Here you can find links to free music, videos and literature by Mike Dickson, Systems Theory, Greg Amov and the Ashley-Dickson Immersive Experience.


7th May 2021: Atmospheres 04 starting up nicely - almost too easily. The first tune is a typical slow tempo overlaid thing with something that sounds vaguely like The Underworld mixed with minor key noodlings on the flute, dressed up with various electrical burbles, and then bursts into new-found life with a swift kick up to double tempo and percussion that propels it into something else entirely. To separate all this out, I consciously went through every track and identified the sonic ranges they inhabited keeping them apart from one another so they can stand out individually, unless I didn;t want them to. Lots of decisions have to be made doing this sort of thing - a lot more than the listener might expect. I hear eyebrows all over this one though.

The second effort sounds like a chord wash that never really moves anywhere and then promptly does. It comes from a place I seldom visit.

The third is an arpeggiated/Mellotron frenzy that probably stops when the modulations and note sequences hit the on/off beat for the fifteenth time and would maybe drive the audience crazy if kept up any longer. It shows restraint, which is maybe not the first word that occurs when you hear it.

The fourth has that wash again, with that Mellotron oboe. A mate told me it sounded like a cross between a duck and a car horn. I like it. Sounds like Rubycon.

Watching the election results in Scotland. Quiet confidence has given way to a far greater sense of delight.

6th May 2021: Following on from yesterday....

Utterly brilliant. I first heard this in my parents' sitting room in Musselburgh sometime on or around 1976. It was the last of their albums I acquired before A Day at the Races came out. Those were the days of having to search for a record at loads of shops until you found the one you were after. I think this one came from Phoenix Records in the Royal Mile, which was one of the most mysteriously fantastic shops I was ever in: tiny, dark and filled with the most enticing stacked records and hilarious little notes and cartoons and stuff all over the place - it was like going to your mates. My Dad ventured into this place with me and I picked it out straight from the Q rack (which always had records by Quicksilver) and got him to pay for it. Back in the car, studying the lyric sheet, preparing myself for songs I had heard about but never heard.

All the way home to the record player with the home-made amp my cousin Bobby had built and the Wharfedales on their little shelves parked up high near the 16ft ceilings. The needle drops onto the first grooves of the ludicrously named 'side white' and into Procession, then onto the howling ecstacy that is Father to Son.

It was these moments that made me wonder about the power of this stuff. The ability to make me forget about homework.

It was also the time of fabulous album covers, especially when on vinyl:

And then they produced Jazz and everything fell apart. Ho hum.

5th May 2021: Atmospheres 3 has been finished now. I'm not gloriously happy with it, but not as unhappy as I was formerly. A couple of new synths do wonders for the creative powers, you know. More about that later, a promised before. One thing that I have noticed though is the typical synth now that doesn't just let you play it, but seems to play for you. Hit one key: symphony. And I'm not overly fond of that. There are a couple of notable offenders, the worst of which is Genesis Pro which seems to delight in doing a million things under one key whilst at the same time flattening your CPU. I'm not a fan.

Also been rediscovering this garden of earthy delights. I have grown to re-like the opening track, but still dislike everything else on side one with quite a passion. That said, as long as you ignore Prince Rupert silliness at the start of the other side, the music is just breathtaking at times. The Bolero is as glorious now as it was when I first played it in my bedroom when I was seventeen, and the rackety battle sounds are textbook Mellotron, for me.

Doubtless I will come to dislike it again soon, but that day isn't here yet. What I will say though, is that you ought to avoid the Steven Wilson remix. It's an abomination.

Incidentally, snyone with a real interest in where madness lies should look no further than this place where fandom, obsession and a knowledge of the arcane and impressive all seem to collide in what resembles a spectacular mush of despair. Honest to god, it's crazy but so beautiful it's sometimes hard to fault it completely.

The biggest problem with it is that it doesn't make the least particle of sense. (It's also full of busted links elsewhere, which pointed to other former obsessives who either died, grew up or got the help they so badly needed)

Talking of which, in the halycon days of co-running Elephant Talk with Dan and Toby we got our fair share of special people, but none more special than this sort:





Makes the rest of it seem refreshingly normal, really.

Back to all things progressive. Has there ever been a more iconic band photograph?

Perhaps, but I doubt there has ever been a more dizzyingly accomplished second album from any band ever. Rediscovering this one all over again. Just utterly and completely sensational stuff.

25th April 2021: And now I just bought this gorgeous beast too.

Lordy, these people make some outstanding stuff. Again, more on this later.

20th April 2021: Atmospheres 3 probably finished. Not sure I like some of it.

On a happier note, I just bought this beauty

More on this later...

18th April 2021: Atmospheres 3 still being examined. Still hugely unsure about it. Some parts of it seem OK, others terrible, others derivative. The most terrible thing about this is that it's derivative of myself.

15th April 2021: Still hammering through Atmospheres. I am actually thinking of halting #3 and revising it completely, perhaps even scrapping the album outright. There is even the possibility that I am going to shelf the project and limit it to two releases. It's wandering off course so much that it's finding its own voice, and in an effort to pull it back on course makes the whole business such a weird hybrid, and not in a good way either.

I'm finding the struggle getting worse and worse. Everything is a trial to pull together and inspiration tends to come in absurd bursts which mean there are great long periods of inactivity and noodling followed by some frantic periods of throwing everything together at once. It's not a great way of working, but without another person to refer to I have no idea if it's common or not.

New album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor which I am still deeply unsure about. Since their hiatus I am deeply unsure if I like them any more, although I probably like this one more than the others. It's all a rackety racket to me now, though. Maybe they are getting out of ideas. Maybe I am getting old. Maybe they are playing to a new audience.

On that note, I am seeing the following live soon:


7th March 2021: Atmospheres 02 is now done. Investigating other HTML5 players for the site. Any advice welcomed.

10th February 2021: Atmospheres 01 is done, with the second volume now being composed on the hoof. As I type this I am reminded of the rather damning words '[her writing was unplanned and sprang largely from her unconscious mind: she typed her stories as events unfolded before her' which might apply to me as well, although with far less commercial potential than that of the original subject.

One more day until Adam Curtis' new one is released. Fibrillating. Very good interview with him here.

These films are incredible, following the restoration (and preservation) of an organ in a fabulous rotunda church in the USA. They are a real testament to the fact we still have craftsmen and women among us:

Jump to the last half of the second film for a tour round all the stops. Also, 10/10 for the prize moustache.

Last thing for today: another shoutout for a terrific VST I have just found called YouLean Loudness Meter which promises to be the best loudness meter on the market. There is a lite version which can be had for free:

Something to keep your mixes at reasonable levels and avoid clipping, etc.

30th January 2021: Substantial progress is being made on the Atmospheres front. I have four pieces more or less completed with a fifth hovering in the balance. Also, some ideas are abounding about a literary project. It's all go.

Listening to more Wes Montgomery recently, along with Coltrane and Mingus. Jazz is a weird thing to me. It's like a form of expression that I cannot grasp but somehow manage to follow. I'll never be one of those in the audience marvelling at the sharpened fourths or the wonderful inversions in the augmented fifths, but I sort of get it now. More than that I cannot really say. (I am acutely aware that to talk of jazz as an homogeneous whole is a mistake many make and which I will avoid) I'm afraid of becoming that person who says they don't understand XYZ but they know what they like when they see (or hear) it. That always sounds like someone completely unwilling to learn or even take the least risk. In some ways I prefer people who just flat-out say they tried XYZ and simply don't like it. It's tiring hedging your bets all the time like this, I assume.

Talking of which...

What a time to be alive.

28th January 2021: The development of Atmospheres is raising questions of colour and texture. When is something suitable and when is something an idea to be developed at another time, or in another project? How important is it to group ideas thematically, or should we document the here and now with whatever occurs to us at that time and no other? Is a delayed idea really valid if it has no currency? Cracking through the first section of Atmospheres anyway, mostly because I am back at the Mellotron again and find that it gives me a facility I don't have with any other instrument. There is a Faculty X about the creature that is simply missing from anything else I play. For other instruments, you play them and given them a voice: with this I find it plays me and it gives me that voice.

I had another of those did I really play that moments which are fewer and further between than ever now. One of those moments when everything just happens and you get a chance to watch it happening. For that moment, it took me into its confidence. (That explains the title of one of my favourite pieces from Domus where the same thing happened) The moments may be growing fewer and further between, but they are still worth the pursuit.

23rd January 2021: Well this is a cause for some excitement...

As is this, for different reasons...

17th January 2021: The next round is likely to be called atmospheres. Doing my research now...

Thinking of revising a couple of things around Cabaret 02 now. There is one fairly indulgent section which could be reduced, plus an additional (removed) section added to the end. All speculative for now. Funny how this stuff never makes itself apparent until after you release it. Oh well.

Politics remains an amusing debacle. I'm enjoying the mayhem while it lasts.

Also enjoying the novelty of this:

10th January 2021: Plus ca change and all that. I've just spent some time correcting a dreadful edit on Cabaret 01.

