Beams / Shapeshifter

February 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

We’ve just released two new songs in the form of a double A-side, Beams and Shapeshifter.

Written in late 2012, Beams / Shapeshifter was the result of countless hours of compiling and refining riffs, and then built up into tracks layering different combinations of rhythm and melody.

Beams is a driving track, built around major key guitar riffs and minor key chord progressions. This juxtaposition, married with a spacious vocal performance provided by James Howard offers listeners both a primal urge to dance, along with and moments of internalised reflection.

Shapeshifter is moody piece, featuring layers of spacey guitar and analogue synthesizers underpinned by a powerful rhythmic groove. The deeper you sink into this atmospheric haze of smoke and synthesis, the more you will be hypnotised by Morgan Black’s vocal delivery as he sings of happenings beyond this world.

You can also buy the two songs here. We’re only charging $1 for the pair, you really can’t get much better than that!

Many thanks for listening,
James.

New Songs Out Tomorrow!

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tomorrow, Saturday 23rd of February we’ll be releasing two new songs! Here’s the announcement video. It’s very raw and quite unrehearsed. Some viewers may experience feelings of awkwardness.

Kraftwerk

February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

This blog post is written in response to the announcement that Kraftwerk would be bringing their “Catalogue” show to Australia for the Vivid Live Festival in Sydney. In the post I’ll try and talk about what Kraftwerk have meant to me over the years, and how they’ve influenced my use of synthesizers in the band.

Kraftwerk in their current live formation.

For the sake of context, I should tell you that I would consider myself a pretty big fan of Kraftwerk. I first picked up their live album Minimum-Maximum in 2006 and have been a devout follower of the band ever since then. Given my late introduction to the band, I’ve never been precious about the fact that most of the members who were around in the prime of the 70s and 80s are no longer there. Nor do I even really mind that they haven’t released any new material since 2003. To me they’ve always been a complete package in that respect, and I’m content to leave it at that.

It was announced today that Kraftwerk will be playing Sydney’s Vivid Live festival later this year. In May, over the course of four nights the band will be playing eight concerts, each one dedicated to one of eight albums from their official “Katalog” (the pre-Autobahn material seems to have been somewhat written out of the history, but I’ve never felt the need to complain about that either despite considering “Ralf und Florian” a masterpiece in itself).

Having experienced the offerings of Sydney’s Vivid Live festival in 2011, I honestly can’t think of a more perfect situation to see the band. Over the course of several days, the city is turned into a light show as projections are splayed across buildings, transforming it into a vibrant and seemingly alive environment. Seems pretty appropriate given the band’s fascination with the relationship between humans and technology.

The group’s influence on modern music is undeniable. The way they structured their songs has been adopted by most dance-floor DJs, electronic music composers, and pop musicians in general. The building of musical motifs over simple rhythms as well as the addition and subtraction of parts was not something I have seen much evidence of pre-Kraftwerk, but it’s almost impossible to avoid in modern pop music. Anyone who has used a computer to write music or record music has in some way been influenced by Kraftwerk, who embraced technology from the very moment the car door slammed shut and the engine revved to life way back in 1974.

A part of what I love about Kraftwerk is their in-depth exploration of the sonic capabilities of synthesizers. Each of their songs almost seem to act a palette to show off exactly what natural and unnatural sounds the instrument is capable of. Given their use of sequencers, it obviously frees them up to focus their performances on the manipulation of the sounds themselves, which of course the ability to do that is what distinguishes a synthesizer from most other instruments. Over the years, technology has developed to the point where almost all of the melodic components of the songs can be played by machine, and the focus of the performance has turned entirely to this control over the sounds. This can be clearly evidenced by the band’s live performances of the track Music Non Stop, in which each member performs a solo and you can hear and see the way in which they manipulate the sounds.

