Grey season

Many of the pieces on Grey Season began life as parts of scores for theatre and live performance; the recordings have been reworked with new parts and arrangements for this release.  From the fuzz-laden piano of Grey 1 to the glacial, deconstructed blues of Carnivale and closing with the duet for piano and ‘cello of Nocturne, the pieces on Grey Season are dense and atmospheric, wrapping the listener in layers of drifting, melancholic sound.

The music is performed on a variety of instruments (guitar, piano, ‘cello, Korg MS-10 synth, harmonica) and is quite heavily processed with distortion, tape delay, granulation etc, sometimes to the point of not being recognisable (with the exception of the ‘cello & piano duet of Nocturne). All music was written, recorded and produced by Nick in the Cubase-based home studio.

‘cello on Grey 8: Nocturne is performed by Nicole Robson (Bat for Lashes, Principle Six, The Monroe Transfer).

 

Grey 1 Grey 5
Grey 2 Grey 6
Grey 3 : Arno Grey 7 : Carnivale
Grey 4 : Naurzus Grey 8 : Nocturne

 

Available as limited edition, numbered 180g vinyl (with photography by Steve Gullick & letterpress printing by Hand & Eye Letterpress), and download in numerous formats. Vinyl edition includes download code.  

release date: 3rd November 2014

 

About the LP

The LP is pressed on 180g heavyweight vinyl in an edition of 216 numbered copies.  It’s housed in a digitally- and letterpress-printed sleeve, with cover photography by the greatest rock & roll photographer in the world, Steve Gullick; the metal type is set by hand in 16pt Narrow Bembo (designed by Alfred Fairbank) with 14pt small caps, wood surrounds and a Deberny et Peignot ornament. It was printed on a FAG proofing press at Hand & Eye Letterpress, with very subtle split-duct inking. Vinyl copies of the LP come with a download code as well.

Track by track

Grey 1  Written before there was any intention of releasing an album like this, Grey 1 was written as a birthday present to myself in 2011. I’ve always liked quite elegant musical patterns combined with distorted or noisy sounds, and I found this piano part to be particularly pleasing when combined with the heavily distorted backing guitar.  One of the other guitar parts was an early experiment with the newly-acquired Superego pedal.

Grey 2  The body of this track is the result of a granulator effect being used on the final mix of Grey 1; after the dense introduction of the album opener, I wanted the second track to be more relaxed, though keeping an unsettling element through the continuous suspended chord.  There’s also a distorted spoken track low in the mix that’s almost impossible to make out…

Grey 3: Arno  This started out as a piece for a theatre soundtrack (Katharina Schmitt’s production of Arno Schmitt’s Black mirrors); it’s essentially a series of four chords played on four ‘cellos, but as the piece continues the timing of the instruments drifts, resulting in the various parts of the chords being played at different times. In the background are percussive sounds made with an electric guitar: flicking the pickup selector switch, thumping the body etc.

Grey 4: Naurzus  Originally an extended, ambient guitar improvisation, I revisited the recording when I started thinking about putting this album together.  The electronic rhythm and the mellotron flute melody came from wanting to add something that had a slightly different feel to other tracks, but that was also in keeping with the tone I was trying to capture.  The very end of the track degenerates into crackling, and I liked the idea of an actual vinyl record sounding like it was wearing out as it reached the end of the side. The relative quiet as the needle goes into the runoff groove, and you suddenly only hear the real surface noise, is something I find quite fun.

Grey 5  The second side opens with a simple, two-chord pattern on a downtuned guitar (the low string tuned down to A), with heavy distortion; there’s a droning, sliding ‘cello line that slinks in and around the noise.  It’s quite a straightforward piece, and is an impressionistic attempt to capture the feeling of being in a crowded city at a time of year when light is failing, the sky seems to be lower and made of dark marble, and cold weather is drawing in.

Grey 6  An edited, extended guitar improvisation, this is the result of starting to grips with Audiomulch (a fantastic program, whose capabilities I really want to spend more time exploring).  I’m used to using guitar pedals to get the kinds of sounds I want to hear, and using Audiomulch can give you such enormous variety of rewiring things on the fly (and, if you suddenly want another flanger, you don’t have to go out and buy another one right away) that I was able to start experimenting with these kinds of textures pretty quickly. More of this to come, I think.

Grey 7: Carnivale  Originally written to be accompany a gallery exhibition (and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was), Carnivale is essentially a deconstructed blues: there’s the minor-to-major guitar riff in slow motion, accompanied by the wailing, primitive harmonica, both repeating the same basic phrases until the structure collapses and the guitar doubles back on itself through a series of delay effects.

Grey 8: Nocturne  After all the heavily-processed material on the second side, I wanted to bring the album to a close with something more melodic and acoustic: a return to some of the tones of the album’s opening, but even more stripped back.  Nocturne was originally written for a competition run by a German instrument company who wanted material for their celestes, and I revisited it and arranged for piano when thinking about putting Grey Season together.  The ‘cello part was performed by Nicole Robson, who also plays in The Monroe Transfer; knowing how good she is, I felt very free to write a piece that was challenging both technically and musically, and her performance really makes the duet work.