quite a mouthful

september 20, 2002.

This afternoon I've been listening to some of the recent submissions to morrei's Better More Radio. Most of it was pretty unremarkable: the usual "me too!" spams from bands that clearly don't have a clue and don't care too much about what kind of tracks the station plays and/or is looking for. But o well, everybody gets his, her or their fair chance, meaning the 'check out' that is asked for.

But then there was Alan Brown, from Richfield, Ohio, offering "a recent solo project featuring mostly improvised instrumental studio tunes with classic and modern alternative rock influences and recorded in an electronica fashion". Indeed! That is quite a mouthful... The project - as presented on the Alan Brown One site - goes under the title "The Grey Tapes".

The six pieces - each but number five associated with a color - sound eerie and desolate. Minimalistic 'instrumentals', clumsily home recorded multitrack 'ego-improvisations', whose value I'd say is a documentary one rather than it is musical.

Pretty desperate.

I liked the song descriptions a lot, though.
I think you should read them, even if you don't care to listen to the music.
Especially the first three are well worth citing:

01RED (HILLBILLIES on upsidedown calculator)

"Sunday afternoon. Driving back through my home town. I swear I saw her hanging off the back of some tiny little motorbike or whatever. But I never got close enough to see. Oh well.. I had thoughts of making a record. Just one or two of production and of sound and sounds. So I went home. Later that evening, I composed + recorded the first song of the Grey sessions.

It was probably the most thought out of any of the tunes that came later. I had been working with the Casiotone a bit and having various ideas for how to manipulate its sound. So I got home and worked out what I was going to do. And I recorded some 'percussion' with my toy conga and then another track with a microphone placed on the carpeted floor with my foot stomping and my hands banging on the wall and it was tiring and things fell on me and picked up on the microphone and a s.p.o.o.n. hitting the rim of my beer mug on my desk too. Then, I went back to the keys and set the tempo of the built in drum machine (incorrectly I think or maybe it was my other tracks probably and so I had to keep resetting while playing) and chose one of the four beats and set it from piano to organ and then ran it through various magic boxes with some delays and and noise gate processor and such and played whatever it was that I had come up with and then later played some guitar over it [...]"

02BLUE (Really?)

"I was sick. I was sick during most of the two weeks in which the recording sessions took place. And it rained some. Off and on quite a bit. So I was sitting in my room on a weekday afternoon plucking a guitar. There were microphones placed around (hopefully within the range of the bosom of air pressure put out by each instrument). I flipped the record switch. And played until the tape ran out. Later that evening, I sat down with my strat and played another part. After several attempts over the following week to get some decent recordings of some of the rain, I finally woke up one morning around six thirty or seven and was able to pick some sounds up out my window with my trusty portastudio (which was used for the recording of nearly everything in various rooms of the house and other places). The birds were waking up and making some noise as well [...]"

03GREEN (Folded Hand)

"It was the eleventh day of the fifth month when the winter had near all withered away and the field didn't yet need plowing and I had nothing else to do but write, compose and record a new album to impress people who I don't know or secretly doubt are real people. Early saturday morning I was playing around and making some noises with my taco. I recorded some of them. Then I took my things into the living room to record some acoustic piano tracks. I would have liked more acoustic piano on the record. I really would have. But I broke it a few days before I began recording so I had to limit my performances to 'percussion.' First I lifted the dampeners off of the bass strings (by hand) and plucked some of the strings which appears more on the left side of the mix. Then I used a screwdriver to rake the strings a bit higher up. This is more on the right. I also gets out of time in a few places because I was having trouble hearing through my broken old cheap headphones and it didn't help that they fell off a few times and I had to keep putting them back on. Later, I put some more noises. And then ran them through a delay box. Also, in subsequent conversion and mastering I opted not to remove or repair most of the data gaps which appear as pops over the audio and probably put things a bit out of time. And make everything sound like an old record only less warm and soft and more cold and hard, as ones and zeros tend to be. And that's the thing about green."

Alan's notes to me read almost like a score.
No, they are more than that, as they do transcend the recordings they are about.

And how did Alan break his (acoustic!) piano, just a few days before he started recording? How does one break an acoustic piano? What happened?

One day I will write an album.

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