Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Acoustica... and onwards

A realised a few weeks ago I've released 4 album in 12 months as of June this year.

The journey started mid 2016 with the beat & loop orientated "Sojourn" and culminated in "Acoustica" a reworking of tracks from my back-catalogue, all re-recorded on a nylon string guitar at 432Hz tuning.

Acoustica was a great opportunity to reinterpret and experiment with existing songs. It was all recorded in Reaper and all came together relatively quickly.

So having had such a creative 12 months I've decided to take considerably longer working on my next album.  A few reasons, firstly I'd like to continue to explore playing acoustically.  Secondly I'd like to add some strings, synths, keyboards etc. There's some soundscapey ideas I started to explore with "Sojourn" that I'd like to take further.  I really haven't made an album in this way since my 2nd release "Montage (music for a quiet space)". Thirdly, I'm also using Cubase (Elements) as my DAW. I've only ever used it for mastering so I'm excited about using it for a whole album.

Next year also marks 10 years since the release of Heartland (all recorded on a 4-track Boss Micro-BR and mixed in Wavepad and Garageband). Things have come a long way since then. So while there'll be no 10 year Anniversary deluxe vinyl reissue, in the not-so back of my mind I'm mentally sketching out plans for a special 10 year anniversary compilation album, to include pieces from various albums over the last decade With some tracks I've found the original recording stems (on 1 & 2 GB SD cards), so I'm looking forward to remixing some of the tracks.

The other thing is that music is changing and I'm doing a bit of catch-up. While Bandcamp continues to serve as my primary source for releasing material, I've started to release a few things on CD Baby which also makes some of my material available on streaming services.  Works in progress will still appear on Soundcloud, but it is hard to ascertain how long that platform will be around given the rumours of its possible demise.

Stay tuned...


Notes on making Watching the Fading Light

Every album brings it's own challenges and happy accidents.

Time spent noodling on the guitar and playing around with guitar pedals within the last few weeks has given birth to a few new sounds,  new songs and a new album.  Completely unintentional.

Having produced my last album solely in Linux (Ardour) I wanted to still use guitar pedals for the sound but wanted to experiment a bit more with plug-ins for added effects (something I've tended to steer away from a long time).

As much as I enjoyed recording in Ardour (for the previous album) I decided I needed a slightly larger palette for this album.

So over the last few weeks I've experimented with a few well known DAW's and after some (free) trials and error I've decided to settle on Reaper.  I like the interface, the ability to adapt it and as I've discovered it's incredibly stable.  The effects have been great and I've been surprised by how just adding a few effects (reverse and reverb) can totally shift the feel and sound of a track.

Musically, the album takes inspiration from Rain Tree Crow, Michael Brook, Daniel Lanois and the b-sides and more experimental tracks by U2 circa The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree. 2 tracks in particular became very soundscapey and cinematic. Although a handful of tracks were recorded in Ardour I've been able to transfer the tracks into Reaper where they've been tweaked, additional effects added and mixed. Although I was tempted initially to leave them off the album, there's something about their rawness and experimental nature I like.

The album went from go to woah within a few weeks. It's the quickest that an album has come together for me. I like the immediate nature of it but also some of the experimental things that happened. There's a few quite atmospheric tracks, Desert Ghost & Shallow Waters come to mind.  Soundcape for the Bilderberg Group came around out of an improvisation (most of my stuff does), the title inspired by reading a Jon Ronson book.

Some of the music came about from listening to Michael Brook and watching The Edge experiment with guitar (particularly around The Unforgettable Fire).  And for me it was a bit like a return to my early days and experimenting with music for the Heartland album. There are parts of this album that evoke a sense of landscape.   Also a nod to Devin Townsend. I watched some footage of him using his Ocean Machine pedal and using delay-reverb-delay. So I hooked up a few of my own pedals and experimented with the same effects chain. I certainly got some interesting effects. One of the other things I got to use more this time around was the e-bow.

There is little joy in recording an album that drags on for months or even a year or more.  And for all the hours that go into it, does anybody really care?  There's something about that initial spark or experimental or accidental moment that makes recording exciting for the musician.  It avoids making an album seem like a chore (and I've had a few of those).

