls

The Light Dreams – Chiaroscuro

I’m pleased to announce the release of Chiaroscuro; a new instrumental album inspired by city life and the layers of time. Nighttime atmospheres blend with nostalgic, melancholic tones forming a dreamlike musical world in which to escape.

“The world of chiaroscuro is one of contrast – between light and darkness, of transition between one realm and another. Colours blend, textures merge, and it is the difference itself which gives meaning to the whole.

Change is the essence of life, and contrast is the basis of understanding what it all means.  This album takes us through an appreciation of how we can make sense of the differences that flow through our existence, against a background of the cities in which we live.  They have their darker and brighter sides, and we need to grasp the relationship between them within ourselves.

Light and shade are part of the same process – one has no meaning without the other.  We need both in order to make sense of the artwork that is our life.”

The track list for Chiaroscuro is as follows:

Berlin Stratum
Silver Screen
Afterimage
Aberration
There and Then
Neon Twilight
Evanescent
Here and Now
Nightowls

The full album download comes with a bonus PDF booklet containing a specially-written introduction by Richard Hayes plus a selection of my own photography juxtaposed with archive images that all represent the theme of Chiaroscuro.

Chiaroscuro is available now in digital formats from Bandcamp and MusicGlue.

Here is a video for Silver Screen:

Berlin Stratum

I am pleased to present a brand new track and video – Berlin Stratum.

This instrumental piece was inspired by my stay in Berlin last year and evokes the atmosphere, history, architecture and music of the city. It is a track tinged with melancholy and nostalgia, but also one of progression.

Berlin Stratum is the first track on my upcoming album, Chiaroscuro.
More details soon…

(Yes, that is a photo of David Bowie, framed in the window of the iconic Hansa studios, where he recorded the Heroes album.)

New art, Novacon 49 and Mutate promo

The science fiction gallery page has been updated with the addition of two brand new pieces of artwork, Simulacrum and Into Battle.

These two pieces plus many others will be part of my display in the art show at next month’s Novacon – the UK’s longest-running science fiction convention. This year’s Guest of Honour is writer Mike Carey, perhaps best known for The Girl With All the Gifts. If you’re going, do drop by the art room and say hello!

Finally, here are two promotional videos for Mutate:

Album release teaser:

Mutation – full length video

Music for the Stars

I have added a new page to the ‘Special Projects’ section of the site – my essay on the influence of space travel in music and popular culture – Musica Universalis.

This piece looks at the evolution of electronic music in tandem with the golden era of space travel as well as those eternal musical associations, such as David Bowie’s Space Oddity and the Apollo 11 moon landing.

I wrote lengthy sections on David Bowie, Jean-Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield, exploring their association with space and how their music is still today, used in conjunction with space travel projects. I also looked at film and television series music in science fiction, and how it’s all connected… If that sounds like your kind of thing, read on!

Mutate – album preview #1

I have spent a large part of the last six months working on my new instrumental album, Mutate. Now it is time to present some brief previews of the first four tracks.

For those of us whose lives are soundtracked by music, we remember moments of discovery and musical revelation and all other manner of minute details, which are somehow important to us – especially those songs or albums that made a certain impact at the time never fail to evoke certain feelings.

It was with this in mind, that I approached Mutate. I returned to my musical ‘roots’ in a sense, listening again to many albums that had a profound affect on me, and the kind of albums that originally made me want to make music.

However, my own music needed to go somewhere different, so I set myself a specific creative parameter for the new project, which was to – wherever possible – only use sounds that I haven’t previously used. This meant getting rid of old favourites and ‘comfort zone’ instruments that I might normally use for my early demos ideas. This would make me think or work in a new way to achieve the very specific sound, style and atmosphere in mind. I usually have a number of potential titles to work backwards from, but this time, the final upheaval of my normal working process starting work without titles, and seeing where the music went.

Album preview #2 will follow soon, along with cover art and release info… stay tuned here or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

“Mutate”

My next album project is nearing completion, and will be called Mutate.

Mutate will be released in digital format via Bandcamp, hopefully with a limited CD edition following later in the year.

Watch this space for further details, but meanwhile, here is a brief taster.

New album – first teaser!

I have been working on a new album pretty solidly over the last couple of months, and it is now starting to take shape.

For this new project, I wanted a darker, grittier sound, and I decided to avoid using any previously used sounds, where possible in order to create a fresh sonic landscape.

Here is a brief taster of three current works in progress. Stay tuned for further updates!

Jean-Michel Jarre

There is something life-affirming about the music of Jean-Michel Jarre – the French artist who took electronic music to another level and to a worldwide audience. Jarre injected emotion into his music which touches on the nuances of daily life and the environment around us. Rather than something cold and soulless, there is a warmth and richness to Jarre’s music which has transcended language barriers and reached fans of all nationalities around the globe.

Jean-Michel Jarre has created some of the most iconic and influential music of his generation. This week, Jarre turned 70, (a milestone also celebrated by upcoming box set release, Planet Jarre: 50 Years of Music), which got me thinking about my own journey with his music and its impact and influence on me and my work; both art and music.

We all remember the first time we heard certain songs or pieces of music, and those musical memories from our childhood often remain the most profound, usually defining our tastes for years to come.

I first heard Jean-Michel Jarre’s 1976 breakthrough album Oxygene, as a child in the early 1980s. I was perhaps four or five years old, and I had never heard music like it before. It was the record that my father was playing. To my young ears, I couldn’t quite comprehend what I was hearing – this wasn’t the sound of normal instruments; it was something altogether different and other-worldly. I remember being utterly entranced by the strange, almost organic sounding music… it was as if some kind of captured environment was emitting from the stereo.

With this sensory feast, my young artistic imagination was fired up – the soundscapes and atmospheres of Oxygene transported me into the sky, floating among the clouds; it sent me to a vast snowy expanse with a glaring winter sun, and most significantly, it propelled me out into space, beyond the stars.

At the time, I was surrounded with books of space imagery and science fiction art of the 1970s, and even a young age, I was addicted to Doctor Who. Jarre’s music was the perfect accompaniment to these fascinating futuristic visions, and with that, my lifelong obsession with science fiction and electronic music was born.

I rediscovered my love of science fiction art in 2007, and that led to creating my own artwork (as you can see on this website). And more often than not, I listen to Jarre’s music while I’m working.

However, the biggest impact Jean-Michel’s music had on me, was in making my own electronic music. The decades of enjoying Jarre’s music culminated in me trying my own hand at creating my own instrumental soundscapes – an ongoing journey that I’m still exploring.

I have always been fascinated with the notion of letting music create images in the mind and allowing the imagination to explore new environments through music. With no lyrics to distract or send the listener down a specific path, instrumental music works as a blank canvas for the imagination – and I think we all need that escape. This remains one of the main appealing aspects of Jean-Michel Jarre’s work as well as the objective of my own.

Over the course of the last couple of years with the release of the two Electronica albums and Oxygene 3, Jarre has proven his staying power and influence on artists and fans of all generations. Not one to rest on his laurels, Jarre’s passion for creating, composing and collaborating is as strong as ever, and I certainly can’t wait to hear what the next chapter of his musical journey will bring.

Happy Birthday, Jean-Michel!

Jean-Michel Jarre photographed at Manchester Arena, 9th October, 2010