Monday, October 24, 2011

Status Update: Fall 2011



Hi! I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya (footnote: Jim Anchower), but I've been a combination of lazy and busy, and I never really think about posting to this place because nobody really reads this stuff...

Some of you might be thinking, "What's the deal with Terramecha? You started posting a bunch of shit, then you stopped!" Well, progress had been made over the summer, and I played a few live shows, trying to improve upon some of the material. Overall, I wasn't very happy with my progress, but at least I know what not to do next time. However, progress was made and I have continued to chip away at this project over the last couple of months. I should probably get back to posting drafts of the music, so you have a more complete idea of the album, but like I said, I'm lazy and busy working on some other stuff.

Remember the night I host called Monster Planet that I talked about a few posts back? Well I finally got the ball rolling on the album project that features some best parts of Monster Planet from the first year. Basically, I have gone through the stereo recordings of the first year, and picked out the best, most cohesive parts. I then made a mix of these parts to give the album a nice flow. I have to say I am very pleased how this came out, and am ready to start mixing down the multi-tracks this week. So far the mix is about an hour and a half, about the same time as a movie. My cohorts and I at Monster Planet haven't decided yet how we're going to present this album, but we have talked about doing the Bandcamp thing. I personally would love to see a physical copy of this album made, but at 90 minutes, this would have to be a double-CD, and that's only half of the project!

That's right, there's a second half of the album/project that will consist of remixes, produced by various Monster Planet co-conspirators. The idea behind this half/side will be to provide the various remixers with all the stems to one particular Monster Planet, preferably one that they did not perform. Keep in mind, one Monster Planet set is about 15 hours of music (5 performers x 3 hours), so the remixer has a massive amount of material to mess with. We have imposed no restrictions on the length and style of the remix, so this half of the project could also be fairly long. I feel the 90 minute length of the first half makes complete sense though, given that this music is usually performed during a shitty 90 minute horror/sci-fi movie, but the length of the remixes are pretty irrelevant. So, we will most likely provide a digital download/bandcamp sort of thing for this project, but if there are any cost-effective options for a physical release, I will definitely consider them. I would like to get this music into as many ears as possible. I feel we have something unique and interesting going on here (especially in the Pacific Northwest), and a growing community of artists and musicians that have an avenue to explore music beyond the more standard (and arguably stagnant) scenes that dominate the Seattle music culture.

As always, Monster Planet is on the second Monday of every month, with a special Halloween edition on Halloween this year at the ReBar in downtown Seattle (see picture above)!

So, that's what I'm up to. I'm still working on Terramecha, and I'm still recording samples for future plunderphonics, so don't get the idea that I'm slacking. I mean, I am slacking, but no more than I have in the past. Stay tuned for some new music soon!

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Monday, June 6, 2011

Oriface Rx

When I perform live, I generally have an Ableton file for every song I'm going to play. My sets are also usually seamless, so to keep the music rolling while I open a new Ableton file, I mix in segue music (using an iPod) to fill the gaps. My seques mainly consist of ambient material, so I don't have to manually sync Ableton to a rhythm, and sometimes I add vocal samples on top of these scapes to make them more interesting. I got in the habit of making these scapes fade in and out, because sometimes I would leave them on accidentally, and they would shut off abruptly during the song. This should be a huge clue that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Back in 2005, I was creating several handfuls of ideas using a lot of Reaktor's "grain modules" such as Grainstates and It's Gonna Grain, as well as other sample manglers that I downloaded from Reaktor's official user library. The user library is a pretty awesome place if you're a registered user of Reaktor. Some of these guys that submit ensembles (synths, sample manglers, sequencers, etc.) are making some really crazy shit, and sometimes these ensembles take some getting used to in order to make some cool sounds, but I find it totally worth it. My music isn't all that, but at least I can say it doesn't sound like a bunch of presets from a Roland keyboard! Due to Reaktor's intimidation factor, a lot of producers don't use it, but there's some interesting stuff being done with it, and I believe it's capabilities are pretty much limitless.

Oriface Rx is one those tracks from 2005. I believe I was writing this material for a new 302 Acid album, but sadly that never materialized. It's pretty experimental sounding, and I guess at the time I didn't see it fit as a segue for my live shows. Now it makes a little more sense to me. I am really thinking about implementing this in Terramecha somehow, as well as some other segues from those sessions. The posted mix is kinda lo-fi and cruddy, most likely a result of the Reaktor ensembles they were running though, but I'm going to see if I can clean it up a bit and modernize the mix. One thing that is not very prevalent on Terramecha is sample manipulation, so this piece might add some more diversity.

Enjoy! And don't give me feedback. I hate feedback.
Orifce Rx by Gel-Sol

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Terramecha Part XI - Expo

Robots have appeared on the surface of the planet Terramecha to retrieve the wreckage of the fallen spaceship. On the outside, Terramecha is a rocky wasteland, with no evidence of life. Inside Terramecha is a totally different matter. In today's song analysis, I am going over Expo, which explores the vast world inside Terramecha, a sort of audible "fly-through" of the robot world.

The live version below is a very early version, most likely the second or third time it was played. I'm not even sure where this was played, but I'm assuming it was at the Collins Pub, where Kevin Hoole and myself kept a residency for about a year. I like digging up these old recordings because I don't remember half the things I played, since the songs usually evolve over the years. For the most part Expo is intact, but parts like the seemingly-random bassline and those techno stabs I have no memory of playing. I don't even think those parts exist in the more current Ableton files I work with, so I would have to dig for older versions to retrieve those parts. I have actually done some recent work to Expo, so the piece is now a bit more refined, and has considerably more percussion parts. I would also argue that it's more "tribal" too, which is the overall vibe of side C/Rust.

I initially saw Expo as opening up the Rust half of the album, an exposition of a planet inhabited by robots of of all shapes and sizes, but eventually felt that Retrieval was a better option for opening Rust, with the salvage mission taking place on the surface. Following the robots back underground (with spaceship in tow), Expo is basically a fly-through observation of Terramecha, a sort of futuristic, underground cityscape, with robots hard at work building, computing and doing whatever it is that robots do (It's really not that important, since I couldn't possibly convey that musically). If there's one thing I'd like to convey, it's that Terramecha is huge and over-populated. As far as the "plot" goes, the robot inhabitants are working on a plan to colonize another planet, for Terramecha has become too crowded and resources are dwindling. Perhaps by examining the spaceship, they can find new ways to safely and efficiently colonize another world?

Expo is another song from the early batch of Terramecha creations. Reaktor was used extensively to create most of the parts, but which ensembles, I have no idea. Limelite was definitely used for some of the beats, and generally remains my drum machine of choice when beginning songs. As I mentioned before, I have been working on Expo recently, and have been implementing Native Instruments Kontakt in conjunction with midi generators and Ableton midi effects to create new beats and percussion parts. There's also some use of a great old VST plug-in called Supatrigga, which mangles loops by randomly chopping up sections, and messing with things such as pitch and direction. I mainly apply it to a sort of gnarly bass pad, but the results are quite cool.

