As I’ve spoken about before, I’ve had a fair amount of trouble finishing albums recently. I am very happy to announce that this is no longer the case, and that the wealth of material recorded between the start of 2018 and the start of 2021 is all organised and ready to go. They will form a very loose trilogy of Enofa albums, connected by time of recording, the kaleidoscopic range of styles on each album, and general themes of town and country: these are albums inspired by places I’ve been in my life, rather than imaginary landscapes or romanticised pastoral imagery. The first, All Roads Lead to Polesworth, is out on 5th March on Third Kind (who previously released Seltrac). The second, Ancient Brickwork / Botanical Gardens, will follow a month or so later on New Motion (who previously released Holosphere). The final album is called Underwater Infrastructure, and label details are to follow.
The relief at getting these complete has been enormous, and the completion of the second inherently led to the completion of the third: once I realised that I had the material to make these hugely varied but narratively consistent albums, it all fell into place. You’ll find jungle next to acoustic guitar ambient next to acid techno next to abstract sound collage, and accepting that the albums would be so varied put my mind at peace.
Elsewhere, there are collaborative projects waiting to be released, which I’m hoping will be around at the end of the year. First is an album by Vast Sound Enclosure Project, an ambient techno/IDM project with my long-time collaborator and friend Tim Dwyer, aka Off Land. The fifth Winter of the World album is also complete, entitled Yindeed River, and we’re pitching that to labels right now. The sixth is about two-thirds complete, and will tie up pretty much every listenable morsel in my catalogue. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I now have no electronic material lying around without a suitable home. It’s a blank slate.
And I’m using this opportunity to finally get to work on new Curse of Kevin Carter songs. I have a notebook full of lyric ideas and I’m hoping to get writing in the coming weeks, with a plan to start work on an album in the spring. I’m currently planning to re-record a handful of my favourite tracks I’ve already released lo-fi versions of, as well as these new songs, and get them all recorded and mixed in a much more polished fashion, with the hope of one day in the not-too-distant future (Covid permitting) expanding the project into a proper band that plays some shows and things. It’s something I’ve been planning for 12 years so it’d be nice to actually get around to.
I just got an exercise bike and am hoping to get my body back into better shape over what I’m hoping will be the final months of lockdown. There’s not too much else to report at the minute. Currently listening through a lot of interesting ECM albums, as well as excellent new releases by Lande Hekt and Illuvia.
It’s the two albums I released this year and what they look like. I: Musically. When an artist releases an album that is hugely acclaimed, the idea of coming up with a follow-up can be understandably daunting. Turns out this is true for small artists as well as well known ones. My first Enofa album, 2018’s Arboretum, took me by surprise in terms of how well received it was: all 100 copies sold out in a couple of days, it got uniformly great reviews, and ended up on a number of end-of-year lists. Throw in the fact that it was creatively satisfying and, on a technical level, probably my best made album to date, and it was an all-round success.
And then I had no idea what to do next. Between mid-2018 – before it was even released – and early this year, I recorded a LOT of music. Something like six or seven albums’ worth. A number of potential albums were put together out of this material – Skymusyk, The First Day, Großglockner, Skymusyk (a different album), Mono Music, Ellyten, Fluvial Lake, and at least one that never received a title – but ultimately none of them were good enough. Or maybe they were? They didn’t feel like it at the time, at least.
I spent a lot of this year trying to work out what the fuck to do with all this material. Some tracks were ripped apart, and used as the basis for collaborative projects. Others were scrapped. The remaining tracks eventually formed the basis of two albums. The first was called Nerra Ninna Noak, and is pictured above in two CD editions. Despite being released on the same label as Arboretum, and being stylistically similar, it failed to reach the same level of interest as that album. There’s a lesson: never try to repeat the past! It’s got some lovely material on, but to me it feels like what it is: a desperate attempt to fashion an album together when there isn’t enough suitable material. A second album from these sessions, entitled All Roads Lead to Polesworth, will be out next year on Third Kind. It’s all over the place, but at least I really like every track on it!
My other 2020 album was created separately from the rest of it, over a period of a fortnight, when I just sat down with a bunch of samples and knocked a load of stuff out. The best tracks made a great little 38 minute record called Paxanimi. It reminded me that spontaneity is a huge part of my own creativity, and the lack of it played a huge part in the mess that was those two years of constant dead ends.
