I’ve been banging on for a while now about doing a weekly or monthly playlist thing that accompanies the project. It might not be stuff that necessarily says much about the project but is more likely to be the stuff that was following me around while recording, editing and updating the site. So without further ado… here is the first edition of Machine Mix!
Included are some great new cuts from Death In Vegas, Bjork and a great Breakage remix to kick off the whole thing. The latest single from perhaps the most wonderfully 80s fantasy movie band ever, Sound of Arrows, rounds off the mix. Also in there is a beautiful instrumental epic from Mathew Jonson, Datasette’s remix of Running Up That Hill, a bit of classic post-disco from Evelyn “Champagne” King, and even some lovely slomo house stuff featuring one of the greatest 303 lines ever created.
This is my life in music for the past month. I hope you like it.
Step right up folks! Allow me to introduce to you the first volume of the Sunshine Machine Recordings.
As with most of the stuff surrounding this project I’m giving away the digital downloads for free. I’m hoping to put this out as a digipack with some of the longer pieces edited down to fit so if you’d like to own the physical product please hang fire for a couple of weeks. Want to try to get it done for the holidays. So if you know decent CD On-Demand stores please let me know.
If you want to grab the free digital version right now you can through the lovely people at bandcamp. You can get there by clicking the link, going to the permalinks on the right of this page, or by clicking on the album cover above. Also if you like it or think other people will like it please spread the word.
Go get your free album! And let me know if you like it. Which one is your favorite?
It really was wonderful to have, what felt like, the entire world to myself this morning. It was strange, like nature had got slightly confused as to how to react to the situation and the unexpected weather. It was oddly noticable that few birds were even awake yet, and those that were singing were doing so in a slightly embarrased fashion, like they’d turned up to work on saturday to find the factory closed. And in the middle of all this sky and colour was me, hidden the bushes hoping not to be discovered trespassing. In actuality the only thing that happened was a mild distraction of another guy who was out with his dog on an early morning walk through the farmer’s field. I’m apparently not the only who likes to have this place to myself.
Installation 10 (Home, North West, UK)
We’ve officially hit double figures! The weather spurred me on to make the absolute most of it. Instead of the humid, muggy heat and rain that now prevails before it inevitably gives way to ice on the wind and chillblains, it was beautiful for a brief moment in time. It was also great to experience all the quiet, light and space on my own in a place I know so well, but rarely see from the vantage point of such an early morning.
The phrygian scale is giving me a lot of joy at the moment. I always considered it a very dark, sensual key and liked it for those reasons. It’s not something I would normally have described as “optimistic” or “contemplative” but that’s the effect of rooting the mode in E. The piece constantly feels like it finishes with cadences to me and then begins again; this recycling of the same idea but growing in intensity. But that’s probably just me. I like the audio as a standalone artefact on this one a lot, just a shame it was so short (this involved some trespassing on private land to get). I also adore the video that’s coming in the next few days. Hope you enjoy it.
And… the stream player is above and download link follows:
Talking about the weather is a very common British stereo type, especially English. And quite a self-employed reference at that. While most people would actively avoid discussing the weather under the belief it makes you dull or uninteresting this project has forced me to embrace it. That being said even if you’re one of those people who believe that discussing the weather means you have nothing worth discussing the meterological twists of the week are impossible to ignore.
If I’m totally honest I was ready to hang up my audio interface for a few months until October since the last installation but it’s just too gorgeous to not take advantage of the weather. Hence why I had another attempt at Rivington. And this time I won! Huge and eternal thanks to Sambo for being my packmule and faithful companion on these journeys (Nik was stuck in work, poor thing). And if I’m honest I don’t think any of the other times we attempted it would have come as close to capturing a moment like this one. The video is over in the video section if you want to watch it, and the audio is available for download in the audio section or on the bandcamp site. I could never do justice to an explanation of the sky that night. Pictures only tell half the story.
There’s also lots of other stuff happening at the moment. An old friend has, in theory, agreed to create the new CAD images for what will hopefully become a standardised version of the hardware. And another friend has, in theory, agreed to construct it. Judging from his work as a luthier it will be a thing of beauty. The upshot of which means that the hardware will be smaller and way more portable. It also means that the old picture frame hardware (looks pretty but rather impractical) will be retired for a younger, smaller, sexier model. Version 2 is on the way. Better get soldering lol.
Finally there was a plan to head over to Morecambe, again with Sambo, last night but my faithful FIAT chariot failed me. Not true. I failed him. The weather, my ill-treatment of it, and the fact that it’s not had so much as a change of water in 36,000 miles might have something to do with it. Goes without saying that after a breakdown at the side of the road time was against us, and it wasn’t a battle we could win. Instead I spent an evening with my folks and allows me to plan for the next installation, which by the time this blog post goes up will have probably already happen (the joys of scheduling). Tonight thebrokendoor are gigging so I need to go pack my gear ready to roll, and thanks to the grace of a few flickers of summer it’ll be in the great outdoors at The Dog. Also as promised there’ll be a playlisty 8tracks thing coming in the next few days. Whoop whoop!