Ok, I'm out! Enjoy Expo, and feel free to leave me some feedback!

Terramecha: Expo - live 042906 by Gel-Sol

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Terramecha Part X - Paths to Frenzy

Hey, I'm back! Apologies for the delay in posts, but I was finishing up some "work" work, and needed to get that out of the way. As I mentioned a few times before, song titles and their positioning on the album are subject to change at any time. This is one of those times. In my last Terramecha-related post I presented the potential song ordering of the album, with some hints as to what the song would represent in relation to the story. In today's song analysis, I will be examining Paths To Frenzy, another one of my older tunes that showed up on many a live recording over the last 5 years. At the time of writing the last Terramecha post, I thought this track might be best suited for depicting a war between the various robots of Terramecha, but now I feel it has a better use describing an event earlier in the album, where our spaceman logs into a futuristic internet, and information is transmitted into his brain instantaneously, allowing him to stay up-to-date with news and "entertainment" throughout the galaxy.

Paths To Frenzy will now cap off side A of Blood, as the spaceman needs a little wind-down time after a potentially dangerous situation was avoided during Aurora. Below is an early live recording of Paths To Frenzy, recorded in the early morning of August 20th, 2006 at a house party in celebration of the annual Hempfest gathering in downtown Seattle. I believe I had played earlier that night a residency I held with my good friend Kevin Hoole, so I was dressed somewhat nice. I had also recently got a haircut in an attempt to gain employment. Not just a trim, but really short hair. So upon arriving at this hippy house party, I realized that I must look like I'm lost or a Narc. Also, since this was an after party for Hempfest, EVERYONE was already way fucked up, which probably made my appearance even more awkward. After finding my contact, I go up three flights of stairs to a tiny-ass room, with minimal playing area on the floor, and one passed out guy on a couch. He was my only audience member for the entire duration of my set. Classic Gel-Sol live set.

Back to the story. In Aurora, our spaceman in his trusty spaceship nearly avoid mechanical failure by high-tailing it out of Aurora's cosmic grip. Needing a break, and some time to catch up on communications, the spaceman enters a room with what seems to be a futuristic dentist's chair, with all sorts of arms and attachments that are necessary to "log in." The inspiration for this contraption comes mainly from two sources. In The Matrix, the hero Neo is jacked into The Matrix by connecting some sort of cable into the back of his neck, where programs can be uploaded almost instantaneously, allowing him to acquire new skills with relative ease. Regarding my machine (I haven't come up with a name for it yet), I imagine the logging in process as non-invasive, perhaps something as easy as putting on some sort of fancy helmet. My second source of inspiration for this device is the Orgasmatron, from Woody Allen's 1973 movie Sleeper. The idea behind the Orgasmatron is that you step into the futuristic telephone booth, and using some form electromagnetics/magic, you are rewarded with a massive orgasm without the aid of physical stimulation. I could also see some value in this device if you wanted to make your hair stand on end for a fancy party. Think of my machine as a futuristic internet; you can check your email, news, and even view porn!

So in regards to the storyline, the spaceman logs in to the machine, checks his email, and watches video communications of his family. I don't know how big his family is, but for right now let's say he has a wife and a young daughter. After the initial piece builds, which sort of signifies that the spaceman has logged in, a break occurs where samples are introduced to convey the information the spaceman is receiving. Perhaps his daughter saying hi, and his wife is telling him she loves him and wishes he would return home soon. I want to show that the spaceman has a life outside his profession, and is alone and very far away from that life. After family stuff is out of the way, the spaceman then checks out the news of the galaxy. Much like news on Earth, it's mostly bad news. War atrocities, natural disasters and general violence. Being the sample hoarder that I am, I have tons of fake newscasts that would work great in this piece. I might even sample some real-life news to enhance this experience. Now the spaceman is thoroughly depressed, so like any sex-starved vagabond, he begins watching (or more appropriately, absorbing) pornography. Again, I collect a shit-ton of samples, and I have some rather rude stuff that would fit nicely over the top of the music. This is also a great piece to integrate some of my plunderphonic work, and hopefully add to the experience of sitting in my "Orgasmatron."

To add a little plot to this cosmic jerk-fest, the "female" computer that runs the ship hacks into the spaceman's transmissions and determines that this is what love is, and these feelings are similar to what she's experiencing with the mysterious beacon that is calling her from the depths of space. Immediately after this deduction, the beacon once again sends out it's signals, and the computer, now with a new sense of urgency, shuts down the Orgasmatron, pulling the spaceman back into reality and cutting short his pleasure before he can "blow his load." Do I really want to depict a guy blowing his load anyways? I think it's better to leave that part up to the listener's imagination. Plus, that's just gross!

In the example below, Paths of Frenzy has a classic Gel-Sol structure; song builds up to main idea, takes a break, then builds back up to a stronger, more layered version of the first part. There will obviously be some sort of break in the final version to showcase vocal samples, but where it goes from there, I'm not sure yet. The beacon/alarm sound in the version below enters during the break, but I think I will reserve this for the end of the album version to signify that the beacon has been more precisely located, and that the Orgasmatron is about to shut down. Since this was one of the earlier tracks created when I began the Terramecha project, I was using some of the same software as pieces like Aurora and Mecha Ritual. I definitely used Reaktor ensembles like Metaphysical Function for atmospherics and Limelite for percussion elements. A bulk of the synth lines were also created with Reaktor, but I dont remember the ensemble names. Perhaps in future posts I can clarify this.

Stay tuned for more Terramecha! And give me some feedback, damnit! Even if you don't like it, I'd like to know what you think!

Terramecha: Path to Frenzy - live 082006 by Gel-Sol


Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Monster Planet!

I co-host two nights in Seattle, both of which are unique to the Seattle scene, and are a great alternative to the usual goings-on. First, I co-host a bi-weekly in the Capitol Hill neighborhood called PROG!, dedicated solely to Progressive Rock, which saw it's glory days in the early 1970s. I'm sure a majority of people think we just play Yes and Rush albums, but we go WAY deeper than that. From Amon Düül II to Zappa, we play Krautrock, Canterbury scene, Hungarian funk-rock, Italian Symphonic, Zeuhl, you name it! It's truly a fantastic night where DJs share their newest finds, while projections play cosmic edits from obscure movies and live performance footage from classic prog bands. Feel free to check out our Facebook page at Prog! Seattle.

