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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Some Musical Thoughts On 11 Reasons…

May 15th, 2011 · Comments Off on Some Musical Thoughts On 11 Reasons…

Each of my albums tends to have a different vibe to it, which often manifests itself in the way I use the technology at hand to make it happen… So here’s a few thoughts on how the looping part of the album played out. Half of this was written on the plane on the way over here, the rest, just now. :) Hit play now, so you can hear it while you’re reading… (and if you download it, you’ll also get the PDF that comes with it which has specific program notes for each track, as well as some further thoughts on the project as a whole)

It hadn’t really struck me until listening back to “11 Reasons” on the plane over here to the US that I’ve shifted away from ABAB form on this record.

Unlike on Behind Every Word (the title track and Scott Peck in particular), none of the tunes have a verse and a chorus. They all evolve and morph the way all my music did before I got the Looperlative.

What has changed to make possible this kind of ‘step forward into an old method’ is the degree of subtlety and complexity with which I can manipulate multiple unsynced loops of different lengths – there’s a LOT of that going on on this album, whether in the big ambient passages or while playing with multiple melodic lines and post processing them in real time (and, in some instances, adding some filter-delay afterwards – the privilege of having multiple outputs on the looperlative, and therefor being able to mix things quite specifically once they’ve been recorded). I’m also using more and more synced loops of different lengths (multiples of whatever the original loop is – Travelling North is a prime example)

It’s interesting for me to note this unconscious shift back to the evolutionary model rather than the more traditional “Lamarckist” jumping back and forth between distinct sections. Perhaps in noting the change, I’m setting myself up to do a project of highly complex multiple section loop tunes … you heard the rumour here first :)

Tags: Musing on Music

Musicians Who Use Looping: A Beginner’s Guide.

October 31st, 2010 · 4 Comments

As you’re no doubt more than well aware, the whole process of real time looping is essential to the way I make music, whether it be live or in the studio, solo or collaborating – it’s a very long time since I last did a gig that didn’t have some element of looping in it. Certainly, one listen to my latest solo live album shows that – this is entirely live, there’s nothing added here, just the gig… (click the ‘buy’ button below to download the album and pay whatever you think it’s worth for it)

[Jan 2014 edit] And my latest project, FingerPainting is a duo (and sometimes a trio) that relies on multiple musicians looping at once and sometimes looping each other! Every note that Daniel Berkman and I have ever played together has been released – check it out in the sidebar there, or get all 10 shows for just £10 here.

The basic idea is this – a looper is an effect that allows the musician to record what they are playing and then loop it while they play over the top. Almost all looping devices allow you to do multiple layers on that loop, and some of them allow you to do fun things to the loop once it’s recorded – reverse it, slow it down, speed it up, stop it, restart it, remove some or all of the layers… [Read more →]

Tags: Musing on Music

And Nothing But The Bass Is 10 Years Old Today.

August 25th, 2010 · 6 Comments

10 years ago today, I received a shipment of CDs from ICC duplication, to the Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham – it was my first solo album, And Nothing But The Bass, and the start of my solo recording career.

Here it is – please download it for free:

10 years on, and I’m less than 24 hours into the life of a brand new album, Slow Food, with Trip Wamsley. It’s been such an amazing journey, not least of all because what seemed like such a weird thing to do back then – to me and to everyone else – is now so normal. The internet is awash with people experimenting with solo bass, and looping crops up everywhere from coffee-shops to the top of the charts.

The gimmick potential diminished many years ago, for which I’m most grateful. It let me get on with making the music that mattered to me, via the method that made most sense.

Solo bass was never a circus trick for me.
I was never interested in looping as a way of showing how clever I could be.
It was a way of me getting the music inside my head out to the world.
I hear things in layers, I hear evolving texture not rock drums and last-chorus-key-changes.

The template is still much the same. I’m just much better at it. The vision is more refined, the tech is better (thank the baby Jesus for Bob Amstadt and the Looperlative) and yes, I’m orders of magnitude more developed as a musician – technically, theoretically, conceptually, melodically… I just make better music happen. At least, I make music happen that is ever-closer to the soundtrack to the inside of my head. And I’m still loving it.

I’m loving the collaborations this has all led me to – the albums with Jez Carr, Theo Travis, Lawson Dodds Wood, Mike Outram and now Trip Wamsley. The gigs with Lobelia, Michael Manring, BJ Cole, Cleveland Watkiss, Julie McKee… The myriad incredible musical moments of the Recycle Collective at Darbucka, The Vortex and Greenbelt.

And I’m grateful to every journalist that’s ever taken the time to listen to and write about the music, every radio DJ that’s ever played it, and every person who has played a CD to their friends and said ‘check this out’, or emailed them a link, burned a CDR for them, emailed them some tracks. It’s all great, and I thank you for it.

So, 10 years on, here’s the new album: Have a listen, enjoy, pay whatever you think its worth. For me, the last 10 years have been priceless.

Tags: Music News · Musing on Music

Two More Contrasting Solo Bass Experiment Videos.