So I shall wish you a very pleasant few days filled with muffled heat and long nights.
Indian summers are a rare commodity in the UK, and especially in the North that normally gets battered by all the atlantic has to offer. The Pennines have a tendency to trap all the cloud cover and bad weather that blows in from the coast. However something like this, the exact opposite of it all, very occasionally happens; days that should be wet, and cold, and full of mud transform into the deepest, unending summer, filled with potential. I finally conquered Rivington on a day like this. It was wonderful. The colours of an entirely empty sky were breathtaking. The scale (F Dorian) was selected to convey fragility and the unfinished nature of things, something infinite and transient.
The Indian Summer of life should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season, and infinite in wealth and depth of tone, but never hustled.
Installation 9 (Rivington, North West, UK)
To call this week unusual would be the understatement of the century. It’s autumn. Leaves are changing (in rather spectacular fashion currently too) and it should be getting soggy and chilly. Neither of which appears to have transpired! Instead we’re now in the middle of an unseasonable indian summer. And it’s wonderful!
And to add to the wonderfulness of this week on the 5th attempt I finally conquered Rivington. That place has been the Everest for this project. Gales, storms, technical problems and sheer forgetfulness have all transpired against me in the past. This time on a spur of the moment everything fell into place. Another voyage into the Dorian mode on this once. The results are oddly uncomfortable for the dorian I think. Also by far the longest installation we’ve done (faithful Sam-wise at my side).
Enough waffle: as always the stream player is above and download link follows:
It’s all a bit quiet here at the moment. Not much happening. But have you looked out of the window recently?! Autumn is here in full force to insist we all stay locked inside our homes against the rains and winds. And as we all know I can’t do this in the rain (it causes my equipment to blow up).
Also hit some technical snags recently. The lovely hardcore tripod I was using for this had to be returned to it’s owner (thank you for the very long loan Ste). Which makes the rest of the gear pretty impotent. I’m going to be purchasing my own lovely HD camera very soon. I was planning on doing that today but it transpires that Canon limit their 550D (my camera of choice) to 12 minutes of HD shooting. That’s neither use nor ornament to someone who does 30 minute continuous installations. So I beg your recommendations. Ideas?
Finally you should also check out these guys. They liked on one of the installation videos which is how I found them. It’s all in German (which I can’t read) but from what I can gather from the videos these guys are almost kindred spirits using gravity to generate audio. Plus their structure is beautiful and wonderful. Show them some love: http://pendelinstallation.wordpress.com/
So until the weather subsides or I find a way to water-proof all my equipment I bid you… good day.
This is my main work area. Or should be. The debris of summer has ruined it slightly, and being the lazy individual I am the thought of tidying even this small amount makes my fight or flight instinct choose to side with “shirk”. The main downside of not tidying is that I’ve transferred my working to my laptop and now I like to lie on my bed against the wall and work. This however has DESTROYED my back. So all I have to show for summer is no tan, a lot of data and a bad back. It also means that my G5 is now relegated to grunt work batch processing images and rendering video. All of the additional software and processing I need (that isn’t video editing or the modular stuff to run the installations) is available now on my iPhone. That’s what I want to tell you about in this blog.
“Yes. No. Maybe. Definitely. Not a chance. Perhaps. Erm… GO!”
– a typical morning before an installation
Apparently my life now revolves around weather forecasts, cloud graphs, topography, star charts, and maps. Lots of maps. In an attempt to keep up to date with when I can do these installations and get good results it means my eyes are constantly glued to weather websites and my phone. Especially useful is the Met Office app that carries great cloud data information (can’t get impressive installations from uniformly grey skies!). The iPhone’s own weather app doesn’t carry anywhere near the same level of information, and tends to be far too optimistic when it approximates the weather for the day. It’d be great if you could access the BBC site on an iPhone but the cloud data graphs run in flash so that’ll never happen.
However my favorite new mobile app (and also for your mac or PC) is Stellarium. It offers you the all the information on sun, star constellation, time and compass points you could ever need in a lovely 3D interface that allows you to see all the necessary angles you could want. And it’s free! Much love to it creators and developers for creating such a lovely piece of software. Yes this thing is pretty niché but for a project like this it cannot be beat. It can’t predict weather or the environment at the location you chose but it means with a compass (or even the one on my phone) I can turn up at a location and aim the installation at the correct angle depending what time of day I’m planning for rather than just an approximation like it used to be.
