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

Journal 2022

1st April 2022: Inertia released. No fanfare. Done quietly.

27th March 2022: Found another terrific piano VST, quite unlike any other. Very retro, very detuned, very much like the old ten-a-penny upright Joannas found in the corridors at primary schools up and down the country. Some of the notes are very dead sounding, which almost convinces me that they are individually sampled, but that would be a lot of effort to go to.

Were it not for the fact that there are a load of paying plug-ins that I really like, I am pretty convinced you could put together a formidable rig by using only freebies. For ages I used RedTron (when I didn't have the real thing to hand) instead of anything more expensive simply because it sounded fantastic. It still does.

On that subject, the long-promised free DAW from Behringer sounds fairly spectacular too and will come with a bunch of free VSTs as well so there is that to look out for (although it has been promised since 2020...)

21st March 2022:

7th March 2022: Tangerine Dream last night at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. Very loud stuff indeed, no doubt helped by the fact I was sitting centre front in the firing line. I didn;t know one thing they were doing (other than Stratosfear which started it off) but it was al pretty compelling stuff. Aside from the New Edgar strolling about like he is adjusting things in a lab - whuch he was essentially doing - there is a new and much younger guy feverishly hammering away on... stuff and a young woman playing the electric violin and trying to make herself heard above the detonation of the sequencers all around her.

Good show in an impressive venue, though. The sound was excellent if a trifle muddy at the very loudest times and the projections were really quite compelling too. Excellent stuff.

5th March 2022: Playing about with some ideas from the Mk II plug in. Unfortunately, I find it unstable (it crashes in Reaper and as a standalone without the least warning) and to make matters worse I have only just this morning had my first ever stability problem with Reaper (v6.51) which sees the whole interface vanishing without a trace. More weirdly, there is no 'Reaper crashed on loading this project, are you sure you want to do this again?' warning which to my mind means that it's flaking out at a fairly low level. Great.

Anyway. Get this magic from the original source...

4th March 2022: Another all-time favourite....

2nd March 2022: Candid thoughts from the pen of the writer: BANDS I FEEL I OUGHT TO LIKE MORE THAN I ACTUALLY DO #4 - Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

There are these...

...and there are these...

...and that is the issue.

Their first stuff was properly good, with music like Moya and Anything from F#A#-Infinity. The first time I heard Sleep I nearly left the road. It was all about shadows and locomotives and distant detuned radios with incomprehensible words and melodies that most people would simply kill each other to get near. How can East Hastings start off like that, in the most delicate manner and end up in a seething wall of feedbacking guitars, thundering strings and double time drumming? How did you make that compositional journey?

"The car's on fire, and there's no driver at the wheel / And the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides"

Then they chose to break up indefinitely. It became an hiatus which saw a return in 2010 with an album that lacked all of the above.

Where there was melody there were now uninteresting and interminable drones; where there was delicacy there was now ham-fisted crashing; where there were arrangements there was now simnply...nothing. It's a whole load of noise, and I hate it. I hate it because it's dull, but I also hate it because it's not what they once were and doesn't show their abilities at all. It's as though they have decided to appeal to a young metal crowd who just want the noise and who have no interest or patience in decent tunes or anything else that defined the talent which separated them from everyone else. If you can bear to wade through the mess you might find the odd tiny moment here and there, but it's no longer worth it. They've lost it.

Yes, I know things never stay the same and that people want to change, and I also know that the band doesn't have the same people on board and that even between the releases I like there are changes which not everyone appreciated (I have to admit that moments in Yanqui U.X.O. are brilliant, but it doesn't all match what I like). But good god...play to your strengths, will you? Go see them live and you'll still find them playing their old stuff in a spirited way, which is more than I can say about the (terribly mis-named) Hope drone that starts off every blasted show now with 13 minutes of nothingness.

So why do I do it? Because I cannot do the stuff they do so much better.

25th February 2022: Stand by for more about this...

22nd February 2022: Spent some time doodling. Not a single solitary idea came to mind. Am I out of things to play now?

11th February 2022: Goodbye, Ian. Your music changed my life, so much for the better. Always in your debt.

Not of course saying he was responsible for all of what it contained, but I can still remember waking the day after I first owned the first King Crimson album to wonder if I really had that music or if I had dreamed it. The closing moments to Epitaph still sound as strong and as vital as ever and seemed to come from some other place that was both impossibly inviting and yet reeking of menace. Even more alarming was the title track which positively reeked of crimstone (that's a typo, but I am leaving it in) and which seemed to shape-shift constantly, veering from howling strings, to delicate reeds and had a coda that could hardly be a better metaphor for the way the band itself finally detonated.