So in the new year I’m going to start work on the fifth Enofa album, with a certain renewed, refreshed mindset. I don’t have any concrete plans and will let my creativity take me where it wants to go, but I am hoping to make it sound a little more personal than a lot of what I’ve been making lately. Hopefully you’ll be able to hear at least some of that at some point in 2021.
II: Personally. I won’t deny that it’s been a tough year. The original plans of getting my life back on track – starting to look at moving away and living something resembling a normal life – have obviously been put on hold. It’s a reminder that relying on future plans is inherently daft as 99% of everything that happens to you is out of your control. Still, being forced to stay here was initially utterly devestating. My mental health has gone up and down a lot since then, but despite currently wading through a bout of autistic burnout, I have lately been able to work out some necessary changes that I plan on putting into action in the new year.
I quite like the idea of New Year as a celebration – some people say it’s pointless, but given that so much of our life revolves around the calendar, to me it has a lot more relevance to contemporary life than most holidays – but I’ll be the first to admit that the reason most resolutions go to pot is that people tend to make them because of the time of year, rather than because they have the real desire to change (why put off until tomorrow etc.) That said, the festive period came about as I decided on my changes, so following Christmas, Lucy’s birthday and NYE, new year seems like a wise time to make changes to diet, lifestyle and routine.
I’m overweight. I don’t want to be. Since my weight has risen noticably in the past couple of years, I’ve noticed far more physical problems: aches and pains, stomach problems, generally feeling less fit, a rise in my cholesterol, early symptoms that suggest I could end up diabetic without lifestyle changes. So I’m going to be doing more exercise and eating better. I know can do both of these things because I’ve done them before. So I can do them again. I’m also going to drink less. Not only because of the health benefits, but also because when I drink every I stop actually enjoying the beer and realise I’m just doing it out of habit.
My health will also be helped by changes to overall lifestyle and routine. I stay up too late, while I know that getting up early and taking Rosey out for a long walk always sets my day off to a great start. I spend too much time online, I spend music-making time doing stressful things (scouring for samples, clicking buttons at my computer) rather than playing music for the fun of it. I ALWAYS HAVE TOO MANY THINGS ON THE GO. TV shows I’m watching, albums I’m trying to get into, albums I’m making, books I’m reading, etc., etc., etc. Simplifying my time at home will not only help me keep a clear head and improve my mental health, but it will allow me to spend more time outdoors without worrying about all the things on my mental checklists I could be doing if I stayed at home.
And, expanding on that, I need to buy less music. I’ve said, for several years now, that I reached Peak Music a while ago and no longer feel able to take in everything I try and get into, and this year that’s been worse than ever. There’s not enough time in the year to listen to all the albums I already own, let alone get several new albums a week. I spend so much time and effort these days trying to find new electronic music that I end up listening to five or six times before admitting to myself that it doesn’t do much for me. The number of new electronic artists I’ve got into in the last ten years is about four or five, and all my searching is basically FOMO. I’ll still keep half an ear open for new indie and pop stuff, but frankly I’m a fan of enough active artists to keep me in music for a year as it is. Again, it’s time to slow down. Music should be something I listen to to enjoy, not a cultural race to see how many new and ‘relevant’ artists I can check off in a year.
Maybe because it’s my favourite time of year, but I always do end each year in a really positive frame of mind for the coming twelve months. This time, I think that, were it not for Covid (damn – there was me thinking I could get through this without saying the ‘c’ word!), many of those positives for 2020 would have come around. So here’s to 2021. Maybe in 12 months time I’ll be healthier and happier and moving forward with my life in a more positive way!
Paxanimi came out a couple of months ago and has pretty much sold out, I only have a couple of copies myself and the label are all out. Everyone seems to be enjoying it a lot, which is great!
Interestingly, the album is the only collection that’s come purpose-made since I completed Arboretum and Melkur in early 2018. Since then I’ve been working on a lot of material – somewhere in the region of ten hours of stuff has been recorded – but have struggled to work it into any sort of album shape. The first work that came out of this batch was Nerra Ninna Noak, which ties together a particular ambient sound that some of the pieces had. After that, I kept playing around with the remaining tracks, never quite working them into a coherent record. It doesn’t help that the batch of work ranged from jungle to techno to drone and just about everything in between, often with no more than two or three tracks in the same style. In the end, a lot of the material has been repurposed, reworked and remixed and folded into a couple of collaborative projects, including a new Winter of the World album.
