I want to make an honest sound
I want the sound to be the truth
I want the truth a sudden sense
Like nothing sensible before it
This is kind of like my anthem. This wraps me up in a fit bag. Not sure if I always achieve this but it is always in my head - make it honest and true. I think the truth when expressed right can hit and hurt. But when you fall over, there is realization.
The gift of an accordion from Tim was obviously a big influence on this recording - if he had only gifted me lessons.....
I want to make an honest sound
Labels: "In the Analog Woods"
I lived in the analog woods. Well actually, among the analog trees. The original name of this was "In the Analog Trees", but then I found some references that made me believe that tape traders and jam bands already took possession of that term (although now it is strangely absent from Google). Anyway, I wound up liking the name I chose better. The idea of this EP was to dust off some old tracks I had written but never recorded a good version of (if at all). I was longing for the days of the Tascam 4-track aesthetic, loose and more restrictive and a grittier sound than I was getting using digital recording. So I got to work, in the analog woods, in a minor studio in the attic of an 18th century ice house turned gardeners cottage I had the honor of living in.
There were also some rules I came up with. Conceptual art had been a pursuit of mine since I first heard about it at art school and specifically using a system to create art by faithfully adhering to rules, regardless of outcome. Now my rules were pretty loose for this project but I still felt obliged to abide by them.
Rule 1: Use only 4 tracks
Rule 2: Use only acoustic instruments
Rule 3: Use any combination of banjo, acoustic guitar, accordion, and voice
For better or worse, that was how it went. I also had goals. I did not want to self release this one. I saw this label Keep Recordings (now defunct...I don't think I had anything to do with that) that was doing great limited edition discs with excellent packaging. We chatted, we agreed to the release in an edition of 100. And what do you know, it sold out! What an exciting time for BMR.
Labels: "In the Analog Woods"
Don't let this song fool you, I don't know anything about boxing, AKA "The Sweet Science". But this song was the kernel that led to naming a record "A Sweet Science". Perhaps it was an understanding that the concept of me singing about boxing was absurd, I mean COMPLETELY unbelievable, that led me to leave this one off the record. There is some pretty funny stuff going on here and it has only ever been heard by friends and family.
By the way, greetings to all elbow.ws referrals, a pleasure to have you poking around.
Please let me know your enjoying this pursuit and leave me some notes. As the songs get more recent, I am finding it harder to get to the bottom of them. That is weird to me.
Wrapping up the album we have a song that was originally titled "This Old Occupation Blues". I thought it sounded sexier with "thistle" to further abstract name. The song is pretty abstract too. Just a collection of snippets and a drawers full of lost bits. There was triumph in the completion of this record and it is felt in the way it closes. Eventually layers are added to make thickness. A haze of sound. Tim went all out smashing the cymbals. I wanted a marching band, a crazed trumpeter and a man on stilts - they never showed up. What we wound up with was a fine replacement.
The sky is bare
The birds won't scare
The blankest stare
(blog note: up next we have a heretofore unheard bonus song. It is the song about my thin knowledge of boxing, called "The Sweet Science". Then we get to the EP, In the Analog Woods.)
I took a taste of it, now there is nothing left
I took a taste, should have been called my theft
Loosely, just loosely about the death of Jeff Buckley. More tightly about indecision and regretful choices. I loved the idea of a group of friends at the movies shouting out at the screen. Not to be rude but just to express what cannot be expressed any other way. There is a youthful shine to that image. Somehow it makes me thing of being eighteen and leaving the theater with my friends after watching Val Kilmer play Jim Morrison. It was raining, we were eighteen, we ran around the parking lot like madmen.
Resting on a neighbors lawn, these lessons just go on and on...
One of the reviews for A Sweet Science basically told be to lighten up. You know, throw some humor in here and there. In my imagined response to that review, I wrote to the author, "This is real & life is not funny." What I took from that review was that sometimes people don't want to listen to the truth, sometimes it can be painful. And in the end, who cares.
At first, this song was a country waltz. But when it came time to record, the presence of David Curry and his viola suggested doing it spare. To me it made for a more powerful read in the end. I do believe we recorded it live. It is stark and I am glad for it.
