Between 2002 & 2006 I completed five separate album-length projects for (then) Bruce Adams (& now) Joel Leoschke's Kranky, a label that I had already formulated a major crush on due to early releases by Labradford, Stars of the Lid, Roy Montgomery, and Dadamah. This body of work remains at the core of my musical personality, perhaps wearing its influences too readily on the sleeves of a series of waistcoats of varying complexity, but I'm forever indebted to these guys for asking in the first place, and for getting these particular records of challenging music out into the world in such a thorough and thoughtful way.
All five have just been added to the Bandcamp platform, where I maintain an artist page despite a somewhat disastrous experiment in airing a bunch of my primordial dirty laundry over the past few years - it did not meet expectations in the way of interest and has since all been taken down - but there's no reason that my proper, commercial releases over the years can't be made available for purchase in both physical & downloadable form. I do like the platform, and it has become the rare late capitalist success story in that it actually benefits end-users & creators alike. Plus I cry-tweeted that the 600mb file limitation was stifling & they raised it to 2gb, which rules.
We're squarely at the 15 year anniversary of "Playthroughs'" release, which I revisited a few months back for a commemorative concert at l'Auditori in Barcelona, reviving the old patches & frameworks. I'd like to take a moment to outline at least what was - and is - going through my head regarding these records, in hopes of finding a new audience for them. Titles link to the respective pages on Bandcamp, trivia and inside baseball maneuvers galore; enjoy!
"Playthroughs" (KRANK-055, October 2002)
Released literally the same day as the Hrvatski "Swarm & Dither" collection, this record was the result of a three-year process of building a standalone performance & recording setup in Cycling '74's Max-MSP. Based around a the idea of using the subtle tuning inconsistencies of an electric guitar to synthesize sine-tones into a swarm of nested, mathematically aligned delays, it grew in complexity & scope until reaching maturity in late 2001, when the majority of the recordings here were made. Three long takes of real-time, improvised guitar-computer music, recorded direct to hard drive via Max's "Quickies" patch, are cut with two multi-tracked pieces using layers of Feedback and Time-stretched Acoustic Guitar strums, respectively. If I had to pick one piece of my music to be played at my funeral, it would be "Modena", captured late at night, again, in a single, unedited take using only the pictured Italia "Modena" model on back cover. I made a video for it & everything:
Trivia: the misplaced "L" on the cover was, in fact, a mistake on behalf of Kranky's art director. It's not visible on the later, licensed Japanese P-Vine edition of the disc, which also includes an extended live "Playthrough" recorded at Lilli's in Somerville, MA that year.
"Antithesis" (KRANK-064. April 2004)
2003 became a solid year of touring, increasingly more the "Playthroughs" material, and increasingly less the Hrvatski work; I ultimately gave up on the latter. The success - and it's hard to understate this now, considering the current reality of physical releases - of "Playthroughs" had me scrambling to assemble a follow-up, and the idea of doing two vinyl-only releases was proposed, then seized upon. "Antithesis" largely covers a series of pieces recorded at the tail-end of my undergraduate studies at Berklee. This was a period when I was HEAVILY investigating American "New Music" scenes from the 60s, 70s. & 80s, very deep into the New York School of composers, Fluxus, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, early Minimalism, New Age, the Cold Blue Music scene, etc. Seeing Tony Conrad perform around then was a real lightning bolt for me, his influence clearly evident in both "Twin Guitar Rhodes Viola Drone" & "Rhodes Viola Multiple" - "Obelisk" came out of my infatuation with the early Sound Poetry scene; the caveman drums were likely a remnant sensibility from getting deep into the whole post-Broken Flag & 90s Bristol scenes. "Schnee" was recorded much later for a friend's documentary film, which apparently has been shown a few times with this as a soundtrack; I've never seen it!
Trivia; the entire art-spec is modeled after one of Tod Dockstader's Owl-label "Quatermass" LP. Jim "Ning Nong" Siegel, later of Raspberry Bulbs fame, both took the absurdly apropos cover shot & played drums on "Schöner Flußengel". I later learned that I had broken a key Kranky tenet by putting a portrait - or any photo of a person - on the record. The same exact image was later used in the artwork of Matmos' "Civil War".
"Schöner Flußengel" (KRANK-071, October 2004)
SF had its roots in a series of recordings made between 1997 & 2003 in the oft-flooded basement studio I kept in a shared house in Somerville, MA, pictured on the rear cover of "Playthroughs". I started working as a Sales Manager for Forced Exposure at the beginning of this run, and the daily intake of obscure Psych & Experimental Music definitely made an indelible mark. Modeled after Fille Qui Mousse, Agitation Free, Älgarnas Trädgård, Günter Schickert, Achim Reichel, etc. it was originally slated to be a specifically Krautrock-themed Hrvatski release for Mike Martinez' Deluxe label (working title: "Hrvatski '73") but shifted away from beat-focused motorik into more of an Electro-Acoustic direction. Despite "Weiter's" clear C/K-luster worship, I'm still proud of much of this.
Trivia: the "Digital" version of "Lixus" was recorded in one take via the same Max-MSP patch I was using to perform the Hrvatski material; I still don't know how I did it! The individual guitar parts were then lined up & turned into the "Analogue" version w/ Jim's drumming.
"Multiples" (KRANK-081, May 2005)
The direct result from a pair of informal residencies at Harvard's Studio for Electro-Acoustic Composition and the MIT Media Lab, the pieces on "Multiples" showed a clear love of both Minimalism & the self-automating Modular Synthesizer patch. Most don't realize that I actually avoided using Synthesizers for the majority of my early career, but sitting in the HUSEAC with Serge Tcherepnin's original '73 paperface prototype, it was instant love. To Kranky's credit; the opening sequence is easily one of the most challenging segments of anything I've released, and was never questioned.
Trivia: to this day, this is probably the sole record that I designed myself that I'm happy with; of course realizing my limitations in this department. After a long email exchange & a trading of releases, Tod Dockstader said some very nice words about both the layout & the music, which meant everything.
"(Recorded in) Lisbon" (KRANK-092, March 2006)
A single, monolithic "Playthrough" performed at Lisbon's Ze Dos Bois on a bill with Oval, Rafael Toral, Icarus, and many others, this was the peak of the live "Playthroughs" attempts. Using un-amplified electric guitar through a series of pedals directly into Max-MSP, along with recordings of the Serge & a few battery-powered synthesizers. Getting a thumbs-up from Rafael was huge, then & now he's one of my favorite musicians.
Trivia: after this concert, I took a few years off from serious touring & eventually started performing music again locally on Modular Synthesizers. I didn't release another, proper studio record until 2010's "Disingenuity B/W Disingenuousness" for PAN. Joel at Kranky, to this day, has reserved four mid-100s catalogue numbers for a series of vinyl-only releases of material from this era, which were waylaid when my laptop, freshly containing all of the mastered audio & design, was stolen off the stage between soundcheck & a performance at Paradiso in Amsterdam.