Post Tagged ne quid nimis

NQN details, part 11

Monday, 03 March 2009

The final track on ne quid nimis is “in a red time”.

This track was originally recorded as part of an intended collaboration with a guy, a project that did not end up working out.

The song starts off with a very distorted and feedback-laden vocal, courtesy of the Zoom 9002. This gives way to a steady drone which was done by singing a drone into a mic run through pitch shifting, delay and distortion. There’s a guitar part which is pretty stark and spare, and a percussion part, which was made by recording an aluminum soda can wired up with a contact mic. I might have used a pencil or something to strike it, I don’t remember.

I thought at the time I assembled this collection of music that this was the most “ambient” of the tracks on this ‘diary of tentative ambient drafts’. The whole collection was meant as a statement about ambient from the perspective of an eccentric hometaper, and it was probably not by chance that the track I felt was most accessible to a fan of ambient occurred after all kinds of noisy experimentation, including a minute and twenty seconds of distorted noisestuff at the beginning of this track. I never thought things should be easy, and I still don’t.

NQN details, part 10

Saturday, 02 February 2009

The ninth song on ne quid nimis is “the hypnogog”.

This track was recorded for the pair of noise compilations titled “Weeping Eye of God / Creeping Eve of Dog” which featured contributions from Crawl Unit and Richard Ramirez among others.

I didn’t have much appreciation for noise music back in the early 90s. What really bothered me about the style was that from what I could see, a lot of artists were doing noise along with some silly, aggressive macho posturing, which I’d had quite enough of in heavy metal. I only later really came to appreciate noise as a style with a lot of variation and potential. This song was my idea for what noise could be, while still retaining a sort of calmness.

Sadly, I can’t remember a whole lot about the recording of this particular track… it sounds like the main drone is built upon a bass guitar feedback loop. I listed “fabric” as a sound source, and I think I might be referring to the fabric cover of my amplifier, which I might have rubbed against the surface of the microphone, unfortunately, I can’t remember for certain. The outright noise at the end is a guitar freakout run through a pitch shifter with distortion.

The constant presence in this track is an echoing voice, mixed so as to be a background element. The voice is a set of recorded tapes of a local idiot with a TV talk show named Bob Enyart, Pastor of the Denver Bible Church. My wife and I got great entertainment from watching this guy make a fool of himself on television, spouting his hateful views once a week from behind his moustache and ugly ties… with some nutjob call-ins from wishy-washy liberals who limply challenge him and from backwoods rednecks who (burp) agree with him. Bob has some pretty shocking and backwards views, that homosexuality should be punishable by death, for example. He calls child molesters “homosexual recruitment officers”. Charming guy for sure.

NQN details, part 9

Wednesday, 02 February 2009

The eighth track on ne quid nimis is “dying”.

“dying” was recorded by my high school friend Erinn Thorp during the Summer of 1992. He was studying to be a recording engineer in college, and he recorded my first full length tape as a solo artist – not named by Luster – as a project, for credit, during his off time from school. This track was part of that first tape of mine, but this was a pre-mix of the song that didn’t end up on the tape. The final mix of this song had vocals and a smoother delay, with fewer “mistakes”. I like this version better.

This song was directly influenced by Brian Eno. I am embarrassed to admit that in 1992 I had read a whole lot more about Eno’s ideas than I had heard his music. I didn’t have much spare money for buying albums, and there wasn’t such a thing as downloading records at that time. I had read something about Eno’s use of tape loops in “Music for Airports”, and this was my version of that idea.

Frequently, when people hear my music like this, they think I make music by playing synthesizer. This annoys me very much, which is part of the reason I like to list instrumentation, and also is part of the reason that I’m doing this series of blog posts. This is a guitar piece, with a lot of natural sustain, and with a fair, but not outrageous, amount of delay.

I ‘wrote’ the song by choosing six notes to be played on the guitar. The performer takes one of those notes and performs that note and only that note for the length of the performance. The note is played by striking the string with the volume pot all the way down, then fades it in slowly using the volume pot. This gives every note a slow attack, unlike your typical sound on guitar. The note is allowed to sustain, and then followed by a silence at least as long as the note’s duration, but subject to the whim of the performer. Once all six notes/parts had been played and recorded, the recorded material would be fed through a delay unit.

The guitar parts were recorded to 3 tracks of a 4-track tape recorder. Erinn and I played the 6 guitar parts.

Here are a couple of photos of Erinn and I listening to playbacks during this session:

Erinn did me a great favor by recording my music at this time, and I’m very grateful for that… but he also did me a disservice, by keeping the masters of the project for this class. Currently the master tapes are completely lost. Lesson learned: an artist should always own the masters to his work.

