Getting there – a Summer update

I’m currently in the midst of one of those frustrating but exciting passages of time – one in which lots has been happening but it’s not yet all ready for presentation – and my knack for taking on more projects than is wise reaches critical mass as summer arrives, and my music students go on holiday. So here, in what WordPress tells me is my 50th blog post, is a quick rundown of what I’ve been doing and what’s coming next…

Venusian

I got involved with this ambient/trip-hop group quite a few months back and, after some writing, recording and gigging, we’re making a push to be more enterprising about the project. On my part that means treating it as a more direct output for some dark experimentation and improvisation, such is the band’s overall intention. When I first started playing bass with John and Yash (Venusian’s founders and sole members for several years) I think I was being too ordinary with it, treating the instrument with hesitation whilst limiting myself to being a side-member of the band as I worked the final stages of Glossom at the time. Now I’m breaking out the violin bow and effects to help make Venusian be the success it’s capable of, and we’re currently working on the next album. At the time of writing our next gig is on the 11th August at Next To Nowhere social centre in Liverpool. If that sounds like your cup of tea then have a read of the new Venusian page on my Portfolio and follow us on Facebook.

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Venusian promo shoot – L to R: John Sharma Pearson (Keys, Beats), Alex Cottrell (Bass), Adam Roberts (Saxophone)

Neverbody

In my post-Glossom world I quickly found an instrumental band-shaped hole that needed filling and obsessing over. The result is Neverbody, a new trio I formed with ex-Glossom drummer Gareth Dawson and musician + good friend Andrew Bailey who takes up the bass. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it right now as we’re in the process of writing enough material to make a live set (4 tunes down so far), but it has been taking up a fair bit of time and, like Glossom, it is proving an effective outlet for stretching my capabilities (and fingers) as a writer and performer on the guitar. So far it is sounding less jazz and more prog. More on this when I have it…

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Sneak peek of Neverbody at work in the practise room

The ambient project

Over the years I’ve put together a fair number of electronic and orchestral soundscapes that have never got any closure. Some were sketches from soundtracks I was working on at the time, other were just bits of fun that never got completed. I sort of mentioned this in a blog post rounding up 2016, but it still floated around in a ‘done-when-it’s-done’ holding pattern because I just didn’t want to slap a bunch of sounds together and call it an album. And it is still floating around like that really, but I have been working on making it a more consistent, cohesive collection of tracks and intend to set up a whole new alias to release the kind of material that doesn’t have any other home in my output. I want to go into more detail in a separate post, but the reason I’m doing it is because lots of small, curious moments in everyday life cause me to bank ideas and short recordings that sometimes are later expanded into full on explorations. I’m certain this is true of many artists in many mediums, but for me that has so far manifested itself in a minimalist/ambient kind of way, and it dawned on me as a terrible waste for these ephemeral dittys never to see the light of day, even if the end product exists only for personal satisfaction. To echo the above, more on this when I have it…

Film score, the website, and more

I also started working with a local director to put together a score for their short film. We had a lengthy and spiriting conversation in our first meeting about support (or a perceived lack thereof) for funding and building a community around grassroots narrative film in and around Liverpool. A surprising thing I would have thought, considering that it’s apparently the most-filmed city in the UK outside of London. We’re in the early stages at the moment but I’m hoping to share more about the film and its maker soon.

The website has undergone a bit of pruning and updating, mainly adding new projects to the portfolio and adding a bit more emphasis to my work as a guitar player. I’ve also updated a lot of images so that they load faster. Meanwhile, there are some rumblings about The Little Mermaid – the storytelling performance with the Liverpool Players – getting a show overseas, but again I can’t say much more until things are confirmed.

Right, I’m done being a tease. Bye for now!

‘Loose Ends’ – Solo guitar piece

I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing recently, but not much in the way of uploading. Unless it’s for  a commission or particular project, I tend to create a few pieces – either on the guitar, just on the computer, or mixing live and virtual instruments – and let them stew for some time to see if I think they’re worth sharing a bit further down the line. Whilst it can be satisfying (or horrifying) to return to something later on, sounding different to fresh ears, it has the effect of making my output seem wanting. In an attempt to break the habit, I recorded myself playing this solo guitar piece I wrote today.

With the recent sad loss of guitar magician Allan Holdsworth, I have been listening to a lot of his work (as well as his solo/trio catalogue I heartily recommend his releases with Soft Machine and U.K.) and trying out some of the more testing chord voicings that he so famously favoured and, listening back to this piece, it’s clearly worked its way into my writing here. As a nod to the music often left unfinished or unheard, I give you ‘Loose Ends’.

