Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Mustek - full sleeve notes

After leaving London, I spent some time in Portrush before moving to Prague in the Czech Republic.

During this time of transition, I continued to sketch very slight compositions using a wide variety of source material that happened to cross my desk at the time.

These included a recording of a classical string quartet concert that I had attended in Belfast, some drum and guitar samples I had recorded during rehearsals for my punk side project Sham (based in London, with friend Mark Warmington), field recordings of dogs barking and metal sculptures being thrummed, extracts from Future Loss sessions that were bent into textures, demo recordings taken when testing certain pieces of studio equipment, and remixes of existing material using the source stems (for songs by Britney Spears and My Attorney).

All of which yielded quite an esoteric and loose collection of music!

I have attempted to present the material in the way one might sequence a mixtape: with plenty of sharp contrasts in genre, and embracing the random nature of some of the music.

Watery Vibezzz, Sur

The title is courtesy of Brian, after I shared it with him over WhatsApp.  It was originally much longer, but as an edited piece it is ideal as a prelude to the album proper.

Bow On Your Head [rmx]

The story of this track originates at an evening at The MAC in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter, when I attended a concert by the RTE Contempo orchestra, back in February 2017.

The evening was excellent.  The composer spoke before his 'Bow' was played, and even if I felt some of his comments were a bit on the nose, it was inspiring to hear someone speak about composition in a novel way.  Contempo performed it flawlessly, and my ear was drawn to some of the bizarre sounds Fennessey had scored into the piece:  lots of squeaks and weird swooping noises.  Having recorded the show on my dictaphone, I set about cutting the most beguiling moments out and chaining them together.  After a day's intensive work, the remix was done.

I wrote to the quartet with a copy of the remix - sadly to no reply - and have included the email below:


I was in the audience at your performance of 'Bow Your Head' by David Fennessy, at The MAC in Belfast on Wednesday.  It was my first time hearing a quartet attempt something so contemporary - a real educational experience for me, rich with sonic textures that totally transported me.  The Bartok pieces weren't bad either!

Hearing you guys discuss the music with David was just as inspirational as the music.  I loved the way the he had to start from an origin that felt true to him specifically, and then work his way up to what we would understand as "typical" quartet motifs.  I also loved that he was drawn towards that indulgence of what the four instruments can do just through bowing:  some of the sounds you guys conjured up were truly spectral.  I also enjoyed hearing about the tuning arrangements, and the thinking behind them.  The sound of a downtuned cello is something to behold!

I took the liberty of taping the performance on my digital recorder, and - inspired by the music - edited together a brief collage of sounds from the piece.  I've elected to concentrate on the more ambient portions, looping and modulating the various layers as required.  I thought I'd share it with you guys as a way of thanking you for such an exhilarating show (and if you could pass it on to David then I'd be most grateful).

Good luck with your next shows, I look forward to seeing Contempo again sometime.

Kind regards,

Andrew Gardiner 

Gmm Mr

This was partly a tribute to Danja's production style on Britney's Spears' crowning achievement:  the Blackout album.  

I found the stems online, as they had been made available to numerous DJs for label-sponsered remixes.  Somehow it ended up looped and sync'd to Spectre's 'The Beginning of an End', which I had sped up in iSotope RX to beat match with Britney.

Sound Unhealer

This began life during a Future Loss rehearsal at The Bank, when we were recording I, Realia and Kept Alive around 2015 or so.  

I remember that my keys had somehow ended up going through an Orange head, which was plugged into a large 4x10 stack.  I had adhesive tape on the keys which allowed me to keep a note going, while walking over to the amp and adjusting the tone controls to make the waves of sound.

Brian Magee played the repeating guitar sample that runs through the first third of the song.  We were just fiddling around on something and this happened.  Brian stopped playing, but my Casio-Orange amp combo got the better of me and I indulged in a bit of knob twiddling.  Even though I claim to be above such things.

The file hung around on my computer until I doubled down on the editing in 2016 while living in Acton, London... but it only presented itself as an option when I started compiling this disc in 2017.  Along with 'Reaktor Room 4', it's the oldest piece on the whole album.