The preceding photograph of Ian was taken in Toronto in 2001 when Ian came along to a Mellotron Symposium on the invitation of Streetly Electronics. He's seen here playing Rick Blechta's renovated sound effects unit. As he picked at the notes I stood next to him and heard him muttering that the last time he had even touched 'one of these things' was 14th December 1969 at the Fillmore West, San Francisco. Frankly, if he ever had affection for this instrument it appeared to have withered by this point, but he happily showed me the inversions he came up with for that coda to Epitaph which made sure the most piercing sounds from the rising notes in the C/Bm sequence were heard. He also pointed out that the reason that they got 'that sound' out of the instrument was because they recorded it not by DI, but by miking at a distance to capture the sound as it came out of a stack at tectonic plate destroying volume, thereby getting a whole lot of resonating artefacts which lesser mortals would never have even thought about.

It's certainly a pity that the band folded in the time and manner that it did, but it's an even greater pity that the reflective angst caused by that decision seemed to affect Ian so much that the first thing that he blurted out at the KC/1969 reunion in London in 1997 was an apology to all for leaving with Michael to strike out on their own. Hindsight is marvellous. So is personal ambition. There is always a lingering suspicion that the shock Ian's departure caused to the guitarist ('My stomach disappeared. King Crimson was everything to me. To keep the band together, I offered to leave instead but Ian said that the band was more me than them.') was such a personal blow to him, that his later timing of reintroducing Ian to the fold in the mid seventies during the making of Red only to fold it himself almost immediately was perhaps less than accidental.

(Something I found only recently quoting Peter Giles seems to give lie to the initial offer of Fripp's to leave the band to keep it together. When courting Greg Lake, the offer was made for him to replace Peter Giles on bass and vocals, or even maybe replace Fripp on guitar. Of this, Peter says 'That thing of Fripp offering to leave is just a ploy, basically. It would have happened quite naturally. Fripp is very cute with political moves.' The article also has a great quote by Gordon Haskell: 'The King Crimson weapon is musical fascism, made by fascists, designed by fascists to dehumanize, to strip mankind of his dignity and soul. It's pure Tavistock Institute material, financed by the Rothschild Zionists and promoted by two poncy public school boys with connections to the city of London.' Doesn't sound like he really enjoyed it much. Oh well. Hey ho.)

How would it have developed had he not left? No idea, but neither he nor Michael were happy, so it was more or less inevitable that they would leave and start off the profoundly fractured history of the band which never managed a consistent lineup until 1980. Someone did mention once that he really thought the band was a separate creature which would have evolved the way it did, regardless of the line up, implying therefore that Ian would have been a willing participant in Islands and Starless and Bible Black, which I really cannot see.

Still enjoying this after 50+ years:

8th February 2022: I cannot imagine any place, any time, any circumstance where this record will not seem beyond fabulous.

7th February 2022: A sudden influx of money from Bandcamp for some reason. Maybe they are having a sale. Weirdly, the one that sells the most there is Honfleur which I admit to finding puzzling. Listening back to it I find it rather primitive in places, though there are a few fairly exuberant moments here and there.

"All tracks work well, although the highlight for me is the grandiose Ogives No. 2, which I'm sure Mike will be horrified to read put me in Prog Heaven for a few minutes (watch him remove the track from his web site pronto)."

That remark from Andy Thomson always made me smile. High time to put Libra up on Bandcamp now.

5th February 2022:

4th February 2022: Messing about with the Mellotron Mk II plug in again. There are a lot of sounds in there and some processing to be done with them. Still not sure if this is anything apart from a novelty item to have, but one thing I can say without any fear of contradiction is that the builtin reverb is one of the best I have ever heard. GForce should market that separately (assuming they don't already).

We've had a new interloper at the house. This one was captured for posterity and the photo put through DeepDream on a Van Gogh filter for posterity. I think he looks pretty good!

Going to listen to Libra more objectively in about a week. It's too there right now.

On the process of recording: One thing that avid readers have doubtless seen is that I am forever in Zappa's debt when it comes to understanding the application of The Eyebrows on a piece. (Journals passim) Well the next exquisite little inconvenience that he described perfectly was LUMP which I have been battling with constantly, and it is all only really my fault.

FZ used it as a way of explaining why you cannot multi-track an orchestra:

(from 'The Real Frank Zappa Book', 1990, Simon & Schuster)

In short: if you close mike various sections of an orchestra to allow you to combine them in a subsequent production process then you get two things: a picture of an orchestra which is unhearable from any position in space and hence totally artificial, and an accumulation of the 'room artefacts' which, when piled up, produce something which you either have to scrub, play over, or live with. Without patience and the right people and tools, the latter option is the usual way.