I chat with Tom Kwei on his new podcast ‘Alphabetallica’

My good friend and diligent podcaster Tom Kwei has started a new show to analyse every track by the legendary Metallica in alphabetical order and he kindly invited me onto the 2nd episode where we discuss ‘Ain’t My Bitch’ from their direction shifting album ‘Load’. I have done a bit of podcasting before and despite being music-related, this was still something fresh for me as I haven’t listened to the band much in recent years. I think it’s a great show and promises to get even better as it goes along – have a listen to us discussing this curious shift in tone and sound from one of the world’s greatest metal bands.

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The Little Mermaid at the British Academy Literature Week

Following on from the successful performances in Liverpool and London for the Being Human Festival 2016, the Liverpool Players have been invited to return to the capital and show their live storytelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic once again. This time it will be courtesy of the esteemed and historic British Academy at their Literature Week 2017,  an event that explores the evolution of literature across time, culture, language and form. Our performance will be on the 20th May at 10-11 Carlton House Terrace.

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The performance will take place at the British Academy’s headquarters at 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London.

Late last year we released an audiobook version of our Little Mermaid adaptation and then the standalone soundtrack followed – now available on Bandcamp. It is a retelling that sticks close to the original story and Madelaine Smart’s enchanting performance is bound to be a hit with young children and anyone with a taste for the fantastical. My accompanying orchestral score ebbs and flows throughout the journey, hoping to whisk the audience away to our fictional realm.

Once again this will be a free event, so if you’re in London and looking for a fun and insightful journey into the worlds of classic literature for you and/or some little ones, then hurry and book your tickets for the 20th May 2017!

BOOK YOUR FREE TICKETS ON THE EVENT PAGE

Oh and take a gander at The Liverpool Players new website whilst you’re at it!

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The Little Mermaid at The Walker Gallery, Liverpool, for Being Human 2016.

Eric Whitacre’s short composition exercise

Last night I thought I’d try a short composition challenge that composer Eric Whitacre mentions in a video interview titled ‘It’s Not a Failure, It’s An Invitation’. In it, he says that the requirements for this exercise are to write a piece that is:
– Less than 60 seconds long
– Contains only 4 tones (in my case Eb, F, Gb and Bb)
– It must be finished in one night
And what came out was this short tale of woe on the piano.

It’s an unusual task, as simple as it seems, and can force an ephemeral mood or thought to be presented in a confident and complete manner. I remember doing tasks such as these during my education, but I recommend all musicians of all ages and levels to regularly try such exercises that push one’s creativity into a tiny little box. I can reflect on the minutiae of the piece – where it goes wrong and where it goes right – and learn something about my abilities that I might not have otherwise. Good things can come in small packages.

The Little Mermaid – audiobook released

Earlier this year I worked with The Liverpool Players and storyteller Madelaine Smart to create music for their live performance of The Little Mermaid – you can read a bit more about it in my 2016 roundup. We had several great performances at the Being Human Festival launch (for which the show was originally commissioned)  at Senate House, London and at The Walker Gallery, Liverpool, but it looks like there will be more in 2017 as well.

The past week or so, we’ve put together an audiobook version of the performance that’s perfect for kids and parents looking to get lost in the fantastical world of Hans Christian Anderson’s mermaids. We’ve been truer to the original than the Disney version, and there’s something to be said for this adaptation’s messages of selflessness and the pitfalls of being swept up in a wishful fairytale ending. It was great fun writing music to this as the tale treads the lines of innocence, hope and fear very neatly, and I got a bit lost myself in how magical we wanted it to be for our younger audience members – not least in part to Madelaine’s enchanting solo performance.

It’s a totally free audiobook brought to you from the national festival of the humanities – Being Human – and The Liverpool Players, so if you’ve got some little’uns who might enjoy a mermaid tale over the holiday season then give it a listen.

Updated Patterna Soundtrack

After the initial release of logic puzzle game Patterna (now available on Steam, in case I haven’t pointed that out enough times yet) developer Sebastian Schoener had me write a couple of extra pieces for the soundtrack, both of which were added in a recent December update. If you own the game they’ll be added to the music rotation in game, and if you don’t own the game then you should ’cause it’s cheap, full of content and you’d be supported a hard-working developer! In the meantime, check out the two latest tracks below – download available here.