[syzygy] – [ouroboros]

ouroboros

[syzygy] – [ouroboros]

syzygywa.bandcamp.com

 

To someone familiar with my solo releases, it might seem strange that this one has been put out under the same moniker as my album [visitor]. The two releases are almost diametrically opposed in terms of sound, but in my mind, they clearly belong to the same project.

What determines if something is [syzygy]? The project’s driving question is: “What can I do with only this?”

In the case of [visitor], the “only this” is my detuned, 80-year-old spinet piano and my fretless electric bass. In the case of [ouroboros], it is my Behringer Xenyx 1202 mixing board.

All of the sounds that are heard on this release were generated by only a mixing board. This was accomplished by routing the various outputs of the mixer back into the various inputs on the mixer, creating internal analog feedback loops. This is known as the “no-input mixer” technique.

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The Behringer Xenyx 1202 set up as a no-input mixer.

It’s a deceptively simple tactic. Though it seems like it should result in basic, abrasive feedback squelches, the reality is much cooler. The various signal routings through the mixing console interact with one another to create surprisingly complex waveforms.

Each mixer generates sounds unique to its hardware. This is one of the only situations I can think of where lower quality gear can have a huge advantage over higher quality gear: lower quality components tend to modify the waveform passing through them more than higher quality components do. As a result, when the waveforms sum back together, they coalesce into more chaotic wave-interference patterns (i.e. feedback loops).

Behringer is known for making gear focused more on economy than quality, so the Xenyx 1202 is perfect for this application. When you really crank the signals with this thing, especially the low frequencies, it overloads and creates fantastic drum-machine-like rhythms. It can also generate single notes that sound like an electronic synth, as well as more noisy blocks of sound. Hidden within it, I’ve found sounds reminiscent of motorcycles racing through tunnels, ringing analog phones, air raid sirens, scurrying mice, alarm systems, heavy machinery, ray guns, heartbeats, woodblocks, flutes, and much more. This device has a very dystopian palette.

 

An improvisation performed on the Xenyx 1202. This is similar to the form in which each track on [ouroboros] began. As you can see, no-input mixer improvs can sound kind of aimless, which is why I wanted to experiment with using them as the building blocks for sample-based composition instead. This video only demonstrates a few of the sounds that the mixer can generate.

 

The composition process:

  1. Each song started the same way as the improvisation above. I plugged in the mixer, hit record, and played for roughly 20 minutes. This part of the process is very reflexive and intuitive. You can’t really predict how the mixer will react to most changes that you make to the state of the board.
  2. After finishing the improvisation, I went in, listened for parts that I liked, and spliced up the take into dozens of shorter clips. Some of these worked very well as loops. Others worked as transition pieces between looped sections.
  3. At this point, I developed the general structure of each piece by arranging the various clips I had cut out.
  4. Next, I added layers:
    1. Some parts needed noisy layers, so I would find the right sound and apply it.
    2. Many parts needed chords or melodies. At this point, I used the type of feedback that sounds like an analog synth playing a single pitch. I recorded various pitches and applied them over the clips, sometimes layering groups of two or three to create harmonies and chords.
  5. Delay and panning were added to certain sections where I felt like they belonged.
  6. At this point, I rearranged the parts over and over until every part of the song played back in exactly the “right way.” (This was an intuitive process; there was no metric for what was “right” or “wrong” other than feeling it out.)

This is probably the only session I have done so far where I actually utilized the sound of a brickwall limiter as an effect. I use limiters on every session that I master, as well as on select parts of certain mixes, but I usually attempt to keep them as transparent as possible. These songs have the limiter set far beyond the normal levels I tend to use. This smashes the layers together, causing the tonal layers to take on the rhythmic characteristics of the noise layers underneath them.

 

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From the Chrysopoeia of Cleopatra, created in roughly the 3rd century CE.

Its inscription reads, “One is the Serpent which has its poison according to two compositions, and One is All and through it is All, and by it is All, and if you have not All, All is Nothing.”

While working on this project, I was struck by the idea that the no-input mixer is a sonic embodiment of the ouroboros: the snake that circles around, consuming its own tail. This symbol is ancient. It is first known to have been used in the 14th century BCE, and has been used by a plethora of spiritual traditions since.

Carl Jung said, “The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This ‘feed-back’ process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which… unquestionably stems from man’s unconscious.”

The ouroboros symbolizes the universe’s nature of continual creation, destruction, and recreation. Its constant reinvention. The paradox of the non-conflicting dual nature of all things. The hidden oneness of the seeming duality between physical and mental worlds. The infinite. The shadow within.

I enlisted my partner Laura to paint the art and I think the piece is exactly right for the music. This isn’t related to the album, but as a side note, she’s currently doing an awesome 100-piece Instagram series of scenes and objects found around our house. It can be found at instagram.com/ladylervold. Check it out and give her a follow if you like what you see.

 

Final Notes / Other

One thing that I particularly enjoyed experimenting with while creating this recording was its inherent microtonality.* None of the notes on this recording were created using fixed pitch keys like you find on a keyboard. The no-input mixer is capable of producing an infinite range of pitches. Since I was free of 12 tone equal temperament tuning, I was able to step back and simply use my ears to find harmonies and chord progressions that I enjoyed without being stuck inside the rigid 12tet realm. The other side of the inherent microtonality of this process is found in the base layer in each song. When the mixing board develops complex waveform patterns, it doesn’t use any tuning theory. The harmonies it generates are pure physics and mathematics, and the intervals it spits out are not bound to 12 tone equal temperament tuning.

The other aspect that I really enjoyed playing around with while working on this was the appearance of high-denominator odd-meter rhythms (for example: 27/32). These are rhythms that can only be notated by using 32nd or 64th notes. You don’t often hear them in music because they are very difficult for humans to play accurately, especially at high speed. Complex feedback, however, has no aversion to them, so a lot of them ended up in the final compositions here.

