Bar room piano!

P1040963

Music feeds the imagination right? I’ve learnt this piece in my piano lessons and every time I play it I get the vision of some smokey raucous jazz/blues bar, with an old beat up piano that everyone is free to have a go on.  Its from the ABRSM Jazz Piano book, a version of Dizzy Gillespies “Birks Works” arranged by Pete Churchill.

When it came to record it, rather than keeping it clean I thought I’d try and get it sounding a bit like my vision! After a quick recording session I wandered into The Unicorn, a “traditional” pub filled with energetic boozehounds firmly rooted in the NQ. Bearing in mind it was Saturday afternoon it was quite lively as you may hear from the Tarzan noises! The footsteps and doors are added purely for dramatic effect.

Next up is the same song again! This time recorded on my 1980s Casiotone mere minutes before some guy came to collect it. I loved the sound of it but you can’t keep everything! I just thought I’d record a ‘final’ piece on it and here it is (a bit scrappy but not much choice as it was leaving the house!)

Finally, almost due to hit 3000 hits…. its only taken 2.5 years! Thanks to all the “lookers” :)

Uppermill (Saddleworth)

I finally had an opportunity to try a few long exposure shots with water after a short train journey to Uppermill, a nice little village in Saddleworth.  It seems all the rage at the moment and I really like the “other worldly” effect you can achieve.  I’ll be searching for some more locations for better composition, but here are first few attempts….

water3 Water1 water4

Urban Grime

During my short walk to work, as I edge round the corner into Thomas Street, I’m quite often greeted by a sunrise that almost deserves an applause.  Its always on my “to do” list to force myself out of bed on a weekend and be out early with my camera to capture the Northern Quarter in such a great early morning light.  This weekend….. I got up, emerged from my flat to a sky that resembled a dishcloth.  Then it started to snow on me.  Undeterred I wandered the streets anyway and took a few pics as the mist gradually descended, some things aren’t just meant to happen eh?  Typically I walked to work the next day and was greeted by a sunrise that could win awards…….

Enough of the moaning, the grim morning and deserted Northern Quarter streets were thoroughly enjoyable so I snapped away merrily trying to capture what I’ve titled here as the Urban Grime.  This area is scattered with bars filled with patrons sporting poetic beards and colourful tattoos, oozing a “vintage” vibe which clearly justifies adding £1 to the price of a beer, but alongside that are many abandoned buildings and dubious looking structures, each giving a hint of a time gone by.   Here is a bit of “Urban Grime” without a trendy bar in sight.  As I uploaded I soon realised I seem to have become obsessed with pictures of doors, no doubt behind each lies a wealth of stories and history.

To accompany the pics here is an quick improvised piece using an arpeggio and drum beat from my keyboard, but connected to my new analogue “Microbrute”.  This had the cool effect of the arpeggio triggering the minbrute which meant I could concentrate on warping the sounds throughout.  Press record, one hand on keys and the other twiddling dials and it was recorded.  A couple of edits to pan parts of the synth track and that was that.  Maybe a bit repetitive, but it all turned out rather dark and nasty.  Great.

EDIT Doorway2

An intriguing doorway on Thomas Street

EDIT Short Street

Suspiciously lurking in Short Street.

EDIT Doorway

Go on. Phone them.

EDIT Brixton

This shop is clearly mistaken as to where exactly they have set up their business

EDIT Back Turner

“We’ve been building something”.  Have you? Where?

EDIT Street Fog

Bleak

EDIT Thomas

Grime at its finest.

EDIT Tentacles

Mighty tentacles.

 

 

 

Lost (S.I.D.)

TRAM2

自傷行為荒廃

The tale of being……  well……. messed up.

The boring stuff: A track mere days after the last one? That’s right, in stark contrast to my last effort, yesterday this was turn on the gear and GO, write/play/record and mix in a few hours.  I’ve just added another track and re-mixed today, and in anti-perfectionist mode, that is how its staying.  Mainly using my new Arturia Microbrute (drums on a Roland TR-8) this is lots of dirty analogue noise, and a bit of frantic energy.  I have no idea why but I kept thinking of the classic 80s Sega game Space Harrier.  Megadrive on ebay anyone?

Welcome to 2015.

Thalassa

Wave

Time off work means being able to throw some noise into the internet, so here it is.

My last “batch” of recordings were predominantly electronic-sounding so I’m trying to explore fusing some more natural parts with dirty synth. This has been slow going and only has a couple of sections, but with very limited time its been a track of bass one week, followed by the drums the next etc. I will certainly have to pull my finger out if I’m going to get a third EP out sometime in 2015…..  For the music theory dorks, I’ve been messing around with ‘passing’ chords which is a technique to move from chord to chord by adding a bit of smokey jazz into the equation. As an example, rather than jumping straight from Gm to Cm, the in-between chord is Baug with a Db bass note. I use this technique a few times on this piece.

The pic? A warped photo of northern Fuerteventura with Lobos in the background……

Also here is a basic version of Clair De Lune I have been playing in my lessons.  Whilst much “easier” than the full version, getting it to sound smooth and ‘romantic’ is another matter (especially when you’re a “metal” drummer at heart) and I’m not there yet but here it is anyway.

 

2014 in review

The geeks at WordPress have created a “Year in Review” type thing for me – click on the picture below to see it.  Thanks to all those who have taken the time to look/listen and comment on my small corner of the internet.  Next year brings more piano practice, hopefully a new EP and surprisingly, a half marathon….. try running that far on 8 tentacles.