The other night I co-host is a monthly called Monster Planet, right in the Pike Place Market. You know, where the guys throw fish? If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this vid:

We host Monster Planet at a great little place called the Can Can, which is known for it's outlandish cabaret shows. The great thing about the Can Can is that it looks like the Cantina from Star Wars, and some of it's clientele might be stranger than the monsters/aliens from the movie. The premise of Monster Planet is five musicians, generally electronic musicians, improvising with their gadgets to really shitty B-movies. The night usually starts around 9PM, and we go to close, so we generally play three movies a night. The nights are also themed, and in the past we have had nights that center around giant robots, werewolves, zombies, mutations and even the apocalypse. We've also done some great holiday themed nights for Thanksgiving and Christmas that involved a video artist who improvised with clips to the music! The only requirement for the movies played is that they are not too mainstream...the shittier the better. I'm a big fan of late 70s/early 80s Italian films, as they were into making low-budget versions of already existing blockbusters, like Star Wars and The Road Warrior, as well as making some fantastic zombie and cannibal movies.

Monster Planet was started by myself and my good friend and musical cohort, William Mempa, and now there's a small group of us that handle certain duties to keep the night going. Aside from being a really fun and original night, our main goal with Monster Planet is to form a sense of community amongst musicians in the city, giving them a platform (most likely a tabletop) to work on their improvisation skills with other people in the same boat. I have maintained since my early 20s that improv is a crucial skill in becoming a well-rounded musician, and these skills can be applied to studio and live work, as well as non-musical applications. For one, it teaches you to listen. Improvising isn't showing off your chops or "jamming." It's listening and reacting for the better good of the music, not a competition to make yourself look better with your fancy moves. One thing that has pleasantly surprised me since moving to Seattle six years ago is that most of the musicians I have played with here "get it," and as a result, we've recorded some stellar music that wouldn't have existed otherwise.

Since the first Monster Planet in April of 2010, we have recorded every show, and we have even multitrack recorded most of the shows. I'm mainly in charge of the recordings, so I have a hard drive that's gradually filling up with all this great audio material. Seth Branum (Manos) of Innerflight Records has been editing some of the stereo recordings and putting them on Soundcloud if you'd like to check out some of the music made at past Monster Planets:

Latest tracks by Monster Planet

Ultimately, I would love to see an album emerge from these multitracks. I don't care if the tracks are remixed and mashed up, or just cleaned up versions of the original live performance, I just hope they get put to use someday, more than the little parts I pick out for my various projects. I have informed all of the musicians involved that they are welcome to any of the recordings, so hopefully someone other than myself will find use for them.

So yeah, that's about it. Monster Planet is every second Monday of the month at the Can Can in Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. It's also free, and there's Absinthe specials, so if you're ever in Seattle on a second Monday, come stop by for a drink and check out a truly unique evening with music nobody's ever heard before and movies that are at the very least, hilariously bad. And if you live in or near Seattle, there's no excuse for not showing up!

The next Monster Planet is on Monday, June 13th, and the theme of the night is CULTS!

Feel free to visit the official Monster Planet blog at itcamefrommonsterplanet.com

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Terramecha Part IX - Current Track List and Preview



I'm halfway through introducing tracks on Terramecha. Below is a track list of how I am currently seeing the flow of these songs, with the yet-to-be-introduced songs in red. Keep in mind that I wish to release this album as a vinyl double-album, so the songs are group in sides. Whether a vinyl release really happens, I don't know. This is at least how I'm going to approach it for now.

Side A - Blood
01. Forward.
02. Blast off! (to be renamed later)
03. Aurora
04. Spectacular Optical (Heavenly Bodies)

Side B - Blood
05. Daze of Yor
06. Peace In Abandonment
07. Omega Ray (Flailing Ultrasonic Collisions Kindle Your Overall Understanding)

Side C - Rust
08. Retrieval
09. Expo (to be renamed later/switched positions with Mecha Ritual)
10. Nerve Center (to be renamed later)
11. Mecha Ritual (switched positions with Expo)

Side D - Rust
11. Paths to Frenzy
12. Revengine (to be renamed later)
13. Aftamath

Again, this track list is not set in stone, and certain tracks might be added/omitted. I have a few interlude type pieces that might fit into the story, but I might just fit them into one of the bigger pieces. For the most part, the main order is there.

So, what's next? Well, I'm going to introduce the rest of the songs in some form or another. Some of these songs have been played live and recorded, and some are nothing but a bunch of layers of music with no structure yet. I haven't decided how I will present these "less mature" tracks yet. I might just make some loops of material and post those. All of the songs on Terramecha are evolving, so I'll most likely post many versions of the songs as they develop. I never really think of a "song" as something that's finished anyways. A song can (and should) evolve beyond the "album version." I like the concept that a song can amorphously change shape from version to version, whether it be live recordings or in-studio improvs, and still be recognized as the same piece. I am of course going to have to commit something for the album, and these live recordings/improvs allow me to hear different approaches, and figure out what's best for the album.

I'll give a few teasers as to what to look forward to in the next month or two. "Blast off!" (song 2/Blood) gets the story rolling (or blasting into space) with the spaceman and his trusty spaceship taking off from their base in search of the mysterious beacon. Spectacular Optical (song 4/Blood) deals with a futuristic internet that is fed directly into your mind, with sexy results! Peace in Abandonment (song 6/Blood) deals with the spaceman's realization that he has lost control of his mission (and spaceship) to a stubborn, and quite possibly horny, female computer. Expo (song 2/Rust) is really just that; an exposition of inside Terramecha. This is where the rest of the story goes down. After "hearing" what Terramecha looks like, Nerve Center (song 3/Rust) goes to the center of the planet, to observe the main robot, the one who created all of the other robots. Paths to Frenzy (song 5/Rust) depicts a war between the robots of Terramecha, as two sides differ on how to handle the wreckage of the spaceship. Half the robots want to inspect the inside of the ship, half want to eject it into space without finding out what's in it. And finally, Revengine (song 6/Rust) deals with what happens if you open something you're not supposed to open.

Since I don't have any audio to post Terramecha-related today, here's an old track of mine as an homage to the band Ween. The Stallion 3000 is an "original" piece of music I made in late 2005 that's comprised entirely of Ween samples...mostly little isolated bits from a large chunk of their studio albums. I guess you would call this a mashup, but I used around 70 Ween songs to make this piece. Check out the Soundcloud link if you want to see what tracks I used.

Thanks for reading/listening! Stay tuned for the second half of Terramecha tunes! Feedback welcome!
The Stallion 3000 by Gel-Sol (and Ween) by Gel-Sol

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Terramecha Part VIII - Omega Ray

Things are not going well on this spaceship. Our spaceman has lost control of the ship, literally and figuratively...

Today's song analysis deals with Omega Ray, the final piece of Part I, Blood. The spaceship has fallen deeply in love with some sort of beacon from the depths of space, and has made it "her" mission to find the source. The spaceship has overridden any manual control, leaving the spaceman powerless, and now just along for the ride. Too bad this ride is going to be bumpy and death-inducing! Below is a sketch I worked on this weekend for Omega Ray. I say sketch, because all I really did was throw some things together that I had been collecting for this piece. The flow of the piece is there, but I really want to make this one intense.

