Venusian release ‘Ancestor’

I have been playing bass with experimental/trip hop outfit Venusian for over 18 months now and last Friday we released out first album as our current set up (but the fourth under the Venusian name). ‘Ancestor’ dropped on Friday the 13th April – as seems befitting of an act so steeped in gloom and apocalyptic sentiment – and is available to stream/download via Bandcamp.

 

Neverbody debut EP released

My new band Neverbody has just put our first EP on Bandcamp, it’s 3 tracks of instrumental guitar music with leanings towards math rock, classic prog, and post-rock. Have a stream below and please consider downloading supporting us if you like what you hear! Recorded and mixed by yours truly, with much credit to Tom Peters for the mastering and Dan O’Gorman for the art design.

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’.

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.

Glossom recording at Elevator Studios with Edwin Louis

I play the guitar in a 5 piece band called Glossom that recently went to Elevator Studios to record a live session on film. It was the second of two fairly long days over the weekend, but I found myself awake and feeling it was time to leave at 2:30am. We crammed into our sax player’s car with our gear and went with filmmaker Edwin Louis into the heart of Liverpool’s fairly modest financial district, and here we met cameraman Calum – a student I hired through Facebook – and Daz the engineer.

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The studio was a great space. 4 floors in a converted warehouse with an expansive live room in the middle and a control room  right in the loft. Edwin and Calum did a brilliant with it too, rigging up the whole live room with the lighting they needed by appropriating every table lamp and fairy light we could scavenge. Daz really took care of the sound and was very patient during the camera changeovers too.

The music itself is a mixture of brand new and yet unrecorded material we still play, all instrumental and all performed live. This was a test of our skill as a band and I think we’ve all come away from it with a better understanding of our own playing. It was a hell of a lot of fun too, nothing got us down all day that I can remember. Which was nice because if Glossom were an animal it would be a capricious one. Maybe a cat.

Was a real pleasure to work with everyone involved and I’m really excited to get to the final result. Sneak peak below!

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