Eden Shadow Album 2 Drum Recording Sessions

The latter part of 2014 and all of 2015 has seen me making gradual progress with the second Eden Shadow album. There is no doubt that this has been a tremendously ambitious and difficult album to make and I can’t wait to share it with you all.

Last month, I reached a monumental milestone in getting the drums recorded. It was an intense, incredible weekend.  This album will be featuring Aled Lloyd on drums, who is known for playing with Japanese Metal Band, Cyclamen. Onwards with the rest of the production process!

Here are some photos taken by Bethan Miller

Ryan Elliott Eden Shadow Aled Lloyd Ryan Elliott Eden Shadow Eden Shadow Aled Lloyd Eden Shadow Aled Lloyd Aled Lloyd Eden Shadow Eden Shadow Aled Lloyd Ryan Elliott Eden Shadow Eden Shadow Ryan Elliott

Advertisements

My October Playlist

This was a widget, but I’ve decided to elaborate on my playlist a bit as I am discovering more music than ever. So here is the music that is seeing me through Autumn!

Jason Isbell – Something More than Free

How out of character of me…a country record! Throw away the prejudice and it’s a beautiful feeling of freedom to judge good music on the merit of being…well GOOD! And that is what Jason Isbell is, he writes some cracking contemporary music, loads of melody over a subtle minimum use of chords, lush violin arrangements and the thing that sold me most…his intelligently crafted lyrics. The latter which usually puts me off most southern american music, as it goes all too shallow and pedestrian. This on the other hand…hits deep.

Beach House – Depression Cherry 

This band have been about a while, but it wasn’t until scrolling through Pitchfork that I ended up devouring their newly released album. A brooding all red album with moody female vocals, synths synths synths and guitar motives that all suit my taste for all things melancholic.

Debussy – Piano Works Volume 4

I’ve started properly learning piano, I am teaching general music lessons so it will come in handy but alongside that lies my aspiration to play this masterpiece.

Debussy, the very much loved composer who broke a lot of boundaries in the classical world and spearheaded one of my favourite art movements, impressionism!

Spirited Away Soundtrack

I love the film, and I want to play this on piano too.

Joni Mitchell – Hejira 

Sometimes, you have to kick yourself for bypassing something you shouldn’t. I’ve known Joni Mitchell for most of my life and I’ve been on edge over the past year when reading about her health in the news. Blue, Big Yellow Taxi, Both Sides now, how much more great stuff can you write? Then comes along the album that the hardcore fans in particular are beholden to, that is even more adorning…and that is Hejira. The album is just incredible, WHY did I not pay attention to it til now!? It features alongside Mitchell’s incredibly thoughtful lyrics accompanied by the musical genius of Bassist Jaco Pastorious and Larry Carlton (whose more than likely played guitar on many songs you know)…what more could you want? The title track in particular has been very apt for the grey clouds that have sometimes dominated the sky over these recent autumn days. ‘I’m sitting in a cafe’, and in the space of five minutes, Joni articulates what has been a very challenging year for me at times that has led me to a lot of self-reflection and pondering…the best music brings about a truth that you identify closely with, how did she know this about me? That’s the power of art.

Hejira is timeless.

Laura Nyro

You can call music amazing all you like; you can overuse that adjective in abundance all over the comments sections of social media platforms, but to me, it isn’t amazing unless it reaches a part of your soul that identifies with you in a way that is so resonantly truthful to oneself, that it brings tears to your eyes, sends shivers up your spine, and there isn’t really a tangible way in which your love of it can be expressed.

Which is exactly what I experienced about a month ago when I discovered Laura Nyro via the Lefsetz letter. When I Followed through Bob’s description song by song, I was very quickly sold, and off I went, searching for her music.


The first track I heard was ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ then ‘Stoney End’. Instantly recognisable hits from The Fifth Dimension and Barbara Streisand but Nyro wrote them!

As I ventured Nyro’s catalogue throughout a night of insomnia, I started to slowly unravel her genius: her angelic voice, that demanded your attention from everything between a soft whisper or a bellowing cry, her virtuosic piano playing that could interweave the simplicity of a solid backbeat of a catchy rock n’ roll pop tune with the dreamy complexity and space of jazz, not to mention the stunning arrangements of tracks such as ‘Lu’, ‘Poverty Train’, ‘Gibsom Street’ or my personal favourite ‘Captain for Dark Mornings’…some of those tempo changes too!!!

But the key thing about Laura Nyro is her soulfulness, sensitivity and sincerity. One of those few artists that can elevate certain feelings of love, loss and loneliness to above and beyond. Like those few artists, she died way too young, and it breaks my heart even more so when I listen to her.

As a Friday Night listening to Nyro transcended into a Saturday morning, and after a train ride and a strong coffee, I popped into the record store and bought 5 albums!

I’ve been telling everyone about her ever since, and only 1 person out of everyone knew who she was, having fallen under the radar whilst other artist’s renditions of her songs turned them into hits.