Matisse Guitar

While living in London, I linked up with Pond drummer Mark Warmington.  We rented a rehearsal room near where Mark lived, in Willesden.  He practised his drums - not being able to play an acoustic kit in his own home.  I - for reasons unclear - sat on a high stool with Andy's old Les Paul on my knee, when it rarely had more than three strings and was always randomly tuned.  Sometimes there was screaming, other times it could be haphazardly atmospheric.  

We called ourselves Sham, and recorded most of our rehearsals.  It was in listening back to these, that I spotted a drum break of Mark's that I particularly liked.  I decided to loop it, and then cut my guitar feed from the same song as the break, and sprinkle it in over the top, all mixed up and fallen at random.  Just like the Matisse cut ups that I saw at the Tate Modern in 2014.  

Therefore the guitar is all higgeldypiggeldy, and has been left where it was arbitrarily dropped onto the arrange page without thought.  A delay has been applied to Mark's drums, and is designed to intentionally concertina into the raw feed.

Windy Ears

I'm always trying to off-load some piano scrap or other, and this was no exception.  The only thing that distinguished it from others was that it had been done to click, allowed some more subtle programming to find its way in.  

Easter Test Run (Parts I, II & III)

At around Easter of 2019, I was back in Portrush and had the chance to set up and test my Future Loss synth rig, to make sure everything was working.  

It included my old second-hand Casio CTK, with everything going through Brian's delay and reverb pedals, with Luke's Boss octivator at the end of the chain, before things went into the Kaoss Pad 2, and then into the PA desk, which could sweeten the signal further with on-board reverbs.  

I improvised on a few things and recorded the results.  Taking the audio, I began to slice it up and form layers with it, not dissimilar to the cut up technique used on 'Windy Ears'.  I was also checking out onboard customisations of the CTK effects, which are editable.  

Three clear sections emerged, and I edited them into a suite together.


Arguably my favourite on the whole album, this is simply me thrumming my thumb along a corrugated steel sculpture by Ota Janeček that was in a religious alcove, with candles around it (hence the title).  I used my Roland handset to record it.

The Autumn Room

Another improvised piece that happened to be done in my studio in Portrush, with the rhythm piano being overdubbed with more delayed textures.  As the only thing to feature me singing on the whole album, it sits at the fulcrum of the playlist.

Big Solly

This utilises the vocal talents of my dog, Sally.  The guitar comes from exploring Logic samples that were filed under chord name.  I chucked a few of them around into a loose order, and then had Sally sing over the top.


This came from messing around with guitar feedback during the Sham sessions in Willesden between 2014 and 2016.  

When Mark went to the bathroom, I would try to get the most possible feedback out of the Marshall 4x10 stack, with the Orange valve head on top of it.  Sometimes the feedback was ferociously loud and wild.  I would try to let the guitar hand still, very close to the amp, to allow the sheer force of the sound coming out of the 4x10 to influence the guitar strings.  A lot of fun!  

Then I got to work on bending the sounds, especially lowering the overall resolution to that of an early Nintendo soundtrack.

Each One Worse Than The Last

One of the newest tracks on the record, this is my attempt to make repetitive music sound interesting... something my friend Grilly has recently experimented with.  

There is a lot of automation on this song, with the repeating motif heading off into the distance, before returning to the foreground.  I think the drums are artificial, and I've double tracked them (but manually nudged so as to be slightly out of sync with each other) to give them more presence.

Reaktor Room 4

The oldest piece on the album, this began life in Acton, London.  I'm not sure what the source is;  I suspect the original audio may have been from a Sham rehearsal, where I happened to catch some extended guitar noise on the Roland.  

So named after the Chernobyl disaster - but done so before watching the HBO series.  I'd had a picture of the control room for years on my wall at 12 Whitby.  

PO Box [rmx]

This comes from a song called 'PO Box In Hammersmith Palais' by My Attorney.  It is still slated for release on the band's long-lost fifth album Electrical Spells, and a studio recording of the song made in 2013 shortly before Ian's death forms the backbone of this composition.  

At some point in the preliminary mixing of the track, I began to experiment with Stuart's beat that he was attempting to double-track.  Removing all melodic links to the original piece further helped this composition stand up in its own right.

