Month: July 2013

Into the Light

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Setting the Mood

The remoteness and rugged beauty of Acadia was the inspiration for the sound of the album. Rugged; beautiful; melancholy. The complexity of transposing a physical space for a sonic one is quiet difficult, yet with enough meditation and attention to detail of each track, it can be done.

I wanted the album to flow from track to track, not like that of new albums formatted to fit single after single until a ten to twelve song “album” is complete. Acadia has been written to flow. The tracks themselves tell a story of the search for personal understanding in an empty and desolate landscape such as the Acadian wilderness without the utterance of a single word. Each track produces the emotional processes of thought of the unknown man (Who can be interjected as yourself) as he treks through the wilderness. In some ways, it is a story not unlike that of the Exodus led by Moses, or the frostbitten musher leading the pack of Alaska’s Iditarod Sled Dog Race. By the time Acadia crescendos to a powerful final act and soon thereafter end, the mental journey as well as the sonic pleasure of those hearing it emerge as a well-rounded and beautifully sculpted idea which quietly exits the audible stage that your mind has developed in the hour the album is played.

The Tracklist

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Saltwater

– The introductory track gently pulls you into the world that our unknown man resides. Perhaps arriving by boat, or even by foot, the misty hidden world he chooses to isolate himself on slowly steps into view. The song of the track itself deep and somewhat muffled; giving your ear the air of something tucked away by the fog. This world is completely alien to anything you know, almost as if blanketed in a cloak of monochromatic greyness.

Out of Acadia

– Out of Acadia establishes the insoluble security of dry land. The jagged rocky shore acting as a barrier between where our man with no identity has come from, and where he wants to be. The track is much more clear, almost sharp sounding like that of the craggy mystic shore of which you just arrived. 

Lost Pt.1

– Out of determination to understand yourself, our character begins to wander into the vast wilderness, unable to prevent any type of harm that may come to our man who walks into the bleak abyss empty handed, only to find himself abandoned to the mercy of the island, and lost beyond hope. His personal journey has now began, as he has nowhere to be; nowhere to go. The feel and sound of this track in particular is meant to feel heavy and dark, giving the listener the feeling of a burden like that of Mr. Unknown.

Dirty

– Locked into this small world of nothing and everything, you begin to rely on the things you cannot trust; yourself and the strange new land you now lay on. Being more scared than reflective, he falls to the ground, tired, hopeless, dirty. This song in particular is written in a minor key, to put pressure on the emotional psyche of you the listener, and delve into the depression of our man who is looking for any possible way out of this darkness.

The Storm and the Sea

– The ground you lay upon is no longer ground. You are in a dream, upon the tilting desk of a thrashed sailing ship, far out at sea. The waves overwhelm the boat, plummeting you into the dark cold sea at the dusk of a stormy day. Just as Mr. Unknown breathes his last, there is an incredibly powerful drum of thunder, which lays the sea flat in its wake. Starting as a whisper, the man becomes quickly overwhelmed with the infinite knowledge of a greater entity. The man does not know if it is in fact God, or deep self discovery that is fueling this wave of awareness which is feeding him now, but nevertheless understands what he has to do. The man now realizes that in order to regain self-purpose, he needs to remove anything in his own life that distracts him from personal growth. All the people, the jobs, the media, the stress of day to day monotonous life must be eliminated for him to truly become his own person. This will make him happy; this will make him whole. The track is a mini story set within the tale to add drama and depth to the storyline of the dream, as well as the entire album.

Lights

– You have awoken. From your dream. From your old life, on a grassy desolate plateau on an overcast morning. In the hazy distance, you, our man sees two single lights on either side of the horizon. The one behind you represents the old life you can still return to: The one even farther away in front of you represents where you want to be. You begin walking one step at a time in the direction of your future, shedding off the problems of your past as you go. This is still a struggle, yet you have seen what life would and will be like if you could only keep walking. The sound of Lights is almost that of a distress call from either light on the horizon to follow them. This creates the idea of choice between the two distinct calls, and which to follow in the end.

Lost Pt.2

– Our man is running now, working harder than ever towards the light on the distant horizon, miles and miles away. He becomes Lost once again, frantic to find his way out of the wilderness that is Acadia. Stumbling and weak-kneed, he is walking with everything in him towards what in his mind he knows to be true. With the same feel as Lost Pt.1, this second addition to these pair of songs but with a slightly more uplifting feel, showing the overcoming power of Mr. Unknown’s determination.

Palisades

– There is a cliff. A cliff towering infinitely taller than the beach below of which the sea crashes over, stretching out to the distant white light. Unsure of what to do, he sits. He takes in the beauty of the island which has caused him so much pain, and so much hurt. The ground, the towering rocks that were once his weakness would now become his strength. He must begin to climb. Palisades takes in the full spectrum of beauty that our man observes during his meditation on the cliff. In building intensity towards the end signifies the building up of nerve and initiative to climb down the infinite cliff; the final test.

Electric

– Spurred on by the insatiable drive for a better life, he begins to climb down, the energy electric flowing through his body. This climb is long, and tiring, but the listener cannot give up now. The Unknown Man cannot give up now. If he lets go, everything he worked for would be for nothing, everything he wants will never come to pass, and Acadia will win as easily as it had invited him in. He does not waver. He does not stop. Absolutely drained of every last ounce of energy, his feet touch the rocky sand of the beach. This track sounds desperate, at nerve’s end and tired.