A bulk of the remaining material has finally been condensed into an actual album. It’s intentionally very diverse, almost incoherent in style: as there was no way of making a stylistically cohesive album, I’ve instead focused on going the opposite direction and making an all-over-the-place album instead. It’s called All Roads Lead to Polesworth and the tracklisting runs like this: 1. Anti-Entropic Chamber 2. Humbridge 3. Four-Fifths of a Painted Lady 4. 761,200 Horse Town (1994 Version) 5. Don’t Fall Asleep 6. Disintegration Disposition 7. Who’s Got the Houses? 8. The Reappearance of the Disappearing Nail: Part 2 9. Army Itchpit 10. Seaverb 11. Hibernaculum Acid 12. The Boy Who Cried Emergency Exit 13. Foxes Eating Discarded Dog Food 14. Sornpipe 15. The Lost Domain 16. Night Furrow
It’ll be released next year on Third Kind, who put out Seltrac a few years ago. More news on that soon.
Since I compiled that album a couple of months ago, I’ve begun working on new material. It was actually going quite well for a while, until I completed a track called ‘Einstein-Rosen Fridge’. It’s pretty different to anything I’ve worked on before (or certainly since about 2009), and it’s immediately considerably better than almost all the material I’ve worked on in this batch. It’s a strange moment when you realise that tracks you’d been really happy with are suddenly put in stark contrast and sound exceptionally average. Playing this track back, I realised I can do so much better than a lot of those recent pieces. So into the ‘Unreleased’ folder they go, waiting to be remixed, or reworked into collaborative pieces, or simply left until the end of time. There are still two tracks in that folder that I really, really like but just don’t have a home, a couple of epic synth ambient pieces that were recorded for a scrapped tape called Skymusyk that was originally due out last January. I really don’t know what to do with those.
We’re going back into lockdown again later this week – who didn’t see that coming? – which makes comparatively little difference to my day-to-day life at the moment, although obviously the extension of Covid’s dominance over world affairs continues to put my ‘getting my life back on track’ plans on the back burner once again. There’s very little to say about the whole situation that hasn’t been said a hundred thousand times elsewhere online. Recently I’ve been listening to Tangerine Dream and The Divine Comedy (recent excellent boxsets), the two new Autechre albums, Guided by Voices, and Weyes Blood.
Well, my track-a-day lockdown project didn’t get very far, which usually happens with me. I remember 11 years ago when I started recording Safernoc and was giving blog updates on a daily basis and then disappeared again until the album was finished, eight months later.
Nerra Ninna Noak came out a couple of weeks ago, on the wonderful Time Released Sound. The limited boxset sold out in two days, and the response so far seems very positive. There are still digipaks and downloads available from the TRS Bandcamp. Listening back now, it feels like a step on from Arboretum, more spacious in some ways, more dense in others. Unlike that album, NNN took a lot of moulding and shaping and editing and reworking to get into its final version. It started off as a much weirder sound collage, a touch of the darkness of Melkur with some of my FSOL influence sprinkled on top. Needless to say, the final version is a dramatic improvement and it’s an album I’m enormously happy with.
Speaking of Melkur, I’ve combined both the Borderlands and Enofa editions of that album together on my Bandcamp as I was never entirely comfortable having them separate. The albums are about 50% the same and deserve to be heard side-by-side. Anyone who previously bought the album can re-download and get a copy of both albums.