It then devolved into a beat workout, with a mixture of programmed beats and drum moments from Stuart.

It Must Be Broken [ambient]

This is the guitar feed from a Sham session, that I've subsequently treated.  I believe it was slowed down in Isotope RX - a piece of software I've increasingly used since moving to Prague.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

No Days Off Forever - full sleeve notes

This is the sister disc to 'London Doesn't Need You', since the songs come from the same period of time, and uses many of the same techniques and sample material in its construction.

Tracks include the now-familiar hallmarks of my music from this period: a blend of ambient samples from the city, heavily programmed delay patches, mixed with old snippets of piano from the church studio, as well as new compositions that were done using Ella's piano in Kew Gardens. There is also a soundtrack for a short film that was never used by the people who commissioned it, and has instead found a home here.

This marks the end of music I made while living in London, and after this I would return to Portrush to collect much of the material together, and refine it during the start of 2017.

Swazzi Hold

I honestly have no idea how this was made.  I think it was part of a much bigger piece, which was then discarded.  The audio was then put through a filter which cut off much of the signal if it dipped below a certain frequency, giving it this amputated, incomplete feel.

London - December 2

Samples here include tenants in the pub accommodation I lived in waking me up at night by singing Bible songs, an exhibit in the Tate Modern that featured some audio, recorded conversations that were heavily bitcrushed, all of which were put through the Delay Designer.  I will never grow tired of the ways a single natural piano take can be manipulated and played with until it sounds otherworldly and orchestral.

Day 84

The title comes from a period in mid-2014, when I worked for eighty-four consecutive days without a day off.  This included teaching English and working 24 hour weekends in a particularly wretched pub in Richmond.

The material used here is another exercise in using stock material from Logic’s library, adding it to piano from the church, and trying to see if anything interesting comes from it.  

The preset bass guitar was pitch shifted down extra low, to create a woody-sounding effect, and not at all like it was from a library bin.  I was pleased to finally include the cello scraping sound that Sarah Gill recorded when I was taping the Rebecca Jones overdub sessions in 2007.  The piano from the church (intentionally operating in triplets compared to everything else, which is in 4/4) was double tracked through a pitch shifter, which created new, uneasy harmonies.

B-Movie Drop Out [suite]

This was the rejected soundtrack for the follow-up to the fashion film, which can be read about more here.

It used Stuart’s glockenspiel from the My Attorney LP5 session, the old Farfisa organ from the church, as well as piano from the church and a recycled Four Lane Ends Metro station sample.  

The edits are in odd places:  this was because I was working to the cuts of the moving image.  In total, the film demanded three distinct bits, with music for the credits - so these four components make up the “suite”.


I came across smartphone video footage of a Sri Lankian dance routine one night on YouTube, and tried to manipulate it into something that resembled the chaotic and colourful rhythms of M.I.A.’s songs.

Leyborne Park Love Scene

The audio book of Carrie Fisher’s memoirs came out just after her death, and it was fascinating to hear tales of my favourite on-screen heroes having a genuine romance behind the scenes.  It seemed for a moment to make the original Star Wars film as real as it had been in my childhood imagination.  

I used a sample of it to accompany a piano moment I had recorded in the Kew Gardens address of the song title.  It was put through Logic’s Ringshifter - a powerful tool that can bend anything until it’s virtually unreconisable from its original state.

End Sequence

This is more of Ella’s piano, heavily processed.  I had the closing moments of some epic video game in mind, listening back to this.  Living in London for me always had a video game element to it:  staying one step ahead of the sudden drop, with no extra lives.  “Your Princess Is In Another Castle”.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

London Doesn't Need You - full sleeve notes

During the making of this album, I found myself living in London in less than ideal circumstances. I didn't have access to a rehearsal space, musical instruments or any studio equipment.

Therefore I had to work with what I had, which was my laptop, a pair of headphones and my trusty Roland R-05 handheld field recorder.

Using this limited array of equipment, I began to collect samples from my environment during long walks in the city centre, before layering them together to form audio collages. I then edited carefully: highlighting the moments that fortuitously worked, and removed the bits that clashed with one another. Then I rinsed the whole feed through heavy amounts of delay: this work represents the summation of my delay and reverb experiments over the preceding years. With the source material lacking an overt musical coda, I had to find musicality in the design of the delay patterns... having delayed signals change in pitch and collide against one another to create new sounds, or automating the settings of reverb units to change and modulate as the piece played.

