DATE:
 Friday 23 September 2016
LOCATION:
Studio 5, BLANK Studios & Gallery, 108 North St, Portslade-by-Sea, BN41 1DG

MISSION STATEMENT
To create a sound piece, within 1 day, in response and homage to the environs of BLANK Studio 5. All sounds to be conjured via a limited array of low-fidelity sound-producing and recording equipment, plus any found sounds and field recordings captured on location, on the day.

EQUIPMENT (all vintage and/or 2nd-hand unless otherwise stated)
Recording: Fostex X-26 4-track cassette recorder (channel 1 input not working); selection of 3 microphones of various vintages; Behringer 4-channel mixer; circa 1960s Park amplifier (low wattage); Headphones; Zoom H1 Handy Recorder (my one concession to modern technology)
Instruments/Sound-producers: Human voice; Human body; Yamaha SU-10 sampler; metronome; Early Learning Centre plastic drum (purchased previously for £1.99 at local charity shop).

ARTIST’S NOTE
In the process of winding down my practice in BLANK studio 5, and packing up my works and materials, I have found the grain of a song idea returning to mind again and again – A Nietzschean slogan that appears on one of my current works in progress: “Everything you need is right here”. Over time it became almost a mantra, a nagging earworm, sound-tracking the hours spent clearing out my paraphernalia. Now and again harmonic counter melodies would suggest themselves, hinting at a choral composition of some kind. And so I vowed to return to the vacant space to compose and record a farewell sound-piece – a Lo-Fi Symphony in 1 day.

ACCOUNT
I arrive, from Worthing, by bike and set-up my arsenal of lo-fidelity audio equipment. First task is to wipe a cassette on high-speed record.

11:15 – I have had my suspicions about the metronome I have brought with me – it seems to be a bit lazy on every 2nd click. But I need a click-track to help me keep time, so I cheat and hook up my phone to the internet. A little trial and error and I settle on 69bpm.

I record a base vocal take – the repeated phrase “Everything you need is right here” holding a close microphone (AKG) with an auxiliary directed mic’ (SM-58) at approximately 1.5 metres distance. Vocal 2 adds a basic harmony repeating the same phrase, mixed down with Vocal 1, with some high and low EQ tweaked.

Following Vocal 3, I realise everything, bar the click track, has been recorded too quietly. If I try and increase the volume, it merely amplifies the hiss – there is “lo-fi” and there is “unlistenable”, so I cut my losses and start from scratch with the click track.

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14.30 – Much better! A cleaner, louder Vocal 1 and 2 are re-recorded (same mic’s and positions) and mixed down to 1 channel. Vocal 3 is added and we’ve clawed back some time. On this 2nd attempt I make the decision to set a structure for the composition: 10 repeats of the full phrase (10 being a multiple of 5. As in studio 5).

Each of the following Vocal takes requires careful consideration to slot in with the existing ones and to add a new colour or tone to the whole. And as each part is added it must be mixed down to the 1 spare channel I have at my disposal. So with every new addition, an individual part is lost (and another bridge is burned). It is a tricky, but liberating route to feel your way through.

Occasionally, one of my additions doesn’t quite mesh with the others – it is discarded and I try something else. Slowly, with each new part and mix, the piece builds to a rather comforting sounding multi-vocal composition. (I have notes for 6 vocal takes, but there may be 1 or 2 more).

I try adding an over-driven a capella bass part – abandoned in favour of a falsetto counter harmony. I then have an idea to introduce a crashing bass-drum sound during the final 2 phrase repeats. First I try various implements (heavy pliers, bits of wood, a fist, a microphone) out on the toy drum I have hanging around from my previous Lo-Fi Symphony – too feeble! Instead I mic’ up the floor and thud my knee twice on the floorboards in sync with my trusty click-track. This is sampled and hooked up to the 1960s Park amplifier. Once recorded, it doesn’t quite have the desired effect, so I mix it across with some extreme (for this 4-track) EQ. Still no good, and it’s getting late.

I draw a line, and listen back to adjust the levels of the amassed vocal jigsaw I have gradually constructed throughout the afternoon: Vocal 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 on one channel, with added Vocal 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 adding extra presence on the 2nd channel.

19.30 – I record a master mix direct to my Zoom H1 recorder; then a second ‘ambient’ version by routing the 4-track to the Park amp, with the Zoom H1 approximately 2.5 metres distance from the sound source. Then I hastily pack away my gear and load up my bike for a hairy ride along the dark coastal cycle way back home to Worthing.