Quick note, Omega Ray was initially the piece Energy Pools, from the K8EMA album. I wanted K8EMA to have an intense penultimate piece, and Omega Ray in it's form at the time made sense to me. I'm a big fan of penultimate pieces on albums. They're much like the penultimate scene in a movie, which is generally the climax of the film. Since Omega Ray is now not a penultimate track, I will discuss this at a later time. I got a really cool track for the penultimate scene in Terramecha...

Ok, back to the story. The spaceship has reached Terramecha, a dark and rocky planet that appears to have no life, at least on the surface. I imagine that the spaceman would be very disappointed about this, thinking "I came out here all the way for this?" It gets worse, buddy! I haven't quite worked out the details of how the ship perishes, but I do have several ideas of how it could go down. In Stanislaw Lem's The White Death, The planet Aragena is protected by a "machine-made" asteroid field, making it perilous for anyone and anything in it's vicinity. The story also mentions that the rocky terrain is magnetic, which is also kind of a cool idea. Perhaps a magnetic Terramecha is pulling the ship towards it's surface, forcing it to take a beating in the asteroid field first. The track is called Omega Ray, and this is because I initially thought Terramecha (the planet) might shoot the spaceship out of the sky, though this might draw too much attention to Terramecha, a planet that really wants to be left alone. Either way, the spaceship crashes violently into Terramecha's surface, killing the spaceman. If I decide to not use the title Omega Ray, I might call it Flailing Ultrasonic Collisions Kindle Your Overall Understanding, which is a title I have always wanted to use for a piece, but really only used for some under-developed music I made in my youth. If you're gonna have a title like that, the music better be pretty awesome!

Musically, I want to make the piece sound like you (the listener) are in a spaceship that is simultaneously being torn to shreds and heading very fast into a large metal planet. There are some melodic bits that move through the mix, and to me they sort of convey the spaceman's attitude, which is more or less "Fuck it, I'm fucking dead!" The track is mainly a collage of noise. Asteroids are severely denting the spaceships hull, all internal machinery is failing, not to mention alarms sounding, pipes breaking, and your mom calling you on yer intergalactic space cell phone. Not a good time, mom!

A lot of this material was created with Reaktor. I don't remember the particular ensemble I used for all that harsh noise at the end of the piece, but it was pretty cool because it would only make harsh noises. Using Reaktor's random function, I mainly recorded myself hitting the random button every couple of seconds and doing this for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. Take that, virtuosity! Anyways, I never really dealt much with sooper-noizy textures like that, so I thought it would be cool to try to introduce something more harsh in my music, and thematically, it works out pretty well for this piece!

Some of the elements in Omega Ray aren't even my creations. I host a monthly in Seattle called Monster Planet, where we get 5 musicians to improvise to shitty B-movies all night. It's an incredible thing to be a part of; it's really laid back, and the musicians want to play there. I play at Monster Planet too, but one of my goals is to build a culture/network of musicians who want to improvise, and hopefully make some music that's never been made before! I also multi-track the Monster Planet performances, so I have a shit-ton of audio sitting around on my hard drives waiting to be put out into the world. One of my other goals is to share all the multi-tracks with the other musicians, in hopes that someone might make an album out of the material, and encourage others to do the same thing. So far, none of the other musicians are terribly interested in the multi-track material. They most likely have other projects going on, or are plain not interested. To me, this stuff is gold, so I'm going to use it! I used some Monster Planet material on K8EMA, and gave a few shoutouts on the cd sleeve. So back to Omega Ray, I used some other people's playing. I'll be sure to give shoutouts when these pieces are more set in stone, much like an embedded spaceship on the surface of a cold, dark planet.

Though this particular story is coming to an end, things are about to change on the planet Terramecha, which was really only introduced in Omega Ray. I'm at about the half-way point with introducing these songs, so my next article most likely will be a summary of the progress so far, and some other general ideas as to what I'm thinking about in regards to this project.

Thanks for listening as always! I appreciate all the feedback so far, on this blog and on my facebook/soundcloud pages. Keep it up!

Oh, and if you'd like to be a fan of Gel-Sol on Facebook, please visit this link!

Gel-Sol on Facebook

Until next time...
Terramecha: Omega Ray - sketch 050711 by Gel-Sol

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Terramecha Part VII - Daze of Yor

The spaceship has determined the exact location of the mysterious beacon...and is in love. Today's song analysis deals with Daze of Yor, a kind of Ravel's Bolero meets prog rock (or at least that's how I see the finished product, stylistically). The version below is the very first live version of this incarnation, performed at the Photosynthesis festival in southwest Washington state on August 8th, 2009. I say "this incarnation" because there was another version of the song that I had previously played live, but I decided I liked this version better. The old version is decent, so maybe one day I'll post it.

If my objective of getting this album released on vinyl works out, this track would kick off side-B of Part I - Blood. Our spaceman has been rudely awoken from a deep slumber by the spaceship's warning program concerning high-velocity travel. As it turns out, the spaceship has located the source of the beacon, which is why we're here in the first place, and is in "hot" pursuit of it's location. I'm not sure if I just want to approach Daze of Yor as another observational piece about travelling fast through space, or give it some more story. As I mentioned in my first Terramecha blog, I want to convey somehow that the spaceship itself is being seduced or falling in love with the beacon signals. Using this plot device, I could possibly show that this situation is out of the spaceman's hands, as the spaceship has decided to ignore the spaceman for "her" own selfish gain. Perhaps during Daze of Yor, the spaceman is disoriented due to just waking up while his ship is about to go light speed (or whatever-fast speed). The spaceman's realization that he has lost control of his ship will come a song or two after this.

So why was the spaceman sleeping? That's a terrific question, but I will go over that at another time. Trust me, he was tired, mentally and physically.

The piece itself as it stands is another "builder." I seem to like to make tracks that start off sparse and ambient, gradually build a bunch of layers, make it get really noisy, then make it peter out. I'm not a big fan of the rock cliche verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus approach, and a lot of my work is collage based. I like the idea that none of the parts are particularly important on their own, but when mixed together with other unimportant parts, they combine to make the song itself interesting. I also like the idea that you can listen to a song however many times and still hear something new and different with each listen.

Earlier, I compared the track to Ravel's Bolero, mainly because it has sort of similar lead line, but really, the comparison stops there. One thing I would like to achieve with the final piece is to implement some transposition of the main key to make things a little more interesting/less static. I will most likely add some more harmonic elements too, to give that section a more orchestrated feel. I think the transition from a heavily orchestrated section into some heavily layered noise, or at least a heavy arrangement of more synthesized textures, would have an intense effect, and hopefully convey the intensity and speed of the spaceship blazing through space.

A lot of the synth-ier samples I used for this piece, as well as some of the beats, were either found online or collected over the years from sample libraries. Basically what I'm getting at is that they are short loops without a lot of character, so they either need to be processed further or rewritten. For example, those fast moving arps that appear halfway through the song were short loops that I found. I like their movement within the piece, but feel they could be more organic, and not necessarily repeating every few bars. The main melody was created using my trusty M-Tron Pro Mellotron emulator. Alright, that's all I got for now.

