LP out now

Today sees the release fo my self-titled LP, Catford Gyrations, which is now available to download from Bandcamp or you can listen via all major streaming platforms. Links to all options can be found here.

Catford Gyrations is a collection of 10 instrumental tracks that draw inspiration from the south London neighbourhood namechecked in it’s title. Constructed with a mixtape aesthetic, the album traverses a broad range of influences including psych, motorik, dub, hip hop, 70s library funk, and various eras of electronica.

I am obviously delighted for this music to finally be let out into the wild, and also grateful to anyone who is willing to give it a listen.

(Click on the image below to access streaming options)

The album itself has been several years in the making, and so I thought it might be a good opportunity to provide a recap on how I’ve managed to get to this point. Particularly, if some of you may not have come across my music before.

The project came to into being after I realised that I had been messing around with Ableton Live for nearly ten years, but had not been able to produce a single finished piece of work over this time. I had attempted to put an indie pop album together, but it wasn’t really happening. I had set myself some rather unrealistic goals in terms of what I was expecting myself to do – for example, I wanted to write lyrics and record my own vocals, where I had no previous experience of either (and I also can’t sing). However, whilst working on these tracks, I did gain some useful experience in putting together the instrumental arrangements.

Clearly I had become a bit stuck, so decided to embark on a new project with more realistic aims, and that was to create an album that was specifically intended to be instrumental. From the start, I decided to approach it in the same manner that I would if I was creating a mixtape, to make something as esoteric as my record collection, and to not be afraid of combining a broad selection of musical styles. That said, the fact that I was working in Ableton Live meant that there was always going to be a tendency to adapt more electronic elements than I previously may have considered. All this has made it quite difficult to categorise my music whenever I have been required to do so. In such cases, I’ve tended to opt for “electronica” as that seems to cover a broad church nowadays, but perhaps “electronish” is more apt description of what I have been trying to do?

I started off with a short minimalist introductory piece (which became The Island). Whilst I was working on this, another track started to come together, which was a more upbeat motorik affair (Gyratory). I felt like I was finally making some progress, but knew that even if I carried on with this initial momentum, it would still take a few years to complete.

It was around this time that I came up with the concept for Catford Gyrations. I started to make plans for the LP, each track would reference a particular place around my local neighbourhood of Catford in South East London, and sometimes this could even involve recordings captured at those locations. I started naming each track, and thinking about what each one would sound like, and from that I established a running order.

I also thought it might be a good idea to set up social media channels whilst I was working on the album, then as I finish each track, post a rough mix to document the work in progress. This was intended to address the fact that I might not have any actual “content” available for some time, and would hopefully create some awareness of what I was up to in the interim period. It was also a way of me avoiding the conventional path of self-promotion that musicians tend to get bogged down with.

“Finishing stuff” was certainly the biggest challenge. After the initial impetus of the first few tracks, it became apparent that although I had some sketchy ideas how some of the next tracks would sound, there might be an important element missing that was making it difficult to progress. Each track was like a jigsaw puzzle, and on occassions it could could take months to find the missing parts. However, I felt that certainly towards the end of the LP, I was able to work a bit smarter in finishing tracks.

The first thing that worked for me was to get the arrangement sketched out as early as possible. Establish a desired length and work out the song structure elements (i.e. intro / verse / chorus / coda), and identify what instruments should be playing in which part. This really helped me get out of the “”4 bar loop” trap, where I might have a really good riff, but not much else to go with it. In truth, it would usually be two or three good riffs, but rather than focussing on refining them, sketch out the song structure first and worry about the detail of the arrangement later. If I couldn’t do this, then I would move on to something else and may be revisit later.

The second thing I changed was how I managed my time. To start off with, I would book a day off work, and set aside that to spend a whole day making music. However, more often than not, my creative energy was not really geared up for music making on these particular days, and progress was somewhat limited. I’ve become much better since at recognising when I am more likely to be “in the zone”, and make sure that don’t waste time trying too hard when I’m not. Now, I tend to work in short 30 – 60 minute bursts and only when I know that I’m feeling creative. This has certainly helped me become more productive with my studio time.

Still, it has taken me several years to get to this point, and there have been occassions where I have had to suspend work altogether for a number of months. For example, during the pandemic (when for long periods I was definitely not “in the zone”), or because there have simply been other more important things going on in my life. I had also become sidetracked by other musical projects such as the A205 EP, which took much longer than expected. However, there are some benefits in taking so long to finish this LP. There is just so much that I have learned along the way. For example, it has provided plenty of opportunity to develop my mixing skills, and I think that the end product sounds much better as a result of that.

Now that the LP is out, I feel like I have overcome some kind of psychological barrier that has always prevented me from finishing similar attempts in the past. I’m currently working on a remix EP which should be done for the summer, and have also started work on another EP that I hope to get out by the end of the year. I feel that I have plenty of ideas for what I want to do next, and it wouldn’t be unrealistic to aim to put out a couple of releases per year from now on. Well, let’s see how that goes!

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