Once again, I present a [syzygy] album. Once again, it has an entirely different sound than anything that has come from the project before.
What ties [syzygy]’s albums together is an approach of minimalistic experimentation and a musical atmosphere of unease. In the case of [visitor], the experiment was to see what I could do with just my untuned piano and a fretless bass. In the case of [ouroboros], it was to see what could be done with only a mixing board plugged into itself. With [xendeavor one], the experiment was to delve headfirst into the world of microtonal* electronic music.
The vast majority of Western music uses the 12 equal divisions of the octave tuning system (12edo). These songs use 7 other possible EDOs (10, 11, 15, 19, 31, 37, and 85), an overtone scale, and an undertone scale.
The term “microtonal” tends to conjure expectations of extremely dissonant, noisy, and/or unstructured music for some people because a lot of music labeled “microtonal” fits those descriptions. But it doesn’t have to! There is plenty of melody and harmony available to utilize within these systems. And you get the bonus of unique intervals and chords that are impossible in 12edo.
Since I discovered microtonality a few years ago I have really wanted to make this album. I tried to start a couple of times and was never happy with my results but this time it all clicked. I am very excited to share this with the world.
* If after reading this you have no idea what I’m talking about here, see the “Microtonality” section of my Loiterer – Adrift writeup for some further explanation. Or check out the Wikipedia article.
***This album specifically covers the N64 version. Sorry PS1 and arcade fans. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯***
Rush is a classic game. When it was released on the N64, reviewers said that it was brilliant – one of the top three games available on the system. Today it seems to be mostly forgotten. In my opinion it’s still an incredibly fun game whether you have never played before or if you’re someone who has been refining their skills on the game’s tracks for years.
The style here is a departure from my earlier Street Fighter 2 cover album. This album is more straightforward, and at times significantly more absurd. That’s a function of the source material. As with the previous album, I kept the melodic content mostly spot on to the game while altering the percussion to my own taste. I hope there are a few people out there who have the same kind of nostalgia for this game and its music that I do.
In the rare bits of spare time I’ve gotten this year I’ve been playing the heck out of Rush again trying to master the tracks. One day last April I picked up my guitar and plunked out a few of these songs absentmindedly. Turns out they’re pretty fun to play. Fast forward 6 months and this album exists.
Thanks to my wife Laura for the awesome watercolor replication of the game’s cover art.
Next up (without a 6 year gap between) will be the N64 classic Goldeneye, which will return more to the vein of the Street Fighter 2 album.
I made a pseudonymous appearance on drums for this album and later ended up mixing and mastering it as well. We worked on this album throughout the last year. A little about the project:
Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze is a collective against hierarchies, and the power structures that divide and separate humanity. The power that you feel inside you should be focused as a knife point into the hearts of those that only know how to consume, and those that live off the backs of the downtrodden… We aim to use the frustration, anger, and horror of our time to pursue meaningful change. Black metal is about power. That fire in your belly can be harnessed. It can be pointed in a direction that moves us forward. That is what we hope to accomplish.
14 years ago, in 2005, I decided that I wanted to start a band.*
I never started that band. But I did write the instrumentals for its debut album. These are those songs.
The writing process for this album overlaps with the writing process for my album Retail Monkey – ADD/Nihilism, which was released in 2017. Retail Monkey’s songs were written between 2004 and 2007. Piranarama’s songs were written in the middle of 2005. While Retail Monkey was intended to be whatever Steve, Joel, and I could imagine, regardless of if we thought it was playable or remotely sensible, Piranarama was definitely intended to be a live act.
At the time I could play most of the guitar and bass parts for this album, but the drums were a few years beyond my skills. I wanted to take the position of one of the guitarists in the live act and find people to play the other instruments, as well as someone to do vocals since I hadn’t yet developed a workable scream. I never made it happen, and eventually the idea fell by the wayside…
When I finished up recording the drums for A God or an Other’s Chaotic Symbiosis in February 2017, I decided on a whim that I might as well finally record Piranarama while my drum mics were still set up. I knew these songs through and through after all the years of imagining them and ended up recording the drums in a single day with no click or reference tracks. I recorded the guitars and bass over the next week. I didn’t write vocals back in 2005, since I intended to have someone else do them, so I took a few months to place words over the vocal patterns I had always imagined. The vocals were recorded in May of 2017.
At this point the project sat for a year while I worked on other things and while Laura and I moved from Washington to Colorado. I put a few finishing touches on the tracks in May of 2018 and then worked on mixing until October, when I decided it was done. This album was actually 100% complete before the aforementioned Chaotic Symbiosis, which we released in November, as well as my other recent solo album Grim Christmas, which I put out in December. Those release dates were solidified already, so it made more sense to me to wait a bit to put this one out. I selected the release date as 2 years from the day that I started recording the album.