In the end, the post-production attempted to make the sound move, pulse and breathe - perhaps because so much of the music was confined solely to the interior of my laptop.


Fade In / Out

This short introduction to the record was made using MIDI files of ‘Fade In / Out’ by Oasis, from their Be Here Now album.  Fans have compiled many of the band’s hits into MIDI packages, which can then be repurposed in whatever way you wish.  This specific segment uses the chorus.  After so many bombastic band recordings, the aspect of negative space in a piece of music had grabbed my eye - and was in full effect here.  The reason I chose such a song to apply this treatment to was because Oasis MIDI files are widely available on the internet, and also because the band were a crucial fixture in my early teens when I was first discovering rock music.

London - December 1 

In December of 2013, I found myself living above a pub, sleeping on the floor.  During this time, I walked the streets of the South Bank, recording the sounds that I heard.  Realising that one should “work with what you have”, and having turned my back on conventional music for the time being, I found myself using these ambiences to create original compositions.  

This technique expanded upon my prior use of field recordings that had begun to proliferate in my more conventional productions.  It dispensed with the core “song”, and instead let the accidents and coincidences of the compiled layers form their own structure.

My own contribution to these layers, besides simply having recorded them, was to apply some bespoke delays that I had programmed in Logic’s Delay Designer.  This tool could be calibrated quite finely to create delays that oscillated, faded and then grew in volume, panned left then right, and rolled off certain frequencies of the signal before returning to its original form.  I used automation in Logic to have these variables change and modulate throughout the duration of the track.

Some old piano scraps that were recorded in the Brighton Road Presbyterian Church were flown in over the top of this, but I was at pains to not let a conventional instrument be the focus of the piece, but rather just another texture that was part of this mix.

It was exciting to break out of the conventional drums / bass / guitar / vocals mixing monotony that had formed much of my previous eight years of mixing.  Once you have mastered such a technique, doing it repeatedly makes you feel more like a machinist than an artist.  It becomes automatic and dull.  It also requires you to have access to a kit, amps and your mixing desk.  With this technique, I was able to embrace the limitations of my environment and use it to create something different.

Shakey Jakey

A lot of this was done using the ‘latch’ mode on Logic’s automation feature.  It meant that - as the track played - I moved the various controls and the computer remembered the movements.  This is a soft, in-the-box equivalent of twiddling the knobs and dials on your guitar pedal as you record in a rehearsal space.  It’s not as much fun, but it adds a lot of movement and depth to a track - especially if one is listening on headphones.  Since I was now mixing exclusively on headphones, this became my main target:  how to create something that would work in that confined, cranial space.

Creepy Pasta

This was a complete dive into ambience, and it sounds as though some severe bitcrushing and time-stretching were employed here.  The rhythm sounds like I have recycled the bottle beat from ‘Chimes’, though everything is so warped it’s hard to tell for sure.

Sluice Them All Off

This began with me scraping my feet along the gravel of Twickenham train station pedestrian bridge.  I also used a sample of the sound of the rain hitting the metal surfaces below my window, in my first floor room in a five-bed house share in Acton.

London - December 2 [epilogue]

The majority of this track is presented on this album’s sister disc No Days Off Forever.  But the last part fits better here.  It samples a group of boorish rugby fans in a District Line Tube station, and stroking of the piano keys at Colerabbey that was put through another bespoke Delay Designer effect.

Double Formant Shift

I’ve written about the making of this track elsewhere, but put briefly I was asked to create a soundtrack for a short film made by a fashion brand.  The whole thing was a deeply underwhelming experience, but I learnt a lot from it and saw inside the empty heart of London’s supposed “creative” scene in Shoreditch.  I always knew it was there, but had to see it for myself to be sure.  

I was pleased with the music, though.  It evokes the dismal, gloomy quality of that time spent in London, when I would walk through Soho virtually penniless, purely as a spectator to the shops and eateries around me, recording the sounds of old buildings being gutted to make way for shiny new ad agency offices.

