Observer [Preview]

Cobbled together a preview of my upcoming album “Observer” and put it on Soundcloud tonight, with a release date of 4/20/18 set.

This album ended up being more influenced by personal life than my previous efforts. Previously I was much more focused on atmosphere and evocation, though I think with “The Dream Edge” there were a few tracks transitioning away from that to more intimate influences. The past couple of years have been good to me, but also introduced new and unexpected challenges that, looking back, profoundly influenced my mood and creative output in both conscious and subconscious ways.

Another shift in inspiration I took was a more respectful look at the past instead of a relentless focus on the future, innovation and progression. I attempted a balance this time – I don’t care for the idea of executing pure nostalgia, but hinting at it with things like more jungle-influenced breaks, lo-fi bit reductions and fuzz, simple adlib-inspired FM sounds, samples from my favorite ambient albums of the past couple decades. Much of that came from re-listening to old favorite albums as well, from the early 90s’ evolution of techno and breakbeat to jungle and drum & bass, the late 90s and early 00s forays into IDM, even old .mod/.s3m/.xm/.it favorites from my tracking days.

On the other hand, I tried some new things with hardware this time as well – about half of the tracks were done primarily with an Elektron Digitakt and Korg minilogue, in an attempt to better focus my sound in a world of practically unlimited sound sources. A pursuit of simplicity and balance of negative space also played a role in a few tracks here – again, influenced by humble daily life instead of trying to evoke a sense of fantastic empyrean scale and energy.

The resulting whole might seem a little disjointed, but probably no more so than any of my previous albums or EPs. My primary goals in producing music are to maintain integrity of personal expression, channeling my favorite influences and memories into combinations that I enjoy, and in that respect I’m content with the result here, and hope you find some enjoyment in it too.

Distribution

Wow, my last update was almost two years ago.  I’m not actually dead, just busier than usual.  I had another kid so I can finally check off the ✓family complete milestone.

My last update was the Pyre announcement – in case you missed it, the game shipped on PC and Steam and Playstation 4 and was pretty favorably reviewed!

I finally managed to get my more recent music catalog onto the major distribution platforms, so in addition to Bandcamp you can now stream on iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify, and more.

I’m in the process of finishing up a new album, as well as a cheeky synthwave-R&B fusion mix/mashup.  I’m aiming to have the former up within the week and the latter as soon as I can cobble together some appropriate artwork for it.

The Dream Edge

"The Dream Edge" Album Art

Finished a new album! This one is less of a unified concept than my previous LP, in fact it took some consideration (and a little time pressure) just to articulate the loosely unifying threads tying the individual tracks together into a concise title. In a sense it feels more a compilation of things I’ve worked on over the past year and a half or so. With varying levels of focus I’ve been exploring themes of hazy memories, nostalgia, dreams or dreamlike states or the blurry veil between conscious thought and dreaming. I think that ended up being manifested in more than one track by my process of starting with an initial theme or set of sounds and then filtering it halfway through, like looking at reality through the lens of a dream, or comparing the ideal of a concept to its reality.

As usual the energy level fluctuates from soporific ambient to frenetic 170bpm layered breaks. In the process of gathering material for the album I found myself questioning whether or not it’s a good approach to compile such a stylistically wide range of material – not that there isn’t any precedent for it, but generally the artists I listen to and am inspired by seem to release with much more consistency of theme. But ultimately it does feel like the right decision. As music production remains a hobby for me I have the luxury of working on it whenever inspiration strikes, crafting sounds to my own taste without external restrictions; so hopefully the end result has some purity of expression, hindered mostly by my own lack of technical ability to directly translate my ideas. And as a creative professional it’s liberating to have a method of expression that doesn’t need to answer to anyone else’s requirements, so I’m putting it together as I see fit. As such, I hope there is something on it for you to enjoy.

Listen on SoundCloud.

Purchase via BandCamp.

Bleemixes on Mixcloud

I was listening to my first “Bleemix” megamix/mashup today and decided that in the spirit of getting archived material back online and up to current standards I’d upload them to Mixcloud, so the first three are over on my new mixes page now.

