Saturday, July 6, 2013

My new album is on the way!

So I've been pretty bad about updating the progress of the new album. Part of it is that I don't want to spam you with MP3s, and part of it is that I've just been too lazy to write about it. So here is a rundown of the new album, what to expect, and when to expect it.

First of all, the release date: Barring some catastrophic meltdown, the new album will be completed by about September 1, 2013. Once I upload it online, it usually takes about 2 weeks to become widely available on iTunes, Spotify, etc.

Second, the title: The album that is being released is not the album called "Hydrogen." Yes, I am aware that this blog is called "Hydrogen Explained" and the original purpose of the blog was to document the progress of the album "Hydrogen."  However, the album "Hydrogen" has been put on hold, and there are a number of reasons for this.

The songs that I wrote for "Hydrogen" have a great deal of importance to me, and I will revisit the album and eventually complete it. However, those same songs mostly relate to my life before I moved to California and started law school. I made several attempts to record some of those songs before I moved, but I was unhappy with the sounds I was getting. As I wrote earlier, I decided to spontaneously record a couple pieces of experimental electronic music as a way to jumpstart my creative process. It was clear that this new music was not to appear on the album "Hydrogen" and it represented a new project. I decided to go with it.

This new project, which I have called "Expression," relates to my move to California. So while "Expression" is released before "Hydrogen," it is chronologically later in terms of when the music was conceived of. I will return to finish "Hydrogen" next, and hopefully not too much time will have passed, so that I don't lose of the spirit of what was going on when the songs were written.

Third, what's on the album: I have a written a tracklist, which will more or less stay constant between now and the release date. Tracks 1-8 are instrumental, 9 is spoken word, and 10 has (mediocre) singing. For those of view who have seen me perform live, this album sounds nothing like my solo acoustic show. As of today, most of the tracks on this list have already been recorded:

(Sorry that some of the MP3 links in my old posts are dead. I need to get that fixed. In the meantime, I guess I'll just build up the anticipation.)

1. My Own: This was the first track recorded during this sessions, and can best be described as weird electronic instrumental music. It was completely written and recorded very quickly, in about a day. The structure is very simple, but the layered texture is what makes in interesting. My mother says it sounds like "robots in a cruel world."

2. If You Are Awake: The title comes from my inability to call people on the east coast after a certain hour because of the time difference. That's why this track features a ringing cell phone as one of its background "instruments." This instrumental track is somewhat inspired by the Allman Brothers Band because it features harmonized lead guitar, one guitar in the left channel, and the other in the right.

3. Likeness: This track is a mellow piano improvisation I recorded in 2010. Even though it's an older track, it fits with the process of "Expression" because it was recorded rather spontaneously. And this track has sat on my hard drive for three years so it's about time it saw the light of day.

4. Do Not Touch: The only truly atonal track on here. It's nothing more than a gradual buildup of keyboard tones until finally at the end the aggregate of the Equal Temperament 15 scale plays all at once. In other words, it's very dissonant, but it's over before you know it.

5. I Drove Away: Long story short, it was Friday night, my plans got cancelled and I had nothing to do. So basically instead of sitting around moping I decided to create some music. This instrumental track was entirely written and recorded in a 24-hour time period, but I think it still stands up well. It's centered around piano, but also has overdubs of synthesizer and electronic beats, so maybe it'll sound modern...

6. The Future: This track is a kind of remix/tribute/commercial for a collaboration I was part of called People of the Future. My friend Andrew Riker and I had created two albums (with help from my friend Greg Smith and also members of my family). Each album had music along with dialogue in a story, sort of like a movie with just the sound. This tribute track features snippets and samples from those albums, along with new music that is similar in style to People of the Future. If you haven't heard those albums, this track will likely be a tad confusing because there is no narrative to guide the action. But either way, it will be a fun incoherent musical collage.
7. Heart Goes Out: This is a piano piece I wrote in 2008, and it appeared on the second People of the Future album. The piano playing on the original recording was a little sloppy, so I've been wanting to rerecord it and put it one of my solo albums for a while too since it might be the best thing I ever wrote for piano. Even though most of the album is electric, this fits on there as a nice break from the chaos of tracks 6 and 8. The goal of this album seems to be "weird enough to get your attention, but not too weird to make you turn it off." Hopefully this track fits that mold.

8. The Decision to Not Do Drugs: This is an instrumental track, and it sounds a tad on the scary side. It has a slow pulsing build-up, which might test your patience. But the last two minutes of the track might be the most intense two minutes of the album.  

9. Clear: This is a short spoken word track. It's me talking about vague things, but my voice is sped up 30%. This was the perfect amount to make me sound still human, but no longer like me. It's clear that there's something wrong with this voice, but it's still natural-sounding enough that you can't quite put your finger on it.

10. (This is My Expression): The title of this track is in parenthesis because it is optional. That is, if you press stop on your CD player after Track 9 instead of letting it play through, you've still had a valid (and arguably superior) listening experience. I'm not sure if I actually like this song. It is 11 minutes long, and is the only one to feature my singing. It is also the song I am least confident about. It touches on themes of social awkwardness and feeling overwhelmed starting law school. The idea was that if I put a bunch of negative energy into one song, all that energy would get flushed down the toilet at once. Of course, it never works that way, and at the end I just found myself with just a really whiny-sounding song. That being said, the singing I think is still passable enough to release (maybe), and some of the instrumentals arrangements are (sort of) interesting, so I guess I'll keep it. All in all, it's not the prog epic I was hoping for, but it will have to do.

Fourth: If you're still reading, cheers to you! So that's "Expression" in a nutshell. It's been fun to make, and the recording process has been a lot more free-flowing than my last album. This is how music should always be. Thanks for listening. You'll get to hear this thing soon.