Strategy – the first Hotel Universe record

This is an exciting record to put back online – the first Hotel Universe album. In 2004 my friend Grace Marlier sent a cassette tape of her writing in the mail to me and some other friends. I decided to make a record out of that tape, with the initial idea that it would be like a hip hop record but with talking instead of rapping. I cobbled the music together on a laptop from what I had available – guitar, drum machine, a Casio keyboard, some samples, parts of tracks from other records I was working on. The songs used loops, but the recording software I was using could only loop accurately at tempos that were divisible by 30 beats per minute, so the songs are mostly at either 120 or 150 BPM.

Grace’s vocals are straight from the cassette tape, complete with hiss and other tape artifacts, which are a big part of this record’s sound. The vocals aren’t intended to sync up with the music – the idea was something different, something that betrayed the way it was made. One of the tricks of records is to make it sound like the different tracks are part of a single synchronous performance, but this one makes the process a little more apparent.

There are three more Hotel Universe records, and the last one might be my favorite out of all the records I’ve made. Stay tuned!

Snow in the Desert – reissued from 2003

Another new/old record. This one is from 2003, and it is kind of a strange one. Most of the songs are live takes of guitar and singing, and the main overdubs are solos on a toy piano I bought at a flea market in Nashville. The record starts with a recording of the Pope, and has a dance break at the midpoint which is cobbled together from various samples. Not sure what I thought it all meant in 2003, but I do like the way this one holds together as a set of songs.

Now that you know – more reissued music

Another old record, on the internet for the first time! Going in chronological order so far, I recorded this one in Murfreesboro, TN. No drum machines here, but some samples and other interesting touches. I think this record has a dreamy feel for a folk record – loose performances, hazy keyboards and electric guitars. Some decent songs, too – Crying in the night might be my favorite thing here, but maybe other people won’t think it’s as funny as I do.

she hate the war – old music from 2003

I’m putting my old records on the internet, where a lot of them have never been before.  This is the first one, and the first record I made by myself on a computer.  I started working on this right after moving to Nashville in 2002, recording in the small nearly furniture-free apartment I shared with a roommate.

I still like some of these songs a lot, while others are a little hard for me to listen to.  I won’t say which are which, though – maybe you’ll like the ones that I can’t handle.

There are about eight more records where this came from, plus Hotel Universe records, and maybe some others, so keep an eye out.

Noise folk – is it a thing?

Sometimes I think of the music I want to do as noise folk, but is that even a thing?  I spent a little time today listening to the noise folk tag on band camp, just to see if other people think it’s the same thing I do.  There’s some intense stuff there, but I wanted to draw what little attention I can to two records that are pretty great, and have a real connection to what I think noise folk might be.

Red Wasp by Victor Florence is sweet and easy, with an edge that feels unforced.  The songs walk the line between worn-in and familiar, and the production style is forceful without being abrasive.  Florence has some other records that push harder against traditional forms and feel more collaged, and those are worth checking out as well.

Tucker Theodore’s To Make the Sun Hurt manages to be more noisy and more folk at the same time. Released as a cassette by Antiquated Future, the record oscillates between lo-if and destroyed, with feedback threatening to overwhelm the sound of acoustic guitar and vocals. Really strong finger-style guitar manages to push through the mix. Field recordings are an obvious point of reference, but the record doesn’t devolve into a genre exercise. Like finding a letter from your great-grandfather under the hood of your car.

Grab bag reviews: Fairweather Currents

So I’m going to try something new: record reviews!  Starting with something I’m going to call grab bag reviews.  Once a week or so, I’m going to go look at the new records from Boston in Bandcamp, find one or more thing that I like, and do some kind of review.  I’m going to write out my ground rules here, since this is the internet and that seems to be the kind of thing people do:

  • Positive reviews (why write about things that aren’t good?)
  • Focus on genres I care most about: home recording, singer-songwriter, hip hop, maybe some experimental or electronic stuff if I’m in the mood
  • Local!  Extra points if there are songs are about Boston, because that will make me like them.
  • Obscurity.  If it feels like no one else will review the record, that is a good reason to review it.

Five wordy, hushed, self-conscious, charming, home recorded songs.  The narrative that emerges is of one more college student new to Boston, trying to make sense of a new environment,  The cover is the Huntington Avenue Y.

Dylan Citron sings in a voice so gentle it can seem androgynous and strums on a dry, thin, acoustic guitar.  Crowd noise from parties, distorted drum machines, vocal samples, and slow, melodic piano lines all take their place in arrangements that are familiar but not stale or derivative.

The last song, “The Times Are Never-A-Changin'” drifts slowly over a piano arpeggio, punctuated by the crunching up and down of the piano’s sustain pedal.  The lyrics suggest a young narrator grappling for his own relationship with the violence in the world around him, and the song ends with a brief sample of a gospel recording.  As the title suggests, it’s a protest song that doesn’t know quite what to say, and it’s one of the highlights of a really nice EP.

new record is new, sad record is sad

Hey!  The new record is here.  I wrote a long, self-indulgent post about it below, so now I will just announce it.  Go to the bandcamp page to stream, download for free, or even download for money.  Leave a comment (ok, that is a pain to do unless you have a bandcamp account).  Rock out to it or let it make you cry – it is entirely up to you.

Also, there is a new version of, which you can check out.  It is like this blog, but prettier.  I hope.  Not sure what else to do with that page – maybe more experiments in the future.

New record! Coming soon!

I’m almost done with a new record.  The new record is called “How it left me blind”.  It is distinctly a break up record, which won’t be surprising to people who know me.  People love break up records, so I’m hoping it will be hugely popular.  That’s a joke.
The record is more folky than the last few things I have done.  It was recorded thusly: the acoustic guitar and vocal are all live takes, with no drum machine or click track to guide them, and then the rest of the stuff was overdubbed over those takes.  More than half of the songs have backwards guitar parts.  There is a lot of electric guitar, and a fair amount of synthesizer.  And harmony vocals.
One of the joys of recording like this is the inevitable imperfection.  Imperfection is probably the wrong word, since it implies something close to actual perfection.  The inevitable chaos.  The timing is perpetually off, especially compared to the perfect symmetry we now expect on recordings.  My timing on acoustic guitar is unsteady at best, and overdubbing on those tracks feels like throwing darts from a moving car while the driver pumps the gas.  Counter-melodies shift uncomfortably to find their place in the measure, like a rider taking the last seat on the subway.  The rhythms sound right to me, after living with them, but I worry that they will sound wrong to other people, at least at first.  The decisions are arbitrary, the arrangements almost taking shape by chance. 
The backwards guitar helps – it’s a little like drawing with your eyes closed, or writing in a mirror.  Like cutting your own hair.  It’s not chance, but it is a lack of control, a disconnect between action and results.
Maybe the record doesn’t sound as chaotic as I think.  It is a folk record after all.  It’s hard to say, from where I sit, which is so close that everything blurs together.

New video/song/name

I made this video for a new song called “alias” which I’m putting out under a new name (“pajams”) I may or may not use for future instrumental electronic releases.

I made the video using Quartz Composer, which is really great and worth checking out if you have access to a Mac.