Hilarious to see it all unravelling in Washington DC. Most of us with even a modicum of foresight saw this happening some time ago, but to hear that this shit still has his followers is something that I find hard to comprehend. He is going down hard, I hope.

Shoutout to the latest little free VST I have acquired: Four EP by SampleScience which is pretty much exactly as it describes itself: "a collection of 4 electric piano sounds created using additive and FM synthesis. The sounds have been sampled at multiple velocities and embedded in a VST plugin instrument. The plugin is as simple as possible and comes with simple parameters to shape your sound. The tones the plugin produces sounds like a digital piano." And it does!

I wish more VSTs had an interface as clean as this one

3rd January 2021: Cabaret released.

1st January 2021: A new year again. It's just over an hour old so not much can have possibly gone wrong so far? Then I remembered that this was the first day of Brexit. Nice to be remembered as the first nation to vote for recession on the basis of some stupid ideas about foreigners and our ability to rule ourselves, when it's patently obvious we are being ruled by a shower of liars.

The eyebrows process illustrated. Note the marginalia.

Cabaret 02 at work. Feeling stuck. I've seen others' screenshots of Reaper and feel that mine is almost orderly.

29th December 2020: Cabaret 03 is now done. Next up for the treatment is the rather more direct sounding Cabaret 02, which I haven't listened to in ages now. The Residents once tried the same trick (allegedly) by recording an album and not releasing it until they had forgotten about it. Not that I believe Messrs Flynn, Fox (RIP), Clem and Kennedy about much, but as an editorial idea it seems like a good one. At least this way you can come to the table listening to what is, in effect, someone else's work.

I still like them, though. I will never forget that initial thrill of seeing them at the Queens Hall in Edinburgh back in the days of The Mole Show (which wasn't that great a record series, really) when it was all so cut price looking. Even the venue was barely no longer a church - we were sitting on pews, which somehow seemed fitting. Everything they did from the start up to The Commerial Album was great, but the quality fell away quite quickly after this point.

I will exclude (Whatever Happened to) Vileness Fats from that, as it was released quite a bit later.

I also see that it's Peter Sinfield's birthday, according to the DGM web site. Happy birthday, Peter. You'll always be remembered as the writer of has to be the worst lyric ever written:

I need to suck the breasts of time and freeze her milk in ink

To juggle cruets full of dreams and balance on the brink

24th December 2020: Cabaret 03 is now having the eyebrows put onto it. After that it's a re-listen to Cabaret 02 for the same process. It all never seems to end, sometimes.

10th December 2020: Cabaret 03 is stalling again. I thought I had the framework nailed but now I have doubts about it.

7th November 2020: Cabaret 03 is happening too now, Bed tracks for the first section fell together neatly.

Glad to see Biden got elected. As anyone can tell, there are two kinds of politics in the USA: right wing and very right wing. The polarisation between even these has got more pronounced over the years and particularly in the recent months. I'm no great fan of Biden, but Trump has been a stain on humanity since he got elected, and probably has been all his life. The only dark cloud is that this is not over yet by a bit. I think there will be some serious troubles ahead, not all of it political.

I also don't know who is responsible for this, but it's a work of art:

Reminds me a bit of this:

31st October 2020: Cabaret 02 is now laid down as a series of bed tracks. Part 02 came together quickly and Part 03 positively fell into place thanks to a few things just coming into place at the right time. Time now to string all sections together and listen to them all the way through, then make appropriate notes about what might go where. This one is more percussive, less rhythmic, more odd. In a good way.

27th October 2020: Cabaret 02 is experiencing highs and lows. Sometimes you think what you've done is unmitigated shit, then sounds better the day after. The shit is mitigated. Other times it's not. I have just hit on a rich seam of creative energy thanks (again) to the wonderful Nexus which seldom fails to inspire.

Just also got stung by someone selling counterfeit micro SD cards on Amazon. If you have bought a big capacity card for buttons and find that files just vanish off it as soon as you have copied anything to it, then assume ropey firmware has been put on it to force the capacity up, but obviously not increase the actual storage space on the drive. Kudos to Amazon though: they pushed through the refund at top speed and removed the seller 'caimingfen'.

6th October 2020: Cabaret 01 has been done. Not fit for release yet - I want all three to come out together. The last part was done in an incredible burst of energy, the likes of which I cannot remember in about a decade. Maybe sooner - maybe since mono 1. It all dovetailed just perfectly in the end. I think this one is a major release.

Meanwhile, in other news...I've been listening to the recordings made at Sun Studios by Elvis Presley. Good Lord. That young man could really sing. Also been dwelling in much of The Who as well.

28th September 2020: The backing track for Cabaret 01 now done. Time to let it all settle and see what becomes of it. Maybe give it a week or so and mull it over. Already thinking of the eyebrows on it. It's a departure again, as most things recently seem to be. I do also realise that in some respects I am running on fumes, as some ideas are getting hard to come by. I played the first section of Consonance very very loudly in the car today and was wondering where all that stuff came from and how much of it was a happy accident. I seem to have made a habit of banking on that from the very earliest days, or so it appears.

Onwards anyway. Cabaret 02 will comprise some of the leftovers from the earlier stuff that I worked on last week. After that I am thinking of parking this and doing some writing. We shall see.

21st September 2020: Cabaret's piece still to be assembled - not sure how part 3 is going to start off. A few ideas have been and gone and nothing has settled properly. Some work with cellos and violas proved promising, but came to nothing. This may be because I was monitoring it using a set of earbuds instead of my usual monitor speakers. What sounded great there (for a second) suddenly sounded flat and unengaging, so it was binned.

20th September 2020: Now over the other side of the second section of the first part of Cabaret. It's a weird mixture of minimalism and exactly the opposite.

11th September 2020: Still working through the skeleton of Cabaret 01. Weirdly for a mere 'framework' it has 72 tracks in it so far which means I have to split it into parts to allow Reaper to be able to process it all properly. (Also, to allow me to follow what is happening) The first section comprises six sections in total, so it's ambitious.

Another random shoutout to Cloudseed which is not so much a reverb as a whole sound processing system. It's up there with Valhalla, if you ask me.

Masses of options, as you can see. I still haven't scratched the surface of this one. Sometime I'll post a list of my favourite plug-ins for the sake of comparison. Right now I'm exploring decent track and mastering compressors. Most seem to be pretty brutal, but that might be because I really don't know what I am doing with them.

Now playing: The Who at Kilburn 1977. Gordon Bennett, what a band!

10th September 2020: Started on some skeletal structuring for Cabaret 01 which is going to follow the same outline as Assonance, probably.

Just finished Michael Cohen's book (I was sent an advance copy by someone who has it - the idea of paying a felon for their felonies is distasteful to me). Not sure what I was expecting, really, but his assurances in the foreword seem to bear out scrutiny: Trump doesn't want you to read this, and you'll not end up liking Cohen when the book is finished. It does seem at times to be an extended bleat about how I was bad, but Trump was worse which isn't completely convincing at times. I don't doubt that there is a ring of truth to some of it, although it feels like another in the 'echo chamber series' which I have grown to dislike. I also have an issue believing in his complete redemption - this was someone I formerly loathed and probably still do. The book should be subtitled perhaps I got a bit carried away.

6th September 2020: Tesseract released.

4th September 2020: Tesseracts #1, #2 and #3 have been beaten into shape with a few amusing additions. As ever, I find that 90% of my time is taken up with the last 10% of the piece. Planning in the head and some on paper for #4 (which is rare for me, I know) but it runs the risk of running away from me.

Brief shoutout for Spitfire Audio and their absurdly beautiful (and free)) plugins. Right now I am playing around with 'Granular Whalesong' which is every bit as weird as it sounds. Wonderful stuff, guys.

2nd September 2020: Tesseract #3 has been worked on and worked over and is in shape enough to call it a final draft. Time to relisten to #1 and #2 to see how they can be finished off, now. I have a notion for #4 which is so outrageous that I am not sure if I can even pull it off, but I will try.

30th August 2020: The bedrock of Tesseract #2 has been laid down. It starts nowhere and goes nowhere, but has a certain drive to it that I find quite pleasing, in a quiet sense.

Work for Tesseract #3 has started with a weird bit of inspiration from an aborted project that I last visited in 2008. If I remove the underlying efforts (made by someone else) I have a reasonably pleasing soundscape left above it. It might need some balancing. It also saw a return to using Acid Pro 7.x again, which was a strange experience. It still has a very natural feel to it, even after some time away from it.

25th August 2020: Not too harsh. Back to filling it with doubt.

Even more catharsis. BANDS I LIKE AND PROBABLY SHOULDN'T #1 - Neutral Milk Hotel. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea isn't just a great title with a great cover. It has superb pushed to the max with compression production values (which leaves the whole thing monstrously fuzzed around the edges) but also has some of the most extravagant lyrics and overall concept you're likely to come across. If songs about Anne Frank, wrapped around powerful pistons, two-headed boys, carrot flowers, flame-filled pianos and ghosts in the thunderclouds are your thing then this is the album for you. I cannot quite describe the music in it other than to say it's a distressing mixture of folk, rock and roll, horns, battered drums and hollered lyrics. On paper none of this should work. But it does. Accounts of the live band sound like extraordinary chaos.