(First, a welcome to Said the Gramophone readers. There is lots of music in the archive, so please stay a while.)
On my way to and from work, I used to walk through the Boston Public Gardens. There was plenty of inspiration to be had there. At dusk you could see the rats scurry down the walk in front of you like filthy shadows. In the morning there would be Asian men doing tai chi in the new sun and homeless men stashing their blankets in the trees. Of course, come Spring, there were the swan boats. There were real swans too and from far away they looked like they were molded out of plastic.
This feels like a love song to me and it might be the closest thing I have to one. It is certainly one of kind tolerance for imperfect me:
I am my father's son, I like a beer when I'm thirsty
You put up with the worst me
Sonically this song is somewhat inspired by the Velvet Underground - but man is it slow. The vocals are right in your ear and they let you in on something. The bleating sax lines were breathed by Michael K. He did about 30 minutes of improv and Tim recorded it. A month later we cut it down and rearranged it to fit into the parts you hear. He did not know it, but he played just the right thing. This is one of my favorite bits on the record.
Phrase coinage has always been an interest of mine. The first time I heard the term trackless trolley I needed it. In the Boston area, a few towns still run trackless trolleys. They run on the road with an extended arm connecting to the electric lines above. They make sparking sounds, and make the streets feel like old time Boston. I never heard of these units being referred to as trackless trolleys until I started commuting to Boston every day for work.
And that is where we pick up this story. On the subway - the T. Each day was unique but exactly identical. In the AM it smelled of shampoo, fresh toothpaste and urban muck. In the evening, the fragrance was less separate and more of a homogenization of every riders travels.
These streets always look the same
Watch the puddles drain
Production note: Tim did an amazing job on the recording and of banging those drums wildly during the instrumental break. Also David Curry astounded me with his churning viola solo.
p.s. On the topic of coined phrases. A Trackless trolley is not in usage anywhere but in my mind. However, I must confess that now and then I use this term, as if it is in popular usage. In fact, I used it at work recently in conversation with my boss. It just slipped out and for a moment I did not know if I made up that usage or if it was a known term. My boss did not seem visibly confused. I can only hope from the context, he got the meaning and will be inserting it into his own lexicon of euphemisms.
...but what I have, is something I can't grasp.
A dreary lament which fumbles into thanks-giving. I get caught up sometimes. I guess we all do; but I get caught up in the negative (in case you haven't noticed) and this is me remembering that it is not what you don't have but what you've got that gets you through the day. The twist here is that I know I've got something but I have no handle on what it truly is or what it means. But it does not mean I am not thankful.
This is the worst vacation ever...
I mistakingly called Beach Street Blues the oldest song on this album. I just now remembered that Automatic Action is. I dug this one up, out of an old sketch book from college. Must have been in 1997, when I was living in a small second floor apartment in a sleepy tourist town. In the Winter I could see the ocean from the front window, I loved that. I think there is a lot of that town in this song. Things went sour for me up in that apartment and there is veiled truth in here. There is also years worth of personal observations: a good friend riding the bus to San Diego, drunk college associates, getting my long hair cut short, closing my eyes to suffer through another migraine. But in the end is the realization that just because you live in a tourist town it does not mean you are a tourist.
Back on Beach Street, this is too real. No more man, the Beach Street Blues
This is a tough one. I had just heard that a childhood friend of mine, one who lived three streets away from where I grew up, crashed his motorcycle into a tree and died. Trying to come to terms with his death sprouted this song. What is the difference? Sixty or ten times six. Another way to say the same thing: dead is dead.
As time went on I separated that event from the song. Not too hard to do, the street name is wrong, the facts are so abstract, no names are mentioned. So now, it is actually painful to re-associate the two. How I wish I didn't.
Production notes: TW plays keyboards on this. We had a blast getting sounds right for his parts. I programmed Dr. Rhythm for the "drums" on the full track, which was the first and last time I would do that. Also of note is that this is the oldest song on the record. The basics were recorded at the same time that This Thick World was done, in the ever fruitful attic apartment.