New EP: ‘Usualele’

Hope your summer is going well so far (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, of course)…

A really quick post to let you know that I’ve just opened a window and let fly with a new EP [surely ‘let a new EP fly’? – Ed.]: it’s called “Usualele”, and contains four songs I recorded just with a couple of ukuleles and some iPhone instrument apps. My first attempt at “ukulele pop”, if you like.

You can find it on Bandcamp here:

I’ve also jotted down a few notes of possible interest, which you can find on the “Usualele” page of the “Music” section of this site.

Hope you like it… have an enjoyable summer!


New album: “…As It Goes”, and some thoughts on FAWM 2017

Without further preamble or ado… here is the Bandcamp release of my songs and compositions for FAWM 2017:

“…As It Goes: Songs From FAWM 2017” collects the 14 pieces I composed and recorded for this, the fifth FAWM challenge I have entered (and the fourth I completed, after 2015’s enforced dropping-out). How did I feel it went this year?

Well, as always, the frantic nature of the challenge—having to write and record a new piece on average every 48 hours, for the four weeks of February, means that one does not have the luxury of dismissing that many ideas when they land in your mind! This usually means that my FAWM output is usually almost crazily diverse, and 2017 tended to follow that pattern:

  • “Rockers” (“Through The Looking Glass”, “Friday Night”, “16 Valentine’s Days”);
  • mid-tempo acoustic-style (“As It Goes”, “Serves Me Right”, “Fading Day”);
  • electropop (“One Way Street”, “The Container Ship”);
  • solo guitar songs (“It Was Enough For Us”, “Philosophical Moment”);
  • ukulele pop (“Time To Dream”, “Going Round The Tearooms”); and
  • instrumentals (“Hide The Lute”, “Figure 8”)

On the technical front, this was the first collection of songs which I have recorded entirely on an iPhone (6S). I have used iPhone and iPad (and, when I started doing so in 2011–12, on an iPod Touch) for a lot of my recording since 2012, but for FAWM 2017 I only used our Logic-based Mac home studio for mixing the material from the iPhone.

The only new instruments I brought in this time around, were my Risa Solid electric tenor ukulele (which I wrote and recorded a few tracks with) and a Meinl Travel Cajon (you can hear this on “Friday Night”). I thought I would introduce more “electronica”/electropop into my pieces this time around, but I found I just didn’t have time to experiment, due to FAWM’s relentless pace. I did, however, put together two songs using Caustic, an electronic music-production app which I hope to make more use of for a near-future new project.

How do I feel about FAWM 2017 itself, now I can look back having completed it?

Well: this time felt… tough. Frankly, a real slog at times, and I came close more than once to just dropping out. I didn’t have a problem with anyone except myself—my energy levels and overall “verve” were low-to-vapour, and quite often I just wanted to run away somewhere and sleep for half the month. Paradoxically, I am actually quite pleased with my output this FAWM—perhaps slightly down on what I feel was the “high-water mark” of 2016, with a couple of perhaps-less-than-totally-inspired items, but overall not too bad at all.

Anyway: here’s FAWM 2017, “…As It Goes”. Hope you enjoy it!

FAWM 2017 is go!

A very quick post to let you know (if you haven’t picked it up from my other “outlets”) that FAWM (February Album Writing Month) 2017 is now underway. If you’re wondering how on earth someone can write and record, from scratch, 14 songs in the 28 days of February…

…well, you can keep track of my progress on my FAWM “artist page”, and you can follow my progress via my Twitter feed (where I’ll post notifications of my new uploads within seconds of them going live).

Must go… I’ve got the second song to write! (And here’s the first: “Through The Looking Glass”. See you along the way 🙂 )

New album: “Catherine Wheel”

A few days ago, I completed my third “run” at the annual NaSoAlMo (National Solo Album Month) songwriting/recording challenge, and here is the collective fruit-basket of my labours…

“Catherine Wheel” sees me have a go at producing some songs in a stripped-down, largely acoustic guitar-based approach. I had in mind, something along the lines of “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake and “Roman Candle” by Elliott Smith, but for all sorts of reasons I think this album came out a bit differently!

You may notice some variety in the sound between songs, as a result of me experimenting with microphone placement and the like (and also due to me mixing the songs as I went along). I suppose a bit of the old “spice of life” doesn’t hurt…?

Anyway, “Catherine Wheel” is a “name your price” download from my Bandcamp page (and yes, the price can be zero if you’re having one of those “tight” months). Upon purchase, you should get the option to download a CD inlay in PDF format, if you would find this of use and/or interest.

