Fly-by: Returning next week

Oh hi there! Don’t mind me, just listening to the new remaster/reissue of New Order’s 1985 album Low-Life while working out the second chapter of MU4. I’ve been creatively busy these last couple of weeks and I’m happy to report that things are going well so far, at least as far as scrappy first drafts of first chapters are concerned. Exactly where I need to be right now.

I’m planning on returning to the blogosphere next week, so I’ll see you then!

Fly-by: brb, starting a novel

Hey gang! Apologies for the lack of blog entries lately, as I’ve been a bit busy. As of 11 January at 7:04pm PT, I have officially started writing MU4! I’m focusing as much creative energy as I can on it for the time being which means that the blogs and the 750Words entries have gone by the wayside for a little bit.

Which is fine! The important thing is that I am writing a novel again.

The aim here is for me to ensure that I give myself enough time and space to work on this without putting more stress on it than necessary. As much as I love writing these blogs and working on the 750Words exercises, right now I think I’d be wearing myself a little thin by partitioning too much. Once I feel I can handle the extra work, then I will be back. I’ll still post here and at Welcome to Bridgetown now and again…I just won’t make it a priority until then.

See you again soon!

On Returning to Songs from the Eden Cycle

Technically, this next volume of Songs from the Eden Cycle would be volume nine, given that I’d started to make volume eight a few years ago but only got as far as nine tracks before abandoning it. But I digress.

As I start the actual writing of this new version of MU4, I’m thinking about what music I’d like to listen to this time out. As I’d mentioned previously, I’m trying to break out of the habit of hyperfocusing on new releases, so pretty much anything that catches my ear and/or gets me in the mood for the story is fair game. As you may have guessed, I’m currently writing this entry while listening to Wire’s 154, their third album from 1979 and my favorite of their Mark I era. “On Returning” is the first song to officially be added to the SftEC v8 mix.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve purposely done a deep dive into my music library to search for writing session music to this degree, so I’m sure two things will happen: one, I’ll default to some mainstays from the Belfry years (Blue Wonder Power Milk, Sea Change, And You Think You Know What Life’s About, and the usual 1997-2004 albums, soundtracks and compilations) when I can’t think of anything else to listen to…and two, I’ll rediscover some absolute bangers I’d completely forgotten about over the years. Add this to the new release which I promise I won’t obsess over, and I think that soon enough I’ll have myself another official soundtrack list. And maybe I’ll even post a few of them here as they surface…?

Twenty Years On: January 2002

Welcome to another series of Twenty Years On, in which I go through a year’s worth of favorite songs, singles and albums that were favorites then and are still favorites now. So where was I at this point back in 2002?

I was most likely down in my parent’s basement — yes, even in the dead of winter, unless it was too cold — working hard on writing A Division of Souls, which I would finish later in the year. By this time I had my daily schedule down to an artform: I’d leave my job at Yankee Candle sometime around 2pm (my shift started at 6am); on Wednesdays I’d drive over to the Amherst/Hadley area and do my comic book and CD runs, and get home in time to watch Tenchi Muyo! on Cartoon Network before dinnertime. After dinner I’d head down to the Belfry (though I don’t think it earned that name until much later in the year) and spend a couple of hours writing and listening to my new cd purchases.

This was an important time in my life in terms of writing, as I’d finally reached a level of quality I was happy with, and that I was hitting at least a thousand words a night. I was also writing consistently, nearly every single day without fail, even weekends. I loved the project I was working on — one that I would plan out during slow times at work to make the actual prose writing flow much faster — and I considered it some of my best work to date.

As for music, I really had no idea what the year would bring me. The previous year did have its share of great records, but it didn’t completely spellbind me. My year-end mixtape felt a bit forced and meandering. But I kept an open mind, armed with my copies of ICE Newsletter and CMJ magazines. January ended up being a pretty good release month considering it was usually a wasteland of small indie releases and leftovers.

bis, Fact 2002 EP, released January 2002. A four-track EP of cover songs original from Factory Records, it’s more of a curio than a collector’s item, but it takes the label’s early dance tracks and makes them even dancier and bloopier. (This is now available on the 2014 deluxe reissue of their Return to Central album.)

