Blog: entries tagged with "flickershow"

Drawing blanks

Drawing A Blank coverTo summarize the summer:

We released the first full-length Flickershow CD, entitled Drawing A Blank. Ten songs; I played bass, sang harmony, did arrangements and other odds and ends. We’re quite proud of it, and the CD release party was a blast. There’s a link to buy it online from our website, and it’s also available through that music store Apple runs. Things have been a bit quiet since the CD release, since Julian’s just got married (check out their awesome first dance on the YouTube) but there will be gigging in the new year, and with luck some out-of-town gigs in the spring.

All other music ventures have been on hold, meanwhile. I’m starting to plot my return to action, but it’s been nice to take a break for a few months and mess around with other things like writing and drawing (including the cover art for our CD) and catching up on comics.


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Making arrangements

Over the past couple of weeks J and I have spent another few days in the studio, without playing a note. Yes, it’s session-player time. In particular, we’ve now got:
Part of the trumpet score for "Mute"

  • electric guitar (a Dano 12-string jangle on “Invincible” and some sweet swell-pedal action on “Still Life”) courtesy of Dominic;
  • more drums and percussion by our engineer/producer Don
  • violin on “To The Nines” by Andrea and more on the way for “Aphrodite”;
  • crazy undersea bowed-string noises and vocalizing on “Siren” from Rami
  • organ, piano and harpsichord, courtesy of Richie; and
  • a suitably over-the-top trumpet section on “Mute” all played by Stefan.

Who knew just sitting and listening could be so much work? We’ve learned a lot about listening, and coming up with musical ideas on the fly, not to mention guiding other people into realizing those ideas. It’s a fun challenge, communicating musical concepts to other people through words, singing, vocal noises, and occasionally, actually writing things down.

The whole trumpet score for "Mute" Julian had always had a trumpet melody in mind for the bridge on “Mute”, and wanted big, bold chords for the ending. I added a harmony to the bridge, and started fleshing out the “chords” idea with a swingy rhythmic motif… and then realized I was going to have to write the thing out. I’d composed the part in Logic, and couldn’t get the program’s “Score” view to output anything that made any sense. So I summoned up every last bit of music theory I’d ever taken, and wrote the whole thing out. Took a couple of late nights, and I worried that it was illegible, but our players approved.

Here’s the bridge from the demo version, with lovely synthesized trumpets: Mute (trumpet demo, 880k)

Not everything we did could be scored, of course, but regardless, we found it really, really helps at least to have a clear idea of what you’re after before you start. When Rami came by to play, bringing with her an Iner Souster creation called “Fat Bob”, we didn’t have parts written out - Bob, having one string and no fingerboard, isn’t particularly suited to playing melodies, anyway - but I think we had a strong idea of the texture and atmosphere we were after. J quickly joined in, offering images of a ship breaking apart at sea, the creaking of the rigging, the cracking of the timbers and the crashing of the waves. I’m really looking forward to sifting through the resulting noises and building them up into a soundscape.

Lots more to go: more drums, keyboards, backing vocals, violin and percussion - not to mention mixing and mastering. But it’s all starting to come together nicely.

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A quick summary of an eventful season:

I’m settled into my new position as web maintainer for Evergreen, an organization focused on environmental education and community-based greening initiatives. It’s a fine bunch of people, and the work feels much more worthwhile than almost anything I did working on the “agency side”.

We’ve been dropping into Don Kerr’s studio every few weekends to record the new Flickershow album - we have ten songs in progress, with vocals, guitar, bass and drums complete on almost all of them and keyboards on about half. I’m currently working on the trumpet arrangement for a recent song called “Mute”. We’ve also played a whole pile of gigs, most notably busking in front of Pages Books on Queen St, and a swell gig for Earth Hour which included an hour-long, completely acoustic songwriters’ circle.

Sean and I spent a few days in San Francisco last month - he was there to attend a couple of different conferences, and we got to visit his sister, her partner and their two black cats (it seems to run in the family). I spent several days walking all over the downtown area, and up to Fort Mason, where I visited the Long Now Foundation’s museum and shop. Spent many hours checking out every sound-related exhibit at the Exploratorium. I came home with far too many books, and a new pair of shoes - my old pair having disintegrated completely after several dozen hills too many.

Much more to come - more musical experiences; several books to discuss; and my obsession with ruins continues.

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2007 wrap-up

The dust’s settled on 2007 at last, and does it ever feel like a new year now. Here’s a few highlights, including some stuff I didn’t write about the first time round:

Props from the shootJanuary: Spinglobe moves into a brand new office in a neat building in the east end. One of the first projects is a music video for the Mahones. It’s a takeoff on that Fellini scene where la Saraghina dances the rhumba on a Mediterranean beach - except it’s January, on Ashbridge’s Bay, and the warm spell of the previous week is most definitely over. We should have called the production Minus 8½. We freeze our collective asses off, but the video ends up looking pretty darn fine.