(The other thing you might have to do is effect some sort of separation, preventing the sound from one instrument bleeding into another's, usually by baffling which prevents the orchestra seeing one another or even the conductor)

The actual source of the 'lump' (which I refer to as 'the motherlump') could be many things. It might be part of the sound transport mechanism, or the breathing (or swearing) of the players, or the audio 'bounce' in the room, or the various air conditioning units, or the room reverb, or even the individual artefacts from the instruments , such as the clacking of the bassoon keys which would otherwise be lost into the orchestral ambience.

Unfortunately, you get the same thing with multi-tracking if you don't really know or care about what you are doing.

Record track 1: Block chord backings, moody and dark. Turn down the EQ, maybe even a high pass filter. Give it a distant reverb, pan centre, mid volume.

Record track 2: Main voice, Mellotron flute. Lovely. Needs a bit of eq twisting to get it to stand away from the chords, maybe dip the mids. Room reverb to give a bit of a halo around it, tip it off at maybe 60%,

Record track 3: Arpeggiated synth to give some rhythm. Needs light compression to hold it in place, along with a bit of gated reverb to let it hang in the air only briefly. Open on a wide pan.

Record track 4: Bass pulse. Sits tied to the synth, so link the compressors, but turn this one down and give it a reverb to make it sound like it's coming from the same place as the chords. Eq off all the high frequencies, even if you cannot hear them. Make it a distant thud, panned 80% left.

Now play it all back as a test. It will sound like ocelot faeces. You have brought together four different (and competing) reverbs (which may not even be the same reverbs) and the whole thing will lose all clarity and will have the overwhelming overtone of the frequencies of the reverbs, rather than that actual sounds. DESPAIR

Solution! Bus together the synths, the bass, the percussion, the Mellotron etc etc. Apply separate effects to each. That will work, won't it? NOPE. Now you are grouping things together because they are the same sort of instrument, rather than because they are needing related 'treatments'. So you make up new buses and route them through this instead. And the plot gets more complicated. And the mush continues. DESPAIR INTENSIFIES

A better idea is this:

Also, just unearthed this. A little moment of a work in progress from Dance of the Knights:

Listening to this it sounds like I was playing to a very hard click track, which I now realise is a pretty bad mistake. I don't have many little moments like this one preserved - not sure why I kept this one. However, there is a huge lack of LUMP in this one as whilst recording it I was applying all manner of nonsense to it along the way, building something up which needed an emergency lumpectomy to restore things as they were. (There are also fewer instruments in this one than the final version, which makes for greater clarity)

2nd February 2022: Libra released. At last.

1st February 2022: Wut?

31st January 2022: Can I just remind my readers that this man is a complete cunt, unfit for public office, who throughout his life has lied to his colleagues, his employers, his spouses, the government and the Queen? Also, in a new twist today he accused Keir Starmer of failing to investigate Savile, and of the Labour front benches of taking drugs. Later, Nadine Dorries appears on C4 news and is swaying about like a sailor on unexpected shore leave.

For anyone interested, here is the 'update' provided by Sue Gray

This is extraordinary:

And so is this:

Anything to get that fuckwit out of my head.

30th January 2022: Latest purchase from GForce is this thing...

It's a recreation of the original Mellotron Mk II with a bunch of other bells and whistles thrown in that make it considerably more than that, and transform it into a whole musical processing system. I'd still pretty daunted by it and am still really trying to work out what I can do with it, so progress is slow. So far all I have managed is something that sounds a lot like Warszawa from Low...

...which is hardly a shock as there is a Bowie in Berlin preset on it...

I'm maybe one of the few Mellotroneers out there who never really wanted a Mellotron Mk II. I found the sound quality a bit iffy from the speakers, the range of original sounds pretty limited and lo-fi to the point of unrecognisabilty in some cases, and most of all I think I have a limited need for playing the cha-cha and the samba. For a couple of hundred quid direct from GForce I don't think I will be complaining too much, though but it is a challenge to make this this work the way I want it to.

This guy seems to have ideas....

The one very excellent thing about it is that the rhythms and accompaniments are now actually in perfect sync, something that the old Mk I and Mk II Mellotrons simply didn't have all the time, suffering from Foxtrot Drift at the worst moments. These are now in a hard lockstep with one another, which is good news for anyone still playing this at the local tea dances.