As always, feedback welcome. Enjoy!
Terramecha: Daze of Yor - live 080809 by Gel-Sol

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Friday, April 29, 2011

Terramecha Part VI - Aftamath

I'm going to begin today's song analysis with the end. That's right, the last song on Terramecha, which is tentatively called Aftamath. Who knows, I might keep the name, I don't know. It is actually the oldest song in the bunch, and I recently rediscovered it about a week ago, after looking through old files for potential use. Aftamath was most likely conceived during or after the Unifactor sessions in 2005. Around that time a former employer asked me to make some music for a video he and his company made promoting a Volkwagen auto show, full to the brim with souped-up VW's and large-breasted car models. I believe I submitted 3 tracks, all called V-Dub. Anyway, Aftamath spawned out of one of those tracks. Prior to this resurrection, in 2007 I had attempted to rewrite the V-Dub track and recorded 4 different takes in hopes of finding a good arrangement. I wasn't pleased with the results, so I ceased work on the project. Another reason I suspect this was initially made around the same time as Unifactor is that it has one of the same bass drum loops as the track Unifactor, the final piece/title track. When I first realized this, I was all like "damb, I can't use this track!," but then I thought it might work under the grounds of "conceptual continuity." More on this later...

At this point in the story the robots inside Terramecha have rusted out and perished due to a deadly spore that grew out of a mysterious red liquid found on the spaceship. Aftamath is an observation of the devastation, as all signs of "life" appear to be coming to an end...or are they? Cinematically, I see this piece, at least the beginning, as accompanying music to credits, with a slide slow of rusted out robot carcasses and smoldering mechanical wreckage. The opening chord changes are simple; almost too simple, but they have a nice sort of minor key feeling to them. I am definitely going to aim to make that progression more interesting. The timbre of the chords at the moment are a bit cheesy as well, as is a lot of the harmonic material, so that will definitely change in future versions, but I think the general feel is there. This is easily one of the lesser developed songs slated to be on the album. The beats are probably the strongest part of the song, but they need work too. This goes back to my first article on Terramecha, where I need to work on more structured, "fancy" edits.

At the end of the piece, all "life" on Terramecha is presumed dead, or is it? The deadly spores have taken over the giant rust ball, and if we zoom in closely, we observe that organic life is beginning to grow out of the spores. I would like to convey this using audio, but I'm not sure how I'm going to approach it yet. Dripping water might be effective, if done the right way. Which brings me back to conceptual continuity. Conceptual continuity is a concept that was made popular by Frank Zappa, where he introduced subject matter or themes from previous works into later works. Poodles and zircon encrusted tweezers are two examples of things that showed up in several of Zappa's works. Here, read this quote:

"Well, the conceptual continuity is this: everything, even this interview, is part of what I do for, let's call it, my entertainment work. And there's a big difference between sitting here and talking about this kind of stuff, and writing a song like 'Titties and Beer'. But as far as I'm concerned, it's all part of the same continuity. It's all one piece. It all relates in some weird way back to the focal point of what's going on."
Frank Zappa, Interview by Bob Marshall, October 22, 1988.


Now, getting back to Aftamath and the reused Unifactor bass drum loop. Unifactor (the album) sort of represents the organic home-world of Gel-Sol (I also stole the name/idea from artist Jim Woodring as an homage). By referencing Unifactor in Aftamath, I am suggesting that this home-world, or a new, but similar organic world is being born inside Terramecha. And the cycle of life, whether man or machine, continues. Who knows, maybe sometime in the distant future machines will once again rule Terramecha? I can't see that far into the future...

Feedback greatly appreciated, especially with these lesser-developed pieces. Thanks for reading/listening!

Terramecha: Aftamath - draft 042911 by Gel-Sol

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Terramecha Part V - Mecha Ritual

Today's song analysis deals with another old track in the Terramecha story, a track that used to be called Caldera, but is now called Mecha Ritual. To make matters even more confusing, there's another track of mine that was called Mecha Ritual, but it doesn't have a new name yet and has been reappropriated into a different part of the story.

Below is the first-ever performance of Cal...uh, Mecha Ritual, played at the Collins Pub in Seattle on April 22, 2006. For me at least, it's quite hilarious imagining music like this being played in what's really a glorified sports bar. There is nothing remotely psychedelic about that, and there I am, cluelessly twiddling away with my cosmic space music. From now on, I should only accept gigs if they are in outer space...

Mecha Ritual's exact placement on the album is unknown yet, but it will either be right after Retrieval, or the third song on Part II, Rust. There's another song that's fighting for that position, but I'll get to that at another time. At this point in time in the story, the robots have brought the wreckage of the spaceship down into a huge open area, where robots of all shapes and sizes join in and surround the ship. Then, some sort of ritual begins (bet you didn't see that coming). The main objective of this ritual is to ward off any bad mojo the ship might bring. Robots of similar appearance emit strange calls that are unique to their build. The live version below is long and drawn out, and is nowhere near complete. It's my goal to create a middle section with a "call and response" section as if the different classes of robots are singing/communicating/bleeping at each other. I plan on doing some research on ritualistic music, and even some voodoo music, in hopes of creating a more futuristic version of a tribal ceremony. One thing that is unique to the posted live version is the end, where a collage of mechanical space cries and effects play over a humming bass drone. I listened to many live versions of Mecha Ritual over the course of last week, and none of them had this part. I guess I thought it was too far out or inappropriate for live performance at the time. Now I like it! I'm gonna have to dig through my archives to find it though, and that might take awhile.

Mecha Ritual is also one of the earliest pieces created for Terramecha. I almost see it as a sister piece to Aurora, in that it's sort of a slow-moving, observational piece. Visually/cinematically, I see slow pans circling around the ritual, showing the variety of robots, and the movements they make as they emit their sounds. Think the Balinese monkey chant in Baraka mixed with Pink Floyd at Pompeii mixed with some Stanley Kubrick-esque slow-pans and zooms. Also much like Aurora, Mecha Ritual's inital tracks were created with Reaktor, again the Metaphysical Function ensemble. A bulk of the drums/percussion were made with Reaktor's Limelite ensemble, an amazing drum machine/sequencer where you can load your own source sounds. With the preset sounds it gets a bit too techno for my liking, but you can get some really organic results when feeding it your own sounds.

And that's another goal of mine. I want to create organic robots. Each robot inside Terramecha is unique; they might have come into this world with similar makes and models, but they still have characteristics that differentiate themselves from everyone else, and have the capacity to think. There are so many people on this planet that are essentially robots, so why can't it be the other way around? Plus, you could sell organic robots for more money at the grocery store!

Ok, that's all I got for today. Give me feedback. And if you have any tips on some good ritualistic/voodoo music, please send them my way!

Terramecha: Mecha Ritual - live 042206 by Gel-Sol




Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Monday, April 18, 2011

Terramecha Part IV - Retrieval

I'm jumping over to Part II for today's song analysis, so I apologize in advance if you get confused as to what's going on. I'll try to be as clear as possible. At the bottom of this article I have posted the link to a rough draft of Retrieval.