Despite not continuing with the track-a-day project, I have been working quite a lot on music over the past month or so. The result was, in some ways, the opposite of what I was planning: I’ve basically scrapped the best part of an album’s worth of recordings. The music itself was actually quite good, I think, but the whole thing just didn’t feel right. As I was recording it felt very much like I was covering ground I’d been over multiple times, recorded in exactly the same manner as Myosphere, Holosphere and the forthcoming Paxanimi. I’ve always been fairly open about my need to continually move forward – indeed, it was this that set up the idea of challenging myself to do new things in my abandoned track-a-day project last month – and while the tracks I was working on were great, I didn’t feel like they reflected me now, and I was ultimately left unsatisfied. Indeed, a lot of the work I’ve completed in the past few years has been of a specific type: dense, multi-coloured works with tons going on in them. The music has been full of greens, yellows, reds and other bright colours, with complex patterns and grains in the imagery. I feel somewhat worn out by this approach. I feel like returning to a plainer palette, with washes of greys and dark blues. In hindsight, this exact feeling is something I was beginning to explore on Arboretum and Nerra Ninna Noak, both of which are among my best works and probably the pieces from the last five years of which I am most proud. Coming to this conclusion actually filled me with a feeling of excitement and vitality, the like of which I’ve not had when it comes to my own music for some time, so I feel it’s probably the right decision.
Before all that, however, there is still Paxanimi to deal with, which is currently slated for release in June as a run of 30 cassettes on Doom Chakra. The artwork has been finalised and I believe copies are in the process of being manufactured. Keep an eye on social media for that. It’s one of the dense, multi-coloured works, but still a record I’m very happy with. Once it’s out, it’ll be a bit of a clean slate as I currently have no completed tracks and only a couple of vague sketches moving forward. Whatever approach my next work takes, it won’t be out until next year I imagine.
It’s taken a few weeks, but I’m gradually getting used to the current lockdown situation. The government have eased it this week, and the ‘R’ rate has shot back up again, so I imagine we’ll be back where we were pretty soon. I’m using the time to work through the rather large backlog of books I have (currently ploughing through Tolkien’s Middle Earth books) and revisiting albums I’ve not given enough time to in the past. In particular, Autechre’s work of the last decade. Ae albums always take some time to digest, and one thing or another has prevented me from dedicating the time needed to process the last few, so Exai, elseq and the NTS Sessions in particular have been on my CD player. I also realised, for the first time, just how good Untilted is. Only took 15 years.
I hope everyone is well out there and that you’re all keeping safe! x
No new track today, as such, but an old one. This piece was recorded some time ago, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to finish it. Guitar, synth, field recordings. I kept thinking it needs something else: another layer, a main melody, a beat… anything. Plenty of times in the past I’d have been happy with how it stands, but in the past three or so years I’ve kept pushing myself to add more layers, complexity, sounds, sections to my music. At the same time, I’ve been noticing that so much of my favourite music is actually very stripped back and minimal, and wanting to make music like that myself.
So today I challenged myself to leave this track. To let it be as it is. Listening to it again, I like it. It doesn’t need more to make it complete. It is what it is. It’s a quite dark sounding piece. It’s called Good Night Moonlight. Enjoy!
I wrote a year roundup post in December, in which I looked with hope at 2020. A quarter of the way through the year and obviously that’s all changed dramatically. With most of the world experiencing some form of social lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we face a situation that few imagined would happen. At this point, nobody knows what will be the situation in a month, or six months, or a year. It’s been challenging for most of us, myself included. And, like many others, I’ve taken the opportunity to try and do something meaningful with this period of enforced isolation.
Last year, I wrote comparatively little music. I started the year with a bit of a creative burst, but most of the rest of the year was spent sorting through this music, and other things I’d been working on for the six months prior to that. Because of this, up to today, I’d not actually worked on any new music for about a year. There are a number of reasons for this, but probably the main one is a feeling of dissatisfaction from not really pushing myself. Both Nerra Ninna Noak and Paxanimi are albums I’m very happy with, but neither offered me much new from a creative perspectives: they were both made using techniques and ideas I’d previously perfected. The same can be said of an album I recently completed, which ties up the material from an album I started working on before I started Enofa. Almost every album I’ve made in the past 20 years has been me attempting something different, compositionally and/or production-wise. Some people like to perfect and master an approach, but I get really bored if I’m not trying something new.
