Friday, September 30, 2011

Unchained - The Happy Stirrup (2007)

Here is the last work of my solo noise band, Unchained (ex-Knifestorm, etc.), entitled The Happy Stirrup, and self-released on CDR in 2007. Of all the solo releases I've done, today I am most satisfied with this one. It was the first time I worked with other musicians for something I considered "solo" work: the songs are constructed from the practice tapes of two bands I was playing in at the time, Gateway Evening Colours (with Alex Farrill on drums and Brian House on bass) and Innnocent Delights (with Miles Huston on drums and vocals and Sam Mehran on keyboard and guitar). In both bands I was playing guitar through a no-input mixer setup (Behringer Eurorack mixer, Boss compression/sustain pedal, Boss digital delay, Rat Distortion pedal, Roland volume pedal, and sometimes a Boss octave pedal). Gateway Evening Colours was working on a kind of deep blues/country-rock noise-wall sound, very minimal and 'jammy'. Innocent Delights was less rock-ish, more free, psychedelic sounding. The majority of the songs consist of loops cut from GEC and ID practice tapes, cut and pasted with a computer wave editor, and also EQ'd and tweaked on a computer. While the source tapes were collective efforts, the editing process was my own solipsistic endeavor. However, I still feel that the collective spirit is audible here, and I think it is for this reason that this recording sounds better to my ears than others which were wholly created in an artistic solitary confinement of sorts.
The first song, "Falsini Fop or Blade" is my fake collaboration with Franco Falsini of Sensations Fix, one of my all-time favorite musicians. This was no real collaboration: instead, I created loops from his Cold Nose solo album, played these through my mixer setup, and played guitar and sang over them. Though Falsini had recorded his part three decades before I added my own part, I still felt that the result was enough of a collaboration to create a fake band, Faux Batard (named after a Sensations Fix song), which supposedly had myself and Falsini as members. This is perhaps the most "noise" song of the album, and also comes the closest out of any recording I've ever done to replicating the sound of my live shows as Unchained.
"Spetters" (named after the Verhoeven film), "The Happy Stirrup" (named after a line from a famous translation) and "Suncanal" are all based on practice tapes of Gateway Evening Colours. With these, as well as the Innocent Delights tracks, I wanted to focus on the golden moments of group improvisation, when things suddenly come together into a song form that seems planned, though it isn't. What I wanted to do was isolate these moments, and cut and paste them into a larger composition: in other words, to force an element of postmortem compositional order onto small moments of improvisational magic. It was this combination of the non-control of group improvisation with the hyper-control of cutting and pasting alone on a wave editor that intrigued me. The GEC tracks are marked by more laid-back grooves, more Grateful Dead where the ID tracks are more free-noise.
Innocent Delights was short-lived. "Crystal Drops of Quilmes" and "Licking Tides" were the only recordings that resulted from our collaboration. We jammed 3 or 4 times, and played once live (the massive show for the opening of The Redemption Center in Brooklyn). Miles used to be in Dreamhouse, with whom I did a US tour in 2004, and now helps run the gallery Know More Games. Sam is now getting some recognition as Outer Limits Recordings. These recordings were also improvised, even Miles's vocals. I'm don't think he's actually singing real words, just like sketches for future words—which makes it even funnier when they are looped by me. Instead of developing compositions through the act of improvising, here the improvisations themselves become the compositions.
I made about 70 or 80 copies of this CDR. If anyone is interested in re-releasing it, please get in touch.

Unchained - The Happy Stirrup (2007, CDR)
1. Falsini Fop or Blade
2. Spetters
3. Crystal Drops of Quilmes
4. The Happy Stirrup
5. Suncanal
6. Licking Tides

UPDATE: The Happy Stirrup will be reissued as a double LP (w/ bonus tracks) by New Images Ltd., hopefully by late May. More info here:

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