Funky Jam at Home

August sees us taking a short break from touring with Jah Wobble. We’ll be back on the road across the UK in mid-September. In the meantime here’s a quick, funky guitar improvisation as part of the “funk jam challenge” which has been doing the rounds this past week. If you fancy joining in you can find the original backing track over at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA2eCjHP0QQ.

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Nimbus Out Today!

Today is the day! Very proud and excited to announce my debut EP Nimbus is out now over at Bandcamp. This past 6 months the album has grown from an individual university project into an important personal and creative statement (pretty much taking over my life in the process!).

I would like to thank everyone involved in helping me make this project a reality, particular my family and friends for all their love and support over the past few months. Also a number of special thanks to certain personnel who’s knowledge and expertise contributed directly to the finished product:

Professor Monty Adkins for all his help and constructive criticism supervising this project, helping me become a better composer and further develop my own musical voice.

Dr. Alex Harker for getting me started on the rollercaoster ride that is creative coding in Max MSP, a daunting world for someone with zero programming experience! Using Max has honestly changed my life and changed the way I write music.

Dr. Philip Thomas for opening up my ears to the exciting world of experimental/contemporary music, raising my awareness and wonder in the sounds that we take for granted every day.

Ian Sanderson for his time and effort taking me step by step through the mastering process. Truly a deep and dark art requiring patience and golden ears!

The Guitar and Processing Part: 1

Due to its necessity for amplification the sound of the electric guitar is shaped and processed from the outset. Beyond the coloration provided by the amp itself, effects pedals or “stomp boxes” offer numerous ways to transform the signal or create artificial spaces and ambiences. With the advent of the home computing revolution and the democratisation of technology a new wave of sonic possibilities became available to guitarists.

Working with pedals offers a spontaneous, improvisatory approach music creation processing the guitar signal in real-time either via the use of effects pedals. Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus uses a wide range of pedals, particular distortion and delay units to create darkly beautiful sonic vistas. Here signal chain becomes vitally important as each pedal can colour another depending on it’s position in sequence. Along with the amp they become as much an instrument as the guitar itself.

Within this digital domain a number of artists make use of the textural possibilities of the electric guitar, sampling raw sounds of the instrument before applying a number of audio manipulation techniques such as granulation or spectral processing. Many of these processes are non-realtime requiring a different compositional workflow. Software environment Max MSP has frequently been a tool of choice, allowing composers to tailor-build audio processing tools unique to their individual needs and stylistic tastes. Christopher Willits uses a combination of Ableton and custom Max patches to build rhythmically shifting patterns from sampled chords and single note lines, a process he describes as “Folding”.

Contrastingly, Touch recording artist Christian Fennesz largely eschews rhythmic elements, utilising Max to create shifting ambient noise-scales constructed from electric and acoustic guitars, often augmenting them with field recordings. He frequently uses Lloopp, a free, pre-written suite of Max patches for sound transformation created with live improvisation in mind.