Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Right after I wrapped up work on Unrestrained! I took off to Mayne Island with fancylady for a week. We called it a "working holiday," but our main aim was just to soak up the quiet, sleep in the dark (no streetlights outside our window), and get out for walks. We did take a few hours each day to work on our separate projects—fancy on her book and me on some music.

Smash kindly leant me his Zoom PS-02 "Palmtop Studio," which is basically a three-track recorder with built-in drum-and-chord sequencer. Very cool little device, maybe not ideally suited to the Mule method of recording, but perfect for capturing ideas quickly and with great scope for tweaking sounds with its 60 user-adjustable presets. When I had a firm idea of a given song's structure, I could assemble a decent demo in no time at all. When I only had a single riff to explore and build on, it lacked a few features I needed. For example, when punching in to fix a decent but flawed take, you can only monitor the track that you're punching in on and whatever drum/chord pattern you've programmed. When the piece I was recording had no drum/chord backing, I got completely lost whenever I had to punch in on a track (I learned that setting up a basic metronome track was a good idea for everything I recorded, even if there would be no rhythm track in the final mix.)

I came home with four or five short pieces finished. Because the PS-02 also appears to lack a fast forward function, it helped to keep those songs brief. I was constantly returning to the start when recording a new track, adjusting the drum/chord backing, or setting a punch-in point.

I'm close to having a new Mule album assembled, but I've been saying that for about three years now. I'm stuck with not having any lyrics/vocals for several songs that need them. Lyrics are a big problem for me since I abandoned the whole self-deprecating/low self-esteem B.S. I ran into the ground during my more productive recording years. Sometimes I'd rather just record instrumentals, but I feel that that's a copout too. I'm getting tired of the riff sandwich approach. Where's the craft in that? I get a lot of satisfaction out of making up vocal melody lines; I just wish I had something to say.

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