Caught Between The Frames - full sleeve notes

This collection of work bridges the gap between my departure from Newcastle, and my three year tenure in London.  Many pieces were begun prior to leaving the North East, and then subsequently finished either during my brief spell in Portrush, or upon my arrival in the capital.

The record should have been my last, since at the time of recording I was effectively halting all work in music and retraining in a new profession.  The bands, record label and studio spaces that I had maintained for the preceding eight years were all but put on permanent hiatus, along with the many personal - and creative - relationships that I had been lucky enough to have during my time as a music producer.  It was a difficult time.

Despite this, there were enough significant loose ends that occupied my laptop to warrant some form of compendium of music from this period.  These including unused commissions for radio commercial jingles, cut ups of drum tracks from the drummer for Future Loss at that time, collages of found sounds from trips to Rathlin Island and Alnwick beach, and samples taken from Tate Modern art installations I saw around that time.

I like how the sounds from the two opposing locations that this album straddles manage to fuse into something whole and coherent, showing how even in the least-conducive of circumstances, creativity can prevail.

Alex Beat

This was composed on the P&O ferry during my permanent departure from Newcastle.  It features a sample of Alex Hall’s drums - whose work featured heavily in both Future Loss and Shin Jin Rui projects I had worked on at the time.

Puffin Copter

Not a particularly pleasant piece to listen to:  the avian din is from a field recording of a puffin sanctuary on Rathlin Island, near to Portrush, and the helicopter sound is from a miserable day spent sitting in a sand dune in Alnwick, watching the RNLI carry out training exercises at sea.  The percussion comes from hitting a chair leg with a drumstick.  The rest of the sounds are a series of strange artefacts that create a rather hostile-sounding environment.  Since this was completed upon arrival in Portrush for my hiatus before moving to London, this is all rather apt.

Dr. No

Having relied heavily upon samples and extracted components from projects I was working on, I thought it might be interesting to see if I could create something from Logic’s inexhaustible supply of library material that still sounded fresh.  Added on top of this was a rip of some carnival drumming from YouTube.  The piano once again comes from my cassette archive, that had been waiting patiently for years to be utilised in something.  It was heavily time stretched using Logic’s ‘flex’ feature.

How Not To Be Seen

This is the first offering that features something captured during my three years living London.  The vocal sample is from a visit to the Tate Modern.  So much of modern, installation-based art that uses audio is unremarkable to my ears…  but this extract caught my attention.  The narrator describes how, in the past, satellite cameras had to calibrate the focus of their lenses using giant patterns specially drawn on the desert floor.  Logic 9’s slow down feature was aggressively used here, in concert with synths triggered using the QWERTY keyboard.  I was trying to create something “urban” sounding, while at the same time jarring.

London Zoo

This was the first of my professional commissions, all of which would be fairly unremarkable affairs, and not something I would recommend.  London Zoo had set a brief for some radio advertising, and my girlfriend at the time was the copywriter tasked to come up with the script.  Needing a jingle to play in the background, she asked me to present some options.  The result was a nasty compendium of soft synths and preset patterns.  I don’t believe it was ever used.  

When I came to compile this collection, I recovered the music, put the whole thing through Haunted Cavern reverb, and cut it down to 45 seconds, which improved it no end.

Easy Life When I’m Lost In You

Another rehearsal room offering, with Andy joining in on drums.  

This was made using the live rig that I had for My Attorney around this time.  The Casio CA-20 went through a series of guitar pedals, including Luke’s pitch shifter, which was invaluable for creating radical tones at a moment’s notice.  I was also able to direct keys through my Kaoss Pad, which gave me a primitive loop function, as well as using the layering feature on my Boss VE20 vocal pedal…  giving the impression of there being more people in the room than there actually were.

Small, Far Away

This started life as an especially cheesy clip of music, that was rescued by mercilessly crunching it through iZotope RX.  The whole pitch-shifting and time-stretching thing was fascinating to me at the time, and also reflected how I was increasingly working on solo material “in the box” rather than using real amps and effects pedals to get my treatments.