So when I started a track today, within 20 minutes I felt pretty unhappy. A nice synth pad – very ’90s, not from a Juno clone but certainly not a dissimilar sound – and a twinkly minor key melody. So far, so me. I almost gave up, knowing that I’d just end up doing the same things as usual. But then I decided to consciously challenge myself and do something different. So instead of a mellow beat, an acoustic drum loop, or indeed no rhythm track at all, I decided to put in a harsh sounding drum beat. It’s not actually particularly experimental or odd, but it’s not something I’d normally do. Maybe because I can sometimes be too precious about my music these days (unlike the past: back when I dreamed of actually having a ‘fanbase’, I loved the idea of throwing in stylistic surprises to confuse people). And suddenly the track came to life and went off in an unexpected direction. It sounds a lot more modern than I thought it would, and less overtly a ’90s throwback. And then I decided to put some guitar on it. I’ve not really used my electric guitar in my music for a long time. Last time I recorded any new electric guitar parts was nearly five years ago. So that was another very different approach for me.
I’m pretty happy with the track. It’s not a masterpiece, it’s not one of my best, but there’s a nice tune and, most importantly for me, it doesn’t just sound like a clone of something else I’ve done ten times before. It sounds like this:
So I decided I’m going to (try and) work on some music every day. And I’m going to experiment. Not everything is going to be very good. But I’m going to try something new each time, push my personal boundaries and move outside my comfort zone. Because I’m tired of opening up a DAW, playing around and realising I’m totally uninspired by what I’m making. I might write about each piece as it comes along, and upload the whole thing or a clip. Who knows, maybe an album might even come together at the end of the whole thing!
Well, if the end of a year is a good enough reason to reminisce for a while, I suppose the end of a decade is equally worthy. Musically it’s been a fairly ridiculous and frequently difficult time for me: this time ten years ago, I’d just finished my third proper album, and was recording a couple of EPs for release in early 2010. In the years since, I’ve released somewhere in the region of a hundred records, although only 22 remain on my Bandcamp. This probably sums up my lack of quality control, my anxiety regarding my own music, and the change in the music industry reflecting how easy it is to ‘release’ music at this point in time. I’ve also released ten collaborative records, and been through four main aliases and countless side projects.
That said, the decade ended with my quietest year since 2009, with only one collaborative remix album released. And although I do have two albums lined up for next year now, I think the future will definitely be slower in general, with less emphasis on side-projects, EPs, experiments and such, and really trying to focus on putting a lot of effort into creating worthwhile ‘main’ albums.
2010 and 2011 were years of real confusion, as I basically put out everything I made – and ended up hating my own creativity so much I ended Second Thought as a project. 2012 was a bit of a reset button, going back to guitar, piano and four-track, and working on a series of albums I described as ‘ruralist’ (name borrowed from Andy of The Glimmer Room). 2013-2014 saw me minimalising this set up down to electro-acoustic drones, before building it up with synths and moving back towards an electronic sound more reminiscent of what I’d been doing in the past. 2015 was the start of International Debris, with a range of electronic records in different styles. 2016-2017 found me struggling with identity once again, playing with lots of different approaches but generally trying to fit in with the burgeoning vaporwave scene with which I found myself associated. 2018 marked the end of International Debris with a very retrospective album, Exteriors, and the conclusion of the heavily sample-based Sphere trilogy. By this point, the project had become bogged down with too much crap, much like Second Thought had. The end of the year features my first two releases as Enofa, including Arboretum, which is probably my most successful album to date in terms of personal satisfaction, sales, and critical / listener response. 2019 featured no releases because of a return of self-doubt, in many ways fuelled by the success of Arboretum. I recently found peace with this, however, and may have cracked the problem that’s been recurring for the last decade. I feel very confident that, going into the 2020s, my music will be satisfying and consistent.
I’ve come up with a list of the ten records I’m happiest with from the past decade, in chronological order:
Canal Seven Leaf Pass East of Evening Eyebrook cer Anxiety Ambisphere Holosphere Arboretum Melkur
That’s split fairly evenly: two Second Thought, three Ross Baker, three International Debris and two Enofa. And regardless of everything else that happened in these ten years, I’m incredibly happy to have made these records. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a similar list the next time I write a decade-ending post.
It’s been a funny old year. My mental health’s been all over the place, there have been some astonishing changes within the UK, and I’ve not actually released a solo record. That makes it the first year since 2006 that I’ve not put any of my own music out, and the first since 2009 that I’ve not released what I’d consider a ‘major’ album. Some of that has tied in with the mental health issue: I actually send out some demos late last year, but my drastic drop in self-confidence meant that two tapes that were due in the first half of 2019 were scrapped because I just wasn’t happy with the music. That material is still mostly lying around on the computer waiting for some sort of home. Maybe one day.