Part I (Blood) of Terramecha deals with a spaceman/spaceship that are hired to track down the source of a mysterious beacon in the far reaches of space. They take off from home base, see a few things, have a few encounters, and are ultimately killed ala "planet collision" after they have discovered the source of the beacon (Terramecha). This is where part I, Blood, ends.

Part II, entitled Rust, is a look into the world of Terramecha. First, I should probably explain the Blood/Rust relationship (as if it isn't pretty obvious). The first half of the album deals with an organic lifeform as the protagonist, most likely a human, and blood represents the aftermath of his death. The same goes with rust, being the results of a dead machine. This dichotomy also plays into the general Gel-Sol universe, Gel-Sol being a dichotomy too (liquid vs. solid). In case you didn't know, I generally try to implement this dichotomy strategy into a bulk of the Gel-Sol material. Organic vs. mechanical, beats vs. ambience, serious vs. funny, minor vs. major, etc. My goal in general with the Gel-Sol project is to create my own universe, full of different worlds and systems that allow me to make whatever I want, yet still being a part of the Gel-Sol world. I pursued this idea, because I think conforming to one genre of music is stupid and does not allow for any artistic longevity. Plus, doing one thing is fucking boring, and it's good to keep your listeners on their toes!

Retrieval begins with some sort of scout robot appearing on the surface of Terramecha to check out the spaceship wreckage. Then, a giant door opens in Terramecha where hundreds (if not more) of machines emerge from inside the planet, all being somewhat unique, but still classifiable into groups. I want to convey that these machines are similar to humans, not physically (bi-peds with 2 eyes and 10 fingers), but in the sense that there's different races, and perhaps cultures. After surrounding the fallen spaceship, the machines, in perfect rhythm and order, join together to form a giant transport around the spaceship so it can be taken below for examination. The scene ends with Terramecha slowly swallowing the spaceship/transport with the previously mentioned scout robot following behind, making it through the door just before it closes.

The version of Retrieval below is a very rough draft, with some structural elements laid out to give an idea of how the piece will progress. It starts off with some abstract ambience/sound effects, and mechanical rhythms fade in to convey some sort of order amongst the machines. The rhythms gradually get more intense with the addition of a pulsing sub-bass to convey the merging machines, and then music breaks, gets its bearings, and trudges along, depicting the spaceship being transported below the surface. As I mentioned before, there's a scout robot that initially checks out the situation, ok's the rest of the machines to retrieve the wreckage, and follows the transported spaceship back below the surface. Musically, I'd like to depict this little guy, but I'm not sure how I'm going to approach it yet. Does he make little R2-D2 noises? Does he sound like Wall-E? Do these things even have voices? Maybe they speak in tones. I guess I got a lot to think about.

A lot of the parts in Retrieval were created using various Reaktor ensembles and random midi generation, mainly from the Reaktor ensemble Spiral. Spiral uses variations on a spiral pattern to create random patterns that can be conformed to a specific key, allowing you to create anything from long flowing soundscapes to super-fast arpeggios. You can even trigger sample banks or drum kits, making for some interesting results. I used this technique extensively on my last ambient album, K8EMA. Most of the time, I wasn't even concerned about the harmonic material being triggered by Spiral. I just made a lot of noise, tuned it where necessary, and hit record. I then mixed those recordings together in a serendipitous fashion, where everything appeared to work out (I'm making it sound a lot easier than it really is). Retrieval has actually been played in two or three of my live sets, but under the name Spores. When I first started writing the piece, I initially thought this piece would have to do with the eventual downfall of the machines inside Terramecha, rusting out and dying due to the organic spores that grew out of the spaceman's blood. I then decided this particular piece of music was much more suited for a retrieval mission.

So, what does the spaceship look like? I don't know that yet either. In Lem's The White Death, the spaceship is described as a "giant goblet, its stem embedded in a pile of boulders and its concave cup, which faced the sky, crushed and punctured in a dozen places." This description gives the sense that the ship has a classic "rocket" look, with the main engine taking up most of it's mass, and located in the back of the ship. Spaceship design has evolved quite a bit since the early 70s, so I'm not sure if this classic shape is what I have in mind for this story. I'm not sure it matters at this point, but I do think about it. What I do know is that the spaceship is relatively in one piece, to show the impressive merging of the machines into one unit so they can effectively transport the spaceship below the surface for evaluation. I like to think of this mechanical merging as a sort of "modular Transformer," where many machines can combine to make a custom mega-machine to suit their needs.

Stay tuned for my next blog! Not sure what I will talk about next. Perhaps I will go over another less-developed tune...

Feedback welcome as always! Drop me a line!
Terramecha: Retrieval - draft 041811 by Gel-Sol

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Terramecha Part III - Aurora

Today I will be talking about the song Aurora, one of the very first songs I put together when I began conceptualizing Terramecha. At the bottom of this article is a live version of Aurora, from a gig I played at Nectar, a Fremont neighborhood bar in Seattle. Early versions of Aurora didn't have the thick, liquidy bassline and the synth lead, so I chose to post a more mature version of the song.

Aurora is what I consider one of the "observational" pieces on the album, not really having anything to do with the main story, but more of a description of what the spaceman/listener might see on the way to their destination. In the case of Terramecha, the spaceman and his trusty spaceship are cruising along at impossible rates of speed through the galaxy when they come across a beautiful and unique planet called Aurora. In a nutshell, Aurora is really just a giant sphere of eye candy, emitting flares of continually changing colors, much like the Aurora Borealis. From a visual standpoint, I see these light flares moving in almost slow-motion, with the spaceman in awe as to what he's witnessing. The song itself has a slow, trudging feel and builds up slowly with an eventual bassline and synth lead joining in. From there, the idea is to increase the intensity with the addition of more frantic drums and a heavy vibrating bass. At this point in the observation, the spaceship is at it's closest to the mysterious planet, and something is affecting the ship's electronics, causing it to malfunction. This malfunction could also affect the spaceman, perhaps by putting him in a trance or making his "circuitry" go crazy. Musically, I want to convey the idea that the spaceman/ship's electronics are flipping out, and that our protagonists must leave before there's any serious damage. I also envision these light flares as having sounds associated with them, so the planet itself is giant, psychedelic, music-making disco ball/lava lamp. It just seems like it would be a badass scene in a movie!

Where Aurora fits on Terramecha is the first side of the album, most likely the third song. The adventure has just begun, we're on the road to our destination, so why not do a little sight-seeing on the way? Aurora has showed up in my live sets more than a lot of songs, because it was one of my typical collage pieces, and is fun just to mess around with different mixes. However, over the years the general structure stayed the same; the piece builds up in intensity, themes are introduced, a bridge part breaks things down, and then I bring up the intensity again with faster percussion elements until the song sorta peters out. This is most likely how the album version will end up too, but I would like to integrate some more recently-acquired techniques to get my idea across more effectively.