This bridges the gap between Newcastle and London perfectly, since the piano is taken from a demo recorded in the Bensham Presbyterian Church in the summer of 2011, with the titular chimes coming from a walk through Richmond upon my arrival there in December 2013.  A plane on its way to Heathrow can be heard swooping overhead.  The rhythm is from a recording of me hitting two plastic water bottles together, and then gently double tracking them so that they drift out of time with one another ever so slightly.  Cat sneezes in the front garden of 12 Whitby.  Several times and realities are superimposed on top of one another.  Everything is slowed down to a syrupy crawl.  Such is the weirdness and manufactured fiction of recorded music.

Fugue State - full sleeve notes

This is the final collection of music recorded exclusively during my time in Newcastle, England.

By this stage, I had stopped producing for external clients, preferring instead to write and record for the various bands I was involved with directly. This meant that much of my solo material no longer took its starting point from third-party material, but instead came from my own sonic sketches.

I continued to employ large amounts of found sounds I had captured using my handheld recorder, to add texture and depth to the arrangements. It would also mark the first time I had access to software powerful enough to time stretch and pitch shift entire mixes to produce strange, unpredictable results.

Former Planet

I have virtually no memory of making this piece.  I would love to know how I made the string sound.  It sounds like a sample, but upon inspection of the Logic arrange page, I appear to have created it myself.  The element that is a sample is from Rebecca Jones’ ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’, which is looped endlessly throughout.

I was really happy when I discovered this one;  it was almost lost to obscurity, until an in-depth trawl of the archives revealed something that was definitely worth keeping.

Chill Bass

This is another one that I cringe a little at.  I’m not sure what I’m trying to achieve with the vocal.  Perhaps I was trying to emulate the soulful hooks that occur in hip hop, which contrast with the cut up and reversed Ol’ Dirty Bastard spoken word sections.  I had taken a freestyle bassline recording of mine and forced it to fit to click, which explains its somewhat topsyturvey rhythmic core.  Keen to use more of my samples, I flew in the sound of me skiing which acted as a high end wash behind the rest of the instruments.

Hypnotic Batman

This is another piano demo that was exhumed from the old tape cassette demos, and played into the laptop to click using high powered microphones.  The atmospheric samples here include playing air hockey at All Tomorrow’s Parties at Minehead Butlins holiday resort.  The slowing down and speeding up effects were now easily accessible in Logic 9, accessible through the ‘fade’ tool.  They have subsequently become ubiquitous in pop music.

Organ Demo #1

After having produced The Colt 45s record, the band had nothing to pay me with, so instead offered me their organ.  It sat in the living room of my home in 12 Whitby for many years, and was never used quite as often as it should have been.  This particular demo was done off the cuff, and felt right just leaving it as it is.


Another piano demo that was upscaled to the digital world, and sat on the shelf for many years until Grilly was enlisted as guest guitarist to breathe some life into it.  He would later remix the track himself, using vocals from another artist.  As was increasingly my style around this time, atmospheric samples feature heavily here - with a bell chime from a Cretian monestary and the BBC Sound Effects ‘Disasters’ LP featuring heavily.  The synth was made using samples of my own voice, and was used to varying degrees in both Rebecca Jones and Aaron McMullan recordings.  Here was an opportunity to use the synth as dry and bare as possible, which I though was much more interesting.

Touch Me (I’m Already Gone)

This marked the first use of the Roxio Isotope RX software, that could slow things down to enormous degrees, and was a craze for a short period around this time.  Justin Beiber and Radiohead songs were both notable examples of well-known pieces being slowed down heavily, thus revealing something beautiful in all the formants and artefacts that the time-stretching algorithms tossed up in the process.  

The original audio was formed from me setting off several live loops in the Room 17 rehearsal space, and having Andy join me on drums upon his arrival.  It initially proved fairly unremarkable, but upon treatment with the software, produced something really unexpected and haunting.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Great Disconnect - full sleeve notes

Loosely speaking, this record is a collection of ideas and off-shoots that started life amongst my professional work as a music producer.  

Work done for clients was remodulated, tampered with and deconstructed until it resembled something wildly different from its origins.  The rock and folk music of my day job was therefore alchemised into something stranger, and altogether more in line with my burgeoning taste for electronica, chip tune and found sounds.