June 1st, 2009 · Comments Off on Two More Contrasting Solo Bass Experiment Videos.

Since Saturday’s upload, I’ve put 2 more videos on Vimeo for your delectation and delight, which contrast the different ways that the Looperlative can be used to either simply provide a loop for a piece of music, or be integral to the way it’s created, and the sound that emerges.

I’m fascinated by the relationship between technology and end result, and by the methods that we as musicians can use to keep our own technical thoughts and experiments subservient to the greater artistic and communicative aims… [Read more →]

Tags: bass ideas · looping · Music News

New Ambient Music Video

May 31st, 2009 · Comments Off on New Ambient Music Video

Having had the aforementioned week away from playing, I sat down yesterday to do some bass-things. I started out on my fretted 6 string bass, and couldn’t really find anything that was particularly interesting to me (though that may feel very different when I go back to watch the video!), but once I switched to the fretless, things got a lot more fun.
This first video is actually the second one I recorded yesterday, and starts out pretty spacey and mellow. There a big healthy dose of fretless melody stuff in the middle – just exploring the emotional landscape of the underlying loops (which are three overlapping loops of different lengths, so the texture keeps shifting, along with the subtle changes in the harmony as the different parts of the three loops coincide to form new chords). [Read more →]

Tags: looping · Music News

Two Contrasting New Musical Experiments (Video)

May 9th, 2009 · Comments Off on Two Contrasting New Musical Experiments (Video)

photo of a painting from the Urban Scrawl exhibition in London, April 09Here’s the two latest bits of ‘public beta test music’ that I’ve put up online.

They contrast a couple of different possible uses of the functions I’ve been exploring on the Looperlative of late – the first being using the replace functions as an ancillary bleepy effect in an otherwise mellow ballad, and the second being a full-on rhythmic bleep-fest, that veers much closer to glitch-core (though the fact that my rhythmic reference point is just a fairly slow ‘four on the floor’ kick-drum style pattern is a little less interesting than you’d expect from something more obviously IDM…) [Read more →]

Tags: looping · Music News

Two More Musical Experiments… And a Podcast.

May 6th, 2009 · Comments Off on Two More Musical Experiments… And a Podcast.

photo of an omlette - in now way connected to the contents of the blog post.It’s been another very creative day – after the video that I put up this morning, I got working again on some more musical experiments using the looperlative with the new buttons that I’ve programmed.

Each day that I experiment with these glitchy replace functions, it feels like I’m getting closer them being ‘musically transparent’ – where the music is bigger than the technique… I’m trying to get so comfortable with the tech that I can employ it while focussing on the music.

[Read more →]

Tags: looping · Music News

More New Music: Video of a Looperlative Glitchy Bluesy Electronica Experiment

May 6th, 2009 · Comments Off on More New Music: Video of a Looperlative Glitchy Bluesy Electronica Experiment

screen grab of the Vimeo page for the video embedded in this blog post at stevelawson.netHere’s another new ‘public beta’ video – this time, I’m experimenting with some new functions that’ve just been added to the Looperlative LP1. (that’s the looping device I use…)

The new tricks are around the idea of ‘replacing‘ bits of a loop, with other audio, giving it a chopped up, glitchy feel. The main effect I’m using is a ‘quantise replace‘ function, that replaces bits, but switches on on and off on the beat, so when I hit the button it waits for the next exact subdivision of the loop (in this case, 1/96th of the whole loop time) before doing anything, and again to switch off again. [Read more →]

Tags: looping · Music News

More New Music: Cruising Towards a New Album…

April 27th, 2009 · Comments Off on More New Music: Cruising Towards a New Album…

Photo of Steve Lawson's feet, operating a looperlative, at a Recycle Collective gig. Photo taken by Steve BrownI’m finally making some headway on ideas for a new solo album (or whatever a collection of music that used to be called an album is now called). I’m still not sure whether it’s going to be all completely solo, have a few special guests, be all collaborative, or what, but at least some musical ideas are happening.

I had another go at the new tune I posted on Youtube a couple of weeks ago, at the gig in Edinburgh last weekend. This new version is a lot faster (not sure that’s a good thing) and has a nice little loop/delay thing going with the melody about half way through, and then an improv section at the end where the main loop disappears, a bit of the tune continues and a few other interesting things happen around it – so here’s the 0.2b public beta version, on youtube: [Read more →]

Tags: looping · Music News · New Music Strategies

More new music – Youtube video of a brand new tune.

April 12th, 2009 · Comments Off on More new music – Youtube video of a brand new tune.

photo of the bed of the thames, taken from a pothole in a boat near Tower BridgeAfter the new tune I posted on Audioboo a few days ago, I’ve got the bug for uploading new tunes. Hopefully it’ll finally kick me into action to make some decisions about the kind of record (or whatever passes for a ‘record’ these days :) ) I want to make.
[Read more →]

Tags: bass ideas · Gig stuff · looping · Music News · Musing on Music