Monday, January 2, 2012

Remembering 2011, Three Albums, and Friends

Here I type on New Year's high atop Common Sound Studio in Decatur, GA, reflecting on the Sensitive Chaos year that has past and planning for the year to come.

It has been a very good year for Sensitive Chaos; two commercial releases on the Subsequent Records label ('Seeker After Patterns' and 'Remembering Chestnuts, Icy Cold, and Bells') and one on the Ping Things Netlabel ('Meditation Modulation Manipulation'). Radio airplay on all three and lovely people adding them to their music collections. Of the songs on these releases, five have become part of the Top 10 Sensitive Chaos songs receiving airplay (#3-"Seeker After Patterns", #5-"Ceiliúradh Mhór", #7-"L'Ascension", #8-"Remembering Chestnuts, Icy Cold, and Bells", and #9-"A Piece of Stars"), and four are in the Top 10 best selling Sensitive Chaos songs on iTunes (#3-"Ceiliúradh Mhór", #7-"Seeker After Patterns (Radio Edit 1)", #8-"Sensitive Chaos", and #9-"L'Ascension").

As an independent artist operating my own label and publishing company, success is without question a direct result of working with incredible people in this industry and participating at a personal level with as many as possible. We thrive with our friends and I will remember 2011 as a high point for friendships and connections, the true measure of success.

A huge thank you to all my collaborators this past year: Brian Good for his perennial good taste and musicality, Otso Pakarinen for always contributing the perfectly unexpected, John McNicholas for taking a simple suggestion and making it ginormous, Tim Walters for letting me mine that old diamond, Tony Gerber for his incredible integration of spirit and electronics, Paul Vnuk, Jr. for making percussion sound like an epic soundtrack, Christian Birk for supplying synthetic icing on the cake, and Demi Pietchell for lending her rotoscope visuals and enthusiasm.

A huge debt of gratitude and thanks to all those who have included Sensitive Chaos in their radio playlists. The radio seque has got to be one of the most powerful music inventions ever, and to hear you practice it with such artistry week after week is a revelation! Inclusion in the community you cultivate is a blessing. Also, much of what I released this year were live recordings, and it is truly a thrill to hear live recordings played along side studio pieces. A highlight of 2011 has been in listening in to your live streams or podcasts and experiencing the joy of live radio with real DJs and real personality in the mix.

So, in no particular order, thanks for all the support this year to John Diliberto at Echoes, Rusty Hodge at SOMA FM, Stephen Hill at HOS, David Herpich at StillStream, Misha, Mason, John, DJ Siene and Laura at WWSP, Donna Jo Thornton at KSBR, Renée Blanche at KCUR, Eric Blankman at WFIT, Mary Bartlein at WMSE, Bill Fox at WDIY and WMUH, Justin Vanderberg, Jerry Kenney, and Juliet Fromholt at WYSO, Francisco M. López Herrero at Radio Despi La Otra Orilla, Scott Raymond at WVKR, Jukka Mikkola at YLE, Mike Honeycutt at WEVL, Andy B at KUAC, Michael Brown at WPNE, Michael Hunter at WPRB, John Shanahan at Hypnagogue, Sal Espana at KCBX and KCPR, Jamey Osborne at KTEP, Uncle Chris Trochez at WTUL, Rev. Dr. Rick at Astreaux World, Dave Butler at KRSC, Lisa Uber at WRSU, Monessa Guilfoil at WUTC, Terry James Hawke at HFM, Terry Glasenapp at KDNK, Steve Sheppard at One World Radio, John Iverson at CKUW, Joan Richarde at Montana Public Radio, and Jeff Clark at WMLB. And to Daryl Portier at Zone Music Reporter for being a nexus for alot of that information and a place for us to promote our music.

And many thanks to those who wrote about Sensitive Chaos this year: Bill Binkelman at Zone Music Reporter, Albert Pollard at Aural Innovations, Sylvain Lupari at Synth&Sequences & Guts of Darkness, John Shanahan at Hypnagogue, Kim Ware at Pretty New Songs, and Jeff Clark at Stomp and Stammer.

To all the artists I've been fortunate enough to share a playlist or a chart or a stage over the past year, thank you for your music, inspiration, camaraderie, and excellence. The lessons you teach are profound. Special thanks to my bandmates Kim and John in The Good Graces and those in my Happenstance band 'Bacon' for letting me do totally different music this year. Playing out with y'all has been a blast!