Osymyso, “Intro-Inspection”, released January 2002. Mash-ups had been around for a good couple of years by this point, but while most of them had been relegated to white label limited releases and played in the clubs, by the early 2000s they were being uploaded and shared online for everyone to hear and add to their own mp3 collection. This particular track subverts the usual mash-up by mixing the first few bars of a staggering 103 songs in a brisk and mind-blowing twelve minutes. It’s supremely clever and all kinds of fun.

Various Artists, I Am Sam soundtrack, released 8 January 2002. While the Sean Penn film was not a success, the soundtrack, which features all covers of Beatles songs (Penn’s character is a fan) is an intriguing collection featuring bands and musicians such as Rufus Wainwright, Michael Penn, The Vines, Ben Folds, Sarah McLachlan and more.

Concrete Blonde, Group Therapy, released 15 January 2002. After a seven-year breakup, the original Napolitano-Mankey-Rushakoff trio reunited to release a laid back and boozy album recorded in just ten days. It’s not as punk-infused as their earlier records, but it’s just as strong.

Nine Inch Nails, And All That Could Have Been/Still, released 22 January 2002. A half live, half studio album produced during the tour for 1999’s The Fragile album. Like most of his 90s records, it’s a bit of a tough listen given how raw and chilling most of his songs were at the time, but it’s also a really interesting collection, especially with the Still portion of ‘reconstructed’ versions of many of his best-known songs.

Sneaker Pimps, Bloodsport, released 22 January 2002. The third SP record kind of came and went before anyone noticed (and for the most part was ignored by the US, considering their second record, 1999’s Splinter, didn’t even get released there), but it’s actually a really solid record. They’ve already moved on from their echoey trip-hop sound of 1996’s Becoming X (and dropped former singer Kelli Ali) and become more trippy alternative. They would break up in the next year with lead singer Chris Corner starting IAMX, but in late 2021 they surprised everyone (including me!) by releasing a new album entitled Squaring the Circle.

Violet Indiana, Casino, released 22 January 2002. This was a short-lived but lovely-sounding duo featuring Robin Guthrie (ex-Cocteau Twins) and Siobhan de Maré (ex-Mono, the UK one that did “Life in Mono”), and their brief output of only a few albums and singles provided a lovely backdrop of chanteuse-like balladry and dreamlike pop.

Cornelius, Point, released in the US on 22 January 2002. I know I’ve posted this video many times in the past, and mentioned this record as well, and it’s one of my favorites of this era. This was the Japanese musician’s fourth record but his second readily available in the US, and it’s a wonderful record brimming over with wonderful creativity. It’s an album you should listen to with headphones to get the full stereo experience. This was the first 2002 CD that I had on constant rotation during my Belfry writing sessions.

The Anniversary, Your Majesty, released 22 January 2002. Another example of getting into a band just as they release their last record? Perhaps so, but this was a great indie rock record that reminds me of The New Pornographers. A bit odd but extremely melodic and fun.

Various Artists, The Mothman Prophecies soundtrack, released 25 January 2002. Say what you will, I really enjoyed the spooky Richard Gere monster-conspiracy flick, and unsettling tomandandy score is quite an interesting listen. Low provides the end-credits track “Half Light” that fits the movie’s creepiness perfectly. [tomandandy even borrowed their track “Not That Kind of Girl” from 2001’s Things We Lost in the Fire for a recurring theme.]

Chemical Brothers, Come With Us, released 28 January 2002. I don’t think this band has ever quite topped the success of 1997’s Dig Your Own Hole, but that doesn’t really matter when your output is so consistent and consistently creative and clever. This record felt more like a kicking-back, groove-in-your-own-head sort of album and it’s enjoyable from start to finish.

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Next up on TYO: February 2002!

Unexpected Inspiration

Me: *relaxing with a bit of YouTubing at the end of the day, watching music videos*

Me: *watches K/DA’s “Villain” once again*

Brain: *poke poke* Oh hey…you know what would be a great villain idea for a sequel to In My Blue World?

