Other spaces: Blues For A Mapless God / The Mood (2020)

Blues For A Mapless God (2020)

Blues For A Mapless God is mostly, I suppose, a sombre meal, a tableau in a darkened chamber, shadows peering around the hunched glow of a candelabra, strange fruits and dark meats arranged in muted colours, for guests who may never arrive, who perhaps never existed to begin with…

There’s no real central thread to these pieces. I was in a state of deep physical and psychological pain and needed to give it form in music. Squeezing beauty out of grief. Whether that translates beyond my own perception – who knows? Sometimes all I can do with life is give myself over to music, immerse myself in every wave and let myself be lost.

I am of the opinion (in my dotage) that for a creative person, the cannibalising of one’s previous works is a fascinating & refreshing process – as a creative method, particularly if there’s a lull in the inspiration, it provides a wealth of resources – immediately one’s work becomes a library of ephemera, offering infinite possibilities. On this album, almost all these recordings have been cannabilised from previous ideas – in particular rhythm tracks that I wanted to resculpt away from their organic source. I searched out old recordings in which I’d played various hand-percussion (djembe, dundun, kpanlogo, darabuka, kashishi etc), with organic rhythms that might sound interesting when electronically modified. Warp & Weft is a reshaping of the track Voices from my earlier album Skin – the dundun is fuzzed out & pushes the rhythm, but with a 5/4 limp, other percussions are reduced to wobbling wavelets, and the darabuka sounds like a metallic insect with the irrits. Similarly, Primates On Pigfat rumbles along on the 6/8 roll of an old floor tom, originally recorded for the track Lord Of The Flies, from the album The Ears Have Walls. I played the tom with my hand and bent the drumskin with my other hand by pushing a finger into the skin, to vary the note of the pulse. These two tracks are probably the most upbeat on this album, if such a thing could be said.

I was still quite focused on exploring piano throughout this time, and was really drawn to stretching melodies out, that is, increasing the rubbery space that is the gap between notes; and with each gap trying to feel the edge of the stretch. I like the effect of this kind of drawn-out arhythmic melody played over an entirely unconnected rhythm – somehow I find the interaction between the two dislocated layers creates a different sense of space, something mesmerising and quite sensuously ‘other’. I have put this effect to use on the title track, as well as Map For A Godless Blue, and the aptly-named Intervals In Space – precisely what I was noticing as I played.

Another cannibalising occurred in the creation of two of my favourite tracks on this album, Hymn To Her and In The Light Of The Waiting Room. The first features Heidi’s haunting vocals, layered to form chordal shapes – I’ve plundered these recordings a few times before in other projects (eg Music For Avoiding Consensus Reality), but personally I think this edit is the most sensitive so far to the rich tonal qualities of her voice. I also use sections of this edit throughout the track Blues For A Mapless God, and also its counterpart piece Map For A Godless Blue, except I’ve slowed it down and her voice sounds quite male.

For the track In The Light Of The Waiting Room, I used an earlier recording on my phone of an idea I’d had playing a nylon string guitar one day, a kind of classical piece with more than a hint of melancholy, so I thought it might fit in amongst this collection of mopers. The title refers to a poignant experience I had with Heidi at this time; I was physically barely able to walk because of a hernia, and emotionally not functioning well at all. Heidi came with me to a psychologist appointment, and sitting with her in the waiting room, with the sunlight softly slanting into the space, holding each other’s hand for comfort, I had a sense of us as an elderly couple, in the waiting room of a hospital, and the feeling of deep abiding companionship in a moment such as that – a moment full of love.

Unsaved Data v.2 is an old weirded-out ukulele improvisation which first appeared as Unsaved Data on the 2019 album Introversations ll, and is probably more remix than cannibalisation. I haven’t abstracted it, just massaged the contours of it, added more cello and atmospherics. The final track, Map For A Godless Blue, is a further abstraction of the title track, with Heidi’s vocals and the piano pattern slowed down considerably.

The cover image is a detail from another of Heidi’s photos, of light on the feathers of a currawong, a local crow-like bird with an inscrutable stare. In this image I especially like the fine cross-hatching of the lines, as if etched, reminding me of engravings from more gothic times.

These pieces are all a kind of blues to me, in the sense of a howled yearning that carries a note of something sacred, a pressing against the thin membrane of mortality, a deeper reaching of the human species toward the unKnowable…

The Mood (2020)

Aside from the previously unreleased Assessing The Perimeter, this album is a sampler of 9 previously released tracks from various albums – reassembled here in order to highlight certain features of each piece, by placing them in different relationships. These tracks all share a certain moodiness, night-owled & shadowed, blending moments of electronic ambience with jazz noirishness, spacious and perhaps even soothing to the listener.

I named this album The Mood after a short guitar piece of the same name, which I had originally tacked on the end of the Offkiltered album, as a closing moment; while fulfilling the right kind of dark jazz cheese quotient, the title aptly captures the common element flowing through these pieces.

The overall texture of this compilation is intended to be relaxing, with a few strange dark edges and enough touches of mellow groove here and there to keep an active pulse…

The opening track, Self Isolator, is from the album of the same name, and features the flugelhorn of local jazz musican Malcolm Martin. In fact the flugelhorn was cannibalised from an earlier track: when Malcolm and I were collaborating on the Echo Location ‘double album’, he played the original flugelhorn track for Patient Delineations of Thought, and I also modified a version of it for that album’s title track. In all, (and counting the bonus track Assessing The Perimeter), there are four very different pieces of music on The Mood that feature the same flugelhorn recording. What can I say? I love the tone of his playing and the texture it adds in so many different settings.

About half of these tracks were chosen for their smoky jazz leanings – in addition to those already mentioned, others include The Scuttler (from And Then I Wasn’t…), and an early experiment, The Cadence Of Memory, which I had ‘composed’ back in the 80s and ressurrected for the version that appears on 2017’s Melancholia:

A couple of these pieces find their Mood via keyboard: the somewhat melodramatic synth/organ dark horse The Big Kubrovsky (from the electronic album Solaris Beach Party), and the ambient slow burn of Sinking In, recorded on a 100-yr-old piano left in the house by our current landlord (from the album Melancholia):

The cover photo is a study of light and water, taken by Heidi – to me, with its vaporous blueblack tones, it seems to imply shadows, moods rippling through….And in case you’re curious, here’s the very first appearance of Malcolm’s oft-cycled flugelhorn:

The Mood album is available as a free download on my Bandcamp site or you can validate my existence / make me feel happy by nominating a price of your own.