You’ve got to hear Laura herself though…she’s too good not to be heard by so few.

‘There is no way to make a living in it’

‘There is no way to make a living in it’ When I have told older folks in the past that I want to be a musician, make records, perform music and in basic human principle, do what I love doing, I was often thrown back the response ‘but there is no way to make a living in it.’ Now, I have recently seen others inflict that idea on younger people and want to take my own personal space here just to politely give a few examples of musicians who are making a living, and more so than that, being fulfilled in themselves as well as fulfilling others.

Guthrie Govan

Guthrie Govan – regarded as one of the best guitarists in the world, dropped out of a literature degree at Oxford and worked in Mcdonald’s for several years before becoming the venerable musician he is today.

hugh-laurie

‘Actor, musician, writer. Because the world needs more of those.’ Hugh Laurie’s twitter bio.

imogen-heap-gloves

Imogen Heap – Has had her ups and downs in her music career but her persistence and sense of innovation makes her one of electronic music’s most loved artists

laura2

Old head on young shoulders – Laura Marling’s ambition is untempered.

James-Rhodes

And last but certainly not least – james Rhode’s who constantly works towards supporting music education and raising awareness of it’s importance

So why do people say this? 

Because making a living from an artistic vocation isn’t easy: in fact, according to Renee Magritte, it’s a mystery, I’ve read into art a lot trying to find logic in it where there is more often than not, no logic to be found. There is an imminent amount of risk involved, along with uncertainty of any stability or sustainability. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no way to make a living from it. This statement is usually made incontrovertibly out of personal doubts and fear as opposed to reasoning. The way to make a living from music or art requires talent, a hell of a lot persistence, hard work, luck, good attitude, intelligence, uncompromising arrogance and sacrifices to an extent…it is bleedin’ hard and it is certainly not for just anyone; but Mr Laurie is right, it is artists, actors, musicians producers are the people that gives the world it’s colour and reminds us of the beauty that this world is capable of offering to us.

So what should be said instead?

Instead of saying ‘there is no way to make a living’ out of music to aspiring young people, devaluing their love of what they do and forcing them to do another subject or vocation that would potentially offer stability in the coldest comforts and maybe misery and regret, approach  the subject with a perception that isn’t binary. Say that it is possible, but it’s a way of life that you will do because you HAVE to do it as opposed to just wanting to do it. It is about being realistic whilst also being encouraging and supportive.

Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.

This year thus far has been an impeccable one for music thus far and yesterday is what I could call one of the most highly anticipated Monday’s of my life as I waited for the post man to deliver the deluxe edition of Steven Wilson’s new album Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Anyone who has heard of my work with Eden Shadow or has met me in person will be aware that I take a lot of influence from this artist. I grew up with Porcupine Tree and besides Dream Theater, Tool and Opeth; Wilson has been one of very few artists to carry the torch through the last two decades for a genre of music that was constantly pushing boundaries (deemed by many as prog).

Besides being an unusual artist emerging through the 90’s, it has become very clear to me why Wilson has now gained the deserved amount of success he has had with Porcupine Tree and now his solo career. Firstly, the guy is relentless and completely prolific in writing music every single day, continuously making records, he has failed at achieving what he’s wanted at times but he’s kept going. It took him 15 years before he gained any prevalent recognition for what he was doing when PT released In Absentia, and every time he has faced success, he is adamant in ensuring that he does not repeat himself. Secondly, his attention to detail at times is astounding, you take many of his records, and the way in which they’re presented both sonically and in it’s packaging is remarkable, leading to a unique and immersive experience. Finally and what i would argue to be most important point is the context of his music. I have heard so much music from this scene, which is completely contrived and says so little that I would say even though most of my time is dedicated to writing progressive rock music, I avoid listening to most of it! The older I get, the more I realise what makes music work for me is how much I see of myself in it, which is when people ask me what my favourite records, I’ll say something like Vespertine by Bjork because it is a complete reflection of my introverted self. Wilson has more and more through the years delivered albums where he has had something to say. Music is a language after all. He is also one of very few artists who, low and behold, can actually be articulate in an interview, listen to to a question and say something insightful.

In terms of having something to say, and a mirror to hold up, after listening to Hand. Cannot. Erase. for the first time, I regard this album as one of the most relevant to me he has yet written. The album concept in brief is this,

“The story of Hand.Cannot.Erase. is a about a girl who grows up, moves to the city and begins to erase herself”

This is loosely based on the disappearance of Joyce Carol Vincent, who was a young woman, had a family, had friends but erased herself from everyone around her, died in her apartment and wasn’t discovered for three years. That is an incredibly macabre subject matter, but it holds a lot of pathos about modern day life in the city, and I have experienced this myself! I moved from the Welsh countryside to my student town, just outside London, and there were times when I was in London on my own and I felt completely isolated from the millions of people around me.