I have to admit, this is the only thing of theirs I have heard. I am worried that anything else would be rubbish.

24th August 2020: Too harsh on myself. It's going better than expected...

13th August 2020: Work started on Tesseract at last. That said, I am feeling completely uninspired and know deep down that what I have done will be scrapped.

31th July 2020: Good grief #2. Just found some guy has written a thesis using mellotronworks as a sample set in his work to find if you can determine the sound of a Mellotron inside a recording. Or at least I think that is what he is doing. But it's a genuine surprise. I must see if I can contact him.

Losing myself in JS Bach this morning. I could never tire of this. I am playing the Helmut Walcha complete recordings and whereas I have no doubt the player is doing well, I have heard a few duff notes here and there. Do people recording this serious stuff never go for a retake? There is an absolute howler in BWV 540 which should have stopped the session in its tracks, yet Helmut soldiers on. This makes me think there are several situations which could be true:

His tempo can be a bit weird at times too. There are some odd moments of speeding up and slowing down, which have a mild comedy effect, as though he is peering at the score in the slow parts. At least this lets me recall one of my favourite stories.

This story is told of the composer Johannes Brahms, who had four friends who were string players. They were very poor musicians, but such nice people that Brahms enjoyed associating with them. They decided to surprise Brahms and spent six months assiduously practicing Brahms' latest quartet. One evening they cornered Brahms at a party, and the first violinist said: "Johannes, we have a surprise for you. Come into the next room please." Brahms followed them into the next room, the players took out their instruments and started to play the quartet. Well, the first movement was about as much as poor Brahms could bear! He got up, gave a polite but sickly smile, and started to leave the room. The first violinist ran after him and said: "Johannes, how was the performance? Was the tempo all right?" Brahms replied: "Your tempos were all good. I think I liked yours the best."

28th July 2020: Good grief. Now moved onto John Coltrane and finding it really quite brilliant. I'm not sure just how much of it I am actively listening to, but what I can hear of it I really enjoy. And now it's Wes Montgomery. Full House is just brilliant. Am I finding something new after all these years?

And then I hear some Soft Machine and it all makes sense gain. This is why I hate jazz. It's not a spectator sport, really. On the subject of the Softs, I can take I and II, but even the revered III makes me want to hide. Yes, even Moon In June.

Slight update: there is a breed I have observed on Twitter (and elsewhere) who not only insist on publishing photographs of their current album on play (usually next to a record deck for extra credentials) but who insist on putting out their jazz records there as though it makes them better people than the usual prog rock brigade that they usually get lumped into. In short, there is a 'jazz afficionado' type out there who uses the genre more as a means of establishing their personal 'interesting qualities' than as a source of actual pleasure. Or at least that's the way I read it. Apologies to anyone slighted by this, but it's so apparent that it would infuriate were it not so transparently an attempt to cluster for attention. What makes it worse is that some of these people - one or two of whom bathe in the reflected light of the bands they love in a passing manner only, but who doubtless see themselves as a part of 'the music business' - have followers themselves who ape their qualities the same way that the culprits slavishly ape the phrases, repetition, writing mannerisms and opinions of those they follow. All kind of tragic really. And naming no names of course.

25th July 2020: Sorry to hear about the passing of Peter Green, but in all truth I probably liked his band more than I liked him. I won't say a bad word about him though - he was a great musician. I am a bit repelled by all those crawling from the slime to say how much they liked him and how they were just playing his music this morning like they and they alone are the immortal memory. In some ways, this ties in with a Rick Beato video I was watching earlier which asked why people hate jazz. I really don't think they do; they just hate the people who think they know better than you do. Same for Peter Green and the myriad others who made some impressions on a life before that life started making out they were the messiah.

Ironically, I am actually listening to Sketches of Spain right now and really enjoying it. Then again, this is the apex of the arc. I hear some Stravinsky in this. How odd is that?

14th July 2020: Fractal has been released, sooner than expected.

13th July 2020: As predicted, the film I alluded to yesterday is already going some distance towards illustrating the content of what otherwise is a fairly conventional piece of music. The issue might be that I have more to say than I can in seven minutes, so I make it much shorter and to the point. I wish I had Adam Curtis' gift for analysis and narrative. The forthcoming Tesseract might feature more of this. Who knows?

12th July 2020: Anyone unfamiliar with this should make themselves familiar with it at the earliest opportunity:

I find it deeply, deeply interesting. I'm not sure how much of it I completely buy into, but I buy into enough of it to know that he is on the right track. I do very much enjoy his presentation style, along with the cutup source of the film content. Some of this is going to inform Fractal #4 without a doubt.

5th July 2020: Been a while now. Now working my way into Fractal which started quickly then slowed down drastically. You make one terrific arpeggio which you think you will be able to build on and then you realise you cannot but at the same time don't want to let it go, so you sit on it and it never moves anywhere. And then it does. Now working on the fourth of four tracks on it, the last one being quite a departure from my usual. Also finding a strange happiness in vi-IV-ii-III7 which is an odd thing since it is the basis (mostly) for so many things I've known, probably (with knowledge) all the way back to the coda to A Saucerful of Secrets, which to me was always better played out live. But I digress.

23rd May 2020: Trying to listen to Isomorph objectively and failing. The oldest thing I can listen to with any sense of disassociation is probably mellotronworks which is an astonishing 12 years ago. I can listen to ongoing works with engagement (maybe only because they are 'what I am doing' at that time) but the nanosecond they are in the can they are yesterday and I need to move onto something else.

I was watching a documentary the other day about Pink Floyd, and the 'debates' they had over mixes and takes, and how Waters and Gilmour had anxious and fierce arguments about the bed tracks for Comfortably Numb which had the most miniscule of variations, yet were the source of such contest. I kind of get that; when you are in the zone, one take and another are incredibly different and lend themselves to much thought and debate, but invariably are something eventually submerged in a mix somewhere they cannot be heard by anyone without the ears of a pipistrelle. I am as guilty of that as anyone else.

Magma playing in the background. What a band. Oh to have that vision.

19th May 2020: Isomorph is released.

11th May 2020: Isomorph is happening. The first one is good, the second is bitty but not too shabby either, and the third is frankly beautiful and fell into place in about two hours. I am very pleased with this. When something comes together this quickly it's usually a sign of two things. (1) That it's 'important' in some sense, and (2) that you should do no harm to it by tinkering. Hard to resist, but that's the discipline. Ideas for the fourth section are distant at the moment. I am liking this EP format.

I am just as pleased with my latest purchase of a Roland Rubix 22 audio interface. Very impressive stuff and very recommended. I plumped for this after I found that the higher priced models were sold out. It has a very quiet noise floor and literally is about as plug and play as you can get, plus Reaper seems to really like it too. That has to count for something.

Lockdown persists....

24th April 2020: Biggest influences? There is always the magnificence and sheer strangeness of posted missing Steve Moore, but the other voice I always, always draw upon is that of Bill Nelson. Not the Bill Nelson of BeBop Deluxe, nor even of the beautiful organic pop of the 1980s that John Peel showed me. No - this is the Bill Nelson of the home studio. The notebook fragments. The lofi free albums that he had pressed alongside his more mainstream albums such as Sounding the Ritual Echo and more polished La Belle et la Bete. When Trial By Intimacy came out I was entranced, so much that I partly pilfered a title of his for my own.

Back in the 1980s - when John Peel's show was mandatory listening for anyone who cared - I found there was something in every show worth finding. It was there I discovered Bill's music, but also that of The Stranglers, Sun Ra, The Fall and many others that have stuck with me through the years. My best mate and I bonded over a love of Pink Floyd early on, but our tastes diverged a bit until I played him The October Man by Bill Nelson from The Love That Whirls. It was under that umbrella that we found a common interest again, and went to so many late night gigs together. The highlights were the Clash's 'busking' gig at Coasters in Edinburgh (they were his very favourite) and the Residents at the Queen's Hall where we saw them torture Penn Gillete during their low-tech play of The Mole Show.

He never made it with me to the show at Queen's Hall where Bill Nelson played his music alongside Richard Jobson and Frank Chickens, but the gig and the venue were nothing short of a revelation. I couldn't wait to tell him about it and share that experience with him. My friend died a few years ago, taken far too soon. I didn't know what to say or to whom, so I wrote a note to Bill Nelson who wrote a beautiful note back to me without knowing who I was. That counts.

Every year on Boxing Day, I post Pink Floyd's Mudmen to Facebook for my friend, as it was his favourite tune. I don't care if no one sees or or understands it. I just want to plant it, as a memory to him and the kindness we had for one another.

And to let whatever is left of him know that I miss him.

