Friday, February 26, 2010

A new project and two new songs

As I said, I have plenty of new ideas, and it seems that now it is a good moment to record them. I guess I will end up with 10 or so songs, and, since I haven't recorded anything since long ago, they are probably going to sound rather different to most of my previous compositions, so I have decided to put them in a different project, for the sake of homogeneity and musical coherence. Along with my last piece ("Acoustic Lullaby for Celine"), you will find all these new tunes under a new album ("The joy of inhabiting the right note") in my bandcamp website. Although these days the concept of "album" seems to make less sense than a few years ago (specially if you are not going to release a physical copy of it but just let people download it from the internet), it still makes sense from a conceptual point of view, as a set of songs somehow interrelated.

After an intense week playing and recording, I have added two new songs to this album, and here are some facts about them for those of you interested in more than the music itself.

The first song is a very visual composition entitled "Soundtrack for our trip". It's interesting how all the songs I compose about trips or places I have visited (although this one is about a trip I haven't done yet...), they all seem to me so visual and plastic and evoke images instead of just feelings or moods. ("Xiras" and "Izhevsk" are good examples of that).

A few additional comments, as usual:

  • I have tried to create some kind of hypnotic feeling using repeated short phrases in the background and a very simple harmony reinforced with a trivial "ostinato" bass line. You can see that same technique in a few of my songs such as the aforementioned "Izhevsk", "Teresa" or the sketch for Postal Service's "Such Great Heights".
  • I have used an electronic bow to play a sustained G note throughout the song (yes, you guessed it, G is the tonal center...). The track is barely audible, but it is the first time I've used my e-bow, so I guess it is something remarkable.
  • The first and last thirds of the song are "raw", that is, no effects and neither pre- nor post-processing of any kind. The middle third has some effects on three of the guitars, including the lead slide one. I recorded the entire song just with my Ovation acoustic guitar plugged directly to my computer, getting an interesting "dry" version. Afterwards, I started to play with the effects and came up with an also very interesting "wet" version. Since I liked both of them, I decided to mix them up, simply fading the raw one into the processed one, and then fading it out back to the raw version. I did the recording using Cakewalk and Native Instrument's Guitar Rig for the effects, and I mixed the two versions and added the final fade out with Audacity.
  • Yes, the percusion is also played with the guitar, plucking the strings very close to the bridge while muting them with the left hand. I know that I use this technique a bit too much...but I love how it sounds... ;-)

The second song ("I would wake you up with this song if you were here") is a bit different. It starts with a few bars of slow clean guitar arpeggios (once again using open strings and letting the notes ring out) and then jumps into a faster strummed happy-sounding part. Kaki King is a master at creating this kind of light uptempo rhythms, and you can also find very good examples of that in Metheny's first solo album "New Chautauqua". There are two guitars playing the rhythm part, and a third one just playing harmonics, ornating the mix. All of them are "raw", without any effect.

I was very happy with the rhythm part and thought about not adding a lead guitar, but eventually I decided to add it, mainly because it fits better into my style... but also because I just felt like it (improvising an soloing is fun, right?). To preserve the identity of the rhythm part, I tried to keep the solo part as melodic as possible, and phrases are extremely simple. A a few of them around the middle part of the song have some sort of african style. Also, I couldn't avoid throwing a few of my usual Clapton-esque licks. Overall, the combination of all these styles sounds pretty interesting to me.

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