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,

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,

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,

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,

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,