19th April 2020: Quarto is released. Listening back to it I was worried that I wouldn't like it, but I find it much more appealing than I would have credited. I put some of the credit for this down to the rather outstanding DC1A3 Compressor which I acquired recently. Lots of paid plug-ins might seem nice, but the free stuff keeps delivering, really.

Also, been counting the sheer number of typos on this web site. Extraordinary.

Quarto 1/4 - that moment when the choir comes in. Liking it.

13th April 2020: Just about to review what I put together yesterday. Always a moment of trepidation when you do this. Sometimes it can be hey that's not half as bad as I was expecting whereas sometimes it can be what the hell was I thinking?. Even thinking about where I was heading with this makes it seem strangely incongruous. That moment of doubt is all I need to pull the plug on it. I think I am just looking for the excuse to do so.

(Post review) A bit of both, really. I may keep going on this for now. It's not so bad as to throw away completely, but may not reside in this space.

12th April 2020: Just yesterday I found some inspiration for the fourth quarter of Quarto which is at odds from the plans I had for it. We'll see if it works out, so right now I am reserving judgement on it.

Thinking about the next EP now, which will take up Quarto 4/4 if the new idea works out. For now the next EP has the working title of Isomorph, but that is likely to change.

Where do the names come from? Who knows? Nothing to do with me. It has come as news - even a surprise - to some people to find that my first few releases were named after my cats, albeit in an oblique manner. Six Consequences was named after a project I had come up with in Systems Theory between myself, Greg and Steven whereby we would musically mimic the child's game of 'Consequences', in that we'd come up with several 30 second' worth of music each without knowing what the others were doing, then somehow sequentially stitch them all together to make something coherent. It was probably a stupid idea as it would never make sense, but it was a notion to shake things up.

Ironically, what interests me the most right now are notions of noise and monotony. One key. One chord. Even one note. (Hello GY!BE and Hope) Anything that compels and draws the listener in by fair means or foul. Who was the best at doing this? I know of many contenders, but to me What Goes On by The Velvet Underground from 1969 has to be the greatest example of them all. My only issue with that song is that it doesn't go on forever.

Stirling Moss, Peter Bonetti and Tim Brooke-Taylor all gone in one day. How did that ever happen?

10th April 2020: Quarto coming along in fits and starts. Like most things I find it's best when you don't push at it too hard. When things need to happen they happen. I remember a story about a famous songwriter who was smitten with an appalling dose of writer's block and who was so frozen by it he thought he'd never produce anything again other than abortive fits and starts. He did the exact opposite. Rather than sit in his studio at home and try to make something happen, he rented an office, put on a suit every day and worked there nine to five, breaking an hour for lunch, uninterrupted by anything around him. For him it worked, but it's not a remedy for everyone.

23rd March 2020: I have listened back to Vectors again, and it needs revision. There are still mistakes in it and - worse - there are moments that sound just wrong to me now. It's being fixed.

17th March 2020: The mistakes are coming thick and fast now. Listening back to Vectors I heard a glaring mistake in the fourth track where a sound in 4 was trying to walk over a pulse in 3 and at the wrong tempo. All re-edited, re-mastered and re-uploaded. Not good though.

Work restarted on a couple of Oddzial ideas. This is one that has never really left me. The ambient sounds have now given way to some really deeply abstract stuff. The latest one is really quite scary, reminiscent of the remarkable This Heat in some ways.

Thinking of the next one already. It has a working title of Quarto, for now.

15th March 2020: Vectors released.

24th February 2020: Vectors has been started and already it's shaping up quite well. The plan is for an EP of four arrangements, with most of the parts drawn from elements of Blanchette, or at least that is the plan at present. Of all the Colours that one was my favourite, both to make and to listen to. Don't ask me why. It just sort of worked. Some of it does seem to be expandable, so I will try to do so, although much of what will be expanded upon is already going to be played about with to such an extent that it will be unrecognisable.

17th February 2020: I've made a small change with Cantus this time - the CD release is different from the MP3 release on the download page. Up to you to notice how!

16th February 2020: Shite and hellfire. I made a mistake. Cantus was uploaded incomplete. I managed to mute a whole bank of tracks on Cantus 20 which have now been restored to both the track and the ISO from the CD. Apologies.

12th February 2020: Cantus is released!

10th February 2020: Cantus 20 now done, after so many false starts. As ever, serendipity wins in the end. All uploaded, ISOs done, web page being set up. Give me a day or two to get it finalised.

27th January 2020: Eyebrowing complete on Cantus at last. I just have to find inspiration for the 20th track which I have started (and scrapped) about 10 times now.

26th January 2020: More catharsis. BANDS I FEEL I OUGHT TO LIKE MORE THAN I ACTUALLY DO #3 - The Beach Boys.

Oh higher power, give me the strength to say this. OK, now if asked I would always say that I have no idea what my favourite song actually is, but I am pretty sure that whatever it is it was written by Brian Wilson. I am also still fairly sure that this is true. But the analysis of the whole situation reveals something a bit different.

To date, as far as I can tell, they have made 30 albums in the studio which really comprises their actual output. The 50+ compilations are taken from these, and frankly the half-dozen or so live albums aren't great as they were never exactly a sensational live act as far as the music goes, and all fall into the you had to be there bucket.

The oldies are really for the nostalgia circuit. With piteously few exceptions, I'm not keen on them at all. They may have captured a mood in the USA and have some meaning there, but the notion of driving up and down in your car, having your best girl on a Saturday night and having a high school ring that you gave to her at prom by the root beer stand is as foreign to me as being true to your school. It's all from another time and another place. The songs about surfing, cars, girls and dancing may well be well-crafted, but lyrically they are pretty dreadful and musically they are...dare I say it...occasionally monotonous.

Things only got more interesting around the time of Today! where the songwriting skills that Brian clearly had in spades was allowed to flourish beyond the confines of a formula that some more conservative elements were alarmed he was fucking with. The song cycle on the second half of the record is pretty damned magnificent, although a bit short - and therefore requiring to be padded out with a meaningless and hugely dated interview which breaks the spell a bit. Things progressed further and upwards into Pet Sounds which is maybe one of the four albums I'd cite as being the greatest ever in the history of modern music. The SMiLE debacle was upended by so many things - drugs, internal strife, drugs, finances, collaborators, the record company, drugs, etc - that it was never going to happen, even in an alternative world where dreams all come true. I think that is something that so many people overlook when trying to think what might have been. (Controversial opinion alert: I also think the album would have been widely panned had it come out in 1967)

The albums that followed this were seriously patchy. Smiley Smile is maybe the weirdest thing they ever did (try listening to the intro to Little Pad and not think about a hazy shade of of dope smoke and crashing standards - the Brian of only two years ago would have forcibly thrown this tripe from the studio), and is only really kept afloat by Heroes and Villains and the magnificence of Good Vibrations. Wild Honey has a strong rendition of one a great Stevie Wonder song, but with so much filler that it's more like polyfilla than honey. It also sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom. Or a swimming pool. And that sort of charts the arc for the band for the next half dozen records: some great stuff like Til I Die and Slip on Through with some stuff that is of such dubious quality it's hard to imagine the Brian from Pet Sounds ever letting this stuff through beyond a doodle on the piano and a shake of the head. Albums such as Sunflower have a reputation for brilliance that I fail to see. For every It's About Time you have to have a Deirdre, a Tears in the Morning and the execrable At My Window. No wonder their sales hit the floor and started digging. (We should also remember that the actual version of Sunflower we now have was rejected twice by Reprise. Let us be thankful that this spared us When Girls Get Together)

So devoid were they of ideas (they had a few submissions rejected by the record company in this time, and small wonder) that they had to revive the ghosts of first SMiLE and then that of Brian Wilson himself just to get back in the game. Problem was, for every great song they released there were two or three of really low quality. The album Surf's Up is as good an example as any. The last two songs on it pretty much define what 'genius' means to me, but the rest of it...oh boy. And let's not forget the lyrics of Jack Rieley. Or maybe we should. I have made a compilation of the best songs from this point up to the rather lightweight Holland (after which they became simply and uniformly dreadful) and it's not enough to fill a CD. So my love of the Beach Boys releases really only rests with Pet Sounds.

Is it a flawless album? Of course not. Brian spent so much time dicking with it that he ran out of studio time and mixed it down in a day, and it sounds like it. But the music and arrangements hit a peak they simply would never get near again, mostly because they kept Brian away from the pursuit of the melancholy. Part of that is likely down to the fact that the album didn't sell in droves, which cast a pall over everything and got Capitol the excuse to rush out yet another compilation album of surfing songs of theirs to cover up for it. So is one album and some scattered successes enough to warrant my admiration? Maybe. That one album is properly fantastic (and has better than average lyrics. (something they clearly forgot when they did Al's feet song on Surf's Up) In some ways, the best of the band was not just Pet Sounds but the offshoots from it - the original SMiLE sessions (of which I have hours of geekery, I can assure you), Song Cycle by Van Dyke Parks (I wish he had done more in this vein) and the properly stupendous Pacific Ocean Blue from Dennis Wilson which is a serious contender for being almost up to the mark with the best of his elder brother's work. Yes, seriously. And Bambu isn't half bad either.

