Updated: May 11, 2019
Spent most of the day over at Fairview Studio near Hull, transferring the 30 tracks I've recorded, (for the two new albums,) to Fairview's computer, ready for mastering engineer John Spence to put the final polish on before being sent off for manufacture.
Always nice to spend a few hours with John, catching up on things generally, as well as doing a bit of work. Good to see John feeling much better after his recent knee operation too.
Hearing any new album I take to Fairview can be a bit of a surprise. Listening back to it with all the songs in the correct running order can reveal certain things and give deeper insights into what the album is actually about. This isn't always apparent when I'm continuously working on an album at home. It's easy to lose track, to a certain degree, being so wrapped up in the process. It's also strange to play the album back whilst in the presence of someone who hasn't heard it before. I'm always conscious of the fact that John is sitting there and reacting to it for the first time, which can provoke an extremely critical appraisal from myself, imaging what the other person might be making of it. No matter how 'right' an album may sound in the privacy of your own studio, the moment it's played back in front of someone else, you immediately re-assess it, and not always favourably. I tend to be hyper-critical of everything I do anyway, but it's best to try to let go and just say 'it's what it is', warts and all. But that's sometimes not easy.
Anyway, what conclusions did I come to about these two new albums? Well, first of all, they're flawed. But what album of mine isn't flawed? I hear lots of things I wish I'd done differently, after the fact, on every album I've ever made. It can be quite discouraging sometimes, but by then it's too late to change anything, so I just have to let it go.
The main album 'Stand By: Light Coming...', surprised me by the way it revealed its inner meaning. Hearing the songs in their correct order at Fairview showed that the songwriting 'theme' as such is all about Time. Time passing, our perceptions of time, the need to make the most of the time we have left to us, and the way that time and memory are inextricably intertwined. Images of clocks ticking through the night abound in these songs.
The other thing that emerged from listening to the album is the deep sense of melancholy in many of the songs, and the frustration and anger that life 'runs out like sand', (to quote a lyric from my 'Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam' album from the early 1980s.)
Maybe I've had an awareness of the brevity of life from a young age. I can remember thinking about this kind of thing when I was still a very young child...
So, 'Stand By: Light Coming...' can perhaps be described as 'music for aging melancholiacs.' It has a lot of sadness, but a sadness tinged with joy...like dark clouds surrounded by golden rays. It should ring rusty bells for people of a 'certain age' but may also bring younger listeners to a more acute awareness of how precious every moment of life is. A cliche, I know, but life is all too brief, even if we're lucky enough to live long enough to make a real mark on it..
And what about 'The Last Lamplighter (Return To Vulcan Street.)'? This is an album made up of tracks left over from the sessions that produced 'Stand By: Light Coming...' so, inevitably, a certain amount of the thematic structure is carried over from one album to the other. There are a couple of references to 'clocks ticking' and the passage of time in these songs too, but there are a few diversions, particularly in the five instrumental tracks that are included to break up the vocal ones.
As for the sonic qualities of these albums, I'd say that they were textured and richly rendered, noisy at times, spontaneously put together, never perfectly executed, sometimes abrasive, quirky, even scary, sometimes tender and naive. And, as stated before, hopelessly flawed, but perhaps forgivably and poetically so. At the end of the day, it's just stuff that emerges from Being.