This is my last day of preparation for my concert in Budapest at the Kultiplex on July 1st. I have made a nice mixture of pieces to play, something from imperial, mysterious skin, the original lumiere and some new things, namely Continental, Pale and Crescent. Should be lovely. I wish I could do more concerts like this as I’m enjoying playing more and more and feel that the live versions of some of this music are maturing nicely coming into their own. I have pretty much always gone about the process of making music backwards from the norm, studio first, then live version later and generally the live versions have been more.. fragile and less developed. The exception to this is Violet Indiana, easily the best live band I’ve ever performed with, who improve greatly on the records. But I’m not talking band here, I’m talking about my quiet, introspective, instrumental music. Up until now the pieces I perform have been progressing gently at their own pace and now I feel that some of them are reaching their conclusion. That doesn’t make much sense, does it? What I’m trying to say is I’m starting to have a certain confidence in them. I have evolved them through countless different equipment combinations, stripped them down, built them back up again, re-arranged them and I feel like I’m finally settling on a way that I’d like to play them. So with a lot of luck I’ll be able to play them well on Friday. (I shouldn’t have written all this today as sod’s law dictates that I will fuck them all up on Friday)..
I’m excited to visit budapest, I’ve never been and there is nothing more attractive to me than a new city. I wish I was there longer but that’s my life, always getting teasing glimpses of interesting places and meeting lovely people all too briefly…
I’ll take my camera and take pictures of the airport, the hotel and the backstage, probably the only parts of Budapest I’ll see….
Chet Baker – My Funny Valentine
I don’t go often for male voices but this one always does it for me….
Air – Playground Love
From the sublime soundtrack to the Virgin Suicides. Certainly one of the best soundtracks in recent times.(apart from Mysterious Skin, of course…….)
Telefon Tel Aviv – Map of What Is Effortless
Electronica, just how I like it, it does indeed sound effortless. Definitely worth a listen.
John Barry – The Ipcress File (main theme)
I’m a bit of a fussy John Barry fan. I don’t like everything he has done, some of his work is unremarkable, but this, this is indeed cinema music history. Everything I like about 60’s film music is in here…
Serge Gainsbourg – Requiem pour un Con
I could have put any one of dozens of his songs in the list.. this is my one for today.. Before living in France I had little knowledge of how important, indeed iconic, Serge Gainsbourg was. An influence not only on music but the entire French culture..
Cibelle – Inutil Paisagem
My friend Ken turned me on to this Brazilian vocalist last year. I really enjoy this.. can’t really explain.. she has a very special voice, very human, very sexy.
Keith Jarret – The Koln Concert – Part IIA
I like this whole album as one piece but asked to choose one part, this is probably my favourite, certainly the most dynamic.
Astrud Gilberto – Tristeza
Maybe because the sun is out and the weather is picking up but this is getting played around here at the moment. Uplifting music with depressing lyrics.. catches me off guard every time..
Stars of the Lid – Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid
So happy to hear a band from Texas that breaks the mould.. This is seriously chilled music
Julie London – I Got it Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
Ok, I always have a few female singers in my lists because, I guess, females convey pain in their voices better than men.. That sounds a little sick and wrong but hear me out…Think Billie Holliday, Patsy Cline and then you may know what I mean..
Ennio Morricone – Le Casse (main theme)
Again a difficult choice but instead of choosing one of his more mainstream pieces, I chose this.. The ultimate movie composer…ever.. His body of work is huge and it is really rewarding to examine more than the usual spaghetti western compilations and the like. Some of the stuff is very obscure but there are gems to be found
M83 – Lower Your Eyelids To Die With The Sun
This is intense…There are so many continental European bands which are breaking down barriers and mixing genres. Electronics being used in a less obvious way, crossing into rock, in a way, sometimes.. très puissant.
Here I am after a week in Scotland ready to prepare for my show in Budapest next week. It’s somewhat of a heatwave here in France and the last place I’d like to be is in my studio, but here I am anyway. The beach is calling but I’m dedicating myself to the entertainment of a bunch of Hungarians:) I’m actually quite excited to see Budapest as I’ve never been. There is nothing as thrilling as a new city. Shame I will not have much time to see it…
Anyway, I’m planning what to play, what equipment to use and generally refreshing myself on some of the older things I haven’t played for a while and working in some new pieces that mach certain parts of the film. Lumiere has always been a project which evolves, as it has no fixed music, rather a few key areas where I play certain types of things. The show that I will do in Budapest, for example, bears very little resemblance to the show I played in Paris recently, and none at at all to the shows I played last November in the US. I will probably play one or two things from Imperial and Mysterious Skin as well as several new pieces. As ever, the practical issues dominate the artistic ones.. my way of saying that the equipment I use will be dictated by how many kilos of baggage allowance I have on the plane…
Talking of new pieces I recently completed the piece for the up and coming exhibit at The Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center, called Audio Interference.