February: Played in the band for a musical revue put on as a fundraiser by some friends - my first time playing Broadway style is a fun challenge; I stress way about it more than I have to. Reconceived long-running audio drama idea as a podcast; later in the year would reconceive it again as a comic. Expect it to morph into a novel, a musical extravaganza and finally a series of haiku in 2008.

March: In the studio with Ellen Carol to record bass tracks for her new CD, produced by Don Kerr. Restarted work on Flickershow CD; we get some solid demos done and some cool results on a trip-hoppy new song called “Hold Up Donny”. It doesn’t last, however; I end up firing myself as producer later in the year. If all goes well we’ll be recording with Don in 2008.

May: Played with Flickershow at the Sammy Sugar Day Festival, the kickoff for Ellen’s fundraising bike tour of Eastern Canada. Finally launched a site for Presonance, a collaboration with Rezo Largul.

June: Attended OpenCities, an “unconference” about the convergence of civic engagement and the open source movement. Among the topics are the waterfront revitalization, public space, DIY electronics and public art, dancing in the streets. Coincidentally, the next day, Flickershow played at Pedestrian Sundays, a monthly car-free event in Kensington Market (other events occur in Mirvish Village and on Baldwin Street); our first outing with keyboard player Rich.

Trees downLater in the month, Sean’s mom comes up from Pennsylvania for a visit. Tuesday we’re at work while she takes it easy; she’s out having a smoke on the front porch when lightning strikes a tree two doors down, and a gale-force gust of wind tears off branches for several blocks. We return home to find our street a maze of police tape, tree limbs and downed power lines. Neighbouring streets are almost unaffected. “I didn’t do it,” she pleads.

July: Played Newmarket and Brampton - our only out-of-town gig prior to this was our TVO appearance taped in Parry Sound. First steps toward developing an analog-to-MIDI interface using that splendid new toy, the Arduino.

August: Cottage outing with co-workers. Lots of laughs, plenty of good food and drink, and some cool photographic exploration of natural forms and painting with light.

October: A week from hell. Two or three clients go through reorganizations, and a number of key projects go on indefinite hold. Contractors removing a cellular tower break a sprinkler pipe and flood part of our office. None of this registers, however, because our co-worker’s 21-year-old brother has just died in his sleep. Things are very quiet for several days.

IMAGENovember: Two good friends of ours invited us to play a song at their crazy cabaret-style lesbian wedding. The only question was what to wear. (As MC for the evening, Sean had no such dilemma, since they’d put him in a rather lovely kilt and feather boa.)

At the end of the month, a beautiful, awe-inspiring, mad trip to Marrakech with Sean, his mom and stepdad, and a new friend, the irrepressible and energizing Katie. We stayed in the heart of the medina, a maze of winding alleyways full of people, tiny shops, mopeds and stray cats. A handful of local kids kept asking for money; Sean juggled for them instead (years ago he did it for a living in Dallas) and became an instant hit. Later, we drove through the Atlas Mountains to ride camels into the desert and sleep in a tent. Beautiful country, lots of wonderful people. And occasional strange family moments.

December: The partners make the tough decision to sell the company to a bigger firm. Some of us move over, the video business splits off (taking on the name Robotnik Films), and I start looking for work. I’ll miss the place, and I’ll miss working with the Spinglobe crew. But it’s a huge opportunity, both to find work in a field that’s important to me and to have some actual free time again. Here’s to the new year!

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Art and music

Tonight, Sean’s out of town and M. is performing in a musical uptown, so the house will be free for Flickershow recording, hooray!

Only yesterday I was reading Muffy’s reports from the Open Ears festival and wishing I’d made it back to KW to catch it. I don’t generally get to see many shows, and the reason mostly boils down to Too Damn Busy. Either I’m working late (Sean and I seem to be home at 10pm as often as not), recording or playing with Flickershow, or recovering from the above.

I’m determined to change things around now. Coming home at a more reasonable time, for one thing; for another, working Saturday and staying home to work on music in the middle of the week, when the house is empty.

And I think I’ll have to check out some of the events at Deep Wireless: A Festival Of Radio Art. (Thanks, Torontoist.)

Particle trails with gravityHere’s the latest version of the particle sim - the particles attract this time around, and have random values for mass.

I’ve cleaned up the source and commented the hell out of it, and collected most of the major parameters so they’re easy to adjust before compiling.

Source plus the containing FLA file:

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Track of the Fortnight

New feature on the Flickershow site: a new unreleased track every two weeks!

I’ve coaxed ExpressionEngine into making it a podcast too, so visitors can subscribe to it in their favorite player software.

After a long winter spent way too busy with work and other things, we’re finally getting back to recording, and it sure feels good. Hopefully this will be a bit of encouragement to keep our momentum up.

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Spring music

Fender Jazz headstockThis winter I seem to have been in a sort of musical hibernation. No gigs, no writing, hardly any jamming, no listening to any new music.