Maybe the best of it is that with one album being so good, the rest smacks of being a magnificent failure. That gives it a strong appeal - the idea of what might have been, rather than what it actually was.

25th January 2020: Eyebrowing continues unabated. This is pretty exhausting - it's easy to write down things as you hear them (or don't) but another to enact them.

24th January 2020: Eyebrowing Cantus with fury. The next in the series of abstractions will be an EP named Vectors.

15th January 2020: Still not feeling 100% but markedly better. I've shut off eyebrowing Cantus for now, but find that I am replaying bits of it in my head. Usually the bits I want to fix, too, so it's not as if it's the best bits either. Damn.

12th January 2020: Not feeling great, taking the time to identify and apply eyebrows onto Cantus. I actually cannot remember another project where so many have occurred to me, even after the process has completed itself. When one layer goes on, another layer is suggested. I'm left wondering how this is ever going to end.

8th January 2020: More candid thoughts from the pen of the writer: BANDS I FEEL I OUGHT TO LIKE MORE THAN I ACTUALLY DO #2 - King Crimson. Yes, honestly. If asked I'd have said this was my favourite band ever, yet actually thinking about it I wonder just how much I really appreciate them after all. Their first album may be most famous for its glorious and menacing artwork and the first and last songs on side one - the sheer brilliance of which is still striking to this day - but the other side is half unlistenable improvised tripe and half some weirdly hippy stuff with cringey lyrics, albeit with a sizzling arrangement. The second album is a clone of the first (their retake on Mars is nothing but a disappointment, watered down to such an extent that it just disintegrates into noise rather than structure). The third has one moment of really great melody and arrangement, surrounded by a load of sheer and utter nonsense with a terrible singer and a disinterested band, and their fourth - whilst better - only comes alive when the singer shuts up and the guitarist plays.

The Wetton stuff is great, doubtless (though Larks Tongues is wonderfully ferocious in parts, yet is also paradoxically pretty weedy at times when the live versions of these songs were far superior - compare Exiles there with the same tune on USA or The Night Watch and you'll see what I mean), but I don't really get what people revere about Red. Nice title track, but the following two songs are a bit...ordinary. Starless is of course their magnus opus but unfortunately, that's where it all stops. Their eighties albums were one catastrophic disappointment (I will never forget the feeling of playing it then checking the label to make sure that the shop hadn't given me a Talking Heads album by mistake) followed by two more that were very much worse. Fortunately they ran out of steam at this point. On being revived, things were little different, just a bit noisier. Whilst Thrak had a few moments to love, nothing else they have done since is anything I ever bother to play. If I listen to them at all now it's to Wetton and Co playing live, and even then their repertoire was very small and pretty repetitive, so I tend to go for the improvisations. Their most recent output has been pretty uniformly dreadful, aside from the unexpected moments like Level 5. In some ways I liked the ProjeKcts much better, as it seemed to make the band into the small(er), mobile, intelligent units they wanted to be.

There are of course other things to annoy you about the band. The endless reissues. The boxed sets upon boxed sets. (Both of which are ironic given that at one time the band - ie, one of them that claimed not to be the band at all - was at pains to say there was 'nothing in the vaults' - I'll give you the Elephant Talk quote on that, if you like) There is also the whole Cult of Fripp that I find unsettling too, where people seem to take on his repetition, mannerisms, turns of phrase and even his photography styles in a rather weird and slavish way. It's just a band, you know.

Ironically, this band sounded better recorded live to me, yet when I saw them in Edinburgh in 2015 I was bored beyond shitless. It was like watching a tribute band doing a drum clinic with iPads for Mellotrons and MIDI for a heart. The irony here is of course that the tribute band comprises people who have been in the band in one form or another, but who are somehow trying to emulate their youth for a weird nostalgia market which the band - there I go again - said it would never pander to. They were more like The Hollow Men. There was nothing to entertain me about them, and I am afraid that this is the way it will remain. What excited me when I was 16 or so now seems like a quaint toy I used to play with and put away in the cupboard when I grew out of such things. It's like a half-remembered film or TV show that fills you with nostalgia, yet which really lets you down when you finally see it again. It had its day, and now it's over and really has been since around 1975.

I used to smile as the puppets danced. Now I just see the strings.

Update from 13th April 2020: The above is mostly nonsense. I spent a large part of yesterday listening to Epitaph (their live sets from 1969) and being blown away by the playing, the invention and the brutality of some of it. And it is brutal. At the end of one of the Fillmore sets you can hear the announcer telling the (somewhat devastated) audience to stay where they are for the next act. Having just heard them blast out their overwhelming take onMars you can almost hear the next act think 'well...fuck that idea...' as there is simply nothing you could possibly do to follow it. Thus inspired I went through other catalogue highlight and yes, they were a great band until 1975 when it all stopped and should have been left that way.

21st December 2019: Cantus is still doddering along, slowly taking shape. Eyebrowing some parts here and there. Letting some sit and rest like a well-cooked bird. Cantus 11 is proving tricky because it comprises parts made in differing keys and one section is played a fifth off the tonic, which makes it sound like it's transposing, but isn't really. My dilemma is 'do I leave it or not'? I'm thinking that I might.

Just discovered the rather stunning synth Nexus. It has some weird and wonderful stuff going on there.

More fun with Mellotrons. Two days ago I was doodling around with it, playing arund with EQ and pedals and hit upon a sound that I thought was really striking: a softened string sound hybridised with the barest amount of flute, and filtered through a lovely gentle eq and a bit of filtering. Resolving to get this one used somehow I left everything as it was and switched it all off. Two days later I return, switch it all on...and it sounds nothing like what I had been planning at all. Nothing like the sound I had managed to conjure up at all. Not even close. Some days these things play like a dream. Other days they simply will not cooperate at all. They are more like cats than musical instruments, I think.

3rd November 2019: Cantus coming along steadily and rapidly. One genuinely good piece of dance music in here too, I think. It all needs work.

Candid thoughts from the pen of the writer: BANDS I FEEL I OUGHT TO LIKE MORE THAN I ACTUALLY DO #1 - Henry Cow. I bought their music many years ago, all on vinyl and all from the same outlet that was run by one of their former members. The music promised so much, and yet...

My biggest trouble is that it sounds like music that is a blast to play but isn't something designed for any other participants. In other words, I find it playable but unlistenable. I tried to get my way into Western Culture about ten times and every time I hit the same brick wall; that of a weird mixture of overt politics and what appears to be a deliberate sense of obscurity, as though they stop playing when they think you might start to like it, only to break into jazz bassoon or (maybe worse) where do we go from here improvisation.

Am I a hypocrite? Yes, I probably am. I know a lot of what I do is every bit as awkward squad as their is, and yet I don't care if there is an audience there or not. I don't really care if there is anyone reading this. They did. They had a record contract. They had gigs. They had finances. They had their tours. And their story and theory is remarkable and should be interesting....but isn't. (It also sounds like there was a lot of sexual politics that was definitely not as right on as they would want to make out going on)

Tim Hodgkinson did once remark that they played revolutionary music (in the politicised sense of the word) because to do otherwise was to play at the same game as everyone else out there in the more corporate musical landscape. Or to put it another way of theirs, 'independence is only a valid first step if revolution is the second'. That much I get. But like cricket, it's not something you can sit around and actually consume with any delight. Yes it's clever and yes it's highly structured, but there are few moments that come at me from a position of actual joy. It's more like a four fingered exercise in music obscurity sometimes.

My other issue is that they are four or more (highly) middle class people who are only suffering because they want to, playing a new music for the perceived uncultured masses who at the time would far rather be listening to Elton John. It all feels so...condescending. In making a new culture up they seem to be missing their target audience by a mile or more.

I'll give you Unrest for sure. And maybe half of Concerts. That's the half with actual music in it. But the rest? Like other artefacts left behind by cows, I'd sooner step around it.

3rd November 2019: As predicted, Cantor has had a name change. Now it's called Cantus.

16th October 2019: Cantor (which may yet have a name change) is moving along quickly now, inspiration coming at a great speed, almost as fast as Spectacular. What has been put down for is so far has been really good and feels satisfying, in a 'notebook' sort of way, where quality control and thematics is less important that the immediacy of ideas. This is the best way to make sounds - by hearing and doing.

There are also other worms at work. Cantor will have track titles that bear relevance in (some manner) to their formation, relevance or influence. A glace at some of them will give them away immediately, if you know your subject.

Currently listening to the works of one deeply remarkable woman whose music has made a serious impact on me as long as I can remember veering away from the mainstream and into the weeds. I don't like all of it - no one could, I guess - but there is a unique voice within it which is singularly hers and of which I simply cannot get enough. I could never aspire to the heights she managed, but she inspires me to be different, at the very least.

8th October 2019: Onto the next idea that struck me as I was mixing down the end of Assonance. I am not sure if the idea is as strong as the others, but I will run with it for now. As the seventh part of the Abstractions series, this one is called (for the moment) Cantor.