 

* If you have no idea what I’m talking about here, see the “Microtonality” section of my Loiterer – Adrift writeup for some info. Or the Wikipedia article.

 

 

 

Released on Big Name Records – BNR1702
Available on cassette via the Big Name Records Webstore or Bandcamp.
Cassettes were printed in the Big Name print shop.

 

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An-Dron Yekrae – Atalean Spxldror

bandcamp

An-Dron Yekrae – Atalean Spxldror

andronyekrae.bandcamp.com

I am proud to present another new solo album. I think that its origins are worth discussing, as they’re pretty… odd.

One of the main principles that I follow while creating art is that the work must be allowed to flow freely, and that I should follow the art wherever it wants to go. Most of the time when I’m working on my own material, I try to actually get out of the way of the art, let whatever it is show itself, and then mold those raw impulses into a finished product. It feels like channeling something. This album was done that way, and it led me on a few twists and turns throughout its creation process.

Last year, melodies, chord progressions, and bass lines in the style of old jazz standards unexpectedly began popping into my head. Whenever this sort of thing happens, I make sure to capture and transcribe the ideas. After a few weeks of this process, I ended up with 14 complete pieces.

Originally I thought that they should be played in the style of a jazz combo, as would be expected for jazz standards. But I didn’t know how I was going to accomplish that. At this point, I can confidently say that I play drums and bass well, and piano decently… but playing jazz drums, bass, and piano is a different story. And I don’t play any traditional jazz lead instruments at all. My skills in that genre would need a lot of work before I could pull something like that off. So I puzzled over that impasse for a while, and the songs just sat while I worked on other things (like Retail Monkey – ADD/Nihilism and [syzygy] – [visitor] {which was “channeled” in a similar way to this album}).

When I have a project sitting, I can feel its weight in my mind. It takes up space and it makes me anxious. If I wait too long, the inspiration of the project can sometimes leave and never return. It wasn’t long before the incomplete project really began to bother me. I prefer to get things done and move along, but I knew something was not right about the way I was approaching it. So I couldn’t. After some time I realized that my original instrumental vision was definitely not how they were supposed to end up.

I realize how weird this all might sound, but at that point, the answer came to me. The project wanted to be a concept album: songs written by a character, an alien (An-Dron Yekrae) from another world (Atalea), who visited Earth and fell in love with two sounds: classic jazz and synthesizers. He got together some friends and recorded this album, melding those two interests. I don’t know where this idea came from, but it felt like the right answer, so I just shrugged and followed it. Immediately I rediscovered the flow state, and the entirety of the project was tracked within the week. After being stuck for quite a while, it turned back into a naturally flowing process. It was a blast to record all this stuff.

Yeah, like I said, it’s weird. But that’s what this project wanted to be. It was fun working with you, little alien jazz buddy.

Released on Big Name Records. BNR1701
Available on cassette via the Big Name Records Webstore or Bandcamp.
Cassettes were printed in the Big Name print shop.

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Retail Monkey – ADD/Nihilism

addncover

Retail Monkey – ADD/Nihilism

retailmonkey.bandcamp.com

I am very pleased to bring you my newest solo album. For fans of The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Locust, Daughters, Converge, and other bands of the mid-2000s era.

This was the first project that I began working on when I finished my current studio space. The recording process took nearly two years to complete. I had also been dreaming of actually recording these songs for almost 10 years by the time that I started working on it.

I would like to put forth a huge thank you to Stephen and Joel for their involvement in the writing process all those years ago.

Info from the Bandcamp:

“Instrumentals written by Stephen Navarrete, Joel Freeman, and Jon Lervold collaboratively over the internet via MIDI-based guitar tab software between 2004 and 2006.

We were teenagers at the time. Since we used TabIt to compose, we were able to write whatever the hell we wanted with no limitations based on how ridiculous or unplayable it seemed to us. We never figured real, recorded versions would exist. After spending another decade making music, it was within reach.

This album was performed, tracked, edited, mixed, and mastered by Jon Lervold at Big Name Recording Studio in Olympia, WA between January 2015 and November 2016. Vocals were written in early 2016.
bigname.org

Interlude 3 was graciously provided for use by the original artist, Publio Delgado. You can find his work here: youtube.com/user/vendidou and here: facebook.com/publiomusic.

Pulling off my Eyelids with a Pair of Pliers contains writing contributions by Alexander Galavodas, Mark Solomon, and Joseph Malicke.

Released on Big Name Records
BNR1700
bignamerecords.com

 

Cassettes can be found on the Bandcamp or on Big Name Records.

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[syzygy] – [visitor]

syzygy-cover-smaller[syzygy] – [visitor]

http://syzygywa.bandcamp.com

My newest solo album. 6 tracks (36 minutes) of impressionist piano. Tracked, edited, mixed, and mastered at Big Name. The album was recorded and mixed entirely analog on the Tascam 388 and TEAC A-1200U tape machines.

CDs and cassettes made in the print shop. The cassette version was mastered straight to tape and has never entered the digital domain.

Physicals can be found on the Bandcamp or at Big Name Records.

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A God or an Other / The Vatican – The Great Northern (Split)

A God or an Other / The Vatican – The Great Northern (Split)

http://agodoranother.bandcamp.com or http://thevaticangrind.bandcamp.com/

3 tracks (17 minutes) of black metal/hardcore and 6 tracks (17 minutes) of grindcore. All of A God or an Other’s side was tracked, edited, mixed at Big Name. The Vatican instrumentals were recorded at Big Name. Both sides were mastered together at Big Name.

Tapes and CDs manufactured at Big Name in the print shop and available through Bandcamp.