Which isn’t to say that no music at all has come out. The very, very long-awaited Middlemarch remix album came out. The record started life as a very different thing, and the final version owes a lot more to Dimitris than myself, but it’s certainly something. And there have been odd tracks here and there – a compilation track on No Problema Tapes, and remixes for three friends: epitomeZero, Nonlocal Forecast and Nmesh. Those last two remixes are, I feel, two of the best tracks I’ve worked on to date, so I’m really happy about them if nothing else.
The last, and biggest, track of the year was ‘Missing Skies‘, the first release from Apertures, my new collaboration with Brian Dougans from FSOL. It was released as part of the superb Touched by Silence release from Touched. We’re working on our debut record, which will come along at some point in the next couple of years.
Still, the last full release of my own was in November 2018, which is a very long gap for me. This will be rectified in the spring, as I can now confirm two albums will be released in the first half of 2020: a collagey ambient cassette called Paxanimi on Doom Chakra Tapes in April, and what is, in many ways, a follow-up to Arboretum, called Nerra Ninna Noak, which will be released on Time Released Sound. I’m very happy to be working with Colin and Maria again on what will be my third TRS release – the label is beginning to feel like a home for my ambient-acoustic work! And Doom Chakra are a great little label who really get what I’m going for with Paxanimi.
So there’s a lot to look forward to next year. I feel like I’ll be ready to return to working on music in the new year, hopefully, on material that may well come out at the start of 2021, so ideally there won’t be too many long gaps like this again! I’ve made my peace with many of the demons that were haunting my creativity and think I have much more perspective on my own music now.
If my own output was not notable this year, then other artists’ work certainly was. I have a Top 15 albums this year, and this is the first time in as long as I can remember that I bought that many records that I believe will stay with me on regular rotation for a long time – normally that accolade covers seven or eight albums maximum. Those albums, in vague order:
Underworld – Drift Series 1 Desperate Journalist – In Search of the Miraculous The Future Sound of London – Yage 2019 The Divine Comedy – Office Politics Confluent Phase – Ad Astra Aurora – A Different Kind of Human (Step 2) Idlewild – Interview Music A Winged Victory for the Sullen – The Undivided Five Mikron – Severance Humanoid – Built by Humanoid Sigrid – Sucker Punch Ariana Grande – thank u, next 36 – Dreamloops Michele Rabbia / Gianluca Petrella / Eivind Aarset – Lost River Off Land – Field Tangents
I’m starting 2020 with a holiday abroad – for the first time in 16 years – and then getting down to the serious business of sorting my life out. There’s lots to do, but I think I’ve got a better idea of how to do them than I have in quite some time. So overall, despite everything that’s happened recently, I do feel positive for the future. Some progress with my life, two album releases, and hopefully some new music behind the scenes – here’s to a great start to the next decade.
I hope everyone has a wonderful festive season. xxx
It’s been quite a long time since I fully enjoyed writing and recording an album. For ages, it was the norm to set to work on an album, generally enjoy the process of creating it, and come out with a record that I mostly liked and largely expressed what I was hoping to express with it. I’ve written a lot in the past about my faltering confidence with my own music, and there have been moments of considerable self-doubt in the past few years. Nevertheless, it’s only really been the last maybe two years where the pleasure has become eclipsed by the difficulty. Arboretum somehow came together very quickly in that time, and I’m exceptionally proud of it, and the really positive response it received. Otherwise, however, I have to admit that it’s been exceptionally difficult, and never more so than the past few months, in which every piece of music I make has concluded with a feeling of absolute relief that I’m no longer working on it, and a sense of not being capable of making something I’m actually happy with.
A lot of it is to do with how I work. In October 2001, I was given a pirate copy of Fruityloops by a friend, and with this recorded the demo album The Bird That Sings at Night. It was around two years later that I made my last track in the software, as I was tired of the same approach. I recorded the second half of the Vacuum Road Songs sessions in Logic, which remained for Safernoc and 60º South, before I grew tired of sequencing VSTis. Since then I’ve made purely electronic music in Reason, played around with drones in Ableton Live, moved on to acoustic music recorded to 4-track tape, worked with both purely sample-based music and MIDI-sequenced stuff in Reaper, made albums entirely out of hardware synths, and frequently played with sound collage techniques.
