I’d like to say a big thank you to Colin Spencer who has premiered three of my tracks on his show Electrocurated over on Artefaktor Radio over the last three weekends.
Electrocurated show #151 included the title track from The Ministry of Machine Building played in it’s eight-minute entirety; show #152 featured Undisturbed (also from Ministry) as the penultimate track and this weekend, show #153 saw the exclusive first airing of Glacier Heart, my first track with vocalist Ren Faye (we’re currently working on more material for an EP release; watch this space…).
From classics to underground acts and emerging artists, Colin’s show brings together a vibrant mix of electronic music including synth pop, synth wave, instrumentals and dance/trance. I couldn’t ask for my music to be in better company.
The Ministry of Machine Building can be found on major streaming platforms and is available for download on Bandcamp.
I’m pleased to announce a new electronic album, The Ministry of Machine Building.
Starting points for musical projects often come in the most unexpected places.
Back in 2019, I watched HBO’s excellent – if harrowing – miniseries, Chernobyl. Arguably one of the most gripping and unsettling depictions of any real-life event I’ve seen, as well as being interesting, technically and politically. I still remember the Chernobyl disaster happening – in April 1986, I was eight years old, and recall how it dominated the news. My young mind couldn’t quite comprehend the reality of what was going on in that other part of the world (I’d witnessed enough tragedy already that year with the Challenger explosion in January), but I knew it wasn’t good. I was hearing certain words for the first time, such as “Reactor” and “Radiation”… and when you learn words that way, they stick forever.
I was so compelled by the dramatisation, I immediately bought Serhii Plokhy’s detailed book on the subject, Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy for some long overdue education on the matter. An absolutely fascinating read, but it was in Plokhy’s book that I first saw reference to The Ministry of General Machine Building – an impressive title if ever there was one! The ministry was a Soviet government organisation based in Moscow and was responsible for overseeing all aspects of USSR space exploration. Another ministry, the Ministry of Medium Machine Building, was country’s secretive bureaucracy which supervised the Soviet nuclear industry, hence the link to Chernobyl.
Sometimes the words or phrases on the page of a book will stand out, and I’ll repurpose them into a song title, but on reading about the two ministries, I knew there and then this had to be an album title! Of course, making an album about a nuclear disaster would be neither cheerful or tasteful, but a slight shortening of the title gave way to a whole new creative scope and allowed me to reposition the Ministry into a science fiction context. Thinking back to the scenes in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, I was soon imagining a dystopian factory-city in a state of perpetual nightshade; shift workers clocking on and off as they collectively work toward the creation of huge machines and sentient creations they did not understand. This needed to be like the soundtrack for a science fiction film yet to be made, and carry a story through the tracks.
So this was the spark that led to the composition of The Ministry of Machine Building over the past couple of years. The title track was one of the first pieces I worked on, but it laid dormant for many months before being resurrected, once I found a suitable direction for the album. While generally dark and moody, I wanted there to be a balance of heavy, layered industrial electronica, evoking assembly lines and thundrous mechanical processes, alongside some lighter contrasting pieces, almost like a brief moment of repose from the immense factory world.
When called upon to write some sleeve notes for the album, Richard Hayes has delivered a fantastic piece of writing – not sleeve notes in the traditional sense, but almost a short story; or an excerpt from a diary, leaving the reader curious for more…
I was not free. I knew that well. Building the machines that dominate our world was the focus of my life, and there could be no escape from that role. The machines of the modern age would bring coercion to our society, which was no less a constraint for those who constructed them.
The Ministry of Machine Building will be released on Bandcamp on 2nd July 2021. Previews to follow!
The last few months have been focused on music, including some collaborations. More on those later, but first off, here is a short taster of some of the new tracks I’ve been working on.
More previews and the album title will be revealed soon, but it will be a science fiction-themed concept album.
In December, I was asked to compose a signature tune for this year’s Eastercon (ConFusion), which due to the pandemic was held online in April. Here is my full theme (edits were used for the various online presentation elements). I wanted to create something with a strong science fiction atmosphere, but which also conveys the busy frenzy of the convention environment.
