Good morning ~ ~
Once again I am waiting until the absolute last minute to write this and, as I type this sentence, I have no idea what I’ll end up writing about.
The track this week (embedded above, go ahead and hit play) is a lovely little guitar duet, recorded in the late afternoon, with a field recording from a large, hilly graveyard in west Philadelphia in the background. I went on a run there last - September? - I think. I was very intentionally blasting disco and boogie tracks from the area in my headphones (MFSB, Gamble & Huff, etc), but when I got to the graveyard I took off my headphones and felt a profound sense of peace in the negative space at the top of the hill. No more kick drums, just the birds in the breeze, little stone markers. I think I was trying to get back there.
I named the track Five Pack because I had a dream recently that I was at a bar which offered a deal - you could buy a six pack for way cheaper than buying six beers. So I ordered one, but when it came over the six pack, held in one of those cardboard handle holders you get from the corner store, had only five beers in it. I asked the bartender what the deal was, she said that it was called a six pack deal only because it was served in one of those six pack holders, but it was actually only five beers. I realized in that moment that I would never drink five beers straight through in one sitting, that I very rarely drink beer anymore anyway, and then I woke up.
The picture I used for the track art is from one of the greatest nights of dancing I’ve had, this past New Year’s Eve Eve. It’s become a regular once-a-year year-end party at my friends’ practice space and it’s always amazing to see how they transform the normally cozy former auto garage rehearsal room into a bangin club. This year they set up a pop-up canopy - the kind you’d take to the beach - right in the middle of the dance floor, with speakers pointed from all four sides and a disco ball hanging from the inner peak of the canopy.
I’m very distracted as I write today because I am currently, as this sentence is being typed, listening to the test pressings of my new LP. They arrived in the mail while I was at work yesterday and I haven’t had the time to sit down and try them out until just now (I’m not supposed to mention the specifics of the release quite yet - - I will soon - - but know that it comes out at the end of next month).
If you’ve never had the absolute excruciating and expensive pleasure of pressing your own vinyl, the test pressings are the first batch of LPs that the plant makes in order for you to try out the product they’re about to make. It’s like that little slice of meat the guy gives you at the deli before you get a pound of something, a little taste just to make sure you like it. You want to listen to it for any mistakes - like songs being out of order or something being cut off - and for any glaring audio issues. I’ve heard horror stories about low end being severe enough to physically bump the needle out of the groove as the record plays. I haven’t experienced that first hand, but I was worried about it here - there’s one part of the record where this very large-sounding synth bass comes in to try and overwhelm the entire performance, to cast it in shadow, and I thought that might be an issue. But it’s not! I just heard that part, it played just fine.
And the tests are good, I think, the mix is clear, the tracks are in the right order, there aren’t any technical mistakes or anything. Once I try a couple of the other tests on the other turntable tonight I think I’ll be ready to approve them. Which is wild. Once I tell the manufacturer I’m happy with the outcome, they’ll duplicate this audio onto ~300 specially made, super colorful LPS that are then inserted into specially printed paper sleeves and then inserted again into specially printed outer jackets. They put all 300 of those into large boxes and send them to my house. They’ll arrive, all nearly identical, on my doorstep one day a few weeks from now, god willing in time for the release. Then, when the time comes, hopefully I’ll start sending individual copies out to some of you in their own small little boxes. I never get over this part, though this is the fourth LP I’ve made of my own music and I’ve played guitar or whatever on many other LPs. It’s so final, it’s crossing a very particular barrier, one of saying: this version of this group of songs is now done in an irreversible way, we can no longer revise things, this statement will be made physically manifest hundreds of times on a medium that could probably outlive most anyone reading this right now. It is a very corporeal realization of time having passed, we can’t go back into it, this is it, this is the result, this is the statement I have chosen to share with the wider world.
What’s more is that, to my snobby ears, vinyl does actually sound much better, and I’m always delighted at how the music leaps from the plastic as it spins - noticeably a bit more compressed, with those crunchier low end freqs. Certain details that aren’t apparent on my shitty 9 dollar earbuds pop out when they’re on the turntable - currently I’m hearing choir “ahhhhh”s on the last track of the LP more clearly than I have ever heard them, and I hear for the first time how wobbly our voices are, how the five of us gently swing in and out of tune as our breath comes and goes. Earlier the lap steel guitar at a particularly evocative, big moment of a song snuck it’s way right to the front, and I noticed the not-so-gentle tremolo effect we put on it, so that it both appears and disappears at once. This medium, with probably some not insignificant placebo effect, makes things “real” for me. Meaning that, until this point in the process, the recordings - whether done on tape or digitally - always feel a little loose, like they might still come apart at the seams while you’re listening to them. When that first batch of plastic arrives and you drop the needle down, unless something has gone terribly wrong, the songs are cemented into place, as permanent as a headstone, no longer a slippery cloud of possibilities but something happening right there, under the needle, about three feet from where I’m typing now. I’m about to have them manufacture 300 plastic seances, 300 spiral rituals that, with the right equipment, can conjure up all sorts of shit, ghosts of me and my friends as we bashed our instruments or sang together in a semi-circle. It’s a very convincing illusion, it almost feels like the people who made that record are here in the room - people I almost don’t recognize, we started recording in late 2018 and are only now getting around to finishing this thing.
I feel like I have so much more to say. This record means so much to me, it signifies so much, it’s a weird, lopsided and unintentional memorial to someone I miss every day, it’s a good collection of songs, it’s the sound of my friends and I hanging out, very specifically it’s the sound of my friends and I getting stranded in a remote corner of New Jersey with a key broke off in the lock, it’s fucked up, it’s so sweet at times, it is really unapologetically “my shit.” You’ll hear more about it, I’m sure. But for now my laptop battery is dying and I have run out of time.
How are you? Are you, like me, freezing in your own house? Are you looking forward to the year ahead of you? Is the ground you’re standing on solid, or does it jiggle?