My main musical effort was playing bass in the band in show-tune revue some friends were putting together. Good experience, and while I still can’t sight-read well, it certainly gave me the chance to improve at it. (My favorite tunes to play: “Nobody’s Side” from Chess, “Life Of The Party” from The Wild Party, both full of syncopations and time changes; “Take Me Or Leave Me” from Rent, where I got to rock out a bit; and “I Could Be Happy With You” from The Boy Friend, just because it was so damned cute in that faux-‘20s, so-very-English sort of way.)

But other than that - perhaps in part because of it - I’ve just been burned out. Frankly, I was getting worried how little interest I had.

I managed to rouse myself enough to familiarize myself with Yes and Peter Gabriel, having borrowed some of their albums… and suddenly, much was explained to me about ‘70s rock.

A while ago J and I laid down some scratch versions of a whole pile of songs, both new and old, to use as the basis for a new CD. They sat untouched until a few days ago, when I stuck bass parts on some of the newest ones to send to our drummer. Here’s one:

Hold_Up_Donny.mp3 (3’43”)

I was afraid I was getting into a rut with my parts, so on these new songs there’s all kinds of pushed rhythms and other oddness. For the first time I’m making use of the Jazz bass, and taking advantage of its punch and sustain with a much more legato line. I’m attempting to play chords on the “choruses”, also for the first time, and the whole thing has a sort of Fender Rhodes feel to it. Starting to sound pretty trip-hoppy. Fleshing this one out is going to be a lot of fun!

The Golden Dogs: still from 'Construction Worker'New music discoveries this week too. Currently on the playlist:

Flook (borrowed from my Go-playing friend downstairs, also a Celtic music aficionado) an Anglo-Irish band who specialize in wonderful hyperactive flute-and-bohdrán grooves.

The Golden Dogs. Ran across two of their videos while browsing idly, and immediately went and got their album Big Eye Little Eye. Chock full of my kind of hooks (my favorite is “Runouttaluck” - if you cranked Stereolab up to double speed and mashed it up with the B-52’s it might sound like this) plus the same sort of dueling boy/girl vocals that make the New Pornographers and other bands so addictive. And they exude such joy in the video for “Construction Worker” that I think I have a crush on the whole band.

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Be afraid…

Spine-chilling, bone-thrilling acoustical pop music! It can only be… A Very Flickershow Hallowe'en the acoustic harmonies of SPOOKYHORSE
and a special appearance by New Wave pop sensations SPIELFILM

Toronto: The Renaissance Café
($5 - show starts at 9pm)
1938 Danforth Ave (at Woodbine) [map]

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ma.gnolia jam

IMAGEAt Sean’s suggestion I’ve gone and signed up at Ma.gnolia. God, and I thought “dot” anything was tiresome - now they’re putting them in the middle of words, like “”. But it’s a cool service - a nice complement to a blog, since it can keep the “oooh, look at this cool thing” separate from the more in-depth writing.

Played a fun gig Friday with Flickershow, and jammed last night with the nutty living-room experimentalists I mentioned in passing a while ago. That’s been absolutely great for me - a chance to play some very different music in loads of different styles, on several instruments. I’m most comfy on bass, but it’s also been challenging me to experiment more with drums. My melodies are getting really weird, too. I think they’ve been that way all along, but I’ve never been able to actually play what’s been lurking in my head.

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New house news

The studio is indeed going to rock, but it’s going to take longer than I’d anticipated. My computer, the 4-year-old Windows XP box on which we recorded the Stars for Searchlights EP, started to act flaky a few weeks ago: it stopped recognizing the DVD drive and the big recording drive, then found them again… and now it’s completely lost ‘em. Something wrong with the motherboard’s built-in drive controllers.

Cat, presumed guiltyThis may have something to do with the cat wee liberally spritzed through the inside of the machine near the back ventilation grille. Thank you ever so much, Cobweb. (To be fair, he’s been in distress lately - he’s got bad gums and slowly lost one of his canine teeth during the week following the move. For a while he had a sort of walrus-tusk that he wouldn’t let anyone touch.)

I’m not about to buy a new computer, though - good monitors are taking priority over that. The new studio machine will most likely be my SO’s old PowerBook G4, with my old drives moved to FireWire enclosures, and an MBox for sound I/O. And when I get a new machine, I don’t think I’m going to go the Windows route again.

So the fancy new quiet case I just got for the Windows box will most likely go to J. (If you’re setting up a studio and prefer Windows, or you just can’t stand screeching fans and rattling hard drives, check out Antec cases - my other roommate’s got the same model, the Sonata II, and I’m quite impressed. Thoughtfully designed and easy to install, too.)

Meanwhile, the house is still a bit chaotic, but we’re starting to settle in. The weirdest part is having three floors plus basement. The studio, on the top floor, is going to have to be kind of self-sufficient, since it’s separated from the kitchen by two slippery, narrow staircases.

I’m hoping that at some point I’ll be able to go up there and actually make some music…

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