2014: Swallowed whole and disgorged

2014 sucked.
Here is some music:

There is little I can say about the political situation of our country / the world that comes close to summing up how fucked I believe we all are.  I spent many days this year pinging between hopeless apathy and nihilistic anger.   It’s incredibly hard to go out into the blazing Australian furnace, dodging hail and tornados, to talk with groups of enthusiastic audio-engineers, when the voice in my head is telling me “they’d be better off learning how to kill, hoard and fix things!”  An academic position is a joy (relatively speaking) and I am lucky to even have this as a possibility given the anti-intellectual mandate from our current government.  One of the Music Tech departments I work for had to fight to not be shut-down (happily people-power won that battle!)

Aside from occasional victories my perspective has been so beaten that I have had little hope in holistic, macro or micro terms and our family is struggling.  This kinda negativity doesn’t endear me to any of my loves so i’ve started seeing a psychologist on a mental health plan – something I guess I must be thankful we even still have access to.  This allows me the possibility to reflect and put space between my current situation (which is OK) and my possible futures (which I think are bleak).  The fact that i’m doing something about this should indicate the severity of my depression as I’ve always considered psychological instability an essential facet of artistic practice… insert the cliche “you don’t have to be crazy to make experimental electronic music at a time when even popular music is worthless but it helps!”

I’m reminded of view distance in games… sometimes it’s better to bring it down to ensure your local / current perspective isn’t unplayable.


I feel like I have seen and heard very little this year that left a longstanding impression.  I did enjoy Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy which is Roadside Picnic meets failing bureaucracies – very apt for these times.  Got round to seeing Upstream Color which was probably my favourite film in a year where I’ve not even had the attention span to finish watching Jodorowsky’s acclaimed return to directing.  While i’ve been mostly favouring hardware, two software synths came out this year that I highly recommend.  Melda’s MPowerSynth is akin to something like a Synclavier – ridiculously deep with the most creatively useful “random” function i’ve yet to encounter.  Xfer’s Serum is the wavetable synth i’ve always wanted with endless possible ways to combine and create wavetables.  Both I picked up cheap while they were in BETA/Early Access which seems to be the way things get made these days.

I’ve also been catching up on experimental processors from the past… top of the list being CrusherX and the GRM Tools.  Also Max7 came out with the most immediately useful variant allowing drag/drop of files, easy routing of plugins and Max4Live devices – that said I need more time and a valid reason to experiment more with this update – it is still much easier to just use Live 9 or Numerology to build tracks and Reaper to mix them.

Outside of battling angst and faffing with gear / software I was strugglign to push through a powerfully destructive creative block that saw me evaluate live performance as a waste of my time (at least in Brisbane) and suffer an utter absence of motivation to complete anything substantial other than twiddle with a variety of gears.

Aside from this remix I completed for my ever-patient and supportive friend Abre Ojos and his Gates release I mixed and uploaded Makro/Hetlev – a compendium of edited improvisations by Paul Forbes-Mitchell and myself.

Rather than face the mid-life crisis with Modular synths Paul has expanded on his PureData tinkering with crazy inspiring Raspberry Pi / Arduino constructions set in Lego.  I hope to help him put together a collection of solo work with this setup but for now I settle with the inspiration of playing with him.  There will hopefully be a split release featuring a more recent live improvisation in the not too distant future.

PDPi Modules in Lego
PDPi Modules in Lego

Joe Musgrove and I have been slowly working on new material to follow up the best unheard suburban acousmatic album of 2011.  This time I relinquished control of the mix to him and the end result is to me very satisfying.  Below is a teaser track.  We have a 30-something minute release to get out there – currently working out the release logistics.

We also represented well alongside 4 decades of amazing Brisbane electronic musicians on the BNE compilation.  #Diaspora, #Poota, #Biffplex  If you are after individual tracks you can get them from iTunes however it is much cheaper to get the book and USB stick through other means.

I also managed to get a number of tracks out on different aliases through the Ambient Online portal.  For any chill inclined synthesists sick of KVR or Gearslutz it is a friendly recommended place.

After an inspiring email correspondence with Chris Herbert I setup a folder called “Helsinki Bus Station” to place all the miniatures I pump out in my spare moments away from work or parenthood.  Going through them this last week i’m quite pleased to see most of a planned 2015 release already manifesting – I just have to ease off on the synthwave a little.  I also have a few tracks to polish on a Cosmic Amanuensis audio release (with Abre Ojos) and have the soft/hardware plus inspiration for another release reflecting my angrier side (an early teaser below…)

So having posted all that… I have to question… is life really that bad?  Am I really as shit and uncreative as I often tell myself?

Reading my 2013 appraisal I am actually shocked at the level of negativity already displayed.  It’s no wonder 2014 turned out to be a shitter.  But where to from here?  I have the skills, though they barely pay the bills. Perhaps the goal for next year is to continue the refocusing of my perspective, reconsider my expectations and work to make new opportunities?

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