Remnant

– You have nothing left in you but the weakness left behind from the most tiring journey you have ever endured, but you are proud. You, the unknown man stand at the foot of the vast expanse of ocean, looking towards the light that glows not so far off through the haze. You are happy and have made peace with yourself, perfectly content with whatever type of confrontation whether physically, mentally, or spiritually possible. With the comfort of a new soul and the remnant of your old self left far behind in the wilderness of the island, the man with a smile begins to swim. The sound of the final song is comforting, soft, warm, and theatrical, a sweet and somewhat untold ending to the story of the Unknown Man.

 

 

 

Simplicity is Bliss

I know what you’re thinking; I have to be the most self-contradicting burk humanity has ever beheld for making such a statement after building one of the most difficult to understand stereo setups I could find. But, on the contrary, I completely understand the concept of simplicity in a gigging musicians environment. Although I run through up to sixteen pedals at a time, my signal path only runs through two before entering the front of my amp. I only use one guitar for ninety five percent of my work; I have only used two amp for an entire album, and even more amazingly my live setup this week has been boiled down to become even more logistically logical than ever before. Therefore on paper, and in the studio, my rig does its job beautifully, but when push comes to shove, simplicity makes the life of a working musician easier, and from time to time better sounding.

The reason I am writing on this topic is because of this past Sunday morning’s worship service I had been invited to play at, at Forest Hill Baptist Church. After being invited by my friend and seriously talented musician Christopher, I sat down with my current setup to run though and hone sounds for the Sunday morning service. After several hours of tweaking my pedalboard, amps, and even changing out guitars, I came to this simple conclusion: This is not going to work. As much as I love the sound that this large amount of equipment gives me, I need to think smaller, and easier for this specific type of gig.

I decided that for worship music there are only four types of effects that are nessessary for a great sounding set, of which are compressor, drive, delay, and reverb. Only one amp was needed, which I instantly picked the AC30, and only one guitar, which naturally was going to be my Fender Stratocaster. When I had been employed at one particular church in years past, I had used a similar setup to craft “my” tone, which I still use to this day. I had started out with an Ibanez TS-7 Tubescreamer, which I later gain-stacked with a Boss BD-2 Blues Driver. Shortly after, I discovered delay in the form of a Ibanez AD-9 Analog Delay, and the world changed. I began using more reverb and low-wattage combo amps, as well as the same Fender Stratocaster I still use today. This old-school, analog style was the direction I wanted to take myself again, so I quickly began to pull my new rig apart.

Surprisingly, I only needed one pedal (The MojoHandFX Clementine compressor) which was permanent to my “Mothership” pedalboard to complete the new “Analog Baby” flatboard. I used the tabletop from an old seventies T.V. Table for the board itself, and after upholstering it with hooked velcro carpet and adding modern stainless steel handles, was ready for the addition of effects.

I started with the copmressor; my MojoHandFX Clementine. The Clementine is a simple, one knob compressor/booster that I use at the front of my signal to not only add a light compression to the overall sound, but for its incredible clarity. I have never heard a pedal which can add such a full-spectrum sound, with only a single volume knob! Talk about simple setups! Moving on to the drive section, I used a JHS Morning Glory (V3) low gain overdrive, for its natural, smooth clipping and the way that it pushes my amp instead of coloring its tone. With the tone rolled back while just using the Vox AC30, I was able to emulate some of the great worship lead guitar tones, with just a single click of my foot, making this one of the all-time great analog overdrives. 

Picking the delay was a bit of a harder choice. I wanted to definitely use an analog type D-Bucket circuit, but with my small collection of delays slowing growing as I can afford them, the choice was a little difficult. I finally settled on my original Ibanez AD-9; genesis. This was the first, and what I would consider to be one of the best analog delay pedals ever made, which made it a clear answer as to which delay I should use on my home-brewed analog board.

Finally, I finished my board with a bit of a surprise. I had received my Malekko Chicklet reverb as a Christmas present four or five years ago, and quickly began to hate it. At the time, I wanted a smooth and clear plate reverb, or a hall/arena type reverb unit that could sit nicely behind a digital delay. After buying a Strymon BlueSky, I gave the Chicklet the boot, leaving it on a shelf for the last few years. I never had the heart to sell it because I believed it to be a wonderful emulation of a spring reverb, but I could never find the place to use it. I never even sound-checked the board after installing the Chicklet, but once on stage at Forest Hills, I began kicking myself in the head for not using it more. Sitting in front of my Vox, it had a airy creaminess that my BlueSky, no matter the tweaking just couldn’t match. This may have differed if I had been using my stereo amp rig, but running such a pedal into a single combo amp was exactly what I was looking for in an analog-eques reverb pedal. 

For the amp settings, everything remained the same, save the volume which was almost halved. Luckily, this made for a sweeter and chimier sounding AC30, reminiscent of Vox tones from years’ past. I kept the amp off the floor, on an amp stand at a forty five degree angle, projecting out into the front of house.

Once plugged in, I was taken back a few years to the church where my search for my own personal tone began. The exactly same organic, clear, balanced and bell-like tone all came back in a flood of sound. Simplicity in many cases can trump complexity, just as in the way one plays an instrument. I love the sound of my “Analog Baby” just as I love the sound of the “Mothership” in their own different ways, just as you love the sound of an Alembic or a Telecaster in much the same way. I have changed my AD-9 out for a more versatile DMB Lunar Echo, but the idea is the same; being a good musician is not in the same as being a clever musician. Things such as guitars, amps and effects should not be used to hide your imperfections, but enhance your abilities.

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