When I first started working on Terramecha, I was messing around a lot with the Metaphysical Function ensemble in Native Instruments Reaktor. You'll probably see me mention Reaktor a lot in future posts, because Reaktor is one of the main pieces of software I use to create sounds. Metaphysical function is a really unique sound generator for making amorphous scapes by mixing tones together, and often the results are complex and often discordant. It also had another feature where you could play an audio loop and run it through filters, reverbs and a cool little resonator. I ended up making a ton of new loops out of this little sample mangler and some of the percussion loops you hear, as well as some of the scape material, were generated using that unit. Some of the sounds at the beginning of Aurora have an almost Asian sound, which I think gives the piece an exotic feel, like you're seeing something for the first time.

That's all I got for now. Stay tuned! I might jump over to the Rust side of the album for my next blog.

As always, feedback welcome. Let me know what you think!

Terramecha: Aurora - live 041608 by Gel-Sol
Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Friday, April 15, 2011

Terramecha Part II - Forward

Where better to start with Terramecha than the beginning? At the end of this article I have provided a link to a rough draft/sketch of the opening piece of Terramecha, simply named Forward.

I chose the name Forward for several reasons. One, it sort of conveys that I (Gel-Sol) is moving on, hopefully into new, exciting musical territory. Two, it marks a new adventure for our spaceman. His spaceship has just notified him that she's detected a communications beacon somewhere in the depths of space. I'm not sure what this guy does exactly yet, but he works for some sort of corporation and is hired to scout out unexplored worlds in search of resources. I know that's extremely vague, and there's no physical way a human could cover such territory in a lifetime, but hey, it's science fiction! Suspend yer disbelief! The third reason I chose the name is that it is a synonym of "foreword," and this piece represents a sort of an explanation of what is about to happen. Obviously the music will not be blatantly telling the listener the information, but I do want the song to convey that an adventure of epic proportions is about to begin.

The draft I posted below is comprised of samples I have found, online and from other sources, and original music. The lead melody was created using the GForce M-tron Pro Mellotron emulator. Being a huge progressive rock fanatic, I have always been a sucker for the Mellotron. It's kinda creepy, and has a very organic almost out of tune sound. Apparently real Mellotrons are a real bitch to keep in tune, but the M-tron Pro allows easy tuning, and has a ton of great sounds. You will probably see me mention the M-tron a lot in my posts, as I use it quite a bit for scape generation and other melodic purposes. The lead melody itself in Forward is somewhat reminiscent of Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss, the infamous intro music to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The beauty of Also Sprach Zarathustra is that with each cycle of the melody, the mood of the piece gets more intense. My goal with Forward is to achieve the same effect, with the song seemingly disintegrating into the next piece after an epic climax. At the moment, the piece is a little stiff. Things that might help counter this would be to make the lead melody a little more organic, and to not place the drum hits so dead on the one-beat. Clever placement of the various tracks in different parts of the spacial plane would help to create more depth too.

The very beginning of Forward starts with a distant drum, appearing to get closer before the rest of the music abruptly comes in. Part of that was inspiration from the beginning of Blade Runner, and the accompanying score from Vangelis, however I don't really want to rip off that idea so literally. The scene I envision in my head during this first section is our spaceman hero walking down a hallway, about to enter the interstellar launchpad where his ship is about take off. The repeating and crescendo-ing bass drum represents slow-motion footsteps, muffled as if the spaceman has already donned his space helmet or some sort of headgear. I would like to integrate some slow heavy breathing also, to infer some tension before takeoff, for the spaceman and the listener.

By the end of the piece, the spaceman is now in his spaceship, ready to take off. The sounds of computer noises and machinery fade in to set up the next piece. I have had several ideas for what this piece of music might be, but I still haven't found the perfect fit. To me, the second song on an album is extremely important, as it sort of gives you a sampling as to what the rest of the album could be like. But that's for another time...

Thanks for reading/listening! Would love to hear your feedback!
Terramecha: Forward - draft 041411 by Gel-Sol

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Terramecha Part I - Rebirth and Process



Hello again.

This post is kinda long, but I have to get some things out of the way first. Future posts will be more concise, including audio samples and art.

I don't blog very much, yet I have always had the intentions of blogging regularly because I thought it would help me solidify musical ideas. I do write down notes daily, but they aren't really the sort of ideas you would commit to something like this; they look more like a grocery list of ideas. I also suck at writing, and have a hard time coming up with cohesive thoughts, so I'm hoping these posts will eventually help me out in those regards.

In 2010, I released three full-length albums; two on independent labels, and one as a free download from this very site. The first two albums were ambient in nature, and the third was a massively-low brow vs. WTF? sample collage, taking mostly from shitty B-movies. I really should only say this once (but I know I'll say it again), but my plunderphonic sound collages are FAR MORE ENTERTAINING than any of my music albums. They just are. The problem is that nobody wants to listen to audio entertainment that isn't "music," so only a few people tuned in. I think it's music, but what do I know? Anyway, Gel-Sol releases have been more ambient in the last few years, with the exception of a few digitally released remixes, which again, only a few people heard. At the end of 2010, after I finished Plunder a Raging Moon, I began thinking of new music ideas for Gel-Sol. I knew I didn't want to do another ambient album. The ambient-soundscape aspect will always be in my music, so it's not like I want to ditch it entirely, I just want to do something different.

Beats. That's the obvious component that would separate any new music from last several ambient releases. I work with beats all the time, from sampling loops from albums, to creating my own from scratch. Initially my first post-ambient idea was to do an "anti-ambient" album, one that was mostly beats and rhythms, void of any scape-like material. I was also given stems of dance music tracks from Seattle's Innerflight Records, in hopes of recording an "original" Gel-Sol album using Innerflight's source material. I spent a good part of the summer/fall of 2010 composing ideas for this album, but I was ultimately unhappy with the results for the most part. That's not to say this project won't be completed, it very well could. Just not right now. I think my main obstacle with beat-related music is that a lot of it is very structured and programmed. The way I generally write music is to make a lot of noise, record it, extract the parts that I like, and try to make them fit with other similarly generated parts and put them together in a collage format. What I like about this method is that happy accidents occur, and some things just end up working together. Programming songs with set parts and heavy arrangements are tedious, and I have always been against the idea of presenting my music live the way it sounds on the album. This concept was brought to my attention by bands like King Crimson and The Orb. Why would I want to play a song the same way twice? I like the idea that a piece of music can be amorphous in it's different recordings/performances, but still be the same song! So my music up to now lacks dramatic section changes (for the most part) and super-detailed programming. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a bad thing, but I am now considering including more of these elements because well, I haven't tried that yet!

