The best thing I did in 2015 was complete (to me) the ultimate ambient track.  Here it is, released as part of the fifth iteration of Ambient Online.

2015 brought on a number of personal stresses, not least the death of my father, that hampered my ability to focus, network and evolve.

I grief-shopped my way towards a number of excellent musical setups but have so far found it a challenge to settle on a strategy.  Perhaps this waywardness is actually a feature but then I realise i’m spending more time setting and resetting my setup than making.

the Bell Bower studio
the Bell Bower studio

Taking December off Facebook seemed merely to highlight my isolation and my newfound spare time was mostly spent playing Fallout 4 and Witcher 3.

It seems as soon as I announce I’m doing something (even with a relatively clear direction) the motivation and ability to do that thing falls by the wayside.  I’m still determined to finish whatever Black Mercury is but it may need to shift form slightly.

Resolutions just remind me of government/political machinations and rather than attempt to trick my mind into believing something to be of relative importance I’m suggesting my primary intentions for 2016 are:

focus on the art not the tools – much of my recent approach is extending a technique – this has become frustrating as the results are often unpredictable so… focus on the end product more than the unreliable process;

really use what i’ve got – stop grief shopping – synthetic enhancements, both cyber and IRL, are not helping me be more creative or productive.  A Push 2 is arriving soon and i’m particularly looking forward to using the new sampling / conversion tools with the synths directly from the device.  Keeping the setup up simple and focused will hopefully allow the uniqueness of my work to unfold naturally while I level up my synthesis skills;

research and production are parallel not serial – much of my time is spent researching, contemplating and executing new approaches and technologies.  I love this but I think it needs to be made clear (to myself) that the research can run parallel and influence the work but it does not have to directly precede and/or lead to results for public consumption. Spending too much time conceptualising and not enough actually doing;

create socially – this may be the hardest ask but for so long music making has been a solitary pursuit (excepting the occasional jams with Paul and Joe).  I’d like to find another outlet for compositional and performative collaboration – be it virtual or IRL.  So if you read this and have an idea I might be able to contribute to let me know because I’m keen to get out a little more.

help others create –  as a teacher i’m already kinda doing this so maybe that should read “others that give a shit” ;-P  Recently Stacey started playing her flute again and with the aid of my old iPad 2 running LoopyHD has been putting together exceptionally well formed audio poems (see below).  Given that we have collaborated in the past (and my incredible valuable skillset #incrediblyobvioussarcasm) it might make sense to produce her stuff but given this world is full of women produced by men only because they aren’t allowed to touch the man toys I feel that it would be more productive to help her learn how to use Logic.

Favourite things of 2015

The Laundry Series by Charles Stross.  Imagine a hybrid of “The Thick Of It” style political satire with a more Lovecraft-leaning “The X-Files”.  My disinterest in literary serialisation was shattered by this series which manages to be both hilarious and gripping.

The Golden Communion by Thighpaulsandra.  For someone as immersed in creative synthesis as I currently am, this is a no-brainer.  There are loads of great Bandcamp albums made with synths this year but most, for better and sometimes worse, focus narrowly on particular aesthetics with less consideration for the arrangement over time. I’d include my own releases this year within in this criticism and need to credit Stacey for helping me identify this issue.  I’ve always found it difficult to recommend TPS albums as his eclecticism tends to alienate, but it is precisely this that makes this more than just another great synth album.

Dangerous Orbits by Bérangère Maximin.  Very glad to know that concréte approaches have a place in a time when everything is digitally possible.  Also happy that it isn’t just a boys club.

This year for visual treats has not been good at all.  While there have been a few things i’ve enjoyed, there is nothing new and essential that I can recommend.  This is partly down to time and focus.

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