I’ll be adding a page on this album to the “My Music” section, at some stage in the future when I can get around to penning a note or two about how I made it all. In the meantime: hope you enjoy this little firework 🙂

(Update (Dec 2016): The “My Music” page for “Catherine Wheel” is now up, with a few more notes regarding the album and its making.)

Gearing up for NaSoAlMo 2016

On 1st November, barely a few days away, I’ll be starting my participation in National Solo Album Month (NaSoAlMo) 2015.

For those who haven’t encountered it before, the aim of the challenge is to compose and record at least 28 minutes of musical material (songs, instrumentals, whatever), entirely within the month of November. It’s entirely possible, and this is my third year of participation: 2014 saw me produce “Moquettes” (under the band-pseudonym The Pattern Store), whilst my 2015 demos are currently on Soundcloud (as “Phone Home”).

With only a weekend to go until the 2016 challenge begins, I admit I find myself in a real quandary about how I should approach it. I have two possible “paths” I am thinking of taking:

  • A stripped-down, largely acoustic guitar-based set, along the lines of “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake, or “Roman Candle” by Elliott Smith (except without the substance references and most of the angst); or
  • a set of “electronica”-oriented songs, founded on “groovebox” apps such as Figure and FunkBox—partly inspired by Ben Kronberg’s Internet-only album “Just Songs”.

Both have their pros and cons, and I have been swinging on an almost daily basis between them! Whichever “route” I end up taking, I think I would keep the other “in reserve” for a future project, as I really want to have a go at both creative paths at some point.

In short: I still haven’t decided which approach to take… so I’m going to see how things go when I reach November. It’s not inconceivable that I’ll end up mixing the two—I’m no stranger to “guitars with electronica” in my past work!—so I’m going to take a hold of myself and stop agonising over the question, and just “get on with it”…

So, to keep up with my NaSoAlMo progress, you can either follow my Twitter feed or my Facebook “artist” page, as I’ll be posting updates to both along the way. Hope you’ll join me… see you cheering by the roadside?

“Four Loose Leaves” EP

Hope you’re all having a fun summer… just a quick post to “plug” a new EP I put on Bandcamp a week or two ago, and in true “holiday mode”, completely forgot to mention here. So…

This EP collects together four songs of mine, which didn’t quite seem to fit on other music writing/recording projects (past or future) of mine, but which I still really wanted to give a public “airing” to.

The information page for “Four Loose Leaves” gives a few more details on the tracks (and I’ll try and add a bit more there in my copious free time). The EP is download-only from my Bandcamp page, and costs £3 for the download format of your choice (including FLAC, hi-fi enthusiasts).

Hope you enjoy this one!

Mid-2016 update

Just thought I’d drop you good readers a quick line—as we’ve reached the halfway point of 2016, it seemed like as good an excuse as any!

However you’ve reached my site, and are reading my sporadic jottings—search engine, WordPress subscription, RSS feed, etc.—thank you for showing an interest in what I’m up to.

Firstly: if you’ve ever wondered by there are relatively few updates here… I must confess that at this point in time, this site isn’t usually the “centre” of my online activity (although I have no plans to “move out”, and plan to make more active use of this facility in the future). If you’d like to keep up to date more “intensively” with what I’m up to, I’d advise following me on Twitter, “liking” my Facebook artist page or (if you’re more visually-inclined) follow my Instagram.

In the meantime: what am I up to at the moment? Well, “everyday life”, primarily, but in musical terms, a couple of activities are worth noting:

  • A couple of weeks ago, I started writing and recording some new material—I suppose you can think of it at this stage, as “flying kites”, to see what might work. Keep an ear to ground (especially at Twitter and my Facebook artist page) for further news on progress over the summer.
  • I also have a semi-formed intention to “do something” with the demos I recorded for NaSoAlMo (National Solo Album Month) 2015 last November. At present, the “rough” mixes of the demos that I made at the time, can be heard at my SoundCloud page. However, I feel these mixes are… well, rough (!), and if I’m going to do anything else with them, I want to make some better mixes. The good news is, I re-recorded two of the tracks in more “polished” form near the end of 2015, but haven’t figured out what to do with them either (see a pattern?)… so I’m minded to assemble a “complete NaSoAlMo 2015” album, featuring the remixed demos plus the two re-recorded songs. If I do this, it may come together quite quickly—if so, I will let you know via my various “channels” when and where the album will be available (probably my Bandcamp page).
  • And… whilst on the subject of NaSoAlMo: I’m thinking again of entering the challenge, for what would be the third year running. I have four more months (!) to ponder that point, but at present I’m thinking of a largely “acoustic” approach (think: Rick Rubin’s Johnny Cash albums?). Time will tell…

So, that’s where I’m “at”, anyway—thanks again for reading, and see you out there on the Interwebs!