far too easy 2010


Far Too Easy version #2.0 15/9/2010. (c) words and music 1993, 2009, 2010 Cameron Pyke. (c) recording 2010 Cameron Pyke, Small Symphonies & Ambisonix.  Recorded on the Calrec Soundfield Microphone by Ambisonix.

Please note that all recordings on this WordPress so far are work in progress, complete with mistakes and issues, recorded in one take, voice and guitar, no overdubs.  If you feel you can help me with a technical or artistic tip, you really love something, or really hate it, please leave a comment.  I may not agree with you but I’ll be very grateful for the participation. If you want to rant about a particular semi-quaver or glitch you could visit the small symphonies soundcloud and leave a timed comment right next it.

20/9/10  You may have heard this one before. If you haven’t, you might like to cast a lug at the 2009 version , and an eyeball at the words.  I listened to it a few minutes ago and was struck by just how much this song has changed.  Its whole feel and outlook has changed.  The 2009 recording is perhaps angry and desperate (and technically woeful).  Now it is sad and reflective (with the signature crystalline Ambisonix treatment). 

This is one of my more immediately accessible songs – it is strophic – has verses, a chorus and a middle eight. So this is a song that I trot out regularly at open mic evenings. The subject matter is unashamedly …depressing? Actually, it’s not. There is a small glimmer of hope embedded in it – which I didn’t realise until recently – I’m going to write some additional sleeve notes about this.  Anyway, despite the catchy chorus it’s uncompromising social / political comment. Entertainment it ain’t.

Given that at these open mics we’re sort of trying to have a good time I tend to send myself up a little.  As I see it, we can have a laugh at my expense between songs – it shouldn’t detract from the impact and the message of the song when it’s being sung.  I have been taken to task for this. A guy who had worked in radio commented that it was a powerful song and I shouldn’t do it down, sell it short.

This was recorded at the second Ambisonix session. I wasn’t as stressed out as the first time but I wasn’t properly in the zone either. I can do this more polished. In particular, the ‘guitar solo’ stumbles and needs to be less tentative, more assured.

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APF – a genre is born

APF stands for lots things. In my childhood it stood for American Puppet Films which was an early brand name for Gerry Anderson’s creations. It appeared as a logo framed in a cartouche in the opening sequence of Stingray just after Commander Shore announced “We are about to launch Stingray.” It stayed on the screen for a rather frustrating few bars of dum ti tum, dum ti tum; dum ti tum, dum ti tum before the real stuff got started.

But as of 23:43 BST September 12 2010  it also stands for Acoustic Prog Fusion. Below is a screen shot of a Google search for Acoustic Prog Fusion. There are no exact matches. You read about it here first.

So MOR, AOR, R’n’B, R’n’R, HM etc., etc., and now APF.

What can you say about APF? It’s acoustic; the songs are rather obscure, long and meandering; it’s associated with artists who would prefer not be categorised:-

“Yeah, we don’t like to be put in a box and labelled, man. One thing we are definitely not, most emphatically, absolutely not,  NOT APF – no way man.”

The movement originates in South Wales valleys in times of dire economic hardship where the Hammond C3, the MiniMoog and the Mellotron have were carted off to Cash Converters long ago. What look like stone circles on the mountainside are often encampments of proggers sheltering in their Vitavox Thunderbolt bins.

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Cameron Pyke

Cameron Pyke, Small Symphonies. Photo shoot at Beaupre Castle, Dom Stocquelor, Welsh Icons

Photo courtesy of Welsh Icons

“that bald singer had the whole room mesmerised at the end, pure genius. “ Norris Nuvo, audience member, Green Rooms, Treforest

“Cop a listen to Cameron Pyke’s Small Symphonies – nothing else like it on the planet” Andy Brice (of  Zipper), Church Village

“Your tracks are so refreshingly original and imaginative – I’m really enjoying them!!” Brenda K, The Panache Orchestra

Used to be a classic rock guitarist with an SG and a Marshall.  And a plectrum.  And a White Van.

Now play the nylon guitar. With fingers. And a pushbike – no, that’s a lie – but you get the idea.

Used to play with bands. Mostly covers.  In pubs.

Don’t do bands anymore. Sing my own songs. In pubs.

Like to do some other places: art centres, festivals, house / home concerts.

Working on an album with Wookiemonstah of  Ambisonix as Recordist / Producer / Mentor. The album will be one guitar, one voice, no overdubs. The working album title is Stranger on My Own Street.