NQN details, part 8

Monday, 02 February 2009

On we go with more history about ne quid nimis. The next track in my remembrance of this project is “waiting”.

This track was in some senses a kind of tour de force of my previous work with “destroyed and abused” compact discs. I had been heavily delving into the use of the compact disc as an instrument of sorts for several years. I guess this places me as a contemporary of artists such as Oval, who pioneered the use of digital “glitches”. I do clearly remember the day when I encountered Oval’s album, found out about the praise it was garnering for its futuristic techniques and instantly my heart sunk and I said to myself “Oh shit, I guess this makes me a copycat now.” After that moment I never used another skipping CD as a sound source. I actually couldn’t even bring myself to listen to Oval’s music for a few years, so I guess I felt pretty low about the whole thing, which seems really very silly now, especially since I now know that Oval’s music is about 400 times better than anything that I ever did with skipping CDs.

I remember my best method for getting CDs for experimentation was to go to Wax Trax! and Albums on the Hill in Boulder and ask the people working there if they would give me some of the CDs sent to them as promotional items from record companies. They’d point me to boxes of hundreds of copies of albums and CD singles by bands like Firehose and Roseanne Cash and the Sensible Things. All those copies were probably eventually tossed in the dumpster.

After quite a bit of experimentation with ways to get CDs to skip (sandpaper, X-Acto blade cuts, burning with a lighter) I finally settled on the best method: a water/sugar solution left to dry on the CD surface. If the syrup dried and didn’t give a good skip, I could always wash it off and try again.

I did an awful lot of experimentation with this technique, and finally arrived on a method to render these sounds into a rather calming, throbbing sound field which I was really proud of at the time. Somehow, out of the context of the time, I’m personally left a little cold by the whole thing, which is a little sad.

One of the nicer compliments anyone has given me was about this song, from John Gore of Kirchenkampf, who said back when this album was originally released on cassette by AudioFile Tapes, that it was the sound of the future. As ironic as that feels now, I still warm at the compliment.

Within just this last week, I was looking through old cassette tapes and found a compilation on Epitapes called “Death Full of Flowers” – probably from the 1994-1995 time period – and on it was a track credited to C. Reider (odd enough by itself, during this time period, I usually credited my music as Luster). The title of the piece on the tape was “Study in Compact Disk Abuse”. I had completely forgotten about this track. In fact, its appearance on this compilation was the only copy I have of the track. I didn’t even bother to archive a mix of it for my own records, so it’s very rare, indeed. When I listened to it earlier this week, I was surprised to hear an early version of “waiting”. The structure of the piece is all there, so I guess this is a demo version of the song. In case you are interested, here’s the track. I haven’t cleaned it up at all, so beware of tape hiss.

C. Reider – Study in Compact Disk Abuse

NQN details, part 7

Sunday, 02 February 2009

Back to ne quid nimis… the next track is “dreamdroneone”, recorded in March 1994.

This was another track recorded for the Epitapes label. It originally appeared on the compilation “Like Wind or Empty Dreams”, a compilation of dream music featuring an unlikely assemblage of underground luminaries such as Ken Clinger, M. Nomized, Ataraxia, Kirchenkampf, Sebastien Gandera, Bubble Eyes and others.

I sometimes wake up with clear ideas of a technique for a musical composition, or with strong musical theme that stays with me after waking up. One particular day, after waking up from a fitful sleep, I was struck by some of the startling, piercing electronic-like sounds my mind sometimes produces while in hypnogogic/hypnopompic states. This track was a kind of emulation of those mindsounds, coupled with a recording of a drone from a fan that my wife and I would leave running all night long as a kind of white noise generator. I seem to remember that I recorded this directly out of bed, without even pausing to eat breakfast.

The other sounds you hear on this song are skipping CDs (a common sound source for me in the early 90s) and a “re-tuned” music box. Re-tuning of a music box is simply taking the tuned forks off of one music box and putting them on another, so that the box plays “the Danube Waltz”‘s rhythm with the notes from “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or something like that. You can force a formerly harmless music box which is programmed to play an inane piece of music to instead play an unidentifiable sound loop. In this track, there are clearly some really dissonant moments coming from the music box. Again, I don’t remember what songs were on the specific music boxes I used at this time.

There was a “dreamdronetwo”, which sat unused for a number of years, and eventually turned up on the catch-all 1998 release “abandon“. It was a strong musical theme from a dream, and I’m pretty sure it was conceived and recorded the day after “dreamdroneone”.

