Since I clearly have not had enough minimalist ambientish tracks this month, here’s another. Actually, this track sounds very much like it could have come directly from my 2017 Song-A-Day participation. That’s not a bad thing – I had been planning to create a “space music” album out of several tracks from that year before losing the original projects to that hard drive crash in 2018. This would have fit in perfectly with pieces like Steady Stateless, Wetware Diagnostic, and Somatic Cube, so if you like this one, you should go listen to those as well.
- Slow Melt Ray Toler 6:02
Perhaps the similarity isn’t just coincidence or habit. My 2017 output was perhaps some of the most unfiltered and natural. I wasn’t worried about impressing anyone, I wasn’t worried about writing songs, I was just making music that I liked to listen to. Slow Melt has all of the hallmarks of that style for me: downtempo, multiple overlapping arpeggiations and ostinatos, a very slow build, a heavy but subdued beat, a meandering lead line, tons of processing, and a rabbit hole of potential self-hypnosis. The track waves goodbye to the three minute mark without breaking stride, and could easily have gone on even longer than its current six minutes if I hadn’t been worried about boring my fellow Song-A-Dayers to death. If I go back to it later this year, this one has the potential to turn into a 15 minute (or longer) saga of a track – I can hear some places I’d like it to go.
But where all of this was natural and obvious and easy in 2017, it has been a lot of discomfort, angst, and hand wringing on my part to get here this year. What you hear is a literal expression of me being present in the exact moment I was writing and not fighting the path that appeared before me.
Still, there was one little negative thought that kept surfacing while writing this one: where’s the challenge? These February exercises are not only about writing for me, they’re also about stretching my abilities and trying new things. So is this track an example of me being present and accepting the music that comes to me, or is it an example of me sitting in my comfy chair and putting on Blade Runner for the 78th time? I’m not really sure.
There is one element of challenge here – to save time I not only recorded the solo line to MIDI but directly to audio as well. It’s about as close as I get to no-net recording. Sure, I know I can always go back and delete that take if I need to, but printing straight to audio is still just as stressful to me as any studio recording session. Even recording to MIDI gives me a bit of anxiety… there’s just something about having the red light go solid that makes me nervous.
This is also another healthy portion of pastiche and audio collage from my past. I hear elements of Tangerine Dream and The Orb, perhaps with a couple of dashes of Boards of Canada and Global Communication for flavor. Yet this is one that I would consider being much closer to my own voice.
If you’ve read my previous 2021 entries, you will remember my discussion of impaired writing. If I were listening to this and had to guess the mental state of the artist, I would say that some form of intoxicant was possible, if not likely, but as with almost all of my other tracks this month, there was no impairment. This is just what my brain sounds like a lot of the time.
- Drums, low synth: Phobos
- Lead synth: Kawai K5000S
- Arp synths: Cycles, Hive2
- Starship sweep: Prophet 12
- IZotope Neutron
- MOTU Masterworks EQ
- Output Thermal, Portal, and Movement
- Valhalla Delay and Supermassive
- FabFilter Pro-C 2
- Soundtoys PanMan and EchoBoy
Image Credit: K. Riemer