Many of these pieces here also feature ambiences recorded on my portable handset; a feature of my production that would grow in prevalence over the coming years.   


That 80s Vibe

This is a remix of an Assfunk song.  Assfunk was a guitar and keyboard duo consisting of my good friend and frequent collaborator Ryan H. Fleming, and his mate Dave.  They put together a blistering CD-R of songs that lasted no more than 59 seconds, with each composition being cut with a hard edit at the one-minute mark.  Their sonic setup - consisting of Casio keyboard drum beats, auto-arpeggiated synth chords and over-the-top hair metal guitar - meant that whatever style they lent their hands to, it sounded wildly silly and genuinely arresting at the same time.  All the pieces were recorded as part of a first-take, improvised rationale.  They did pastiches of hair metal, R & B, ballads and - in the case of ‘That 80s Vibe’ - the John Hughes movie soundtrack.  I was enthralled, and lifted several bars of it to create the spine for a full-blown homage to Pretty In Pink, The Breakfast Club and other films of that genre I was buying on VHS off eBay at the time.  Hence the outro lyrical reference to Molly Ringwald, and the heavily borrowed melody from Aha's 'Take On Me'.

This track also gave me an opportunity to see what was possible when things were nailed to a click track.  So much of my work at the time dealt with live takes, from musicians who felt uncomfortable recording to a fixed backing beat.  The closing arpeggiated sequence is a good example of that, done with a soft synth from Logic 7.

The Ballad Of Smiley’s Devil

At the time this collection of material was being worked on, I recorded a band called Chronicity.  They were by far one of the best bands I ever worked with.  I counted several of their members as friends, and would go on to produce albums that Pete, Cath and Phil made with their own respective solo projects, namely Wimpy Milkshake and Cath & Phil Tyler.  Some of their number had played in Red Monkey - a band that had once supported Fugazi when they came to play in Newcastle in 1999.  As well as frequently playing at my Ex Libris Records gigs, Chronicity regularly supported Bellini when they came to town, another excellent post-punk act.

The recording of ‘The Ballad Of The Gliding Swan’ was part of their Newcastle University basement studio session, and was recorded live, with some of the best amps, microphones and musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.  This meant that - despite being my first official ‘full band’ studio production - their EP still ranks as one of my best-sounding projects.  The band were happy with it too, though they didn’t play regularly and had other musical priorities at the time, so sadly the recording was never made publicly available.

I took some of the stems of the track and spliced them roughly with a YouTube extract from an early Oprah Winfrey episode, which had been highlighted on the edgy-for-its-day blog Jezebel.  Having recently watched the box set of Smiley’s People starring Alec Guinness, the lyrics centred around a Cold War theme.  I added my own double-tracked bass to the looped sample, put much of the guitar stems through the Kaoss Pad, and whistled.  It was all done very spontaneously, and without much attempt to make it sound coherent.  Years later, I returned to it and tidied it up a little, but much of the collage approach to the arrangement remains.

Cottage Rotoscoped

This marks my attempt to use Ableton Live - a piece of software given to me by associates on my music production foundation degree course at Newcastle University.  Many of them came from disciplines that I hadn;t encountered before:  video game soundtrack composers and DJs of various genres.  The software confounded me, and this was the result.  I resolved to stick with Logic, as it seemed a more intuitive piece of software for the multitrack band recordings I was making at the time.

Holden Simone

Another piano demo, this time done to click track and recorded into the laptop, rather than my old Panasonic tape player.  “Holden” is a reference to James Holden, whose The Idiots Are Winning album influenced me greatly at the time.  “Simone” is a reference to me trying, and failing, to channel Nina Simone’s soulful vocal delivery. 

The timing slips a little at the end.  When I came back to review the track, around nine years after its inception, I debated whether to correct this or not.  Without trying to sound too weighty, the spirit of what these releases are about - the representation of my musical development through my career as a producer - means that such a move would be against the whole ethos of the Unimbued project.  And besides, sometime out of time is good.

Missed Organ

The ‘Missed’ of the title comes from the My Attorney song ‘Missed Connection Room’, which was recorded in the upstairs bar of The Cumberland Arms, in the Ouseburn, Newcastle.  