Notes from the recording process:


Post-production: the final Dry mix + Ambient mix were transferred to Logic audio software; the two mixes were then combined and volume levels tweaked for an overall “wet + dry mix”.

The Devil + Idle Hands 1 (East Sussex Open 2016)By popular demand, the East Sussex Open has been extended for 1 week! But this is that final week, so if you’ve been planning on getting along, your time is fast running out!

East Sussex Open 2016
23 July – 02 October
Towner Gallery, Devonshire Place, College Rd, Eastbourne BN21 4JJ
townereastbourne.org.uk/exhibition/east-sussex-open-2016

 

devilidlehands-badges

I had these hot pink neon badges made of my featured painting, The Devil + Idle Hands 1, for the opening party. I still have a few left, so now’s yr chance to get yr hands on what is sure to be one of the most desirable of autumn coat accoutrements this season!

 

THE DEVIL + IDLE HANDS button badge


THE DEVIL + IDLE HANDS
button badge (32mm)
£1.00 + 75p postage*

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*postage is UK only, please contact me if you wish to buy a badge and you are overseas.
All UK deliveries will be by 2nd class post.

 

 

 

 

 

The Devil + Idle Hands, 2015, oil on canvas, 100cm x 100cm

The East Sussex Open 2016 at The Towner Gallery, Eastbourne opens this Friday evening alongside 2 other exhibitions – Some Are Nights Others Stars (featuring work by Michael Armitage, Ruth Claxton, Tiffany Chung, Siobhan Hapaska, Isaac Julien) and David Bomberg: A Sense of Place.

East Sussex Open 2016
23 July – 25 September
(opening night/Summer Party Friday 22 July, 6.30pm-midnight)
Towner Gallery, Devonshire Place, College Rd, Eastbourne BN21 4JJ
townereastbourne.org.uk/exhibition/east-sussex-open-2016

My painting The Devil + Idle Hands 1 (above) was selected for the ESO 2016, and I was really chuffed that they are also using it as the publicity image for the exhibition, which means it has already graced the pages of the Towner exhibition programme, as well as featuring in adverts across local media.

 

These songs are the results of a four day recording residency I undertook from 18th to 21st August 2013 (with a few hours remedial work over the following weeks), under the banner of “Lo-Fi Symphonies”.

I finally found the time and courage to re-visit the recordings at the end of March this year. I’ll be honest it was really an excuse to try out an idea I’d had for a homemade space echo spring reverb. Each of the songs was kept in the state I had left them almost 3 years ago, and i mixed and mastered 2 signals from the 8-track: 1 outputted directly to Logic, and the 2nd routed to Logic via my homemade space echo.

I’ve released the four songs under the guise of Sylvania Electric (seeing them as a progression of a long-dormant pre-Miss Pain pseudonym Sylvania). I hope you like them.

 

 

———————————————————————–
APPENDIX (Lo-Fi Symphonies Residency 1)
Rather than wracking my memory over a few overdubs and recording decisions I made 3 years ago, I’m just going to present the notes as a form of appendix – a long overdue full stop to this project.

REMEDIAL NOTES (Summarising work undertaken following the initial recording timescale)


REMEDIAL NOTES (Praying For Time)


MIXING & MASTERING NOTES

image

Having been rejected from the RA Summer Exhibition, I have a painting in this year’s Salon Des Refusés*

23-26 June
SPACE, 129-131 Mare St, Hackney, E8 3RH
more info & opening times > salonexhibition.com

* The Salon Des Refusés takes its cue from the original 18th Century “Salon des Refusés” which showed works – by artists including Manet and Whistler – rejected from the official Paris Salon exhibition, this contemporary show features works rejected by the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2016.

I will be showing the latest in my neon ‘Drip’ series: Drip 6 (For Barnett Newman).

image

I Think Of You And I Smile (crop)An image of my painting I Think Of You And I Smile has been included in a community project on Worthing’s 1930s Streamline Moderne pier.

Art On The Pier‘ was unveiled a week ago, and will be in situ until May 2017.

My piece is one of 50 selected by Creative Waves, and on display – alongside 2 other projects ‘Appear On The Pier’ (featuring ‘selfies’ created by local school pupils) and ‘Post To The Coast’ (a postcard response project) – in the open-air galleries along the centre of the pier.

Signed and numbered print editions of I Think Of You And I Smile are available from Subversion Gallery, Glasgow and Art Republic, Brighton, as well as Sticks Gallery, Portsmouth (for a limited time).