And to my wife Deirdre and daughter Leana for continuing to tolerate all of the above;^) 2011 was a chance to try new things and complete a few projects that had been in flight for literally years. 2012 will be a time of rebuilding, starting some new projects from scratch, attempting new collaborations, methods, instruments, and ideas.

I look forward to sharing the results! Happy New Year!


I finish this note with a few remembrances of making the Sensitive Chaos albums of 2011: 

Meditation Modulation Manipulation

I started the year with 'Meditation Modulation Manipulation', a live recording with studio treatments including multiple layers of time-stretched digital mangling and some reversed tracks in Digital Performer, plus a few layers of drones from my 1976 Yamaha CS-50 analog synth. A different approach to start the year and a bit of an aural palette cleansing between the previous CD 'Emerging Transparency' and the next planned CD 'Seeker After Patterns'. The cover photo was shot on Christmas Eve 2010 at our local Trappist Monastery. Many thanks to Rik MacLean at Ping Things for suggesting this release. Rik's been an early and consistent supporter of my music going back to the first TouchXtone releases in 2003. I figure I just tickled the experimental release bug on this one, so will have to include a more thorough experimental release in 2012.

You can download 'Meditation Modulation Manipulation' for free here: 

Seeker After Patterns

'Seeker After Patterns' was in the middle of studio production when 'Meditation…' was conceived and released. This was a very fluid album in terms of what songs were in consideration, but the two anchor songs turned out to be the bookends of the main program material, namely the title track and "Simon Stilites Dreams of Rain (Chaotic Remix)". The former had been initially composed for a live EyeDrum performance in April 2009, then rearranged and recorded over the next year, with Brian Good's wonderful soprano sax parts added in August 2010, and the latter was originally composed and tracked in March 2005 with Tim Walters as an offshoot of our first collaboration (Phosphene Grid) at the Different Skies Festival in 2004, then remixed with additional tracks by Otso Pakarinen (keys and sfx), John McNicholas (electric guitars), and Brian Good (Electronic Wind Instrument) in April/May 2011. 

Five other tracks on 'Seeker' were pulled from the archives. "Sensitive Chaos" was actually recorded on my Teac TASCAM 22-4 4-track reel-to-reel machine back in the mid-80s using a Roland TR-606 drum machine, a Takamine 12-string guitar, a vintage Vox Phantom IV bass guitar, and a Roland RE-201 Space Echo. Half speed recording was a hallmark of my work at that time, as I had no sequencers and let's just say my rhythmic timing needed all the help it could get at the time. So, drum track was recorded first at full speed (15ips) and then the other tracks were done at half speed (7.5ips). The final recording was mixed at full speed. I love the sparkly overtones the 12-string puts off at double speed. 

"Warm Glow of the Atomic Fire" was originally a drone bed I pulled together in Reason for a much more complex planetarium piece I had worked up in TouchXtone in 2005 or so, and I thought deserved to be heard in its original simplicity. Very pure sounds and ambient construction.

"L'Ascension", "Thoughts of Home in a Sand Storm", and "Psychic Twins of Gemini" were all edited from live improvised performances recorded at separate shows around Atlanta in 2007, 2009, and 2010.

The last song to be chosen, "A Piece of Stars" was literally a last minute addition, pulled in as mastering for the album was completing. This was an edit of another live recording of a totally improvised performance I had done with Christian Birk, Tony Gerber, and Paul Vnuk, Jr. done at the 4th Annual City Skies Festival on April 30, 2011. The entire performance was magical, but this section contained a typical Sensitive Chaos sequence that I felt worked beautifully with the rest of the 'Seekers After Patterns' material. A quick edit and master, and the album was done and off to the plant to be pressed up. The album features incredible cover visuals by filmmaker and artist Demi Pietchell that were selected early on in the production process and inspired me throughout the making of the album. 

See more info on this album here:

Remembering Chestnuts, Icy Cold, and Bells

I've been wanting to assemble a holiday themed album since my first 'Leak' CD was released in 2006 at holiday time and "Nightshift at the Baby Mecha Nursery' seemed like it wanted to be a holiday song. But I always remembered too late in the season and always resolved to start early enough the next year. 2011 was finally that year.

The tracks on the album were selected from all the recordings I've done around holiday time over the past five years. Two shows ended up supplying the tracks for this album (there are more in the archive for future holiday CDs), one recorded on December 6, 2008 and one on December 5, 2009.

I've already written about the inspiration of the music and you can read that and find links to the music here:

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