Thursday, 11 October 2012

August 2011

My Attorney performed at The Bridge, my diary informs me, on the 12th of this month.  I can recall very little about it, except that we debuted 'These Desert Flowers', the composition that marked ourselves as writing collaboratively as a four-piece with the departure of Sophie.

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The Girls visited once more at the start of the month, putting the finishing touches to their fourth album.

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During this time I embarked on a fresh adjunct to the standard production work I had been carrying out:  that of an art installation.

Proposal for Heaton Art Festival:  Sound Installation.

As a studio engineer, record label owner, singer and producer, I am involved in a wide array of musical projects.  These include recording Heaton acts such as Cath & Phil Tyler (No Fi Records) and indie stalwart Pete Dale (whose 90's indie label "Slampt" ran from a downstairs flat off Chillingham Road).  I regularly program live shows at The Cumberland Arms, showcasing the best of Newcastle's eclectic pop and rock acts, many of whom hail from within Heaton's streets.  Some of my own label's releases were partially recorded in my old home on Roxbugh Place, just off Heaton Road.

As part of the Heaton Festival, I would be interested in designing an installation piece based entirely on sound.  It would feature ambient recordings captured from the Heaton area; the swish of trees in Heaton Park, the rumble of buses along Meldon Terrace, snippets of conversations from passing students and locals alike, the bubble of a coffee machine in the Coffee Cottage, the slink of coat hangar racks in second hand clothing shops... all composited together into an aural mosaic of what lifesounds like in the district.  It would be replayed through a 5.1 surround sound speaker system in a suitable space that would allow the listener to participate in an immersive experience, moving from one speaker to another as each one plays a different layer of sound.

Since I operate my own recording studio, I have all the relevant equipment required to make this happen; perhaps a collaboration with a similarly minded artist could help create a visual counterpoint to the auditory element... or simply have the sound play on its own.  Using waterproofed and battery powered speakers, there could even be the potential for locating the piece outdoors, juxtaposing the sounds of Heaton's interiors in an exterior setting.  There would be ample opportunities to work with local schools to create a lively (if noisy!) tapestry of banter, accents and hubbub.

Please do contact me if this sounds like it might suit your festival; as a former resident of the area (and a regular patron of the coffee shops it houses) it would be great to contribute something to the Heaton area.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Gardiner.

I was drawn to the deeply pretentious and self-absorbed act of blasting ambient, confused noise at coffee goers in my local cafe, the Heaton Perk.  A two hour soundtrack was constructed from recordings I had made on my handheld recorder.  The sounds of bells chiming, dogs barking, passing conversations and me hitting things with other things in bus stations all featured.

It was refreshing to step away from the growing feeling that I had become a machinist:  where I conducted a land grab on as much audio as possible while the band was present, followed by a long and often repetitive process of mixing, which had begun to follow down the same well-worn routes of balancing the drum kit, sweetening the guitars, and comping the vocals.  It had all become a little too rehearsed and automatic, so the opportunity to break into a composition of pure ambience was really exciting.

My kitchen stereo was installed in the bookshelves that overlooked the lounge area of the cafe, with the CD set on repeat at a volume level that was perceptible, but not intrusive.  There it sat for the duration of the Heaton Arts Festival weekend, whirring away.  I visited the venue on Sunday, and gleaned considerable satisfaction from watching customers look slightly unsettled when their conversation would be interrupted by a dog viciously barking from behind the book shelves.

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Grilly visited for a couple of days, leading to some lovely walks in Rothbury and digesting a great deal of Red Letter Media videos about Star Wars.

We also tracked the vocals for his latest solo album 'In Case Of Emergence', available here.

It was good to become properly acquainted with the new material.  I had first heard songs from Emergence being played at the Bruised Pilgrim LP launch night, as played by To The Boats..!

After the band dissipated, Grilly pressed ahead with recordings at his London home (scenes of which can be viewed here, here and here), as a solo project.   Thoughts, via email to the man himself, below:

I'll admit that I'm still digesting it (it's on the iPod that was found on a golf course by the dog in Portrush, upon which there are only a few albums and therefore concentrating the mind on 'learning' several select discs), but it doesn't take many repeat listens to hear that Paradise Gas is one of the best songs you've written (and it comes complete with an emotional suckerpunch to boot), or that Intelligence is such a grower.  I didn't like it at first, but those burbling synths that never quite run their course in the background are now delicious to my ears.  And Tofu:  it has shades of that really processed heaviness that nu metal had, only without the cringe factor.  Fractal Universe takes the biscuit in my eyes, however.  It's an endless ascent to a peak; some of your chord workings are both clever and beautiful.