Finally snagged these on 200g vinyl at last:

The pressing of In the Wake of Poseidon is actually quite sibilant in places and is almost unbelievably a worse pressing than the dreadful and almost transparent Polydor pressing I acquired in 1979, or thereabouts. Musically it's still a terrific listen, even though it does bear more than just a passing resemblance to its rather more famous predecessor. Objectively, it's a step up in purely 'artistic' terms, but in terms of actually being progressive it's a bit motionless. Lizard is still classic curate's egg, which starts off quite nicely with a boisterous rendition of a tune whose lyrics are so obscure that they manage to out-Sinfield Sinfield himself, but which then vanishes into its own arse with incredible speed. The lyrics are just art of the problem: they are meaningless to listener and - quite obviously - the singer too. Hey Ho. But there are other moments that make it fairly clear the band was not a happy one at all. Stories abound about the absurd setup times for the correct snare sound to be produced, and I find it all rather indefensible. The second half starts beautifully for maybe thirty seconds, then deserves to be put down. (agree with RF: Prince Rupert should have stayed in bed.) But...the Mellotron coda to that song and the subsequent bolero and noisy battle scenes are actually wonderful: so good that they are not even a guilty pleasure.

That little oboe motif at the start always puts me in mind of the very beginning of The Rite of Spring, another piece I discovered the same week I found Lizard at Phoenix Records in Edinburgh.

Shoutout to the boys and girls at Juno Records who without fuss replaced my 200g copy of Islands after it was found skipping merrily across the surface during the best bit on the whole record.

Libra now beset by small technical issues which are adding up to an infuriating level.

19th January 2022: Small burst of inspiration for Libra 19 just occurred to me.

Nothing to do with these lo-fi superstars though. I have listened to this album maybe twenty times now, and I still think I have missed stuff out. Like Mr Waits before, this guy lives in a complete world of his own, or so it seems.

17th January 2022: All 20 tracks for Libra now bedded. Now for the difficult bit.

I could live in this guy's head for a week and still not understand him. Where does it all come from? What's he building in there?

11th January 2022: Presently spending some time along with this legend, again:

I know all the criticisms about it, but there is no getting away from the fact that this really was television's first work of art. It overstayed by about five episodes (I think the seven episode idea just misses out too much) and - heresy - I am not a huge fan of the premise of Fall Out (I think he was written into a corner of his own making there), but there is so much else to appreciate that it's still quite breathtaking. Episodes like Many Happy Returns, Dance of the Dead and (especially) Free For All are simply masterful bits of drama unlike anything that has come before or since.

On watching Many Happy Returns again for the umpteenth time it struck me that there is a huge clue in there somewhere. When No 6 finally gets out and back to those he thinks he knows, he faces down their doubts about his integrity by saying he doesn't know who or which side is running the Village. The fact that he woke up to find the entire place empty (to me) says one thing: that the Village was made to house him and him alone. How else would they manage to empty the entire place and leave him alone there? It's all set up for his 'benefit' alone. All the rest of it is just window dressing. So if it's set up for him, then it cannot be 'us' and hence must be either 'them' or another unseen 'them' of whom we are not familiar.

There are other moments in The General and Schizoid Man (sort of) that confirm this notion. On that basis, I wish I could recommend this, but it reeks of fanwank. It has a reasonable premise at the heart of it, but...

Some of the art in it is okay though...

...but I think in a lot of ways it is trying to be this...

...or this

10th January 2022: Oh dear...it's all getting frightfully abstract now. It's actually quite a decent way to round all of this stuff off, I think. I've climbed up to #18 now and plan of quitting either at #20 or when I run utterly and completely out of steam, whichever comes first. I have a notion of piling up recordings from Desert Island Discs on one another to make a cacophony of voices, sort of like a Spem In Alium gone hideously wrong. I sort of did that before in another style elsewhere but this could maybe work on another level. Hmm. Terribly abstract.

4th January 2022: Libra is going a bit crazy. Up to 17 tracks now, which is way more than I was expecting. So here is a good question: when do I (or anyone) know when a project is done and ready for release?

Dead Tracks and Spectacular both extended for way longer than was planned, and some (such as the Colours series) was actually designed to go on for a while. But in the latter case, it was a conscious case to make ten albums with ten tracks inside six months, whereas with the others it's not even remotely as clear cut as that. SO when do I get to know it's time to knock it off?

Here is the truth. I have no fucking idea. Sometimes it's a plan. Sometimes it's a feeling. Sometimes it's a wish to get something out to refute rumours of my death. It's really more a measure of the speed of my work, rather than anything to do with a thematic idea or even - let's not kid ourselves here - anything to do with actual planning. No.

Why did I never mention this here..?

Awesome. No idea why, but Mercedes have just started to annoy me recently. Yes, Lewis is the GOAT, but Max is the future. What balls they both have. And what a will to succeed Max has.

I've heard no new music to inspire me at all, so instead here is one of the greatest moments in sporting justice that I have ever seen.

Archived Journals

Journal 2021

Journal 2020

Journal 2019

Journal 2018