7th October 2019: Well, that's Assonance out the door. All very rhythmic and insistent, and it revives a moment from the previous recording which then veers off into another direction which I would have wanted, but which didn't fit. How many listeners do you have? I have genuinely no idea. Then why do you make all this music? Because I want it to exist somewhere.

26th September 2019: Time to put the eyebrows onto Assonance...

11th September 2019: Assonance is almost done now - a continuous movement in ten parts with a reprise of a theme from a previous album, along with an extension to that theme which I wished I had done before. Some still sounds like backing tracks to something else. Some sounds more like the real thing. Some sounds like something you would find years later and work on again because it sounded better then than when you scrapped it. Who knows how this stuff works? I've never done that recurring theme idea before (other than with Brief Second which appears again twice on each of Basilica and Movements and quite deliberately so on both occasions) and certainly not as soon as the other.

31st August 2019: Assonance is still chuntering along, but seems at times to be a series of backing tracks to something more dramatic. Maybe that's my style.

2nd August 2019: At long last it seems that Assonance is coming together to form a coherent whole. At least part of the issue was of course the ongoing issues with the deeply disappointing Magix version of Acid Pro. At least part of their problem is their inability to support even the most straightforward of VSTs and have broken their own beatmapping into a bloodied pulp. Bugs we can expect, but a lack of any response from their own tech support is unforgiveable. Their uselessness has turned me towards Reaper which seems to be pretty similar to Acid, only that it works. There is still a learning curve and it doesn't have some of the things that Acid has (or had) but it seems like a fair replacement for what has become a dead duck.

16th April 2019: So where did Colours come from?
The idea was actually borne from the idea that became Spectrum, in that a piece of music with slow moving parts could be considered a worthy thing to do if it could be done without anyone 'seeing the joins' between one phase of the sound and the other, distracted doubtless by a drunk and tragic woman playing with a tape recorder. Listening in one continuous session provides little clue that what we can hear is not what we were listening to a few minutes ago. Only by dabbing through the track at intervals would we notice that what is being played is markedly different to what was being produced a minute ago. Spread over an hour, the differences are almost negligible.
This idea seemed to work, but it was not finished until it gave rise to another more adventurous project. The idea behind mono was to see if this form of subtle changing music could be made far faster, in a 'programmed' manner to allow an album to be dropped together very quickly indeed, leaving me only to choose two voices. Four template tracks were created, switching between two moving chords in various minor sixth and minor seventh chords, varied in key to break the monotony. The voices were chosen to blend and contrast, leaving one emerging from the other from a previous mix of the two. Programmed fades, in and out, fixed length tracks to four minutes or so, fading in and out on thirty second marks.
This all worked well. An album was produced per day and I even managed to knock out accompanying videos for YouTube. Everything was done and released in a day. Five albums in five days? No problem. Perhaps mono 5 ran out of steam a little (though it actually contains what I think it the best track of the entire project) which to me showed that the idea had limits - not of execution - but of interest.
Next idea. Same but more. Ten albums of ten moods, governed by a sense of shade or colour and written with a common theme:

Vermillion: programmed like mono but instead of two shifting chords around as many voices, we have three chords (or sound movements) with four voices, with any two being heard at one time.
Topaz: somewhat the same as the first, but using organic sounds as well as synthetic sounds in the same way. Rain, running water, wind...all of it, along with other found sounds and field recordings.
Oriole: moving on from found sounds, also using percussion and dynamics as well as synthesised sounds
Harlequin: fewer found sounds, some synthetic, predominantly woodwind, scattered melodies, voices creeping in
Ultramarine: some of the above, but now with the added benefit of some deeply Berlin School electronics that hammer along the implied percussion, the pulse of the music stronger than ever
Imperial: softer percussion (mostly - there are some emphatic exceptions), fewer hard synths with the introduction of gentler washes and (above all else) voices, both synthetic and organic and some with stages between them both
Blanchette: much softer percussion, if there is any at all, spikier washes and pads, a burning sound like the rumbling in your ears when you wince after staring into a low winter sun, minimalism
Umber: wooden and organic, consoles and tables, pianos and organs, ending in a dull gloom
Marengo: a continuation of the last, a dullness of tone, repetition and colourlessness, a featureless grey sky laden with the threat of a storm
Stygian: all life removed, a bleak and dreadful barren form of wasteland, nothing lives here, no voices, no percussions, no keys, nothing


Spectrum takes one sound and forms them into another
Mono takes one project and extends it by moving an idea between tracks
Colours takes the idea further by merging the idea across entire albums

Who to thank for this? Three people above all others: Costin Miereanu, Basil Kirchin and above all else, Steve Moore. Those who know will know. I couldn't explain to those who don't - my shortcoming entirely.

Time to park this for the meantime. Assonance calls.

14th April 2019: Harlequin now completed, and Colours is done. More about this later.

4th April 2019: Very occasionally - well...enough that I would remark upon it - I am asked why I seldom use drums in my music. The answer is simple; drums dictate a rhythm - a pulse implies it. Those who want to be slaves to a rhythm are welcome to it. I prefer the more subtle inference driven by not a bang, but a bump. The crash of a drumkit also seems to be an ugly sound to me, something filled with a need to look at me. That's not what I want. I want my beat to be organic, aperiodic, a pulse within which rhythm dwells but has no home, just a sort of limited squatter's rights. If I want an actual rhythm, then it will be produced by other means, where I can run it.

Harlequin coming to a close, inspired by my greatest guiding voice, in the end. (I wonder where he is now...)

28th March 2019: Harlequin is happening, and happening quite quickly. I tried mixing tonight and used an unfamiliar set of headphones which gave it a really lo-fi feel, which I liked a lot. I may keep that texture and see if I can work it into something new. Everything I am doing now seems to be very rhythmic, even the stuff without an obvious rhythmic centre.

Very pissed off about Scott Walker. Do I hear twenty one? Tilt was the soundtrack to my working day for the longest time.

7th March 2019: The review as a process:

Listen to the tune from one end to the other at flat EQ.

Listen to it again some minutes later, making timed notes about the following:

1. Where does it sound too empty? At such a point, make a note about the sound you instinctively want to hear, and what it does.

2. Where does it sound too full? What would be optimal? The removal of what would gain that?

3. Does the tune feel too long? What might remedy that?

4. Is the EQ right for all tracks?

5. Are all the voices appropriate? Are they all at the right level?

6. Is the music right for the release?


The eyebrows as a process:

What would lift it from being good to being memorable?


Does this process always work? Of course not. Does it always make things better? Of course not. So why expend this effort? And who wins?

20th February 2019: Ultramarine is now stalling. All ten tracks have been done, but there is still the part of the process known as the eyebrows to be finished on it. That involves listening, re-listening, re-re-listening, considering, editing, then re-thinking almost every thing that has gone before. That's tricky at the best of times, and requires a fair amount of self-criticism and the ability to see beyond the intended (which sounds really pretentious, I know) and into the 'hidden intention' that Eno goes on about sometimes. Very difficult. Harlequin is also still with us and is now beyond a point of simple nascence and ha a definite structure to it, but again - the effort is great. After Colours I think I'll be calling a break, if not a day.

That said...I do have an idea for Waves #5, named Assonance. Sometimes you just cannot let go, can you?

31st January 2019: Ultramarine is soon to be completed, or at least the first stage of it is.

What are the stages? Generally this: (a) sketches, (b) impressions, (c) attempt, (d) revision, (e) re-edit, (f) polishing and (g) eyebrows. Sometimes this cycle can take a day (such as in the mono project), other times it can take upwards of six months. Somewhere within this cycle there is a process of maturing, in that I leave the music to age a bit so I can come back to it and re-evaluate it again.

I am also occasionally asked about what ends up on the cutting room floor and what happens to it. With very few exceptions, that which us not good enough is destroyed.

16th December 2018: That's Umber finished. Not sure how I feel about this one. Two more to go, both of which have had plans and ideas skecthed out and scrapped several times already.

10th December 2018: Just created mono primo - a sort of mono greatest hits - as a single CD download.

11th November 2018: Just had some inspiration around both Umber and (to a lesser extent) Harlequin. The latter certainly opens up something which I hadn't thought about at all.

Also had a weird experience a couple of days ago where my Kindle seems to 'fall open' at 1984 which I have started re-reading properly, maybe for the first time since I was at school. What strikes me is how much of it is what we are living now. Right is wrong and wrong is right. Some things have to be said and other things are banned from thought and speech. Worse yet is the arch prediction that what was once never was, and vice versa. Our friends are now enemies and our enemies now friends and that was always the situation, and if you remember otherwise then you are wrong and dangerous. Fake history is fake news. And truly, it appears that ignorance is strength.

3rd November 2018: Imperial has just been finished, which leaves me now with Umber to finish off and both Harlequin and Ultramarine to start off, completing the series.

