Crossing The River – When Albums Move From Product To Chapter

I’ve finally started work on mixing the rest of the recordings from the FingerPainting project. The existing recordings are from 2012-2013, all ten shows available as a download, a complete document of everything that Daniel Berkman, Artemis and I had played together up until that point. But we did another tour in 2014, and until this week, they’d remained untouched in my Reaper-recordings-vault. Too massive a venture to contemplate, especially after the absolutely mammoth task of mixing and mastering the first lot, which put a huge strain on the rest of my life for about four months in 2013. However, this week I decided to see what would happen if I mixed and mastered them really quickly – applied a much lighter touch than I did to the processing last time round – FingerPainting was right at the beginning of my journey with professional-quality mastering work, and the project taught me SO much. But it also took an extraordinary amount of time, as I worked on getting the perfect sound for every aspect. 

Since then, I’ve learned an awful lot about how to use Reaper and the various plug-ins that I use for mastering and mixing, and as such thought this would be a useful test for how quickly I can make all of this work.

Aside from just being surprised again by the remarkable sonic synergy between Daniel, Artemis and myself, it’s been so, so interesting to be mixing a bunch of recordings from before the big changes I’ve made to my instrument set-up over the last 3 years… Until summer 2015, I’d used the same FX processor for almost 20 years, my newest bass was almost 13 years old, my main (fretless) bass was almost 18 years old, and I *never* played anything other than bass… Fast forward and I’ve now got two new basses to add to the beauty of the old ones, have swapped my Lexicon out for the MOD Duo, and have – from the inspiration of Daniel Berkman and Divinity Roxx, added in all the percussive and keyboard-ish possibilities of the Quneo – it feels like listening to music from a different lifetime.

What’s fascinating, at least from this vantage point, is that you can follow that entire journey via my
Bandcamp subscription – click here for that –

I was commenting on Twitter today that there are times when it feels like none of my music really makes sense to me as standalone ‘albums‘ in the old product-based sense anymore… Each one is a lily-pad in this journey across a pond, a marker of where I’m up to, to be heard as part of that longer journey. A chapter in an ongoing documentary of my growth as a musician, improvisor and in this lifelong pursuit to soundtrack the world as I see it.

The Bandcamp subscription is the only way to properly engage with that, to get it all, to allow each of these releases to act as a marker… It’s also fine to have favourites and listen to them over and over again like normal people do – I definitely have favourite recordings, and bits that I return to more often that others! But that steady flow of newness, of music that picks up where the last thing left off… I’m reminded of the process we’ll have to go through to get Flapjack’s US passport replaced – we need two pictures a year to connect what he looked like when he was 6 months old and got his last one to what he looks like now. Each of these records is a passport photo, a little marker in the sand of how the picture has slowly changed from And Nothing But The Bass through the next 40-something records to where we are now.

I was trying to think if there was anyone else’s catalogue that I treat in the same way, and realised this is pretty much exactly how I listen to everything Miles Davis did from In A Silent Way on through the 70s – it’s quite possibly my favourite body of work by any artist ever, but I don’t actually have favourite albums, nor could I tell you what any of the tracks on any of the albums are called. I’ve never played along with any of it, transcribed it, and it wasn’t until I read a review of it recently that I realised how little trumpet was on Get Up With It. That entire world of music is one I dip in and out of like a stream, loving it all, experiencing it for the moment and moving on. I feel it on a deeply visceral and emotional level, but have never felt the need to intellectualise it at all… There’s something of that in the purpose of my own catalogue, though I wonder if anyone else is quite that dismissive of the metadata attached to it all! 🙂 I have a similar though slightly more conscious relationship with the work of Terje Rypdal. I can at least distinguish between his small group, larger band and orchestral works, but I still tend to treat the whole lot as a single body of work and enjoy it all immensely and without much sense of having favourites… I get to be intently focussed on the thing I’m listening to, but in my memory experience it as an addition to a catalogue of memories…

So, the invite is there, for properly cheaps, to join in and get it all. And I LOVE hearing from subscribers about their favourites, how they choose to listen to it all, or whether they just browse. It’s all good. They are the economic and spiritual lifeline that keeps it all going. Come and be one of us. It’s an amazing lil’ gang of music-sustainability-activists.

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