THE ALBUM IS NOW ONE YEAR ( AT LEAST ) LATE. WHY?

This blog is intended to lay bare the workings of the project.

Cameron Pyke

house



latest version #2.1 10/09/2010
 
version #2.0 18/08/2010

(c) words and music  2009, 2010 Cameron Pyke, Small Symphonies. (c) recording 2010 Symphonies & Ambisonix

27/08/10. Finally I get round to posting something new. Except it’s not – this is a reworking of a song I have previously posted – ‘House of Hopes and Dreams’. This is not the final version – still very much work in progress – there are mistakes and issues.

20/9/10. Version #2.1 is not the final say on the matter either, but some of the issues have been addressed.

27/8/10  This was recorded by an old friend of mine – The Wookiemonstah – who has a wonderful and unique mic – the Calrec Soundfield microphone.  Briefly, whereas a stereo pair of mics would capture a crude stereo image on a horizontal plane, the Soundfield mic hears everything going on around it – left, right, front, back, up, down – from a single point.   It records the artist in the environment.

Much more than that,  the Wookie has the experience, judgement and artistic vision to make Soundfield recording work. It involves a paradigm shift away from conventional recording. The results are honest, beautiful and possibly disturbing – how much honesty can you take?  

 The Wookiemonstah’s WordPress is Ambisonix.

Several people have heard this recording and most agree that the percussive click on the backbeat has to be lost or very much attenuated. 

20/9/10  Was previously smacking the strings with the side of my RH thumb – and giving it some. Now I’m dropping all four RH fingers (curled, so that the nails strike first) gently onto the strings. 

27/8/10  The song fades after the last verse because I couldn’t get the outro right. It was improvised and a bit pointless. I have now written an outro which still has elements of improvisation but is far more deliberately integral with the whole piece.

20/9/10  OK, I now have a very clear idea of what the outro should sound like – and this definitely isn’t it – although hopefully some of the intention/idea comes across. It sounds disjointed. What I really want is the arpeggiation to flow seamlessly into the razzes (a corruption of ‘rasgueado’ which saves me having to apologise to Flamenco purists) and into the single noting.  Switching from razz to single line involves a repositioning of the hand – and at the moment, an unacceptably low success rate.

Another issue is that when I move to single noting it sounds a bit thin compared to the razzes and arps – in fact it sounds like the bottom has dropped out. I’ve got to thicken these lines up with some bass notes. There’s a bit of work to do yet – but at least I have a vision.

Nothing changes very fast with this song.  

27/08/10  I was extremely nervous whilst recording this in the Wookie’s front room. The transition between the verses and the middle eight completely eluded me. Whilst trying to get my unravelled threads back together I realised that the song morphs from 6/8 to 3/4 at this point.

20/9/10  Nerves are a real challenge for me. I’m getting better but it’s a two steps forward one step back situation. Have a look at nerves to see how I’m dealing with this.  Apparently, and this is not wholly welcome news, Segovia had the shakes to the extent that he always played his first few pieces badly, and then settled down for the rest of the concert.

27/8/10  Back at the barn a few nights later I’m still rehearsing the new instrumental outro and I find there’s bits of stray 3/4 (or can be) all the way through the piece – particularly on the dominant turnarounds.

I need to keep the improvisation feel and I’m not sure that actually being conscious of these subtleties actually helps.

There is also the ‘groove’ aspect – it’s supposed to drift in and out of groove naturally.  Again, the more I rehearse and the more aware I become, the harder to maintain spontaneity.

I’m on thin ice here: you can have too much tempo rubato (flexitime).   When it works it’s a tension and relaxation thing .  Joe Pass did it just great, sustaining long passages of flexible time so that when he did strike up a genuine foot tapping groove it didn’t half swing. 

If you’d like to comment about a particular note, chord, word or glitch you might like to visit the Small Symphonies Soundcloud.

Many thanks to the Wookiemonstah for his patience, hard work and inspiration.

the holy grail and recording with crap gear

I play a nylon strung guitar, one of the gentlest instruments known to man, but I want a sound a mile wide with the groans and grunts of tectonic plates grinding against each other in the subterranean depths and heavenly curtains of harmonics overhead, a Northern Lights in sound. 

Although it may be asking the physically impossible, I want to separate the registers. I’d like bass and treble parts to sound like they’re played on different instruments. At extremes, I want the bass delivered by a Rickenbacker with a Badass bridge and lead by Roy Buchanan’s crusty old Tele. Continue reading