Tentacles

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 950 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 16 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Sombrero Sam (Piano Lesson)

The latest of my piano lesson pieces, but rather than use a piano sound, I split the keyboard into bass and electric piano (which I’m really enjoying the sound of at the moment even though its a bit “gritty”) and just went for it, along with the solo section.  Mistakes a’plenty but its being uploaded anyway.  I’m also learning a very trimmed down/basic version of Clair De Lune which I hope to record soon.  Whilst I know the piece, I’m not “familiar” with it, so Daria (piano teacher) played it to me at my last lesson.  Aside from the fantastic playing, it made me think how can anyone write that! Truly amazing and puts my usual throbs and squeaky electronic sounds firmly in their place.  I sometimes find it hard to strike a balance between listening to incredible music and taking it as inspiring, or making me want to quit as I can never be that good.  But onwards I shall go.

Learnt from ABRSM Jazz Piano Pieces Grade 3:

Sombrero Sam (Charles Lloyd arr. Will Micheal)

 

Some Noise and Blurred Pictures

This post does what it says on the tin – a few snippets of noise and blurred pictures for the Squidren of BoT followers.  First up a short snippet recorded direct onto my Korg Kross, so no mixing or editing, just play for a minute or so.  I’ve started using some of these chord progressions for my next “proper” piece so watch this space.

Idea

Next up is a FreeSynth Improvisation, which means a few mins of random wobs and thrubs from a Volca Keys.  I love the sounds you can extract from these, I just need to do something creative with it :) It can be strangely hypnotic hunched over a little analogue device squeezing out random noises.  Viktoria suggested I was communicating with Whales.  But she might have meant Wales.

As this post is a bit of a mash-up, I also started (yesterday) trying to do some long(ish) exposure photography which seems all the rage at the moment.  Camera in hand I wandered the streets of Manchester looking for things that were moving.  I’m too stingy to buy a tripod so also had to try and find some kind of flat surface to rest the camera on (which severely limited composition), or attempt to stand very still which is pretty much impossible…….  It was a learning experience, but I’m going to upload them anyway!

Buses

Alienesqe – I may admit to using Photoshop a little bit

Buses3

Guess the bus number

tram

Depressing shot, because its on my route to work!

drums

The drummer almost ended up not being in the picture if he’d moved any faster!

Incredibly I’ve also started running, and have set up a page on this blog dedicated to it.  Check it out HERE  I’m currently training for the Stafford Half Marathon which will be a “fun” challenge.

 

 

Secret Chiefs 3 / London

I took a trip down to our capital this week to watch the Secret Chiefs 3 during their three night residency at Corsica Studios. The band have multiple “sub-bands” focusing on different styles of music, so each night had a “different” band playing. I could only make two nights, so saw the UR / Xaphan combo plus the final night set of a mixture of various sub-bands / sounds.  It was fantastic.  They have a new (ish) drummer who is an incredible technical death-metal style player which has added a whole different vibe, great in most of the songs, but I did find it a but strange during some others.

Of course I took the opportunity to take some photos.  The venue was packed so it was difficult to get a good position and it took a lot of settings-juggling to even get any photos as i’m new to this style of photography.  It was a great learning experience and i’m a lot quicker with my settings now and understand the ISO/Shutter Speed/metering a lot more now…   Here are a few pics along with some others around London.

Timba Harris

Timba Harris.  He played a number of instruments throughout the night, violin, guitar (an Encore no less!), keyboard, trumpet and an egg shaker

Trey

Trey Spurance.  Band Leader.  Had unfortunately injured his foot on the tour so had to sit in a rather comfy looking office chair

SC3

The Chiefs in all their glory

Skateboard

Skateboarding next to the Thames

Rothko

I always try to get a Tate visit squeezed in on a visit to London.  This is part of a set of paintings by Mark Rothko.  I really like The Tate as I can wander round in awe firstly at the fantastic art on display, but secondly in amazement at some of the seemingly childish scribbles, or blank canvas’, or a couple of swirls 0n a piece of canvas (along with  the descriptions of what the swirl represents).  Some of it is utterly arty tat IMHO, but nevertheless it causes a reaction.  I’ll be talking about the black circle on a white piece of paper at the art museum in New York for far longer than the incredibly intricate painting of some historical figure.  I think some art has transcended its very purpose, with artists being almost able to get away with “anything” due to their reputation.

Shark

No trip to London is complete without a visit to the London Aquarium.  By far the best I have been to in any country.

jellyfish

The very essence of this blog.  The fantastic creatures lurking in the depths.

Cheesy 80s Keyboard Blues Sounds

I picked up a book from Oxfam recently, “Play it Again, Chester – Boogies, Rags and Blues for Piano”.  These are beginners pieces, so it was nice to be able to pick up a piece of music and learn it relatively quickly.  I’ve spent a bit of time during piano lessons on these too and have been meaning to record these for a while, but hadn’t got round to it.  What better to do on a bank holiday than waste some time recording on an 80s keyboard!  I took the old Casiotone 405 from the top of the wardrobe and recorded three of the pieces from the book.  I would hope it goes without saying that these are intentionally….. er……. crap sounding, with the old drums backing tracks.  I realise it may be difficult to tell the difference between these synth sounds and a real piano, electric guitar and organ :)

Merry Go Round

Here they are, cheesy tracks just for fun.  Play it again, Chester….. whoever you are.

Blue Waltz (Carol Barratt) 
Lazy Haze (Carol Barratt)
Navy Blues (Carol Barratt)

The keyboard they were recorded on:

Casio Polaroid

 

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