This album is a period piece. It represents my own spin on the type of music that was popular in the Redwood City scene at the time. It’s nice to have it as a finished product after all this time, chuggy breakdowns and all.
*Technically, “another band,” as I was already in a few bands at the time. However, none of them that played anything like this kind of music.
Cassettes were made in the print shop and are available via Big Name Records and Bandcamp.
Just over five years ago, while walking on the beach on a gloomy November day in Aberdeen, I had a thought: “What would Christmas carols sound like if they were turned into black metal?”
It was just a passing idea. I think the possibilities of playing around in that style were on my mind because I had just finished recording A God or an Other’s debut album, Towers of Silence, which heavily drew from the black metal lexicon. For whatever reason, the idea for this album really stuck with me. I knew I had to make it.
Obviously it had to be released during the Christmas season, but it was definitely too late to do so that year. There was no way I could arrange, record, and release it in just a few weeks. I could have recorded it and waited until the next year to release it, but I’ve always found it unpleasant to sit on finished releases for more than a short period of time. So I decided to wait ten or eleven months to begin.
Well, the next year came and the same thing happened; by the time I finally started considering working on it, it was too late to begin. This process repeated for the next four years. I was annoyed with myself each year, but now I recognize it’s for the best. Shortly after I came up with the idea, I ended up joining A God or an Other as the band’s drummer, which dramatically increased my blast beat chops over time. Half a year after joining, I started contributing vocals as well. My bandmates were really good at tremolo picking on guitar, and so being in the band also encouraged me to develop that skill. All those hours of practice within the style really helped bring about a superior end result compared to what this album would have been if I had recorded when the idea first struck me.
One other benefit to waiting 5 years between the inception of the idea and its execution is that I spent a lot of time between then and now expanding my understanding of music theory. This made the transmogrification process much more successful than I think it would have been in 2013.
Anyway, inspiration finally struck in September. I knew that this was the year. But there were two things making it a little more challenging than it normally would have been. First, I was insanely swamped with overtime at work. Second, my wife and I had (and still have) a newborn at home, and taking care of him requires quite a bit of work. My time was quite limited. But when I feel compelled by those mysterious creative forces to make something, I have to do it. So I found time. Most of this album was arranged and recorded between the hours of 5 A.M. and 6 A.M. on weekdays before I headed off to work. The process was a little rough but totally worth it.
I picked public domain songs purely for legal reasons, as I would like to be able to use these in any way that I may see fit in the future.
In order for a song to be picked, it had to be originally written in a major key, as it would not be as dramatic or as fun of a transformation to do a song that was originally composed in a minor key. I really wanted to play around with some of the more exotic minor scales instead of exclusively using aeolian mode. It was fun to utilize sounds like neapolitan minor and harmonic minor and to build some four part harmonies with them.
The last qualification for picking songs is difficult to explain. They had to make me feel some sort of… resonance… within myself. This has to do with the history of my early life. I’m not a Christian, but I was raised Catholic, and that upbringing had quite an impact on me. I heard these songs so many times in mass over the years. It is enjoyable for me to hear these representations of that part of my life turned around into something that is now meaningful to me in a new and very different way.
Until 2013, I was certain I would never make a Christmas album. Now here we are. Life is strange.
I hope you enjoy listening to it.
Cover art by my wife, Laura Lervold.
Cassettes are available through the Bandcamp and Big Name Records.
6 tracks (35 minutes) of crusty, atmospheric post black metal. Tracked, edited, mixed, and mastered at Big Name.
This is our final release, thus marking the end of an era of my life (2013-2018). I’m currently working on a retrospective writeup detailing the creation of this album and my experiences in the band overall. This post is a placeholder for that.
Cassettes and CDs were printed in the print shop and are available via Bandcamp.
I engineered this album for Seattle’s Morrow. Midway through the recording process, I was asked to write and record my own basslines as well. They had a bass player when we first began tracking, but he dropped out of the project right before he was supposed to record his parts. As a result, I was asked to step in. I was given full creative freedom with my bass contributions.
The band spent three years composing and demoing these songs, and then one year in the studio with me recording the real deal. Being able to add my own spin to this album was a pleasure and I look forward to seeing what these guys go on to create in the future.
For people who enjoy melodic/progressive/atmospheric black metal.
Another review, this time accompanied by the full album stream. In case you haven’t seen the last two posts, I produced this recording and played bass on it. The album officially releases on July 21st.
A second song from The Weight of These Feathers has been released with an exclusive stream, this time thanks to Can This Even Be Called Music?. As mentioned in the previous post, I produced this album and played bass on it. The full album releases on July 21st.
This was a nice surprise to find today. I produced this recording and played bass on it for my friends in Morrow. We worked on it throughout the entire last year.
As a side note, I’ve finished my work on 7 recordings since moving to Colorado in March and so far only one has seen its full release. So I have a slew of new stuff on the way. This one comes out July 21st and I’m super proud of it and excited to see it get out into the world.