Track by track: The Ministry of Machine Building

As The Ministry of Machine Building is now available on Bandcamp, Spotify and Apple Music, here’s a quick run through of my initial thoughts behind each track…

Aparition Haze

I think of this piece like the opening titles to a film or series. The imagery in my mind was a mysterious city shrouded in a dark smog, under a veil of perpetual nightshade. This is the start of our journey into a mechanical underworld…

The Ministry of Machine Building

The epic title track was the first piece I composed for the project; a long and evolving track that takes you on a frenetic tour of The Ministry, from crashing steelworks and forges to production lines, this is where the action happens. I was imagining a huge, complex hive of non-stop industrial activity, computing, assembly and testing The . workers continually clock on and off their shifts as they work to build the machines.

Nightwatch

After such a dense and complex track comes a little respite, and a welcome gasp of night air. Part of the album concept was to follows the life of one of the workers, from days on end in the darkness of The Ministry to moments of contemplation while on the ‘night watch’. 

Assembly

As the title suggests, this is the first of several tracks which explore what is being created in the ominous depths of this industrial city. Much of this album is heavy; there are often two or even three drum tracks layered up to create a robotic, mechanical movement. Part of the challenge musically was to also create a catchy piece of electronica; something with groove and a solid beat.

The Hall of Machines

This track was probably the most diccifult to make and I worked through several iterations of it before it started to feel right. My original idea was for it to be quite a sparse, minimal composition with no or little drums, but – as is often the case – it found its own way, drifting from that starting point, although echoes of that idea can still be heard in the intro and outro. In terms of the concept, this is really taking the listener on a journey through the giant central hall of The Ministry, where the machines reside, awaiting activation and instruction.

Insomnia

I wanted to create a piece with a slightly delerious, dreamy atmosphere. Even though the work shift is over, sleep doesn’t come easily, and we find ourselves wandering the city streets from the darkest night to the early hours of morning.

Modularity

The follow-up to Assembly in some ways, this is the album’s heaviest and most powerful track. Here, we travel through the networks – physical and virtual – of The Ministry; the electronic networks of the computer brain and creation of artificial intelligence.

Escape Plan

The underlying plot in so many classic science fiction stories is the notion of escape; those dreams of leaving that will one day be fulfilled, in a frantic and tense adventure in face of all odds. This was an older demo track that was left unfinished – this provided a solid framework on which to build an energetic, groove-based track.

Reactor

I wanted the album to culminate in a dark and dramatic finalé. What is the reactor, or what – or whom – is reacting? This could be our protagonist’s reaction to his live enslaved by The Ministry – reaching breaking point and working to bring the whole thing crashing down… or perhaps this is the sound of the reactor itself; the deadly molten core and beating heart of The Ministry.

Undiscovered

A kind of epilogue. Fast forward many years, and The Ministry of Machine Building is no more; a relic of the past, consigned to history. But perhaps one day the old site will be unearthed. Still there after all this time. The machinery abandoned and rusted, the Hall of Machines a derilict shell. Or is it? Geiger counters crackle, and if you listen closely, what is that low drone, emitting from below the surface?

Glacier Heart – streaming and video

“Glacier Heart” is now available for streaming on Spotify, and a new video has been created for the song.

The track was recorded remotely – commonplace these days, but perhaps moreso during Covid times.

I have recently been composing tracks for potential songs, as it suddenly felt like the right time to test the water in this direction – but it had to be with the right kind of vocalist. Then I heard one of Ren’s tracks on SoundCloud and really loved her voice – we’ve been in touch for a while, but never discussed our music – I sent my demo over and asked if she would like to record some vocals for it… and in no time at all, she came up with these beautiful, enchanting lyrics and amazing vocals to go with it. It was one of those ‘perfect fit’ moments.

As an instrumentalist, I had never mixed vocals before, so this was an interesting new challenge, but I knew exactly how I wanted it to sound and the kind of cinematic atmosphere it should have. Having worked with other musicians in the past, I know how rewarding creative collaboration is, whether you are in the same room or working remotely – if you’re on the same wavelength, exciting things always happen, and that was definitely the case here. Ren and I are delighted with the finished track, and that has encouraged us to work on more pieces together, hopefully with a view to releasing an EP in the near future.

Here’s the video for “Glacier Heart”…

Glacier Heart

I’m really happy to share my first vocal collaboration, “Glacier Heart” featuring Ren Faye.

I have long wanted to work with a vocalist and Ren’s captivating and atmospheric voice turned out to be an absolutey perfect complement to my music. I’d never mixed vocals before either, so this was an interesting new area to venture into – and if all goes to plan, there will be more in the near future with a view to releasing an EP on Bandcamp.

Works in progress

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 Synthesis is coming…

Synthesis – The Light Dreams Anthology is a new compilation of my music, due for release later this month.

I have had a compilation project in mind for some time, and have finally been able to go through my work and pick out a combination of most popular tracks, favourite pieces and some overlooked tracks. Most of the pieces have been remixed or edited specially for the compilation with the track choices and running order carefully selected to form an album in its own right.

More details will follow, but in the meantime, here is the cover art.

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

Free album download – “A Journey To A Time or Place

My track “Comfort Zone” (taken from Chiaroscuro), features on A Journey To A Time or Place – a new, free digital compilation of music by independent artists.

Compiled by Across the Universal Soundscape, this diverse compilation celebrates independent music and creativity during these challenging times. It is available to download from Bandcamp.

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