Saturday, 1 November 2014

What Mister Salmon Did And Didn't Do Recently

Mister Salmon iPodtrait
The short story:

He failed to complete not one album, but several.

I think it's better not to call them albums, but "projects". I will probably release some singles over the next year or so, because if each project is treated as an album in the old-school sense, it will take so long that death may well release me before I can release them. My projects are ways of categorising different kinds of ongoing musical work, and there are tracks near to completion in several categories:

Mister Salmon on the Nature Trail. The long-delayed second album. Mainly songs, addressing the idea of nature from different positions. Some titles may give clues: Curlew; Like Arcadia; A Creature; Men and Mice; Summer Stings; Planet Shows; Swamp Thing; Nature Trail.

Mister Salmon's Fireside Songbook. Personal and quite dark songs from and for the hearth of the real or metaphorical cabin on the hill. Sparser instrumentation and production. High-risk vocal exposure.
Mister Salmon Shakes the Wattle. Songs  with an intended political edge. Probably guitar-led, at least at the point of recording. High risk of unflattering "protest song" comparisons. Regarding the wattle: it's nothing to do with huts.

Mister Salmon Takes to the Road. Not a live album. Longer tracks about journeys away from home and back home. Quite a bit of krautrock influence/homage here. And a clue to my choice of performing name: life-cycles, doom, and all that.

Mister Salmon Stops Singing. Instrumentals, obviously.

The long story:

A second album was planned for release in late 2012. However, I don't like to release anything until I feel I have squeezed the very best out of the mixing and mastering process, and the mixes didn't pass my final test. The test consists of putting my own tracks into a playlist with twenty or thirty others I currently admire (for their musicality, impact, and technical production) and listening repeatedly. There were one or two things I felt I could address technically, but it meant rebuilding every mix.

In the time it took to do that, other people established families.

As each mix became clearer, weaker aspects of my musical performance were exposed, requiring some re-recording. Terrible struggles ensued: with vocals, with the mismatch between metronomic computer timing and live playing, with sampled drum sounds, and with the fact that there was usually way too much going on, almost everywhere, in every track.

Whilst all this was slowly happening, I initiated new tracks, which were not part of the planned album. New ideas occur (a good thing). Lyrics might be composed on a walk, with a hint of tune or manner of delivery, and if a recording isn't made almost immediately the spirit of the idea can easily evaporate, the precious few couplets be forgotten. Of course, if a recording is made, then I want to develop it, because it's new and exciting. So I do, instead of finishing what's started.

There are plenty of positive aspects to this drawn-out process. Dedicating many work sessions to the detail of the same ten or eleven mixes, month after month, may be necessary, but it also demands a particular kind of concentration which might not be the most vital aspect of music making. Stuck at the mixing coalface, it's important to constantly freshen the listening ear. I also find that starting new material is a preparation for letting go of any long-running project. Emotional commitment can be shifted to the new, lessening the angst of releasing what's done with, and exposing it to judgement.

Unlike a gigging musician who has to finish things in order to perform them, perhaps I over-indulge the freedom to get beyond my initial ideas. I edit and trim words to rhythms and time-frames. I try to find the elusive aural tweak or harmony that takes a recording beyond the obvious. Compositionally, I want to do all of it, and I do all of it, but my processes are laborious.

I also have to make a living, constantly fix up the place I live in, and (more recently) recover from a wee bit of surgery. But those are minor things.

I hope you can hear my new project/album one day. It's nearly done.