A selection of my albums have been available on streaming services for a while, however on Spotify, my releases were getting confused with an artist of the same name! I have now been able to correct this and finally got my own artist profile on Spotify. I have made a special playlist, an introduction to The Light Dreams, which you can stream here:
We are living through a strange time, and none of us know for how much longer this uncertainty will continue. Music has been a constant companion for many during this period. Whether discovering new music, listening to or creating music, our personal soundtracks provide an escape, which in the current climate is more valuable than ever.
It is eight years since I first tested the water with the idea of selling my music online. Bandcamp offered the most flexible and economic solution for an independent, unsigned artist. Since 2012, I have released 22 albums through Bandcamp, including five albums in association with the Initiative for Interstellar Studies, a compilation of early demos and the release of my first two fully-fledged albums, dating back to 2007 and 2009 respectively.
Having released Chiaroscuro – my most accomplished album to date – earlier this year (right at the start of the lockdown period, by coincidence), it felt like the right time to take a look back over my discography.
Synthesis: The Light Dreams Anthology is a new compilation comprising some of my best work and most popular tracks alongside overlooked pieces and those which epitomise my sound and style.
Compiling a selection of your own work is never easy, especially when it comes to instrumental music – I design every album to flow; each has a specific sound palette and atmosphere. So extracting individual pieces of music can feel somewhat sacriligeous, and the challenge lies in finding the pieces that can work as standalone tracks, but that also sit comfortably alongside pieces from different projects. With the help of Richard Hayes – my second pair of ears and sleevenote scribe – we established a selection of fourteen tracks which both take the listener on a journey through my discography, but that also work together to form an album in its own right.
I set myself the constraint of only choosing one track per album, though not necessarily from every album. I wanted to single out the moments I’m most proud, tracks which represent a specific project or simply pieces that I feel deserve to be more widely heard – this led to some unexpected choices, but also some other favourites being left out.
As well as giving all the tracks a “polish,” in many instances I have created a new remix or edit, especially where some longer pieces were concerned. I felt that most of the tracks ought to have something new or different to the originals in order to make them unique to this collection, whether it was a shorter edit or an extended coda to help with the flow. This process also resulted in the creation of a brand new bonus track, Worlds Apart.
A natural order began to emerge, and the science fiction influence, which has always been a predominant feature in my music, really began to work its magic, forming a new narritive resulting in a cinematic collection of atmospheric instrumentals.
This compilation not only celebrates the music I have released on Bandcamp since 2012, but also works as a perfect introduction for anybody hearing my work for the first time. The full album download comes with two bonus tracks and a digital booklet.
Synthesis: The Light Dreams Anthology is available exclusively from Bandcamp as a ‘name your price’ release.
One of the biggest revelations for me over the last decade, was discovering that I can create the kind of music I have always wanted to make, from the comfort of a home studio. “Studio” feels like a bit of a grand term, given that everything is contained within my Apple Mac (then again, I do work in my home studio where I also do illustration/artwork). But to be in an age where we can have access to such wonderful production tools and the ability to self-publish work online, is simply fantastic.
There are obvious pros and cons to this kind of setup – whatever you are publishing. Making music is a very personal process. I make the kind of music I like, with the hope that likeminded folk out there might enjoy it too. But there does come a point when you’ve heard your own work too much, and the obvious things no longer stand out. That’s usually when I’ll ask a couple of people for feedback. For me, the mixing and tweaking process is usually a more time consuming process than composing the initial tracks.
However, the final challenge is knowing when to step back; to declare it complete. This thing you’ve slaved and toiled over for months – is it ready? Really? I find that point often comes instinctively, and it is then that you have to stop fiddling with it. Too much fiddling, and you risk overworking it (I’ve been there many times!). Even so, there is always a moment of doubt and there will usually be things you want to amend or revisit later – and sometimes I do. But it is always a slightly unsettling moment, prior to hitting that “publish” button.
And that is what is going to happen this week.
Since January, I have been working on Mutate – an 8 track album of dark electronic instrumentals.
Mutate will be available from Friday 20th September via my pages on Bandcamp and Musicglue.
More details will follow… meanwhile, here in full is the opening track, Underground.