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Late Night Letters

9th Feb 2022

Late Night Letters is an EP that forms the first volume of my next (as yet untitled) album.

The full album will cover a range of topics, which can be broadly categorised into three themes: how we interact with each other, how we interact with the digital world, and how we interact with the physical world (although there is of course always a degree of overlap between them).

While I want the full album to contain all of these elements muddled in together, as they are in life, I also like the idea of distilling them a little more, to form themed EPs, so the songs might ultimately be presented in these two different contexts.

The other – rather more practical – reason is that doing it this way enables me to break down the recording process into smaller, more focused tasks, and lets me share more finished songs sooner, as recording a full album is quite a daunting and lengthy process for me.

This first volume is the one that focuses on relationships between people. These four songs were written in late 2018 and early 2019, just after the release of my first album, Roll as a Hexagon. The musical influences within them reflect three of the other musical activities I was involved in around that time.

The first was a return to playing Javanese gamelan, after a break of six years. The second was a summer spent immersing myself in the sound world of Reason Breeds Monsters, a band I’d long admired, who had been dormant for some years, partly on account of two members, including the violinist, taking a four-year cycling trip (coincidentally, to Java, in order to play and study gamelan music). They re-formed for a special event playing for the 70th anniversary of the National Health Service, and I was delighted to be assigned violin duty. The music was more jazz influenced than anything I’d ever done before, which was a steep learning curve that energised me almost as much as getting to play brilliant songs with such wonderful musicians and people.

Following the NHS gig, three of us who had played in it formed the Berry Tree Band, a folk trio with a focus on harmony singing – a new area for me, as my background in traditional folk beforehand had been almost entirely instrumental.

The Songs

“Easier to Write” is fairly standard piano-based singer-songwriter fare, although with the slightly less standard addition of an EWI. (For those not familiar with this instrument – a group which included me until 2020 – it stands for Electronic Wind Instrument, and it’s a synth controller in a wind paradigm. Some people refer to it as a Space Clarinet, though I think this is a bit speculative. We don’t know what the clarinets from space are like. They may even be sentient.)

“Molecule” has a bit of jazz-influenced harmony, and a few slightly gamelanesque melodies, and leads into “Constellation” which uses actual gamelan samples amongst piano and strings, and a few structural elements adapted from gamelan forms within its composition too.

“Hymn of the Orbital” is modelled on folk hymns, with a Hammond organ in quarter-comma meantone tuning thrown in for good measure (incidentally, while persuading the software Hammond organ plugin to go into meantone, we found out that in the physical world this is completely impossible due to the way that Hammond organs work, but that’s probably more than you needed to know).