The final mixing and mastering was inspired by the final albums of Talk Talk & Mark Hollis.
I read a few chapters of a book called The Spirit of Talk Talk and this influenced the final mixes and mastering.  There is definitely a sense of space and quiet within the album. Space for some nano-reflections. There's some incidental and possibly accidental notes and sounds.  There's also some deliberate sounds, sounds from the outback, streams and night noises.

The other thing I did with this album was think of it as a vinyl album with a A-Side & B-Side.  But what does that really matter. People can select particular songs, shuffle the tracks or make their own playlist.  What happens from here is outside of my control. 

It may be my imagination but it feels like the album gets quieter as it goes along. 

Perhaps part of that transition away from Apple to Linux made me consider what's important and how little I really need in the way of tools to make music (and album artwork).  So potentially my next album could be more more minimal and stripped back.















Monday, December 26, 2016

Inbetween...inner sleeve notes

This album is an extension of the music I created on Journey and Transient.
Every album brings it own challenges and with this one it meant doing
everything in Linux. That meant recording, mixing, mastering and all
the artwork.

Although the album created a considerable (but enjoyable) learning curve the album was recorded within a short amount of and by working in Linux with the Ardour DAW, the recording process became quicker and streamlined.

The album is all guitar and I chose to use effects pedals instead of plug-ins.  I firmly believe that the type of guitar, the effects you use and the way you play
influence the song and what it becomes.  Effects in the mastering and mixing
stage have been kept to a minimum.

There's a few other things about this album. Firstly the tuning of the guitar
was done at 432 Hz (instead of the usual 440 Hz).  For me it gave the guitar a
"sweeter" sound.  There's considerable conversation on the interweb
about 432 Hz tuning.  Secondly, there's looping. Something I've started to explore more and have really enjoyed.

This is a very stripped back album and it's been a joy to create something quite
minimal and to be conscious of the spaces in between the notes and chords.

Enjoy

BJ Boyd  Dec 2016


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ambient

For a while now I've been wanting to complete an album exploring ambient and soundscape textures. I also wanted it to be one continuous track (the album goes for an hour). It was also designed as music to be played in the background or maybe for relaxation, therapy or studying.
Every album throws new challenges at me and my new album "Ambient" was no exception.
I decided to use a new DAW (digital audio workstation), Cubase Elements. The reason was that I've been in the process of stripping down my set-up. I've also been in the process of moving from a Mac to a PC. I'd become disillusioned with some other DAW's and wanted to use some different tools to make music.
As I've continued to make music, I've realised that I don't need thousands of loops, synth sounds or effects and settings I won't use. I wanted something more minimal that I could use more efficiently. Now with any new DAW there is a learning process and this time was no different.
I started off with a few synth pads and built up the album from there. Primarily I used the synths built into Cubase and added some Native Instruments synths from there.
As I got closer to what I felt was the end of the end of the album, I decided to add some treated guitars which I feel helped with the sonic texture of the album.
I added an additional texture, which was rain & birds recorded using the microphone on my smartphone.
As an experiment I'm happy with the outcome, however working with an hour long track did become a chore at times. In the future I expect to work with smaller tracks (say 4 X 15 minutes) and blend them together.
I don't expect to create another album in this vein for a while, but you never know.
My album ideas tend to happen quickly and quite spontaneously.




available only at
http://noisetrade.com/bjb/ambient




Sunday, October 16, 2016

inbetween...

It's been a while since my last posting...

The album Sojourn has been completed and released, I have a new ambient album (primarily synth) in the works (out shortly) and have started working on a new guitar based album "inbetween the dreams & waking".

With "inbetween..." the album title came first and I wanted to move away from the beats and loops I had explored with Sojourn.  Every album I create takes me in new directions. I've recorded using a 4-track digital recorder (Heartland), recorded directly into Logic Pro and Ableton Live and I've recorded into a Boss BR800 when I got tired of spending time dealing with software instead of making music.  

I've dubbed inbetween the dreams & waking "the Linux album". Linux is a computer operating system that is not MAC OS and not Windows.  I really wanted to strip back the way I make music. Some of my favourite music includes demo recordings, out-takes, live takes and improvisations.  I wanted to make an album that was more immediate, not caught up in a multitude of software and that was mixed and mastered using basic tools.