Without doubt this is one of the hardest and most taxing things I have ever had to do, requiring

  1. A complete sense of the project and what it is trying to say
  2. A view of what each component section represents in the overall expression
  3. The marque of each section within the overall project, such that it does not fall outside the scope of the project but also retains an identity of its own
  4. A lack of repetition, at least within each component
  5. A constantly changing voice to pronounce each idea within the project individually and collectively

In other words, it requires constant thought and invention. That is hard to do, as any musician will tell you. Doubtless I have missed the mark in some places, but the slowness of the project overall - at least for me - gives me a fighting chance of getting out of it what I wanted. Stygian may seem to be the most taxing of the series, but it reaches out for the Heart of Darkness that I have been looking for and trying to recreate since I was about 20 years old. This music is not for everyone. I also managed to listen to Oriole all the way through recently half in and half out of sleep, and couldn't even place it as my own. It appeared seamless, like some unwinding bolt of cloth, panning through one movement into the next. It's taken thirty years, but I am finally getting there.

Those of you with a keen sense of the absurd will also notice that each section has its own title which brings with it it's own 'meaning' within the scope of the project, thereby defining its voice. Imperial has at its core the strength of the voice, distorted through the use of technologies old and new, but always recognisably human at its centre. The removal of humanity from the human is in some ways what I have been striving for as long as I can remember.

26th September 2018: Stygian now done. This is very difficult stuff. Probably the most determinedly abstract thing I have ever done, but it is structured and it is almost perfect for what it is supposed to represent. The listener may have few favours here, though. It's the sort of thing one has to encounter in the most unlikely and unprepared circumstances.

19th September 2018: Umber is taking shape now, plus there are plans for another in short order.

18th September 2018: That's Marengo up now too. Very mysterious stuff...all fell into place very quickly indeed. Quite alarmingly so, in fact.

2nd September 2018: Well, after that hiatus I have managed to pull a few things together. Colours is back on track, albeit not being created in the same order as before. Vermillion, Oriole, Topaz and Blanchette are written and released. I now have a better and more concrete idea where the rest of the project is going too. One clue is that the former Heliotrope has been renamed Imperial.

At least half the problem with getting this done has been with my primary software. ACID PRO (which used to be made by Sound Forge, then Sony, now Magix) has a legacy as being a loop-based DAW, but in fact it's now way more than that. Sony let the product rot on the shelf for years, then Magix bought it up and - best of all, I thought - made it 64 bit and added a few new features. Sadly, these have proven to be buggy and horrible in equal measure. The fixed colour scheme is now grotesquely dark, and there is no built-in retro support for 32 bit plug-ins, which to say the least is a bit of a blow. Fortunately, JBridge exists but that's getting away from the issue. There are lots of other instabilities at large in the software which makes you wonder if what you have just done will open again right afterwards. (Believe it or not, that is actually an issue.) I am bored being an upaid beta tester, Magix.

All this makes you wonder if you should start a project at all. Doubtless I have been hit by a lack of musical inspiration, but I am certain that the ruinous state of the software has contributed to me thinking is this even worth it? And so, I didn't so much for a while. I had plenty of ideas, but the thought of trying to flesh them out into actual sound was just too dreadful a prospect to face, so I didn't. I hope they get their act straight soon. Acid 7.x is way too long in the tooth to return to now, and since some projects are written in Acid 8.x and it isn't backwardly compatible then I am stuck with it.

And finally - on request I uploaded Resonance 10 to YouTube only to find it reporting it as someone else's music, which didn't make me feel great, to say the least. What it did was recognise some samples used from an open toolkit, but the manner in which it reported this implied I was thieving someone else's efforts. So no more YouTube for now.

15th May 2018: Umpteenth false start on the next stage of Colours. Time to give up for now, then. I'll be dormant a while.

2nd May 2018: Revelation - that's a pun for the knowledgeable.

Yes, Pet Sounds. Yes, The Aeroplane Over The Sea. Yes, Larks' Tongues in Aspic. Yes, Trout Mask Replica. But it has to be Forever Changes. I doubt this one will ever be beat by anyone. Not in this lifetime anyway.

29th April 2018: Illness precludes much making sense, so I have given up moving Colours for the time being, though I have ideas for it now that bear a bit of mulling over, having heard a couple of soundtracks recently.

22nd April 2018: A trusted pair of ears has given a wonderful criticism of Waves as a whole, and Consonance in particular. That makes me very happy indeed.

9th April 2018: Consonance has been released. I am very happy with this one. Give it a try. One track, 42 mins long. That is the Waves project over and done. One more to go, maybe.

If the music has a theme at all, it is that through chaos comes order, and that through order comes revolt, and through revolt comes disorder, and through disorder comes chaos. If anything, that is the central theme of Waves as a whole and of Consonance in particular. By the end of the piece the themes establish at the beginning are turned around and mutated into something else, something less stable yet still strong.

Waves has been a terrific project, and like all of them I am sad when they are over and yet happy that they are out there. Like so many things I do they never seem to come out exactly the way I intend from the outset, but tend instead to grow and change and express as they find their feet at a far slower rate than I had intended. Listening to (say) take 4 of the first part of Consonance, or the first take of the fourth section make me think I was listening to a different tune altogether. He's doubtless a melodramatic and over-wrought windbag at times, but it's a truth that - just sometimes - music leans across and takes you into its confidence. Then, it just vanishes on you completely leaving you wondering when it will next appear. Maybe it's knowing that the moment might come back that keeps us all alive to the fact that we should keep going.

19th March 2018: Harlequin being considered. Also spent three hours just listening through Consonance so far. Feeling quite smug, although there is clearly work to be done on it. Waves is on track for being my favourite project overall, I think. Then again, I always rate the latest thing I have done and tend to see all the possible improvements later. Wasn't it Magritte who was caught bringing paints and a brush into an exhibition of his work?

12th March 2018: First part of Consonance has just had some gravy added to it, and even though I may say it myself the music is strong and powerful and very good. Really pleased with this one. There is one line in it that (I think) makes it. Will anyone else spot it?

7th March 2018: Back to Consonance again. The good bits are great and the unfinished parts are distinctly unfinished. There is always the temptation to re-use something good from the past, which is something I am actively trying to avoid.

28th February 2018: Oriole has been released, as volume two of the Colours series after volume one which was Vermillion. But Oriole needs some explanation.

In 1974 The Residents recorded Not Available which, in accordance with the Theory of Obscurity proposed by the Mysterious N. Senada, was never to be released until the band had completely forgotten its existence. That always struck as weirdly impossible, in that if I were to record something with the express intent of forgetting about it, then that intent would certainly ensure my remembering everything about it and the theory would disprove itself by failing. (Whether the theory exists, fails or succeeds, the record is worth listening to. Best described as a 'Dada Opera' it's probably their best composition from their early days and has some of their best ideas, which lasted right up until they did Eskimo and it all started to come apart)

To me, though, the Theory seems to be a valid and interesting one. According to this philosophy, artists do their purest work in obscurity, with minimum feedback from any kind of audience. The theory adds that with no audience to consider, artists are free to create work that is true to their own vision. Like a lot of creative types, I tend to work alone, plus I have also made so much - most of which never sees the light of day - that I have forgotten some of the things I have done. But that was by accident, not by design. So to make this theory work, it has to be taken to an even more obscure level - where your will to forget is removed - which is where Oriole comes in. Like Vermillion, Oriole is programmed music in that it follows strict rules on construction and voicing. However, Vermillion was also edited in some respects, as well as being previewed, produced and ultimately 'known'.

Not so with Oriole. This music is entirely programmed - to the extent that I have never heard it. And I never will either. I therefore don't have to forget about it. I don't even know it in the first place. In that, I think I have out-obscured even The Residents. That's pretty obscure.

20th February 2018: Consonance has changed tack a little. No longer split into tracks, the whole piece will now comprise one length piece of about forty to fifty minutes. Let me tell you something else: I think it's just superb. The first movement is so overwhelmingly strong, it blows the doors off just about everything else.

30th January 2018: Consonance 01 now complete...again. What I thought was complete was actually not. It's now maybe the biggest, most overwhelming thing I have done. It also breaks a record, having gone through nearly 40 iterations; 15 or so is my usual number. It merges into Consonance 02 which is a total contrast and features some very delicate playing and timbres. Already thinking of #3 and also thinking of another idea - merging all of these tracks into a single movement. Might do, might not.

23rd January 2018: Consonance 01 now complete. It's very strong, and has led me into an idea about 'thematic repetition' and variance on a melody throughout the entire album. A definitie idea exists for parts 02 and 03 now, as well as for the start of Oriole.

16th January 2018: Vermillion has been completed. It's on nodding terms with previous structures. But far from being disheartening, this has actually given me another idea. Does this stuff write itself? Can this stuff write itself?

1st January 2018: Consonance has stalled a little after the first arrangements for 01 and 02 stopped making sense. The plan is intact, but the execution is suspect. Ho hum. It is the way of things. What progress can be made without some doubts about the path?

Work started on the Colours Project Vermillion. Like mono it's programmed music, but with more choices and with a more considered approach. So far it feels good.

