Music, musings and more from the mind of Ben Averch.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Keep Choppin' Wood



I’m happy to say that I’ve been back to work in the studio over the last couple of weeks, and I’m cranking on some new material for what is likely to become my fourth solo album. So far, there are four tracks in process, plus a couple secret ones:

“Force Field” is a heavy rocking number with big chords, big arpeggios and a big gulp of a guitar solo. This one is about circling the sun and hurtling through space without ever really feeling it…kind of an extension of the idea in the opening refrain from Fortune Cookie opener “Love Me Anyway” (“it’s not the sun that’s setting/it’s just that you are spinning away”).

It needs a lot of work still but it’s got a lot of potential; this one sits in the ‘power progressive rock’ domain pretty squarely, but hopefully won’t feel generic by the time I’m done with it. There’s an energy to it that’s pretty groovy.

Another song, “Lift”, is either going to be a crazy instrumental, or I’m going to write some crazy words for it. But crazy is the word. This one has several movements, starting with a laid-back-yet-intense slow burn of a groove, then diving into a heavy syncopated unison part (yeah, this will provoke Rush comparisons), then into a lighter arpeggiated section, then more heaviness, more lightness and a multi-part solo section that starts dreamy and breezy, and then dives right into the inky blackness with a section that hopefully, maybe might bring to the dark recesses of the listeners’ subconscious mind some of the really evil guitar sounds from John McLaughlin on Miles Davis’ heavy, dark rocking funk stuff like “Big Fun”…which is not to say that McLaughlin and I are on the same planet as guitarists!

I whittled this one down from over 8 minutes to a more manageable 5 or so, so now there’s a whole lot of adventure packed into a short while. We’ll see whether we need that guy yelping over it to make it the best it can be.

“Morning Phantom/Waking Dream” is a mood and texture piece, with some similarities (to me, anyway) to my song “Source of Love” from Start at the Beginning. A couple months back, I spent some time sampling different drum sounds from the recordings of Jawbox drummer Zach Barocas, and loading them into my drum machine. Zach has always been one of my very favorite drummers (and Jawbox one of my very favorite bands), and I always loved his drum sounds – a snare that cracks like a gunshot on every hit, and toms that are very resonant, tonal and melodic.

So sitting around with my guitar one night, I came upon a little melody that I thought would make the perfect backdrop for a song. Add a couple more segments for a chorus and bridge and I had something pretty exciting. Feeling like I was still sketching things out, but wanting something a little more exciting than just a metronome loop to play back to, I took my sampled Jawbox drum kit and made a circular, snapping two-bar loop that runs through the body of the song. I put the loop through some filters to make it a little bit my own, and add some “feel”, and with a little bit of shaker and tambourine, we’ve got a pretty alive sounding rhythm section.

Lyrically, I’m talking about the sense of feeling like you already know what’s going to happen, and in this haze, miss out on what is happening: “In the morning, there’s a phantom of the things are still yet to be…in the waking dream, you think you know what you see/is it a fool who believes that he’s got E.S.P.” Kind of a fun idea and it goes very nicely with the other song…

“Telepath” started life on a cross-continental airplane ride, as scribbles on the back of a napkin, or a section of an in flight magazine. Its recorded life began back in April and May at my friend Ed Becker’s studio, and I’ve recently begun building it out at my own place. This one is reminiscent of some of the songs on Start at the Beginning, with a hybrid acoustic-electric kind of feel, some really fun arpeggio sections, and then that emotional warbling over the top of everything. This is the most melodic of all the songs, and the most emotionally direct – so of course it is my favorite. I don’t want to give away too much on this one. It’s pretty exciting.

My friend Ed turned me on to an EQ’ing tool called Har-Bal (I think that stands for Harmonic Balancing) that lets you input a source track that it then analyzes somehow and creates an EQ profile that it can apply to other songs that you put into it. I applied this process to “Morning Phantom” using “Back on Me” on Urge Overkill’s Saturation album as the reference and wouldn’t you know, the track sounds amazingly better. So I started wondering if maybe I could save a whole lot of money on album mastering and just do it myself by “borrowing” EQ profiles from my favorite sounding songs…this would allow me to get a lot more stuff out there, even if it won’t sound like it’s on Capitol Records or whatever. Another tool for the toolbox…

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for these tunes and other new ones!

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