Initial recordings were done on an old computer using the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) Ardour, running with only 160GB.  I wanted to see if I could re-purpose an old computer, having successfully run Linux on a 5 year old macbook.  However, once I started to add a few effects like reverb, delay and compression the computer started to buckle.  So next I purchased a more up to date (but 2nd hand) desktop computer with a solid state drive and replaced Windows 10 with Linux Mint. This made the world of difference.

My guitar effects are primarily through the use of guitar pedals instead of adding guitar effects later via software and virtual amps. This works fine for me because often a particular sound or effect dictates the direction of the song. I got rid of my Thunderbolt audio interface (which I loved, but they are only supported on mac machines and I have read that Thunderbolt will no longer be supported).  I have a new USB interface which works a treat with Linux.

Even the artwork I have created for the album so far has been created in Linux using GIMP, a "image manipulation program".

Although I've spent considerable amounts of money on hardware and software to make my music, I now believe that you don't need expensive computers and software to make music.  I also don't like it when companies design computers that can't have the RAM or memory upgraded or laptops where you can't even replace the battery.

So I've re-purposed an old computer, simplified and downsized my recording process and I must say it's been the most enjoyable and rewarding time I've had recording music for a while.






Tuesday, September 1, 2015

From Transient to Sojourn

A week ago I released Transient, my latest album, a journey primarily exploring ambient guitar.
With every album I like to take a completely new approach. And so with Transient I learnt how to use guitar effects pedals, I went back to using a hard-drive recorder (for most tracks),  I dabbled in looping, improvisation and minimalism.
A distraction in recording happened in February, when the RPM challenge happened, recording a 35 minute album in 3 weeks (it was meant to be 4, but I lost a week as I had to post the completed cd to the US).   The irony was that after that it still took the the best part of another 6 months to finish the Transient album despite having 75% of the album already done by the time the RPM challenge came about.
So after the last few weeks of mixing and mastering Transient I felt the desire to record again. 
I simply plugged my guitar in and recorded an improvised track straight into my DAW (digital audio workstation).   So I thought, what if my next album was done by recording tracks straight into my DAW and using minimal effects, so instead of using guitar plug-ins or lots of effects pedals, I basically recorded clean and used the effects (not guitar specific) in my DAW to create my textures and soundscapes.
I've been using Ableton Live over the last few years primarily for my synth recordings but had found it limiting for guitar. I bought some guitar plug-ins but never really used them much and preferred the sound I got out of pedals. Now what I've discovered was that actually using effects pedals helped me to better understand effects and a signal chain. A lot of my preferred sounds on Transient and RPM had come from reverb & delay pedals.   So my plans for the next guitar based album will be to have minimal clean guitar sound initially and then use the built-in effects in Live.
My first experiment is a new direction. The plan is to also minimise all the mixing etc. to keep the tracks reasonably raw and true to their original form, also to shorten the time from recording to release to avoid reworking the tracks.  Here's the first track. Enjoy


https://soundcloud.com/bjboydmusic/sojourn-demo-310815




Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Shortest Day of the Year

Well it's the winter solstice here in the Southern Hemisphere.
I wanted to record a track today and release it as a live recording.
This year has been about learning new things musically. Not only playing and technique, but also recording.
Today for the first time I recorded by live micing up the amp instead of recording directly into a portable recorder or into an audio interface.
I was joking with a musician friend of mine about the time spent mixing songs. I could do a hundred mixes of a song and I may be the only one who notices (or cares) about the differences of the subtleties of the mix. So the basis of this track was to record it, mix it and upload it in one day.
I'm trying to learn new ways of recording and actually enjoying playing the songs and not being attached to a particular version or sound of song.  Experimenting with different sounds, guitars, effects etc. makes way for some "happy accidents".  More about capturing the performance and a mood.
Eventually I would like to also perform some of my work live. I've been experimenting with looping, which is the tool that could make performing my songs live a possibility.
This track also puts me one step closer to finishing the Transient album.  It's really an album about transition. It's been recorded using a variety of tools, including different daws, portable recorders as well as using different software and hardware. A lot of it is experimental by nature. But it also takes me back to those things that excited me about making music. Discovering new sounds, creating something from scratch, creating a mood. 

Here's the unused cover of the track.
You can download the track at

https://brendanjboyd.bandcamp.com/track/shortest-day-of-the-year-live-single