Me: Oh COME ON —

Brain: I’m picturing a pirate, a woman with the ability to steal magic from multiple worlds —

Me: WILL YOU STOP THAT I’M TOO BUSY ALREA–

Brain: And she’s like, super strong and almost invincible, and Zuze needs Diana’s help in fighting her off —

Me: … *sigh* FINE. *writes 1500-word synopsis*

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PSA: Listening to music and being inspired to write yet another novel can be hazardous to your health.

End of Year Thoughts II

During my long hiatus from blogging this year, I thought about closing down one or both of my WordPress blogs. I don’t think I’d run out of things to say on them, just that I’d gotten repetitive, focusing on the same finite number of subjects to write about. I still enjoyed talking about music here on Walk in Silence, and about writing at Welcome to Bridgetown, but it had become a chore and a deadline assignment, and one that felt a little overwhelming at the time. Come April, I’d decided that I wouldn’t just leave the Former Day Job but distance myself from the blogs and the daily words.

I of course immediately recognized that I was emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted, probably had been for a long while, and this was a perfect time for me to take a long overdue vacation. And think about what it was I wanted to do next.

I’ll be the big Five-Oh next month. It’s not the age that bothers me, to be honest. Aside from the creakier joints and a bit of extra weight, I’m actually in good spirits about it. I still have a lot of years ahead of me and I’d like to think I’m ready and equipped to take them on. I’ve trained myself to think more about future endeavors and less nostalgic (and obsessively so) about what I’ve already done. A funny and unexpected side-effect of this is that I finally see my long-simmering Walk in Silence 80s college radio book project with somewhat more detachment. Which is a good thing, a very good thing, because I’ll be able to write it without once again falling into the trap of Proustian rambling. Maybe I’ll finally get that damn thing done and released in the next year or so.

This is the same with my music listening habits as well. I feel less manically obsessive about it. Sure, I’m still an avid collector and a nerdy librarian when it comes to my mp3s. But I’m no longer trying in vain to recapture the moods, memories and thoughts that come with listening to music. I experience the music again, in the present. I enjoy it. I create new moods, memories and thoughts about it. I can listen to those favorite records and mixtapes of thirty, forty (!!) years ago without my brain slipping into “it was a very good year…” mode. I didn’t forget any of the memories, I just allowed my present self to loosen my grip on them. Those memories are hard-coded into those songs and albums and mixtapes so I can call them back up easily.

Where did this come from? Good question. Most of it was due to a distinct lack of creativity on the Daily Words front, which itself was due to the Former Day Job situation. Instead of trying to write any kind of microfiction for the Daily Words, these entries ended up being an extension of my personal journal and yet another retelling of my Walk in Silence idea. It was so ridiculous and frustrating! So when freedom of the FDJ presented itself, I also chose to free myself from everything else that was holding me back: including my listening habits.

Essentially, I had to relearn how to listen.

You’re messing with the enemy

I’ve been thinking lately about how I want to approach Book Four in the Mendaihu Universe (oh yes, there will be more of them!) and yes, I’ve even been gathering music for the writing soundtrack. And like all the other projects, I’m searching for a specific mood that fits the story I have in my head.

Recently I’ve been listening to Kasabian’s “Club Foot”, a) because it’s got one hell of a kickass bass riff, and b) the video is an homage to student revolt against government suppression, specifically the Prague Spring in 1969 and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. It’s also an homage to pirate radio and Radio Free Europe.

I’ve always been fascinated by that kind of rebellion. Sure, it grew out of my listening to punk and ‘that weird college radio stuff’ back in the 80s, but the fact that the whole point of that music was a form of rebellion against the norm attracted my interest. [Yeah, I’ll cop to not always outwardly showing it. But that’s for a different post.]

In the Bridgetown Trilogy, the Vigil group is there partly to play both roles: revolt against those in power, and its voice. But what of the new book? All I can say is that it’s a new game. It’s seventy years later and things have changed considerably on both sides. The rebellion shown in the Trilogy wouldn’t work this time out. Those books were all about accepting and maintaining a balance between two opposite forces.

