Sometimes one receives an odd gift, unassuming, but definitely with a mind of its own. I mean the kind of gift that has a weird way of sticking around through all your ‘stuff purges’ for its own inscrutable purposes. When such gifts finally find their time to flower into usefulness, it can be pretty humorously amazing. One says, “Oh…” And one’s heart finally speaks its silent, genuine ‘thank you’.
The Last Beach features the flowering of one such odd gift. My ‘Grandma Peterson’, my mom’s mom, gave it to about eight years ago, if memory serves me. (My memory also seems to often serve inscrutable ends of its own.) I was packing off to grad school in philosophy, to exist the existence of a bachelor Dionysian monk alone with the word. My Grandma Peterson is a rare sort of giver. Her giving is intricate and vast. It has a huge warm core that has kept me free to keep my studio gear and keep making music during several months of my life. Grandma Peterson’s giving also has a maze of back alleys around its surface and moons orbiting it. She has a way of chipping in quite peculiar odds and ends. To prepare me for my young man’s odyssey of the mind, she hatched the idea of chipping in… a set of big, shiny mixing bowls…
Hmmm… Since they were a gift from Grandma, I found them a most lovely place in my South Bend, Indiana cupboard–where they pretty much stayed for four years.
When I dove out of gradschool through the portal of my imploding fireball heart, those two bright, bulky bowls somehow surfed the stuff-crunching swells of chaos all the way to Austin with me. When I went Nomadic in 2010, without so much as a second thought for my kitchen stuff, that really seemed like it would have been the end of they and I. But when I limped back into Austin in May of 2013, a half-addled street fiddler with a station wagon full of owl feathers and tapestry, I received a text, “Hey, I still have these boxes of your stuff, should I ship them to you?” There the mixing bowls shined.
And boy did they shine all of a sudden. Of my arts during the Austin days, it wasn’t really music that had the most saving power for Gryph & I. It was pancake making. It seemed to have such magical mood-lifting powers. Berries, melted butter, vanilla, brown sugar balanced with salt–I got so into mixing batters that it began to blur into my more obviously sacred creative time.
So it was that I found myself glancing back and forth between those bowls and my favorite condenser mic.
“Neat!” I said. It was all in the movement of the bowl relative to the mic. I’ll show you in a sec…
After a little experimentation I found that the deeper bowl happened to sound an “e”, while the smaller one sounded at the “g” a 3rd above it. Guitar players out there, feel that excitement with me! And pretty soon I began finding movements that led to wobble.
I’m a child of the dubstep revolution, and, like many such children, I’ve been a little lost about where to go from there. I’m not sure just going back to making house music or drum and bass is a satisfactory answer for me. Somewhere along the line, I was possessed by the spirit that I see working on artists like Beardyman and Cocorosie. What I call that spirit is a need to derive that certain pulsing electric musical energy from a deeper well than synthesizers.
I’ve come of age among synthesizers, and I’ve loved them deeply, but the more I develop my ear, the more I sense a certain shallowness in the sound-pallet they create. It’s hard to say exactly what I mean. I’ll keep at it over time, and maybe the philosophers and theorists among you could help me. But it seems like when synths are layered on synths, at a certain point the layering stops creating depth; it all flattens out somehow. Of course that’s true of all layering, but I’ve noticed that the limit depth can be pushed deeper with certain types of sounds than with others.
On the other hand, though, synths create this freedom to move huge, strange energies in music, and I’d hate to have to create without that freedom. So I’ve set out seeking that freedom in acoustic sources. There are plenty of electronic sound generators whirring away behind the scenes of The Last Beach, and that’s as it should be. I loved them equally with my wooden instruments as that music was made. But in some of the last tracks recorded for that album lurked a glimpse of what comes next.
The Friend who helped me with this experimentation was Kendell again. When I showed him my first bowl experiment (https://soundcloud.com/dear-lioness/bowls), we both synced up on the thought, “Dude, we have our acoustic wobble… without filters or effects!”
“Now all we need is the right kick sound!” said Kendell. And that’s when I remembered the ten-foot length of pipe in his den and the story of The Rocket Launcher started. But first things first, the bowls. The sound is a lot more fun to listen to once one’s seen it made! So I invite interested consciousnesses among you to check out this session of Kendell & I’s. This is the one that shows the bowl most clearly.
I invite you to then take a trip back to “Saraswati” and “3+4=7″ on the last beach. I hope you’re amused by my obsession… “deep sound”… Is there anyone else out there pushing in a similar direction? Please show me!
Love & Light,