I really took this idea of sonic manipulation on board when it came to writing synth patches for our track Shapeshifter. Given that the song was sung by Morgan, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to direct all my focus onto the synthesizer arrangements. I decided to take on the challenge of creating a sound that was totally new (if that is even possible), however ensuring that it was still melodic and worked in the framework of the rock band setup. I ended up writing a patch on my Prophet 08, which featured multiple LFO’s affecting the filter and resonance settings, which in turn were controlled in real time by my manipulation of the pitch and mod wheels. The patch features in the second chorus of the track.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little diary entry on one of modern music’s most important groups. I probably didn’t do them the justice they deserve, but really, the music speaks for itself.

Good luck to those entering the ballot!

Til next time,
– James.

Forever September

February 20, 2013 § 2 Comments

This is a song that we wrote ode to the human necessity to keep track of and measure time. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If there’s no one around to keep track of time, does it really exist?

More philosophical musings over at http://www.facebook.com/InstantMorning

faces.

February 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is what we look like.

Image

 

That’s me in the top left. I play synthesizer and sing words.
That’s Morgan in the top right. He plays guitar and also sings.
That’s Colin in the bottom left. He plays bass guitar and likes semi-tone chord changes. He’s known for his beautiful smile.
That’s Zac in the bottom right. He plays drums. He’d beatbox too, if we ever let him.

And that’s all of us.
– James.

it’s been a while.

February 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is somewhat of an update on the band and what we’ve been up to.

We started recording some new material back in December. We’re all in agreement that they’re most likely the best two songs in our repertoire, so the thought of releasing them to the public is a very exciting one.

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Zac at Rangemaster

We recorded the drums and bass at Rangemaster in Bayswater North. The sessions were engineered by one Dave Carr, who we’d previously worked with when he kindly remixed our first song, Instant Morning for us. He’s also the producer of the two new tracks.

The guitars, synthesizers and vocals were all recorded in my home studio. This allowed us more time to experiment, as we weren’t “on the clock”. We managed to layer some really nice parts and really flesh out some ideas that couldn’t be realised in the rehearsal space.

I now have the masters of the tracks in my hot little hands, it’s taking quite a lot of willpower to resist simply throwing them up on the internet for everyone to hear. Needless to say, I’m overjoyed with how they turned out. I’ve never been more proud of a song that I’ve been involved in than I am with these two. Watching them transform from a simple riff or melody into complex and layered pieces has been a joy. I can only imagine that it’s like parenthood.

In other news, I saw Swans at the Corner Hotel in Richmond last Friday night. Now that was an experience. Pure sensory overload, you can feel every dissonant note ripple through your body.

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Swans at the Corner

Til next time,

James.

… beyond all in human sight.

June 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

We’ve been talking this one up for quite a while now, and on my 21st name day we’re unleashing the final product on a wholly unsuspecting world.

Here is In Human Sight:

The concept of releasing a live video was something I was playing around with for a while, even before we recorded the first EP. In hindsight it’s probably better that we waited until we were really able to get to know the songs intimately. Here we’re a lot more confident of our delivery, particularly in the songs that we’ve been kicking around for quite a while, than we were even six months ago.

The purpose of the video was basically to present a snapshot of where the band was at a certain point in time; it’s still quite early days yet. There’s two new songs here, Head in the Sand and Into Your Heart, both of which were written in the weeks leading up to the live recording. The new songs as they’re presented in the film had only been “finished” perhaps two weeks prior to recording, so I’m glad we were able to capture them in their early stages.

I know that dedicating 25 minutes to a relatively unknown band is a lot to ask, so if even if you just watch one or two songs I’d appreciate it immensely. There’s been a lot of blood sweat and tears put into this project and I’m very proud of the results.

Special thanks to:
Brett and Simon for being sound engineers on the day,
Cassandra, Caitlin and Sunniva for operating the cameras,
Geoff for mastering the audio,
and Verity for helping me throughout the pre-production process.

We’re playing a show this Tuesday, the 19th of June at Brunswick Hotel, so if you like what you see on the video, come on down and we’ll have a good time!

– James.

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