Those were not the only songs that were composed by my dreaming mind, but I don’t remember ever naming any song “dreamdronethree”.

NQN details, part 6

Saturday, 02 February 2009

Track five on ne quid nimis is “the speaking holes”.

The track was recorded in February 1994 for inclusion on one of Epitapes’ many themed compilations, but if it was included on any of them, I do not know about it. I sent Mike Tetrault of Epitapes very many tracks for his regular compilations, (probably to his dismay and irritation!). I now have five tapes in my collection from the label.

“the speaking holes” was one of the most minimal pieces of music I have ever conceived and recorded. All of the sounds on this song come from polished stones rubbing against each other. I had a small vase made of sedimentary fossil rock, and a ball made of the same stone that was about two inches in diameter. The ball fit snugly into the mouth of the vase, like a ball in a socket. I contact mic’ed the vase and rolled the ball around in the socket for the duration of the piece. I recorded four tracks of this, and ended up with something that sounded like quiet mouth noises punctuated by snaps and clicks.

Directly after recording this song, I kept the same set-up and recorded another little experiment by tapping on the stones with various things. That little experiment became “Tapping the Hole” on the release abandon.

NQN details, part 5

Friday, 02 February 2009

The fourth track on ne quid nimis is “coagulant”.

I had found several pieces of scrap metal here and there, always intending to use them as instruments. In this case I decided to do an entire track with metal noises. I like doing certain multitracked songs with a single sound source, which should be fairly obvious from this album, where there are four out of 10 songs which have one instrument (or one kind of instrument).

The main rhythm track on this song was a piece of machined aluminum which I struck with a soft rubber spatula, striking different places on the piece to get some different tones. The bell like tones were a piece of stainless steel that was about 1/4 or 3/8″ thick. If my memory serves me correctly, the scraping sounds came from the same piece of metal as was used on “the poisoned lambs 2”

It has long upset me how out of time my performance is on this piece, but on the positive side, it does bring on a feeling of disorientation when listening to this song, (much of my music is ‘about’ disorientation).

NQN, details part 4

Thursday, 02 February 2009

The fourth track of ne quid nimis (in this iteration anyway) is “the poisoned lambs 2”.

I feel some sort of strange relief that at last at least one of the versions of this song is available again. There are, at this date, three different recordings with the name “the poisoned lambs”. Part one appeared on the album “fall” by the Unseelie Court, which was an album worked on by myself with caerie and with Dr. Terrence 13 (here’s his newly acquired MySpace profile). I’ve intended to re-release “fall” for years, but I haven’t taken the necessary steps yet. The third part of this trilogy appears on my drone masterpiece (still waiting for a label to release it!) called I’d’ve.

The poisoned lambs trilogy is named after a news story I heard sometime in the nineties that affected me deeply. Some rancher was annoyed at activity by coyotes on his land, so he laid out some bait… several lamb carcasses laced with poison. Wildlife management people found many dead predators around the baited carcasses. The whole story just seemed horrible to me. More proof that man is a bad animal, as if we needed more. That some guy thinks his being annoyed is worth huge physical suffering and death on the part of however many animals… it’s just unthinkable.

A similar story has been in the local news here about a rancher who was so irratated with his neighbors’ herd of bison occasionally trespassing on his land that he shot them all, leaving many of them to bleed to death for hours or days. Thirty bison dead and the man responsible was charged and sentenced to TEN DAYS in jail. Our culture places no value on the suffering of a living being if it is not a human being.

The instrumentation in this song, an instrumentation shared in the two other versions of the song, is as follows: 1.) Bass guitar… played by rocking the guitar body back and forth without actually touching the strings at any time… 2.) A specific piece of scrap metal that I found while working on a construction site in Golden, Colorado in the early 90s: it’s a 1/4″ thick plate of carbon steel with about twelve two inch holes cut out of it with oxy-acetylene torch… leaving very little metal left over. This piece of scrap is mic’ed via piezo-electric contact mic and fed through a gain and flanging reverb. These two elements are in all the versions of “the poisoned lambs”. In the piece on display here, there is also the sound of the malfunctioning Alesis SR-16 I described in an earlier post.

There are a couple of very special moments in this recording, when the contact mic’ed scrap metal acted like a real microphone, picking up the sound of birds chattering outside the window a few feet from where the piece of scrap metal was hanging when I recorded this track. Listen for them! I did highlight those moments in this mix.

NQN, details part 3

Wednesday, 02 February 2009

The second song on ne quid nimis is “the hypnopomp”.