The track is entitled Waiting For Dawn and is about 8 minutes long… It sounds like, er, me.
to me anyhow.
Today I wrapped up the mixes for Amber Smith and I’m really pleased with them. I’ll pop down to the la poste with them tomorrow and, depending on the efficiency of the French and Hungarian postal systems, they should get them in a few days. I’m looking forward to finding out if they are any good or not… well, that’s not true really, I think they’re pretty good.. it’s just that, for me, the artists happiness is paramount when mixing material for them. I do enjoy mixing things for other people, I guess because I can be objective. I haven’t been living with the rough mixes since the tracks were recorded (the producers nightmare) or even know all the technichal details, like the microphones used and stuff like that. It’s like assembling ikea furniture after your small child has eaten the instruction leaflet. No, it’s better than that because music is more rich that flat pack furniture, but you know what I mean. It’s assembling something and, not only making the best out of the individual parts, but making the finished mix somehow much more than just the sum of those individual parts.
I took a little time this afternoon to refresh my ears with some of the new music that I’m in the process of writing and recording. I have a lot of new music at the moment to work with, but the temptation is always there to start afresh on a new piece before the previous one is finished. When I recorded the album Imperial I had a starting point with the track Imperial and an end with the track Drift and the album became sort of journey, travelling from the first to the last. For my next album the same process has begun, I have my first and last tracks very firmly worked out and several points marked along the way. It is a question of flow, how to get from one place to the next in the most elegant and seductive way. That is why I have always been very concious of how I sequence a CD as it can make a tremendous difference in the way the album is percieved. The individual tracks can perform a function, if you like, within the entirity, which gracefully moves the listener from one place to the next. It always sounds odd, to me, to hear any of my instrumental music out of the album context, like hearing one on the radio or something like that. It’s also a shame that with the age of the digital download upon us, this context can be interrupted by people just downloading a song here or there. The actual concept of an album may exist, less so as we know it now, but rather, as like the directors cut of a movie, just a suggested playlist by the artist.
This isn’t really such a bad thing, and it’s certainly a change that can be weathered. Just recently while remastering Cocteau Twins songs I was amused to see that even up to Heaven or Las Vegas I was sequencing the albums for two five track sides of vinyl as opposed to a ten track flowing CD… Well after getting used to the idea of music albums coming in CD sized portions what is the future of the long format music media? Will people continue to make albums the same length just because they always have?
Me? I’ll stick with between 35 and 38 minutes as I have quite a short attention span and it’s about the time it takes to assemble a piece of ikea furniture without an instuction manual…..
During the last few weeks that I’ve been writing this journal I’ve not posted very often about anything other than my music and where it takes me. I forget that I can write here about other things as well.
When I’m working a lot on a musical project I tend to filter out other music from my life, and exist, albeit temporarily, in a musical vacuum. This is never a concious decision, it’s just the way it is. I guess my main source of distraction, apart from two children, is reading. I consume books, I re-read things often and rarely give up on something even if I don’t like it much. I continually jump genres and, happily, will have two or three books on the go at the same time. At the moment I’m enjoying The Air Conditioned Nightmare by Henry Miller which I picked up at City Lights in San Francisco a few weeks ago, a compendium of literature celebrating the virtues of vice titled Drinking, Smoking and Screwing which I bought on the same trip featuring extracts from books by Charles Bukowski, J P Donleavy, Anais Nin, Sam Shepard and other too numerous to mention. It’s most enjoyable and has introduced me to a few writers that I didn’t know before. What else? Recent reads have been The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill, Blood and Champagne, a biography of Robert Capa, The Story of the Eye written by Georges Bataille, Journey to the End of the Night written by Celine, The Spanish Civil War written by Antony Beevor, The Outsider written by Albert Camus and La Premiere Gorgee de Biere et Autres Plaisirs Miniscules by Phillipe Delerm. The last there is somewhat of an anomoly as it the only book I’ve, so far, been able to read in French. While my spoken is, well, I don’t know, adequate (most around me would say otherwise), my comprehension pretty good but my reading and writing are non existant, no doubt due to assimilating the language as opposed to taking the time to learn it… So the achievement of actually reading that book (it is a collection of two and three page vingettes) is enormous..
One downside to living in France for and anglophone is finding books. I often have to rely on amazon, which doesn’t really satisfy as the whole experience of book shopping is more than just buying the book, it’s being in the bookstore, browsing, accidently finding things that you wouldn’t have thought interested you, being seduced by a book jacket and smelling the coffee from the adjacent starbucks. I often find myself visiting bookstores here in Rennes just to absorb a bit of the atmosphere. It is however, an unfulfilling and frustrating experience as I can’t read most of the books and worse, they don’t do the bookstore/coffeeshop thing here in France.