a lifelong lesson

further adventures as sonic journalism


i’d been itching to do something acoustic for some time, but other matters were keeping me out of my creative bubble, so instead i turned to a folder of garageband sketches made on my ipad. such a great app. this one, from 2013 and already titled, is lovely and bubbly and short! i like short stuff. the vocal line is a typical case of pressing record and checking that the mic works. check and take, all in one

sol y sal

i wanted to produce something wth a more natural, human beat and very quickly an ibiza vibe emerged. i began thinking of santa eularia, the church on the mound, our odd hexagonal home and a little bay we used to go to nearby for a spot of nudie bathing, but couldn’t remember the name of the place. it had ‘sal’ in it, that much i remember. the big new thing to learn on the track was the vocoder. i used one of the settings on the kaossilator pro machine, which required singing and ‘playing’ an unpredictable pad keyboard as i recorded. it took a while with questionable results. it’s an impulse track and was meant to be dropped pretty quickly

take it with you when you go

i’m a big fan of the french house music scene of the late 90s and, while i didn’t set out to imitate them, this definitely has that feel. starting from the bass line, developing the beats, overlaying the fizz. the tricky dicky with this track was the acid part in the drop. trying to get the lfo to play ball at the right time was frustrating, so i found a workaround. i’d much rather learn how to do something properly, but flow is more important than standing still with creativity and i’m very happy with the result


the bare bones of the project were created in garageband and saved under the description ‘bugbear’. it formed the basis of the theme when i returned to the project, a storyteller reciting to an imagined group of scared children. quite why you might want to scare a child to sleep is beyond my comprehension, appealing as it is. i wanted a female voice narrating the story and was happy to find an effect which did just that. i may have just found my voice!

magnetosonic waves

i wanted to begin with less structure, floaty synths, and allow any beats to flow in a less prescribed way. again i feel there’s an ibiza feel to it, or maybe it’s a bit retro, or slightly cheesy? like most of this seam of work, it wrote itself rather than following a known structure, with an eye on the time, little repetition, no indulgent rambling allowed

cleaning frenzy

my first track under lockdown and i’d been working through a series of diy tasks, but had come to a job i didn’t want to start. often if i’m avoiding something complicated i might turn to cleaning the house; it’s simple and achieves something. so i imagined lining all the cleaning products in a row and going for it, lining all the midi notes on the first beat and setting them off, see what makes it to the end. very happy with the bleeps and beats. wet! rub! wipe! clean!

can’t go back

second track referencing lockdown, this time with lyrics! i knew at the outset it was going to be a song, but i don’t know how it emerged as it did? it just formed, bit cheeky, bit bouncy, kinda familiar, kinda unusual. i tried to be lazy with the backing vocals by simply pitch-shifting my one take with unsettling results, so i bit the bullet and recorded three actual harmonies

what started and could’ve been

another intentional instrumental piece and another covid-influenced track, thinking about a pandemic that would wipe out the human race and what we’d make of our achievements and our lost potential. all those things started and not finished, all the things we intended to be better than they turned out, all the things as yet untried

dance guy

a sample from an afterparty in 2012 and a beat. sally’s laugh is infectious

words are meaning less

assembled from a short ipad sketch i was determined to keep it short with just the essentials. it sounds so much like whitey that i had to go check his catalogue to make sure i wasn’t just copying a song of his! the lyrics had been festering in my mind during lockdown. i’m very happy with my new vocal booth, in the boiler cupboard, padded with bed cushions and enclosed in our quilt. trouble is i use my noise-reduction headphones and can’t hear when the boiler kicks in. take two…

single orbit

another ipad sketch, this time from 2015. i didn’t touch a thing as there were only four wav files, as it was recorded live in four passes. you can hear the levels crackling in places. it is what it is, that’s how it happened


sometimes i start writing about something very personal and disguise it in another more universal theme. so, like an old song of mine called ‘my secret fear’, i find i can’t talk about the real theme and the universal theme is obvious. the musical premise is explainable! i’d attempted to create multiple sounds from a single source on other tracks but not successfully. here i recorded a jam on synth both as straight audio and midi, then took the parts and, without changing a note, created rhythm, beat, pulses and modulation to develop the sound. i’ve been pretty strict and enjoyed the discipline, even if the result is a bit intense

le chit chat

blimey another lockdown-inspired track. our summer holiday had been cancelled and my mind turned to last summer’s trips abroad and how precious their memory has become. so i was listening to a sample of us walking through the crowded narrow streets of carcassonne (in august 2019), my mic picking up passing conversations and the general hubbub of the town as we strolled. and i was there, like a spell had been cast, a travelling spell. audio is such a sensory experience for the mind. i wanted my additions to blend in to keep the listener unsure what has been added to the original sample

all tracks recorded between april and july 2020, except single orbit (2016)