This particular session was notable because it marked the first time Andy and I collaborated with our drummer-to-be Stuart Stone.  I remember setting up a lot of microphones on his kit, and as a result captured a humungous room sound, thanks also to the wooden floors and hard walls of the space.  This room would host the majority of Ex Libris Records events in the coming years, until it became clear that running live events was not so much of a priority for the label.  

In the corner of the room, behind some stacked up chairs, was a small Hammond organ clone, in very poor repair.  I incorporated it into the take of ‘Missed Connection Room’, and when mixing the song was captivated by the inconsistent sounds the machine had randomly generated as I mashed the controls.  I decided to highlight these sounds in a standalone piece, incorporating cut ups of Stuarts drums and Andy’s overdubs as accompaniment.

As with ‘The Ballad Of Smiley’s Devil’, it showed how the “day job” work of mixing fairly conventional band recordings could throw up unexpected elements that deserved closer inspection… and how these little snippets could - when doodled upon after hours - form their own compositions in their own right.

Plagarising Reality (extract)

In 2011 I suggested to the Heaton Arts Festival - a community project that operated near to where I lived in Newcastle - that I contribute by composing an ambient collage of my field recordings, that could play on multiple hi-fi systems concealed in a church.  Other works of art would be presented in the same space, and as people milled around, they would come into range of various strange noises I had recorded on my Roland handset.

The venue was changed to Heaton Perk coffee shop, which took some of the potential atmospherics away - however it didn’t stop me compiling over an hour of material that ran on a loop in a CD player hidden behind the bookshelves of the coffee shop.  I remember visiting once to find that the staff had turned it down to zero, perhaps because of the moment when all the dogs start barking.

What made this significant was that it marked my first forray into using found sounds that I had captured myself in my work.  This would feature more and more in the coming years, both in productions I did for others (most notably Ian Courtney’s ‘Solitude In Snow’) and my own solo work composed while living in London.

I have selected the most interesting part of the piece here, which features a BBC Radio 4 play about dementia (Paul Whitehouse can just be heard before that particular sample is faded out), the Sacred Harp Choir singing in an old hospital - one that I was invited to by Cath Tyler from Chronicity, my mum describing the view from her cottage, the shore of Blyth? outside my car window, some equipment beeping in the local Metro station and me playing piano in what had been the Bensham Presbyterian Church - a building I used as a recording studio and rehearsal space for four months around 2011.


This began by using a percussion track from a Girls Girls Girls recording as a starting point, and then experimenting with Logic’s Delay Designer.  I had recently upgraded to version 9, which had several effects units that were worthy of exploration.  As with so many of these pieces, this was regarded as little more than a sketch when it was made.  It was only years later that I would appreciate its simplicity and restraint that was often lacking in my ‘proper’ pieces.

The Reckoniser

In 2008 Radiohead made two of the songs on their seventh studio album In Rainbows available for remixing - ‘Nude’ and ‘Reckoner’.  It took me about two years to finally get around to it, but I remember clearly not going to bed one evening and in the morning, this track was more or less finished.

I added my own vocals to mimic the guitar interlude, as well as using stock drum patterns to complement Selway’s parts.  Some samples from ‘Nude’ also appear in the rhythmic outro.

One of my main learning experiences from this was hearing just how roughly edited some of the stems were.  Nigel Godrich was clearly working from 2” tape, and the sections which segued into one another did so without much subtlety.  I was shocked, since I prided myself on leaving no edit un-polished.  However, these imperfections make no difference to the finished piece that Radiohead released, and is a lesson in restraining oneself from endless perfectionism.


The Klopfgeist click track in Logic is programmable, allowing you to alter the pitch and resonance.  This discovery led to the starting point for this track.  The vocal sample came from the Cath & Phil Tyler solo album I was working on at the time - including the rather caustic exchange between the couple that was tacked on the end.  I also added some double-tracked Spanish guitar, and some of my own vocals to flesh out the whole thing.  

The sparseness of the song meant that for years I dismissed it as half-baked… but as with ‘Superlongtermboyfriends’, that would later be seen as a strength.  This was another piece done at the end of a long day of mixing other people’s work, when I was no longer required to keep the production values within the lines, and could stray into sonic territory that was more to my own taste in music.