Properly tagging the tracklists is rather time consuming, made moreso by the Mixcloud UI which was clearly designed towards mixes with 15-20 tracks as opposed to 110+ overlapping in my Bleemix series.  Also, I somehow lost the continuous mix for Bleemix 3 and had to patch it back together from the individual MP3s.  Fun fact, I tried four different solutions to this, all of which failed to provide a smooth and gapless continuous file, until I remembered Winamp’s “single file” Disk Output mode.  Winamp is still good for something!

Anyway I’ll have to save the final Bleemix 4 for tomorrow.

Allure LP

Happy to announce that my new LP, “Allure” is now available for download and streaming. I finally got around to setting up a bandcamp account and uploading my last four releases (excluding “Shroud”, which was signed) so if you missed any they can all be downloaded in high quality there for the price of your choosing.

Anyway, about the LP. One of my primary inspirations for these tracks was found in a cross-section I kept noticing between my wife‘s taste in music and mine – particularly the half-tempo overlap between R&B and drum&bass (much more 170/autonomic drum&bass than poppy chart drivel). Ultimately that led to the uniting theme: viewing R&B’s predominating themes of love, sex, and relationships through a futuristic, electronic eye.

Exploring that intersection struck a chord with me as well, as in it I found overlap with some of my favorite concepts from cyberpunk fiction. The idea of humanoid robot companions, for example, is fascinating to me, and I find it especially interesting to consider the point at which the human feelings of desire and loneliness would surpass the strangeness of companionship with an artificial, constructed “person”. It is essentially a common use for technology, I think – overcoming the limitations of our biology and evolutionary legacy to our own selfish ends, sometimes with long-term detrimental effects. So, to that end, I appropriated and distorted some R&B acapellas with the intent of extracting some of the essence of their emotion – removing them from lyrical context and incorporating them with an intentional, produced artificiality.

Cyberpunk’s heyday lies squarely in the 80s, so I also wanted to explore a more contemporary approach to using 80s-style synths. It’s certainly seems to be been en vogue in the 2010s – incorporating or even prominently featuring classic, analog synths in almost all genres, but I feel the approach is too often relegated to the realm of intentionally lo-fi nostalgia. Although I enjoy and appreciate the retro-future style, I feel that at this point it’s a road well-traveled, and not something I’m interested in doing myself. Instead, I tried to bring the most out of those sounds, making heavy use of the more neglected FM and wavetable synths and piping them through contemporary DSPs.

So I wanted to encapsulate those ideas (and many more) into the album art. Initially I considered 3D modeling and sculpting a head, but felt that it would have been too much of a time investment to arrive at something with the quality I wanted. Instead, I opted for a photo shoot with Sporkii. I explained (as best I could) my concepts behind the album and she not only modeled, but came up with hair, makeup and lighting looks that matched just about exactly what I was going for. We worked on the photo manipulation together and eventually came up with a cover I’m very satisfied with.

Hidden EP

New EP with some deep drum&bass and, dare I say, post-dubstep?  This time around I wanted to focus on subtlety and understatement a little more, push a little further towards minimalism while still keeping things interesting.  I think I’m still in a similar phase as my previous EP; there are definitely some similarities, but I wanted to explore a deeper sound this time, focusing more on bass and ambience than percussion to emphasize the undercover/stealth/hidden motif.

Downloads coming soon but full tracks are available on soundcloud for now anyway.

Shroud EP

darkhalo_shroud-ep_1400px

New EP out on Connessione recordings! Available on Google PlayBeatport, and iTunes.

A couple of drum&bass tracks and a couple ambient this time. In “Sirène Noir” and “Zephyr” I did some more experimentation with sampling, which was a lot of fun as I usually just sequence my own stuff with softsynths. “Solace” is somewhat of a sequel or evolution to “Lily” on my 2009 album Phase Shift. Though it was started in late 2011, “Starfall” eventually took some general inspiration from Diablo 3 (despite its mostly lackluster soundtrack, disappointing story and comparatively friendly visual style).