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.