I always work with systems, I very deliberately do not mix them. So I am a bit of a purist when it comes to modular stuff as I think mixing them takes away something of their individual tonal character. So I will make a Eurorack album (Monome/Whimsical Raps), a Buchla Easel album (Touch Activated - http://mudlogger.bandcamp.com/album/touch-activated ), Ciat Lonbarde albums (as Hoan Kiem Chess Team http://gameoflife.bandcamp.com/album/hoan-kiem-chess-team-wooden-box ) a 200e album. I have been concentrating on my Eurorack stuff all of last year as I was playing gigs using that monome / isms system http://soundcloud.com/mudlogger/modular-live-set-from-tokyo-festival-of-modular-2018 . So the Serge had been neglected and it was the one system that I hadn’t sat down and took the time to make an album with. I wanted to take a break from Euro. All my modular stuff is in separate cases in cupboards. I don’t leave it all out in the open, because of the climate and humidity here in Thailand, and tend to work on song writing more in the winter months.
David Bloor (Dirch Blewn) in January, sent me a copy of an unreleased Ciat Lonbarde album he had just finished. It was really inspiring. Because of that, I started working on a Plumbutter album and completed another Chess Team album with it (not released yet). Ciat Lonbarde stuff is basically boxes stuffed full of Serge circuits, usually with weird additional twists, because the designer, Peter Blasser is nutty genius http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1vuzw9Stk8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9oZqTS0-HM . So after that, I thought I would work with Serge again. Soundwise i wanted to explore the more timbral aspects that makes Serge unique. I love looping envelopes, the tension and instability of analogue circuits and CV recursive feedback, audio feedback. Its semi random. I didn’t use conventional oscillators and FM’d more with pink and white noise and used the wave multipliers, frequency shifters, audio feedback and ring modulators more, to create a tone which was manipulated. Envelopes and filters frequently go in and out of audio range. I pushed it to extremes, as Serge behaves really interestingly to me, at the extremes where sounds break up. The circuits do weird things. Touch control is also important to me, to put my character into songs. All the patches have direct input for me to play and intervene to add a human element. It’s the type of music I listen to, not all the time, but as a change from the norm. Also I think, you don’t find too many people making this kind of stuff anymore. There are so few people making Serge albums compared to Buchla or Eurorack albums. I definitely look up to people like Todd Barton (his Aleph https://youtu.be/PnL1asf1jMc and Krell patches https://vimeo.com/48466272), Rastko (check out his Serge feedback patches on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/48466272 and this video http://vimeo.com/19058233 ) and also more importantly David Tudor for his work with recursive feedback http://www.pointofdeparture.org/PoD44/PoD44Tudor.html. It’s deliberately an experimental album that I’ve always wanted to make. The other thing that is really important to me is the way I played and recorded it. I wrote about the way I work here Executing the modular album
The inspiration is both Thai and English. The song names relate to aspects of life where I live in Thailand and England. The name “In Blue” comes actually from the Serge itself and the winter weather here in Thailand - the 2 main STS panels I used are called Blue Voice and Blue CV http://www.serge-fans.com/shop_blue.html It was also made in the cooler winter months - November to February and that is pretty much crystal clear blue skies here. It’s also a time when the farmers have cut the rice and start to plant cassava and start tapping the rubber during the nighttime. So the album is a winter rural seasonal change thing.
The song titles, although just names, have meaning and a little bit dark. I won’t go through every one as it would be too long. Here’s a couple.
Tapper, relates to tapping rubber. My brother in law is rice farmer and also taps rubber in the nighttime. Before they tap rubber, at the beginning of the dry season, they will hold a ceremony in the rubber plantation, usually in the morning, with all the family attending. Basically for luck. I did goto one and it was kind of surreal and creepy, like some David Lynch movie. Here’s a photo I put on Instagram http://instagram.com/p/jWdKrlm9ch/ - The actual price of rubber crashed a few years ago. They still tap, but get very little money for it, as they take a cut of what they tap. Tapping also has connotations with the insurgency troubles in South Thailand were most rubber is produced. With many people getting killed from roadside bombs or being found dead in the back of rubber plantations. So there is a bit of a sinister connection with that title. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Thailand_insurgency
The name “Pay Day” has an interesting story. It’s about electioneering and corruption in Thai politics. What happens in the rural poor areas, in the run up to elections, the local candidates will take out huge loans. With that loan money, they give it out to the head of a family in a village to distribute it within the family, on the hope and promise that they get their vote. Another candidate from another party may find out about this, and secretly give the same family, more money than the previous candidate. It doesn’t really matter because, all the families here pretty much vote the same way. For the socialist guy (Red shirts), that promises the highest pay/subsidies for rice and other crop yields.
Now, when that person is elected, they will be in power for say 3 years. The actual government salary is OK - average. But now they have a job, but are also super poor in debt. But that position allows them to get other family members government jobs. Having a government job also allows subsidies on buying cars, getting low interest loans and cheap housing and better access to good schools. They still have no money though, because they have a huge loan to payoff. So what they do is cream off the money that was given to them to fund public schools, hospitals, and roads etc from central government. It’s the main reasons why, when they tarmac a road were I live, it’s around 2cm thick of actual tar even though they were given money for a 10cm thick road. The guy that tests it, is paid off. The road lasts usually around 1 to 2 years and can sometimes stretch out to the the term of that local government leader. Which is a coincidence, because by that time, they have paid off their loan, and sitting pretty on a huge stash of cash, 7 bedroom mansion and 4 cars! Voila, magic Pay Day all round, except for the candidate that loses. The candidate that loses with huge debts is really in a lot of trouble. They will have alot of loan sharks chasing them for this money back. What normally happens is some that can’t pay will go AWOL after an election defeat. So basically, Pay Day is about corruption. It’s a happier sounding song, because the farmers just got a bit of money, so they make a party for all the family. The money is usually finished by the morning, but there’s a bigger picture that you don’t see if you don’t live here.