26th December 2017: Consonance is started. The first thing to do is some general husbandry around my file structures. When I see how I used to keep some of the old Systems Theory stuff I feel vaguely faint. If I was asked to resume some of that then I'd find it incredibly tricky. Order is everything! Also wrestling with a 32bit DAW in a 64bit world. More on that topic later. To work.

25th December 2017: Dissonance is released. The web pages are going to be improved shortly. Earlier notes indicated its release was due for Q1/2018 so I am a little ahead of schedule right now, which is unusual. I am not being that silly (yet) about a schedule for Colours. (yes, someone has actually asked already - more details later)

24th December 2017: Dissonance is done. I'm really pleased with this one. Working now on the web site to get it released. Thank heavens this was done by the close of the year. Consonance now beckons.

26th November 2017: The last few weeks have been spent on something else entirely. As well as my 'real life', I have been focussing on rendering a version of Howard Skempton's outstanding composition Lento which Martin Smith introduced me to. It's simple to listen to, but the score is a work of witchcraft, with more time changes that just about any piece I have ever worked on. Fortunately, I have the composer's ear on this one so that might prove to be to my advantage.

31st October 2017: Some weeks away, mulling. Dissonance is coming along very well and reasonably fast, and there are ideas floating for Consonance now too that need expression quickly. Better yet, the next ten albums in a series known as Colours is being mapped out. As I see it this will take me the next four years and may lead into the last music I will make. That's thirty three albums of my own material. Also thinking of video recordings again. More news to follow.

10th September 2017: After some thought (and a few technical problems) Oddzial has found a CD release. This edits each of the movements down to two minutes apiece (as opposed to the usual 50) which allows it all to fit onto a CD quite comfortably.

As I say elsewhere, I prefer the full-length immersive version of the music to this kind of 'sampler' edition, but I do know that the album has its fans and that many of them would prefer something they can listen to in a briefer form. It may also serve to introduce a new audience to the music.

Still thinking about Dissonance. I might have to go to the piano for this one.

8th September 2017: Re-thinking Dissonance now, and thinking that work on it so far may be scrapped completely and restarted wth the original intention in mind. Mission creep abounds. (Or abounded) The earlier ideas that brimmed sounded far better in my head than in sound.

7th September 2017: Work has completed on Oddzial, with the remaining parts being completed. This brings the total number of movements up to the planned number of 29, with the exception of 14 which is still withdrawn on purely artistic grounds. This project is now closed. A playlist is supplied to allow intrepid listeners to spend something like 24 hours in its dark ambient company.

I also have an idea to put together a CD length release of Oddzial as well, featuring crossfades of each section on separate tracks, maybe two minutes of each being featured. It's just an idea at the moment, though...

4th September 2017: A new compilation entitled Curated is now available, comprising 14 tracks composed over the last six years or so. It's quite a mixed bag ranging from the full composed to the improvised and all abstract states in between. On re-listening to it I was struck by how long it was before the listener to this album hear a single planned note. That said, I don't think I am much use as an arch-improviser unless I get lucky. For every minute of improvised music I release there is probably about an hour that I do not. That people far better than I agree with this ratio is encouraging.

I have also changed the artwork for the album from the rather mundane placeholder that was there before.

24th August 2017: Resonance web site now complete. Moving on to Dissonance now. First track started, scrapped, reimagined and scrapped. Something else has been taken out of these ashes now. Some careful consideration of what follows is now required. I can actually see this being scrapped again, for different reasons.

Vibrations played in the car today. Better than I remembered. I do recall the creation of Vibrations 01 with particular pride - that track is/was 100% improvised, yet it sounds the most composed of them all. Some of the modulations are startling; the lift that starts at 00:19 and drops into a minor-glazed fuck-off is something I really like. Yet at the time I remember watching myself playing the tune and thinking the game is now playing me. I read this from a musician hero once; how one lives for these moments and how they justify the rest of it. And then it all collapses.

Why collapses? Maybe because I read some stories and spat-narratives about a musician I respected and found him to be seriously wanting as an individual. He cannot dress it up any other way; the guy is a dick to work with. What is testing about the expression 'gentleman's agreement'? Nothing as far as I can see. Maxim #1: Never meet your heroes. Maxim #2: Never work with your heroes. Maxim #3: Never try and accept your heroes' justification for anything. That leads me to Punk Maxim #1: All heroes are useless. I've met a few and some seem fine. I have yet to work with any (at least in a musical sense), and feel that this may be a situation worth continuing. I can only think of one heroic person and he was brutalised by a country that should have been on its knees begging his gratitude.

Some more ideas about the shape of Consonance. If this comes off it will be unlike anything I have ever done before.

Seeking some solace in curating another compilation on request. No title for it yet, but it will contain music from my more abstract periods. Abstract but not that abstract. Call it constructed abstractism.

Also read this today. Oh boy. It's execptional. As it this by Robert Webb. Outstanding writing, both of them. Also just finished Flowers For Algernon and found it exceptionally good. I'm so glad to be back reading again. Time to revisit James Joyce and MIlan Kundera, maybe. I sometimes get a greater sense of musical inspiration from what I read than what I hear, probably because the latter gives you it all up front and doesn't give you the space in which to sow your own ideas. That's why I have to listen to something then try to forget it so I can remember it.

8th August 2017: Resonance is done. I am very pleased with this one. The web pages will be integral to the music, so give me some time to get it together. Track one is something I am particularly keen on.

Work is also stampeding ahead with Dissonance . Brimming with ideas for this one.

Further - I have decided that Vibrations, Resonance, Dissonance and Consonance will form a series known as Waves in four volumes.

16th July 2017: Resonance is now up to nine tracks, with most of them being tightened up for the final release. Part of the issue is that it's suffering a little from the well it sounded alright last night syndrome, where something that seemed to be balanced and mixed down fine suddenly shifts somehow and sounds muddy and inarticulate. Getting there, though.

8th July 2017: Resonance is steaming ahead at full speed - faster than I had expected, really. A couple of inspired moments have mean that tracks #6 and #8 have taken on a very different tone than what was planned for them. This could be revisited on another couple of tracks elsewhere which need a bit of tightening up.

There is also considerably less use of the Mellotron on this one than elsewhere (probably nowhere since the early days of Oddzial) because I am looking for a different palette here. It does make an appearance here and there, but for the most part it sits in the corner and shuts up. Still love the damned thing, though. I would imagine that much is obvious.

I also have the germ of the base for Dissonance 01 which actually contains some sounds I am a little nervous about using. Listeners with acute hearing powers may be able to tell why.

27th June 2017: Planning has started for Consonance for planned release 2Q/2018.

26th June 2017: Resonance well under way. Five tracks started, the first almost completed - the bed track is fashioned almost entirely out of samples that you would never recognise now, and from found sounds that have been treated to such an extent that they have become something else entirely. I'm also particularly pleased that a pile of five recordings made over the course of a decade can be blended together to sound as though they were recorded in Sumatra, even though none were recorded further than a mile from my house.

Expect more rhythm in this one than before. Sometimes shockingly so.

25th June 2017: All the Radiohead related hoo-hah has caused me to upload my take on No Surprises to Soundcloud for an appearance on a pretty dormant group on Reddit.

6th June 2017: Planning has started for Dissonance for planned release 1Q/2018. Expect something difficult here.

5th June 2017: Work has commenced on Resonance for planned release 3Q/2017

21st May 2017: Vibrations released - 13 tracks of primarily choral compositions, including abstract soundscapes, orchestral and electronic music

30th March 2017: I'm absolutely done with Facebook. Lots of reasons why, really but it has become so tiresome recently that I never even really read it. Those of you who need to contact me can get me on Messenger if you need to, but that's it for me.

Some people view social media as essential for music to proliferate and to a very large extent this is true, but I am more interested in staying away from the endless polarisations of an awful lot of it, where you are either one of us or you are one of them and where there is no middle ground, agreement or compromise. Godwin was an optimist, not unlike Murphy. What was designed to draw people closer together is really only being used to do so by polarising different factions and pulling them further and further apart. Pretty soon we will have disparate 'opinion islands' whose inhabitants cannot understand how the other thinks because they are so far over the horizon they cannot be seen, only heard about. People are much more complex than that; to reduce you to one colour or another subtracts from your humanity, leaving you with the only choice of 'am I in it or am I out of it?'

So, I am out of it.

20th March 2017: Movements released. More orchestral colourings along with some rather incongruous arrangements.

13th February 2017: Planning started on creating twelve further tracks for the infamous Oddzial project.

26th November 2016: Work finalised on Spectrum, a single track which contains slow-changing electronic waves and patterns together with the sounds of protesting machinery and the even more distressing sound of an actress nearing the end of her solitary rope.

29th May 2016: Work finalised on the mono project - an attempt to see if it is possible to complete an album of ten tracks of four minute's duration, all in a single day, together with accompanying YouTube videos. Five albums were completed for the project (named mono 1 to 5) over the course of a single week, amounting to about fourteen hours' work a day.