Which brings me to the main focus of this article. In the summer of 2006, I had begun work on an album called Terramecha, which was supposed to be a follow-up to Unifactor. In my delusional mind, I thought of Terramecha as my Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (fantastic 1975 Genesis album), an ambitious concept double-album that would blow everyone's minds, and I wouldn't have to get a real job again. Like I said, DELUSIONAL. Material was written that summer, and quickly integrated in to my live, "improvised" shows. Creatively, this was a great time. I had been settled down in Seattle for about a year, met some great people who were supportive of my ideas, and was getting booked to play shows more often. My good friend Kevin Hoole had a few places where he dj'd around town, and always invited me to play, whether it be a Gel-Sol performance or just to dj. What was hilarious is that most of these "gigs" were at restaurants, and most of the patrons had that "what the hell is this shit?" look on their faces. In fact, I believe that's the general consensus with any project I am involved in. Well, I say it's cool shit! Stop being a robot asshole and get the fuck into it!

By 2007, I had easily a double-album's worth of material, plus numerous live recordings of a bulk of the material. Some of these recordings had been posted online shortly after they came out, but the links are now defunct due to whatever reasons. I will most likely begin posting some again in future posts. In February of 2007, my first niece Izabella was born. As a gift to her, I wanted to write an all-ambient album for her, so she could sleep and dream to it at night. The album eventually became IZ, and was released in 2008. Well, this completely sidetracked Terramecha, and thus began my purely ambient phase. I still played a few shows using my "beatier" material, and a few more pieces grew out of those performances, but Terramecha wasn't where I wanted it yet. A lot of the pieces were/are in place, but I couldn't settle on arrangements, and I was beginning to doubt my whole collage method for arranging these pieces. I felt every song on the album needed to sound different, while contributing to the whole of the story, much like a movie. I had tinkered around with the idea of reoccurring themes to help keep the story together, but at the time I didn't have any concrete musical themes developed, at least ones that would work in other songs.

Then there's the story itself. In 2005, I read short story by Stanislaw Lem, author of the book Solaris, which was made into two awesome movies, the epic 1972 Andrey Tarkovskiy version, and the more concise 2002 version directed by Steven Soderbergh. The name of the short story was called The White Death, and dealt with a spaceship found on the surface of a planet inhabited by robots. I really shouldn't give away the "twist" of the story, as it's a good short read, and I highly recommend you check out Lem's work. But basically, the inside of a planet is completely inhabited by machines called Enterites, and they find the wreckage of a spaceship on the surface of the planet. The outside of the planet is barren and rocky, and employs a sort of force field around itself in the form of giant meteors/asteroids. This is to protect the planet from outside intruders, namely humans. The leader/creator of the Enterites had his whole race exterminated by humans, so it's caution is not unjustified. The Enterites then retrieve the spaceship and take it below for examination. Opening the spaceship door required a password of some sort, and the robots eventually discover that the code is "Vengeance." They find no evidence of a crew except a small puddle of blood, which spreads a virus amongst the Enterites, leaving them to rust and die. This is the real "twist" of the story; machine kills man, man kills machine, the cycle complete. But as a bonus sort of twist, it is revealed that the creator/leader (Metameric) is the planet itself, and dies along with it's creations. I also like that the White Death itself is an organic lifeform, so perhaps it might one day evolve into something more than fungus, continuing the cycle.

With Terramecha, I wanted to loosely tell this story in two parts; Blood and Rust. Blood, which tells the first part of the story, would be about a lone spaceman who's spaceship has detected some sort of beacon in the far reaches of space. A lot of the music in my mind would be setting up the exposition, or just observations from the spaceman/spaceship's point of view. Perhaps a narration of what it would be like to be alone in space, while on a mission to find the source of the mysterious beacon. Another character in the first half of this story would be the spaceship itself, sort of a tribute to HAL from 2001, but with much different motives. For example, this spaceship would be "female," there to assist the lonely spaceman and help him with his mission. I feel she should be somewhat sexy too, in order not to take this project to seriously. I'm lousy at taking things too seriously anyways. Unlike her HAL counterpart, my female spaceship is attracted to the beacon, i.e. falling in love, whereas HAL was killing off his crew members in order to complete his mission. I'm not completely sure how I would convey this musically, and I don't necessarily want to do it blatantly, because I like the concept of the listener deciding for his/herself as to what the song might be about. I believe there's ways to use vocal samples from whatever sources (tv, radio, movies) to convey a loose idea as to what may be going on, but I haven't really thought about it much yet. Getting back to the story, the spaceman and his bodacious spaceship locate the source of the beacon, a dark Planet called Terramecha, and are subsequently "shot down" from space, where they crash and perish.

Part II, entitled Rust, begins much like in The White Death, where robots that inhabit Terramecha come to the surface and retrieve the space wreckage. Like Blood, a lot of the music on Rust will be a sort of observation of this world. What are these things (robots)? What do they do? What does the core of Terramecha look like? Who is their leader? I know you can't really show what these beings look like through music, but I hope to reveal that through visual art to accompany the album (I won't get into that now). Also, like The White Death, the robots will eventually search the fallen spaceship, find the blood puddle, spread it's disease, and rust out the whole planet, which is a giant robot itself. So yeah, in a nutshell, that's it!

I am now ready to continue (and hopefully finish) this project. Right now I have no plans with record labels or anything. I don't even know if that's the right way to go about it in this day and age. I would really like to release this thing on vinyl with a gatefold sleeve and some kickass art. Colored records (red for Blood, brown for Rust) and all that shit. My first two albums are quite collectible and worth a few bucks online, so I'd like to continue to make things that people would be proud to have in their collection. Obviously I'd like to do a cd release too. There's no doubt about it that people like to have a physical product that they can hold in their hands, with accompanying art that makes the whole album a meaningful experience. It's not like people are making any more money with digital sales, in fact it might be more difficult to be heard in this digital age, because it's harder for people to get intimate with your product. I'm by no means against digital sales and piracy for that matter. I'm glad at least someone is giving me a chance! But when I'm listening to a record where the whole album is great, and looking at the large, clear artwork on the gatefold sleeve, I am much more in touch with the music, and feel like I'm now in [insert band's name here] universe. Listening to an album should be like watching a movie. You devote all your attention to it, and listen to it as a whole. That's a fantastic experience you don't get from a lot of music these days, due to the desire for quick singles and money. I wont get into money right now. There's none to be made with what I do anyway, and I refuse to compromise my art, which is the sole thing on this planet that I have control of. I will need to raise money in some sort of fashion in order to have physical releases made and distributed, but I will talk about that at a later time.

So yeah, that's about it for now. Like I said, future posts will be more concise, and have samples and art. I will get into more technical details about Terramecha, including gear and techniques I'm using. I figure this blog format will help document the making of an album, and perhaps some things will be learned!

Thanks for reading! I welcome feedback and discussion on any of the topics above, as well as future posts. I'd really like to know what you think!


Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gel-Sol - Propulsion


Here's a little vid I whipped up last night using the extremely limited iMovie. This is the track Propulsion from the 2007 release Unifactor on Upstairs Recordings.

Yer Pal,
Gel-Sol