February has been and gone, bringing with it my now customary jaunt into the world of February Album Writing Month. I fell some way short of the 14 song target this time, which I’ll blame on considerably increasing my production values this year, and not at all on being a lazy git.
I’m holding back a few of the songs from general release, because they’ll be going towards this month’s exciting musical happening: the Geek Pop virtual festival! Yes, all the greatest musical minds from the worlds of science and technology will be gathered in one place on the internet – and somehow I’ve ended up being one of them, performing on the Comical Flask stage alongside such luminaries as MJ “Hey Hey 16K” Hibbett. And because it’s a virtual festival, you don’t even need to drink beer out of a nasty plastic beaker or walk two miles to the nearest shower. Hurrah! Keep your browsers peeled (or something) at the Geek Pop website for the big unveiling on March 11th, or mosey on down to Wilton’s Music Hall, London on the 10th for the live launch gig.
In the meantime, here’s some almost-as-good-or-equally-good-but-not-as-geeky music I also wrote last month…
Another month, another musical challenge bandwagon to jump on. For October the FAWM / 50/90 crowd is turning its attention to cover versions. So here’s a not-very-Kraftwerk-like instrumental version of Kraftwerk’s The Model.
50/90, or 50 Songs In 90 Days, is the less photogenic and slightly more intimidating cousin of February Album Writing Month, running throughout July, August and September. The idea is to write fif- oh, you worked that bit out already. This year FAWM supremo Burr Settles donated the song-posting infrastructure to 50/90 (previous years were run through a Yahoo group) so it became a natural off-season hangout for FAWM veterans. Me, I wasn’t planning on taking part, but since I ended up writing a couple of songs over that time period for one reason or another, it would have been silly not to crash the party late on and participate in a laid-back, not-letting-it-take-over-your-life sort of way. And here are the results.
This started out as an instrumental track laid down at Shucon 2008 on TDM’s GarageBand / MIDI setup, which came back to bite me as a nasty bit of vendor lock-in. (I figured that since GarageBand took MIDI input and stored it as MIDI-like note events, I’d be able to export it to a .mid file, right? Silly me.) Luckily I managed to salvage / re-record enough of it to work on it some more and develop it into a proper song. Spurred on by some particularly eclectic music competitions at Assembly, I decided to try my luck at entering it at Evoke, just to see what would happen when it was thrown in against a whole load of D+B and trance tracks. Not surprisingly, it failed to qualify. But having done the rounds of more or less the entire summer demo party season, it found a home at Sundown 2008, where it got 4th place. Score!
The lyrics were actually sparked by the train journey back from Shucon – at the seat in front of me, I saw that someone had drawn some initials in a heart on the window. This made me think “eww, that’s a bit tacky. Oh, hang on – whoever did that drew it on the outside of the window but did it in mirror writing so his girlfriend on the train could read it. Aww, that’s like the most romantic thing ever!”
A slightly more obviously train-related song, written to immortalise that enigma of the London Underground where time stands still, and add to the repertoire of songs about tube stations. Lyrics were mostly written on the Eurostar (hence the namecheck in the bridge) and the recording was done a-cappella stylee in the cabin of a sleeper train on the way back from International Vodka Party. Naturally, this was a horrible painstaking process of waiting for the moments when the train wasn’t making an absolute racket, but it had to be done for posterity. How many other songs have been written and recorded entirely on public transport, eh?
Written for Hoopshank as part of intense negotiations (not really) over contributing to another as yet unannounced musical project. He demanded songs of cabbage… I answered the call. I added a self-imposed constraint that the song had to have a mostly-serious message, so I came up with the idea of cabbage soup for the soul, as being something like Chicken Soup for the Soul but not as pleasant, and better for you. And suitable for vegans. And with that, the song just wrote itself. Or, more accurately, was written on my behalf by my alter ego, fictional Scottish indie band Glencoe Horse.
OK, scraping the barrel a bit here. But you can’t really blame me for having a sudden bout of obsessive-compulsive disorder on realising that the lyrics to At The River by Groove Armada consist entirely of a half-sentence that trails off unsettlingly without completing its train of thought. “If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air, quaint little villages here and there,” – then… what exactly? Clearly, this had to be fixed. So I did.
There just aren’t enough songs about computer graphics pioneers. Here’s one about Bui Tuong Phong, of phong shading and phong illumination fame. I decided to record this one entirely without keyboards, so brace yourselves for a gloriously shoddy guitar solo and a gloriously glorious bottle solo. (Forgetting to take out the recycling can be a good thing, you know.)
It had to be done. After my album cover generator came up with Glencoe Horse’s seminal Are Great Things Born, I was compelled to write a song with that title, in the style of Glencoe Horse, whoever they may be. The result is some not-very-profound Forrest Gump philosophy (actually there’s shades of Doctor Seuss about it too), but performed in the Britpop tones of everyone’s favourite non-existent Scottish indie band.
Not in fact a continuation of the Through Poland series, despite what you might expect. This is not so much a song, more an experiment with backwards recording, to test the theory that the Welsh language is actually just a bunch of people talking backwards for a laugh, and to create a completely palindromic piece of music. (There can’t be many of those around, surely…)
Apologies to any actual Welsh speakers reading this. Please don’t kill me.
Last one for the moment… this one’s a stab at the week one challenge, “write a song with a day of the week in the title”. Towards the end I got frustrated that the song was going nowhere, hence the throw-in-all-the-unused-lyrics-and-get-shut-of-it ending, which actually turned out quite well. This is the sort of occasion where FAWM excels… the cattle-prod-up-the-backside-to-get-a-song-finished treatment pays off sometimes.