In short, I’m very fickle with my creative process and get bored easily. I’ve worked on a lot of music in the 18 months since I completed Melkur, and although I can admit that some of it is pretty good, I’ve not found it a fulfilling process. In fact, I’d say this is the case for almost everything I’ve made in the past five years. There have been real moments of inspiration and satisfaction, but most of the time I’ve found it exceptionally difficult, and a lot of this is down to boredom. I need to try something new, but I honestly don’t know where to go next.
This partially factors into why it’s been a year since my last release (my longest gap in releases since 2009). There will be music next year. There’ll likely be a couple of albums: one already has a label, and I think I’m very close to sorting out the remaining tracks into something resembling a work I won’t be ashamed to release. But after that… I literally have no idea where I am, creatively. If I stay in the same place that I’m in now, then that album will probably be my last. But I doubt I will, I’m sure I’ll fight my way out of this and find something new and exciting to do. But until I find that new thing, it’s a weird and slightly scary place to be in.
Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of FSOL, R.E.M., Underworld and various bits from FAX and ECM. That’s quite a lot of capital letters.
It’s been an incredibly long time since I last wrote a full proper journal entry, which is kind of unusual, but there we go. Last thing I wrote was introducing The Borderlands, last June. Since then I’ve started up another new project, Enofa, and in the process accidentally consigned The Borderlands to almost-non-existent side-project. There’ll probably be a few compilation tracks, and there’s a tape with an early demo version of Melkur coming along, but otherwise that’s yer lot I think.
As Enofa I released two albums at the end of last year. Arboretum was released on Time Released Sound in two beautiful hand-made packages (both sold out now), and featured on a few end-of-year lists (including A Closer Listen’s top 10 ambient albums feature), which was absolutely wonderful. It also received airplay on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction programme. It sold out very quickly and I’m just really overwhelmed by the positive response the album received. It was swiftly followed by a self-released album, Melkur, which is much darker, generally a sound collage piece which I’d spent ages working on (initially as The Borderlands), and I wanted to just sort of get out there. It’s a free / pay-what-you-want download on the Enofa Bandcamp, and CDrs are available too.
I’m really happy with both of the albums, and they feel almost like a creative rejuvenation, in that both came totally naturally without any real worries about style or approach or anything: just instinct. My best music has always come from instinct, and that definitely benefitted both of those. Since I finished Melkur last September I’ve been dabbling with various sounds and styles and working on new bits, but nothing solid is ready to go yet. I’m quite enjoying taking a bit of time to just work at my own pace, as for the past few years I’ve always seemed to have multiple projects on the go. I’m currently working through arranging and organising my sample library, which mostly involves renaming and sorting through a few thousand files and putting them into folders so I have everything in places, and finding new sounds. I’ve actually discovered a huge load of samples, noises, even whole unfinished tracks from the past that I had no idea I even had (as well as a few things I don’t recognise at all and can’t even guarantee are by me). I think I’m most comfortable working with audio and collaging – it’s how I started making music, with tapes, and collaging and arranging is always my favourite aspect of working on an album – so after a few years of jamming around with synths and hardware, largely to much anxiety, it’s actually really nice to be able to get back to working in a way that suits me. The past few years have largely been dominated by enjoying making music but not being happy with the final thing, or making music I like but hating the process, so returning to a way that covers both ends for me is a really positive move. I just need to ensure I’m able to still explore new ideas and approaches within this area. Either way, having a neatly organised sample library will enable me to spend more time on creating and less time on looking for sounds while I should be arranging them.
Health-wise, I feel like I’m close to full recovery from the mental health problems I’ve been suffering with for the past nine years. I have a job interview next week – the first job I’ve applied for in six years and straight to interview stage! – and am looking to move to Birmingham this year. Exploring the city in recent times has revealed a lot more interesting stuff going on than I knew was there, so hopefully that should be a good move.
Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of guitar-based stuff for the first time in years. The Manics, James, Wolf Alice, Idlewild, and the new Desperate Journalist album. One of these days I’ll properly get to work on the third Curse of Kevin Carter album. And otherwise, FSOL and a bunch of beautiful ECM albums. As usual.