This particular book, I think, is going to be more about Setting Things Right.

The “Club Foot” song and video got me thinking this morning, and I posted it as a tweet:
What would be today’s analogue of pirate radio as student revolt? How would people listen to it? Phone app? Internet streaming? Radio like in the past? How would its signals be secure/untraceable like a VPN?

Which brought up the next question: How would this kind of revolt happen in an age of social media (and multiple forms of media in general) that are chock full of white noise already? Is a digital/aural underground network even possible?

(Mind you, whenever I hear a question ending in “…is that even possible”, my brain immediately responds with “Of course there is. We just have to figure out what it is.” I’m an optimistic goofball that way.)

Things to think about while prepping for future writing projects.

Songs from the Eden Cycle, Vol 5 (Under Construction)

What’s that, you say?  Is this an official follow-up to the original four compilation volumes from 1997-98?  Didn’t I make a bunch of semi-official compilations for the trilogy over the next decade and a half?  Am I just recycling the same damn mixes over and over again at this point?

What’s the diff, anyway?

Well, the original Songs from the Eden Cycle mixes were made when I was writing The Phoenix Effect and were used to get me inspired, rather than songs that were assigned to specific scenes (with a few exceptions).  The follow-up mixes, on the other hand, were when I wrote and revised the Bridgetown Trilogy and were specifically focused on those stories.

Thus, this new “Volume 5” is a return to the original reason for the series: music to get me inspired to write the new Mendaihu Universe book(s).  Like the original four, these will be mixes that will be made over an extended stretch of time, as certain tracks pop up.

Here are a few that I’ve gathered so far…

Blonde Redhead, “23”. This song popped up on my radar in 2015 when I was playing around with MU story ideas, and caught me at the right moment with its unrelenting, twisting power. Beauty and tension at the same time.

Kasabian, “Club Foot”. I’m surprised I never put this song anywhere on any of my major compilations other than a half-assed one I threw together in 2005, because it’s one of my favorite badass bass lines. Also surprised I never used it in any Mendaihu Universe stories, either. Admittedly the video (again, one of my favorites) did give me a bit of inspiration as well.

U2, “The Blackout”. Say what you will about U2’s last two albums, personally I still think they’re the best and strongest albums they’ve had in years. Pretty sure they’re both going to get a lot of play when I start writing the new stuff.

Editors, “No Harm”. These guys consistently blow my mind with each release. In Dream was quite the dark affair — not as creepy as In This Light and On This Evening, but emotionally raw — and got a hell of a lot of play when I was revising the original trilogy. Pretty sure it’s gonna get play here as well.

Dot Allison, “Message Personnel”. This track actually dates back to the original TPE/trilogy sessions and popped up on one of the “Mendaihu Universe” mixes, but I’ve chosen to add it to this one because it’s the soundtrack to one of the first scenes I’d come up with for the new story.  This is one of the few exceptions where I had a perfect song in mind for a specific scene.

The Horrors, “I See You”. I think I need to look into this band more, because they totally slipped under my radar until I heard their Luminous album a few years back. I love their dark post-punk sound, which fits in quite nicely with what I’m trying to achieve with the new story.

I’m still working on this one right now, and it is in fact a mix of newer and older songs (note: the original four volumes did in fact have the same type of content as well).  With the exception of maybe one or two songs, the rest of these haven’t been put on an official Eden Cycle mix as of yet.

Yes, I know…I’ve got two other novels I have to finish first before I can get anywhere serious with this new Mendaihu Universe novels, but it doesn’t hurt to get an early start with the notes and the soundtrack, right?

Writing Time

As I’d mentioned elsewhere, I’ll be quite busy this month working on revision for In My Blue World I’ll do my best to continue posting here regularly, though!  The entries might not be as intensive as normal, but never fear, I’ll always provide you with some fun tunage!

For now, I’ve got a bit of revision prep work to do these first few days of the month that’s gonna keep me occupied, so I’ll leave you with a few ELO tracks that inspired my new novel.

I’ll be doing my usual month-in-review post of June’s releases on Thursday and the Twenty/Thirty Years On series next week.  Thanks for waiting!