Obviously in addition to these more specific apps are those that every man and his dog has but are still worth an honorable mention. It goes without saying that the google earth app is marvelous, and offers a great level of detail regarding the layout of… well… the entire earth. For me its incredibly handy for finding those hidden paths and dirt tracks to save me breaking my back hiking up hills and through rivers with a lot electronics. The great thing is it’s integration with your google account and how markers can be passed from one to the other. When you’re doing location-based sonic art what else could you ask for?!
Finally honorable mention needs to go to Vimeo‘s app. It’s got a lot of bad press but it works a treat for me. Their 3G implementation works really well and it allows me to check where my progress is with the batch stuff I mentioned above. Their uploader app is also amazingly handy, if not a little slow but when you’ve got task scheduled to run while you sleep time isn’t really off the essence.
As far as sonic art goes there are a lot of interesting apps doing stuff with generative music (Brian Eno’s Bloom is the template for most) but nothing that’s really wowing the world yet. Next time I decide to geek out to this degree it’ll be looking at modular audio environments. But in the meantime I should hopefully be completing the modal instructional map for this project and it’ll be up and available to buy.
See you soon!
Wow. An oddly eventful few days with lots to tell you. I should warn you before departing on a journey into this post that for some reason my writing is very rangy and disjointed this week. Don’t know why. Now disclaimers are out of the way you can begin:
First up obviously there’s the fact I had to cancel the first installation; the thing that actually would have tested how well this site copes with a full public project from initiation to archiving. But alas it was not to be, but it also kinda was at the same time (more later). The weather had been pretty torrential in the run up to the day and I decided that a car was out of the question as the road to site is a little rustic (i.e. a dirt track) and I didn’t fancy getting my car stuck in the mud halfway up the pennines, and the hike isn’t really feasible until I’ve got my new camera. Hence I decided to postpone. But as winter closes in the chances are going to be fewer as time progresses so I need a good window of weather to present itself. And so that’s the fourth time that Rivington has beaten me.
However in the evening the weather began to turn very pleasant (annoyingly). My timetable was already free (I had planned to do Rivington) and the timing was perfect. A few quick phone calls to Nik and his girlfriend, the lovely Laura, meant I was able to arrange a quick one shot installation from Laura’s root terrace. It was cutting it very fine however and without Nik to look after the camera end of things, and Laura offering brews around, it would have been a massive fail. The results were some of the most consistent and interesting I’ve managed to achieve thus. I love working in a Lydian mode. It evokes all this heat but without the tension you get in other modes. It’s a very “summery” tonality. And it was bloody freezing! We needed all the heat we could get. Much love to those two for helping me out at short notice.
Skip to two days later. I refused to let Rivington beat me, if I’m honest that hill is quickly becoming my white whale, and I some slightly more computerised and fruity Captain Ahab. The weather was perfect, clear skies, scattered clouds and not hazy at all. Plus the weather had been acceptable enough to allow the dirt track that serves as a road to the top in the days prior. Again a last minute effort (but this time that served as my downfall). Throwing poor Naomi into the car to be my helper we started up the St. Georges Lane that leads to the summit. Not bad going, very bumpy; does a Fiat Stilo have decent suspension? If it did it doesn’t anymore! Generally very slow progress to the top but we were getting there slowly but surely. However as the road progresses it becomes steadily worse, severe grooves gashed into it too deep to go over, with little room either side, and just a bit too wide to try to straddle. As a result the underside of my car must look like a wild beast has had its way with it, I’ve not been brave enough to look to be honest. But suffice to say we “ran aground” (if we’re going to be all nautical) and couldn’t progress any further. We were too badly positioned in the road to leave the car and a little too far from the top to trek the rest of the way on foot. However there were wonderful views from where we had scuttled the car and so decided to do it where we were. And… I’d forgotten the batteries. The issue with last minute, off the cuff things is that stuff can go wrong because you’re rushing. Like this. So Rivington has officially beaten me 5 times now. Result? Dig out the car and head to the pub and watch what I couldn’t record.
Other things that have been done in recent days involve starting my job again as a glorified caretaker. Soul-destroying doesn’t come close. But also I’ve been off riding in helicopters (really curious about an airborne installation now, stupid I know but interesting idea), down in wales being a pro at crab fishing (I caught a huge one called Bernard but my so called “friends” wouldn’t let me keep him as a pet, they all were thrown back) watching a friend’s burlesque show (thanks to a wardrobe malfunction I’ve still not seen her knockers and irrevocably altered our relationship), and finalised my application for my Phd funding (big thing involving playlists, memories, archives and improvisation). Also started work on a friend’s birthday present that will rock hard, but can’t share it yet in case she reads this.
I’m also thinking of putting up a weekly playlist of a few tracks. Nothing big, just the music that has been following me around while doing this project. What do you reckon? Also the next blog post is looking at some of the software I use and cool tricks you can do with GPS etc.
So yeah, that was the week that was or something ( couldn’t come up with a suitably seaworthy way to sign off).
Arrr! Pieces of eight! etc.