A New Album…?
Exciting times at The Soviet Space Dog Project launchpad… it’s time for a new album, and it’s been a while. You can find Reconstructions – Live right here on Bandcamp – and it’s currently a free download.
The picture is an altered 1914 B&W picture of Reims Cathedral after parts of it were destroyed during The First World War – I adapted it slightly for eerie effect and also as a test of my limited skill in using GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program, before you get worried).
With regard to the Reims destruction and subsequent rebuilding, there’s a bit of history here.
It’s been a while since I released a Soviet Space Dog Project album, although I have been busy working on some old Kubusschnitt material (and even a new track) and I also recorded two ambient albums anonymously (if you’re reading this and want to know the name, just ask). Because of the bizarre way Bandcamp treats sales, one of those albums was one place ahead of Klaus Schulze in the Berlin School chart for a short time – it’s all about sales density and I had a number of sales in a short period.
Back to the new album. I have been improvising and recording as live as possible a series of tracks that I called Cathedral Constructions – the idea being that they could have been recorded live as rehearsals for such concerts. The tracks were mainly based around sequences and ambiences developed using my AE Modular synthesiser as I have been learning how to integrate it fully into my setup, and each was given the name of a Cathedral as it appeared on Soundcloud. When I created the album I decided to improvise small (and not-so-small) bridge pieces between parts. These were created live by setting up the transition sections of the tracks in question and then recording something live to join them up. I tried to keep these pieces short, which didn’t always work. Of course, each of these is really another track, but I’ll lose those into the overall mix.
In my mind, I tried to make the Cathedral names vaguely relevant, although sometimes that link may have only existed in a deep part of my mind. Here’s a run-down of the original tracks that make up the album, in their original recording order:
The first of the series and very much influenced by just having listened to mid-70’s Tangerine Dream. This one really gives my Mellotron samples a good workout and the sequence accidently came out sounding almost Phaedra-like when I started to move the notes and bar lengths around live. It sounded quite good, so I kept it despite the odd mis-timing.
This was improvised live with a lot of frantic messing with the sequencer (a BeatStep Pro) and the synth was (from memory) my MicroBrute with an analogue phaser, an analogue delay and a plate reverb hanging off it. The first Mellotron sample uses a flute and a violin tuned a 6th apart with slightly different envelopes. That sound drove the improvisation.
This was the first of two Klaus Schulze-styled pieces, aiming for that “walking around the room” feel and with the sequences coming from a Waldorf Blofeld to give it a more digital sound. This was a definite move forward in time from the heavy Mellotrons of Coventry so I went for a more contemporary Cathedral.
It’s a simple track that was fun to play and it really deserves a proper solo. Maybe another time. For now it acts as a nice setup to the next track (Köln).
Almost immediately after Lancaster I went for another Schulze-inspired piece. Again, the sequences are from the Blofeld to give them that snappy, more modern feel. The chord sequence is my homage to the great man using a sampled string machine. The solo is a well-filtered Moog sound with a lot of mod wheel action to get the variation. As is quite common with these tracks the backing is an AE Modular set up tweaked in real-time to give a constantly moving ambience.
My inspiration here was very much that post-sampling period of Klaus Schulze, although I did stop short of putting a distortion on the solo synth. I really enjoyed playing this one as the solo sound was quite eerie as it was on the edge of breaking up as I pushed the filter hard. The Cathedral reference is to the 1991 live album from Klaus called The Dome Event, which was recorded live in Cologne Cathedral.
This was a heads-down no-nonsense sequencer work-out with the BeatStep Pro firing off the AE Modular, all tweaked in real time and fed into an overdriven analogue delay. In retrospect, it has a slight nod to Thru Metamorphic Rocks by Tangerine Dream, especially this bit. I hit record on this one immediately and just went for it as it was great fun.
It was time to break out the Mellotron again with a simple flute solo. This track just dropped out of the sequencer and, as I said, had to be recorded quickly before I touched something that lost it.
This track uses a long ambience that was created on the AE Modular, just setting up a patch and tweaking it for about 30 minutes to produce a bubbling ambient backdrop, with a lot of reverb and delay to help smooth out the various changes as I moved between various things.
The main sequence was a much straighter one than I would normally play, the idea being that the second sequence could then provide the movement. Then there was quite a nice electric piano sound that just lifted it, all topped off with a reedy Moog solo courtesy of the MicroBrute. Quite a laid-back track, despite the more forceful sequencer rhythm.
Whilst I enjoyed playing Newcastle, I wasn’t sure about the overall feel so I decided to keep the ambient backdrop and have another go. This time I started with the electric piano to create that eerie start – yes, I am a fan of No Quarter by Led Zeppelin.
The sequences come from the AE Modular and the Blofeld for a bit of variation and then there’s a nice reverby Mellotron flute part that just seemed right.
Every week there is a Patch Challenge on the AE Modular forum and the basis of this track was my entry for #17 (Play What You See). The idea of which was to create a patch or track that came to mind when looking at the picture below.
This is my picture, looking out of the big window in the room in which I make music. I could call it a studio, but that would make it sound quite grand. So, I shall simply call it the room in which I make music. I was trying out a new IR filter and I got this dramatic shot of the clouds over some greenery. I hope that the filter may provide some interesting album covers in the future, I also need to get the hang of manipulating the images.
Back to the music…
This is mainly AE Modular, including a Bastl Kastle cross-patched with the modular. As this was all recorded live at the same time when the Kastle decided to hunt down a totally different pitch I had to wrestle it back live – you can hear this but I left it all as it was a one-take thing. The sequence is more brooding here, never really fully breaking through the filter cut-off.
I called this one Worcester for Geoff Mason, whose birthday it was on the day I improvised this track. I asked him which Cathedral would mean something to him and he chose Worcester as, in his own words, “…it’s my local one and my first son was christened by the Bishop“.
The Special Mix
There does exist an early (and special mix) of Coventry-Lancaster-Köln that went to very few people, one of whom was John “Waveman” Valk who has an Electronic Music Internet Radio show. He played that mix on 24 May – it seemed to go down quite well.
Probably a few more ambient albums under that disguise, although the new Tangerine Dream 16CD+2BR set (In Search of Hades) is occupying me quite nicely at the moment.