It was recorded – along with “the hypnogog” – for a pair of tape compilations of noise music called “The Creeping Eye of God / The Weeping Eve of Dog”, which came out in 1995.

The thing about the cassette underground in the nineties was that there were a lot of pop-weirdo musicians, a fair amount of synthy-weirdo musicians, a handful of heavy-metal musicians… and then there were 958 metric tons of noise musicians. They were all named Bondage Domination Penetration Matrix, or Thank You Jeffrey Dahmer, or Fistfucking Popes or Ted Bundy’s Biceps, or Kitten Torture Masters, or Serial Killing for Fun and Profit. There were almost no musicians doing quiet / subtle music or ambient music in the tape trading network, or at least not in the part of it I was familiar with. Noise at that particular time really turned me off with its macho bullshit fascist/nazi/violent stuff.

At any rate, you can see why, at the time, I thought that being an ambient musician was a rebellious thing given the environment. The tables have seemingly been turned 180 degrees now, it seems like there are more ambient/drone musicians than anything else in the underground. It’s funny how things change.

I decided to contribute to this double tape compilation of noise music, thinking I could do one thing that tried to fulfill what my idea of what “noise” could be, and then another that was a little less brutish. “The hypnopomp” was the latter of the two options. We’ll get into “the hypnogog” in a later entry.

So “the hypnopomp” got its name from the state of the brain leading out of sleep, in which the dreaming mind tries to make sense of the waking reality. Sleep and dreams were an important artistic influence, especially during the stage of my life that produced this album. I came up with many of the ideas for recordings on this album while in hypnogogic/hypnopompic states.

The structure of this song is pretty simple, it has a drone-like repeating guitar phrase, regularly punctuated by a bass tone. That is the skeletal structure on which a bunch of random noises are hung. When I was recording this I was very much enamored of piezo-electric contact mics. I would attach them to anything and everything. It was like looking at something through a microscope… a previously unavailable soundworld would be apparent simply by taping a piezo mic to any object. A cabinet door that had a particularly nice CREEEAAAK to it became a main voice in this track, as well as a woodstove made of cast iron, a water pot with a little water in it… whatever was around!

The Casio PT-1 that I used was a teensy tiny little keyboard that was colored hot pink. It was so small and insignificant, that if it were produced today the company wouldn’t bother to give it such a glorious designation as “PT-1”, as though it were part of a lineage. The whole keyboard was probably 11×3 or so. Its best feature was a little sequencer that you could trigger with a little button so that you could enter whatever tune you wanted, note by note, not worrying about actually playing it on time, because later you could tap it in time with the button and it’d be as though you had played it perfectly. For my part I just sequenced random notes and tried to hit that little button as fast as I could…

NQN, details part 2

Tuesday, 02 February 2009

Most of the tracks on ne quid nimis were recorded for various compilations, or just for the heck of it. In January of 1996 I recorded three entries specifically intended to finish up and round out this album.

By ’96 I had scraped together enough money for a couple of additions to my instrumentation; an Alesis SR-16 drum machine and a Trigon Incantor (there’s a photo of one (not mine) at the top of this page) built by Qubais Reed Ghazala.

I had bought the drum machine for a live band I was playing with. It was pretty important to the band, since we didn’t have a drummer, and no one in our small town was available or willing to play with us.

One day I switched the machine on and something short circuited, the LED display became all garbled and unreadable, and although the pads still played drum noises, they were not the drum noises that came with the machine! They were new and wonderful!

I recorded two tracks with the new sounds, “Breathes in Mists” and “the Poisoned Lambs 2”.

I remember being upset that I couldn’t capture the beauty of some of the little crackling, hissing, wheezing noises of the malfunctioning SR-16 on tape, due to the poor recording quality of my 4-track which obscured these sounds with tape hiss.

The other guy in the band I was playing in, (whom I was still paying back for lending me the money to buy the drum machine in the first place,) wanted the equipment fixed so that we could continue to practice with it. With deep reluctance I sent the machine back to the manufacturer and got back a drum machine in good working order with normal sounds. I really regret ever having had the thing repaired.

The first song on ne quid nimis, “Breathes in Mists” has a kind of rhythm based on those ‘wrong’ sounds from the SR-16, and a little drone-guitar. The chiming sounds are from a music-box from which I’d removed the spring-motor. I spun the keyed cylinder with my finger fast enough that you couldn’t tell what song was on the music-box (I don’t remember what song it was). The other sound, which comes in toward the end, is the Trigon Incantor mentioned above.

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