Today I’m releasing my first album since 2012, and the first one that’s mainly chiptune based since 2011: ‘drouth’.
The album is entirely composed on LSDJ using a bunch of different modified Gameboys, which were then in turn to control different instruments like a Commodore 64, Volca Bass, etc that play additional parts to give a much deeper sound. Along with a smattering of guitar and vocals, it’s much more an experimental (sometimes ambient) electronic album than a chiptune focussed one.
Unlike previous occasions, I’ve spent a lot more time putting the pieces together for this, even re-mastering the entire thing a few days ago when I realised that the original left the Gameboy sounding a little bit too harsh.
You can download it in full, for whatever price you choose, over at bandcamp – or stream at the bottom of the page.
It’s been a long time since I did anything musical… about two years infact. Life had overtaken in many ways, leaving no room to fiddle about with Gameboys. In the interim I’ve moved house, got a new job, completed my Masters, and even got married. Yeesh.
Now that things have settled down, I’ve been dusting off the equipment sitting in boxes to get back into the swing of things. It’s not been that straightforward a task. I’ve gone through two new Macbooks since I last recorded anything, which has brought a myriad of issues.
Here’s some of the problems I’ve run into:
I appear to have lost all of my previous master recordings. Somewhere along the way, they didn’t get transferred over properly… which is a bit of a bummer, as I’m usually really careful about that sort of thing.
Cubase. I never really loved the way Cubase dealt with their software updates, as backward compatibility clearly wasn’t a priority. However, after looking out my old DVD with Cubase 5 on it, I like them even less. Apparently I can’t install Cubase unless I have Mac OSX version 10.5 or above. I have 10.10, so it won’t even load up. This means that I need to buy a whole new version of the software (which, by the way, isn’t even guaranteed to work on OSX Yosemite either). Grr. I would use something else, but I can’t really face a whole new learning curve.
The new Macbooks don’t have a Firewire port. As a result, I had to get a special thunderbolt to Firewire adapter (naturally) which cost a pretty packet. Oh, and of course it doesn’t fit the existing Firewire cables that I already had. Sigh.
The software that I used to use to move my Gameboy SAV files over is now pretty much obsolete, and only runs on Windows. I used to have a virtual machine for this task, but it’s gone. Another thing to set up.
The Gameboy cartridges almost certainly need new batteries, which is a bit of a pain to do.
So that’s it so far. There are other small annoyances, like how I need to re-solder some bits and pieces in some of the Gameboys, but that’s something I can procrastinate about.
Now time for the good stuff:
I’ve discovered Nanoloop for the iPhone. I know that it’s been around for a while, but I never really got into it on the Gameboy – too hard to navigate. The iPhone version is way easier, and can produce some great sounds. I know this will be mocked by the purists, but I never really cared too much about them anyway.
It feels good to be making sounds again.
Hmm, I thought there would be more to that list, but oh well!
Listening back to some of the older albums, I really love some of the stuff, and am really indifferent about others. Going forward I might try stripping things back a bit so they are less fuzzy and distorted, and concentrate on the chip structure instead. We’ll see how it goes.
Way back in April 2012, intrepid musical explorer Ash Cooke – aka Pulco – got in touch to ask if I’d be up for contributing to a collaboration inspired by some of the many desolate tube stations that lie under the City of London.
Having worked on a host of projects with Ash before, I knew how dedicated he was at coming up with really unique and experimental ideas, so agreed without much thought.
Fast-forward to 2013, and the release is finally (almost) upon us – penned in for the 30th of September.
The format will be limited edition C30 magnetic cassette tapes, each with 3 full colour numbered postcards, a credit sheet, as well as the digital download (obviously). There will only be 30 copies available. Ever. Full stop.
Here’s what the official press release says:
‘Songs For Abandoned Tube Stations’ is an EP of songs by RELYCS (Ashley Cooke, Adam Leonard & Stephen McLeod Blythe) inspired by the sights, sounds and ghosts of the dozens of closed, unused, or only-travelled-through-at-speed Underground tube stations beneath the streets of London. The EP contains 3 tracks – ‘Aldwych Branch Line’, ‘Lord’s Station’ and ‘Down Street’, recorded by Ashley Cooke (AKA Pulco), Adam Leonard and Stephen McLeod Blythe (AKA Unexpected Bowtie) respectively. The music literally travels from Cooke’s complex and highly evocative subterranean soundscape, past Leonard’s dark, dripping platform of ominous organ music, terminating at Blythe’s wonderfully simple yet affective[sic] chip tune Nintendo Gameboy programming, like the music from some uncreated ‘Super Mario London Underground’ game. Mind the gap and enjoy your journey…
Aside from my burbling chiptune sounds, the other guys are great at what they do.
For more info on them, check out their respective sites:
unexpected bowtie (and friends) is an album that started in 2011 as a means of collecting different sounds from some of the hardest working, most creative, and most pleasant people that I’d come to know in music.
Taking everything from ambient guitar noises to crazed loops of a Welshman throwing rocks into a wheelbarrow – I pieced them together to produce this jaunty beast.
Despite having been finished almost 2 years ago, and with most of the tracks previewed already, the whole thing has never been quite ready – partially because I still have some samples left over from one band that I’ve just not been able to work out what on earth to do with. (down to my musical incompetence, not theirs!). Hopefully these will make their way into something astounding sometime soon, but the time for this release to make its way into the world is well overdue.
Click on the accompanying artwork above to take you to the new shiny shiny unexpected bowtie bandcamp where you can download the whole thing for free for the first time.