Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Asteroids Respond

Even more music, composed while staring intently at Taylor Swift a picture of Taylor Swift while drinking wine, lots of it. If this had been part of an album, it would segue in from the previous track.

Wine isn't sold in pints, or at least you can't go into a pub and order a pint of wine. Also, a good name for a band would be Robert Burns In Hell. I picture them as a Scottish folk-punk band in the style of the Pogues, but Scottish. This track has three basic elements. Firstly, I have always wanted to do a piece of music that just has a pulse beat, along the lines of Aphex Twin's Tha, John Foxx's Kurfurstendamm, or Thomas Middleton's Larynx. Notice how I didn't link Tha, because I trust that you are already familiar with that track.

Secondly, I wanted to play with my Monotron. It's a simple analogue synthesiser that came out several years ago. It's tiny! And very noisy, so you can't use it in a conventional way, not least because you end up amplifying noise. It costs about thirty pounds and there are three of them - the standard unit, the twin-oscillator Monotron Duo, and the Monotron Delay, which has a short digital delay. They can process external audio and although the controls are very limited (and for some reason the LFO is a sawtooth wave instead of a triangle) it's surprisingly versatile. For a simple but punchy kick drum sound, just turn the cutoff down, the peak up so that the filter self-oscillates, the rate to about four pulses a second, and then use the int knob to change the "punch".

The third element is a sample of "Four Loom Weaver", a traditional tune performed by Maddy Prior and June Tabor on their 1976 album Silly Sisters, comma, slowed down and reversed. The British electric/progressive folk music boom of the 1960s and 1970s is fascinating. The likes of Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention are amongst the least fashionable, most-unlikely-to-be-revived-not-even-ironically bands of living memory, and ultimately the only lasting remnant of the period was Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells, which is one of those albums that's simultaneously naff and awesome. Wikipedia is not usually a source of great literature, but its description of the movement's demise is worth quoting - "all popular music trends have a generational problem as their audiences grow and might not be replaced, but for folk rock the discontinuity was very acute."

That's quality writing, you know. Discontinuity and acute. It won't be a State-run initiative that murders human expression, it'll be us. And yet for every word that becomes obsolete a new one comes along - nowadays we have bae and cray-cray and TayTay, as in "my bae TayTay is craycray", which is just an example (Taylor Swift is not crazy). You know, when I was a kid "basic" was a programming language, not an insult. And when people talked about hippy crack, they were talking about the bum cracks of hippies. So, yes, everything is in flux. Even folk music is in flux, although folk purists resist change. But in the words of the song, "now your ashes are scattered on the wind".