It’s not just the idea of being able to isolate yourself in a metropolis that is explored in this album, it’s also the impact that social media has had on my generation in particular and the fact there are people who can loose themselves in social media and video games where they do not walk outside their front doors for days on end. I am all to aware of the benefits of social media, but I share some ambivalence about it. More so than anything else, I use social media to share ideas, to share my thoughts, my music as well as other people’s idea and works but all too often, people who are using social media for those purposes are contending with a mass volume of trivial noise of people portraying their lives in a way that is faux. The lyrics from ‘Home Invasion’ seriously hit home.

Download sex and download God.
Download the funds to meet the cost.
Download a dream home and a wife.
Download the ocean and the sky.

Another day of life has passed me by.
But I have lost all faith in what’s outside.
They only are the stars across the sky
And the wreckage of the night.

Download love and download war.
Download the shit you didn’t want.
Download the things that make you MAD.
Download the life you wish you had.

I’ll save describing the music or concepts any further, but in my humble opinion, this album is again an incredible achievement and I look forward to seeing it live. For more context, here’s a great interview.

Creative Inconveniences

The more I lead this utterly crazy life of creating music, the more I realise that for the most part, your best ideas will come at completely inconvenient times and that you have just got to deal with it.

I cycle across the west coast of Wales, between Cardigan and Abaraeron. A musical phrase enters my head, syncopated and an odd time feel, my head continuously runs through the idea as my legs keep pedalling. I have another 400 miles and five days of cycling before I can lay my hands onto a guitar to process that idea. Besides the delirium of burning 9000 calories a day and cycling almost the entire perimeter of Wales, this idea ceases to leave my head.

I queue up for a coffee in my student town, an opening of a song comes in my head, and I frantically write it into the notes of my phone before I order a cappuccino, to which the caffeine adds to more frantic stream of ideas that are trying to pass through somewhere other than my neurological system.

A three-hour train journey, and yet another musical phrase sets itself in my brain and is wishing to be unleashed. Fortunately, I was savvy enough to take manuscript with me on my venture but alas, a baby persistently cries within the carriage and I must persist through the piercing sound frequencies that imperatively grasps the attention from a child’s parents and forge my own frequencies that are trying to express something entirely different.

And finally I have the time to sit down and pursue these ideas in my studio space when all of a sudden a light bulb sparks itself in my head and says ‘Hello there! I am a bright new idea…I’m all sparkly and stuff’ and I retort by saying ‘Go away, I’m busy, could you have just waited a week or two?’ (I could do with a cup of tea; shall I opt for the smokiness of Lapsang Souchong or the lemon zestiness of Earl grey??? Oh, that reminds me, I haven’t eaten for nearly 24 hours as I have been too busy mixing!)

As I venture through this creative wonderland, excited yet perturbed, happy yet miserable (***The Tortured artist may well be NOT a myth, we are indeed pitiful souls…read all about it http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christopher-zara/tortured-artists_b_1605509.html). I shall eventually create such a bizarre catalogue of music that most ordinary people will deem it the product of a crazed loony toon, and suitably conclude that it will fit in none other vicinity than Willy Wonka’s Chocalate Factory, only kept alive by loyal audience members that somehow see them isolated and estranged selves within this bohemian mirror.

Maybe one day, it will all subside and the endless lament of writer’s block shall instead vex me, and I shall disappear for five years (maybe grow a vineyard, or venture into carpentry, or buy a yacht). Then one day, inspiration will once strike me again, and I shall scheme a remarkable return to which I will alienate everyone by releasing my equivalent of Radiohead’s Tree Fingers.

Would I have it any other way though?

Nope.

Why singing and improvising go hand in hand.

I have spent the last 8 months embarking on a jazz album. I’ll be the first to admit, I am by no means a straight out jazzer, I walked out of a college open day for a four year jazz course concluding that there was simply too much rock and roll in me. (Which is probably why I ended up in the art rock world!)

The elusive element about jazz is that it is a language of it’s own within the musical world, something where freedom and chaos reigns hand in hand with knowledge and sophistication. The one thing I’ve discovered over the course of playing solos over jazz standards or anything for that matter is how inherently powerful singing is and how it can improve your improvisation.

Especially from a guitarist’s point of view; the guitar is a wonderfully convenient instrument when it comes to shape and scales but the negative factor of that is that the mechanical process of playing the instrument can leave the player in a state disregard for the other essential two points of the triangle, the theoretical and the musical. I’ve lost count of how many times I have seen players who’s improvisation has been dictated by their fingers…myself included!

The beautiful thing about singing is that it comes straight from your heart and mind, without any preconceptions: it is immediate. I’ve linked a track that I have played on below and I think out of the entire selection of jazz recordings it is my strongest because I sang every phrase that I played before playing it. It takes a lot of practice but it’s worth it. So if any guitarists out there feel like they are caught stuck in making a fine solo, besides doing the practice, try singing, you may well surprise yourself!