My Bare Bones - a low-fi evolving EP of last-track B-Sides
I've decided to make a small collection of some of the songs I've been working on this last year - no production, no improvisation, no practice, no other musicians, no money, just me, a Zoom, a room, a piano, and the bare-boned structure of a song.
I'm doing this in the main as there is so much focus on other things at the moment - the rights to release the Joni material… or not… prepping the soil to go into the studio for the next two albums (I've written well over two albums' worth of material. Maybe three. I don't quite know how that happened, but it all needs to be practiced... ), plus some physio & recovery - that I just want to remember how beautiful and easy it is to make and share music for its own sake. Some of the songs on this collection will make the cut for the final album(s) and be spruced, arranged, recorded properly etc. others just won't make the cut, but either way you'll get to hear them/own them in their bare bone stages... so that's what I'm calling this project: My Bare Bones. Think of it as a 'B-sides' album, before the actual album.
I loved B-sides. For me they were often an artists most intimate and personal work. Yes, sometimes they were fillers and awkward remixes, but often they were just songs the label/artist decided against commercially, or didn't quite make the cut, or were artists' unreleased earlier works, demos, acoustic versions etc. It was the closest you could get to having them play and sharing their heart with you in your living room. You'd get glimpses into who they felt they were as artists before the label added in its requirements and personnel, and actually, I often found that more inspiring than the A-side itself. I love this digital age, but I do miss B-sides. That said, what I am already enjoying about the prospect of doing this digitally is adding to the collection over time and seeing it evolve and take on a life and feel of its own, something I couldn't have done pre-internet.
Another thing I love are the last tracks on albums. Again, for me they displayed some of the artists’ most intimate work, and, having got the ‘hits’ out of the way earlier in the album, was a chance for them to show their more experimental / sentimental side, often producing rare gems, unusual directions, and strange cuts, remixes, covers, or demo versions of other songs. What goes in as the last track on mixtapes, and albums is serious business. It’s what you want the listener to take away when they leave the listening experience - granted, this was more prescient when we did actually listen to tapes. Nevertheless, it’s still often the first place I turn to when I buy a new album, wanting to see the heart that’s underneath the industry glitz. I often found myself wondering what a record of last-tracks would sound like. I guess I’m about to find out.
I've also been missing and thinking about sound of those mixtapes I made for the Kingston Kru as a teenager when I sometimes used to put a home-taped recording of me playing a song of mine at the end of the tape, or a copied recording of a recording from my eight-track tape recorder that had faded so much by the time it got on to the mixtape it was barely audible. It always had to be the last track on the tape too. (And you had to strain to hear it). That was the etiquette. Always. That sound's all but lost nowadays.
So. These are my parameters and aesthetic. And off I go:
The first in this series is a text-setting of a poem I wrote for Agenda Poetry Journal and Lazy Gramophone Press - lyrics/poem below. I forgot my headphones when I recorded it so I've no idea how it sounds, but I decided to put it up cos the church bells started ringing in key as I was playing - I hope they came through on the recording... & that you enjoy it.
When from that depth that I revealed this life, my crest,
And from that vantage point did I my fate discern,
An echo tumbled slowly as I was undressed,
Disrobed, my nakedness fixed its concern with Him.
And follow... how I followed! Like the rocket’s tail!
Sparkling, effervescent, down, as sterns did sing,
That sailor who could catch the wind without a sail,
In tides that drew us under and spurned us within.
The storms that broke the surface when our currents crossed,
The nights I drew back deepest – when I learned to swim –
Forged a stronger wave from out those lowest troughs,
That left no stone unturned that was not turned for Him.
Yet shallow! How so shallow are His ripples cast?
The depths at which he coasts have been adjourned by Him.
That is not his mascot that sits atop His mast,
Now I, a vessel, have been overturned by Him.
To sink with shadows to the depths, or reappear?
No blaze of glory roared that did not burn for Him.
But only know I to exist as salt and tears,
In ebbing and in flow I only yearn for Him.
So wallow... how I wallowed in those haunted pools,
Whilst seagulls swooped and swerved and sang nocturnes for Him,
And I lapped softly at the rocks for molecules,
Of that wave broken too soon, once more to turn to Him.
Not consecrated with the wearing of a ring,
But celebrated with the sacred urn and hymn,
When seers stargaze to the depths of the ocean,
And mariners cast good eyes on Saturnine rings,
And even swallows fly that they may mate and thaw,
And man makes miracles that show us worm with limb,
Yet never was there wave that could remain ashore,
And broken now, ‘tis time that I return to Him.