Gentleman Echo – Absolute Ozone Robot
Please listen to and/or download the album at Bandcamp.
Program notes and self-indulgent minutiae
According to the date on the folder, Absolute Ozone Robot was created in late December, 2012. Then it was mostly neglected for the next 23 months, occasionally receiving daylight and water. Finally I got tired of the project hanging over my head like a small, festering planet peopled by creatures missing arms and feet, and so on. And in December 2014 (with rusting apparatuses finally removed from my literal and spiritual driveways) I made the push to complete the thing. Yeah, so, here it is.
Absolute Ozone Robot (the album’s third official title) was realized entirely on a MacBook, utilizing a borrowed microphone, some software of dubious origin and every guitar I own. Here’s a guided tour:
01 “Pink Opera Glasses”
Wherein an atmosphere is established. Wouldn’t you like to come in?
02 “Gold Coin Eyes”
And, welcome. This spacious construction was intended to be the first movement of a single 50-minute piece. Maybe next time. Nestled among the harmonized feedback and drifty percussion there’s some sound that reminds me of the shitty werewolf in Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park. Not even sure what that is anymore. Anyway, this track introduces the first of many field recordings grafted into the music, in this case some ambient racket from the Washington D.C. subway as captured by my phone. There is no record of the tuning introduced at 2:44; guess I won’t play this one (or anything else here) live. “Gold Coin Eyes” (name borrowed from a phrase in Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, I believe) was one of the first pieces recorded and one of the last finished, the sawtooth-y synth part being added in the 11th hour.
03 “Filthy Science”
That’s my idea of a I-IV-V riff. (Right here there used to be some self critical, second guessing talk. Instead, here’s a quote from John Cage: “The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I feel it’s not beautiful? And very shortly you discover there is no reason.”) The outro introduces the idea of overlapping rhythms which will be prevalent throughout, along with some found sound.
04 “Black Velocities”
Title phrase lifted from some other sci-fi book. The song’s main riff was conceived at double the speed, but reveals more of its facets as it came to rest. I went full on “fake Michael Schenker” in that middle harmony section. Forgive me. While many of the guitar solos contained here were very (too?) stream-of-consciousness, this one was mapped out.
05 “Migration Hypnosis”
Most of the tracks on AOR were composed organically and arranged via editing: A progression, riff, or beat would suggest another part, then a complimentary section, and eventually a “song” would take form. “Migration Hypnosis,” on the other hand, was totally written out out on paper beforehand. Ehhhr, with the exception of that middle section. And about that: Before I realized what was happening, I wound up with several pieces that include “weirdness freakout bridges,” interrupters that send the proceedings off into a confusing miasma of tangled thoughts (not unlike a conversation among many I know). Call it a motif.
06 “Here to Identify the Head (featuring Forklift Chase)”
I consider this the centerpiece of the album, a sun around which the 11 neighboring tracks revolve. I guess I was thinking Fripp/Belew King Crimson when assembly of this prickly tangle of polyrhythmic parts began. I’m very pleased where it all went. The “Forklift Chase” section was one of the final bits recorded, a late addition to the song and a way to take it in another direction (and a chance for another polyrhythm—5/4 versus 4/4 in this case, for those scoring at home). Regarding that “Forklift” riff: I knew what the atmosphere of notes would be but was unsure about the rhythmic phrasing. Then I was teaching a student the bass line to “Blood & Roses” by The Smithereens and … the rest is history.
I had the worst time mastering “Head.” A few failed runs told me to return to the original track for a remix/EQ, which eventually did the trick, such as the trick is. Incidentally, I was making an A/B comparison between these tracks and Culture Clash by The Aristocrats. That thing is mastered like a mother and I lose—but it was a great benchmark.
Another side note: About three days before I finished mixing these tracks a friend made some passing comment to the effect of, “do they even do fade outs on records anymore?” (I think someone had put on Toto IV – seriously). Well, AOR, perhaps owing to its studio-born nature, is full of fades. So there you go.
07 “The Traveling Ear”
I had just taken possession of a Joyo Classic Flanger pedal.
08 “Soil Sample”
It’s just a little ol’ asylum blues stomp about contaminated earth. A lot of the guitars on AOR were recorded at a fairly low volume and with me positioned fairly near the microphone. The result is that sometimes there’s an interesting blend of the sound coming out of the amp with the actual sound of the unamplified strings in the room. That texture can be heard here on both guitar parts.
09 “The Myth of Shared Hydraulics”
The David Byrne/Brian Eno album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts was a subliminal driver for this one. And the brief clean tone guitar solo contains an accidental reference to “Total Mass Retain” by Yes, so we’re all over the map here. When the melody is restated at 1:44 it has been shifted by an eighth note on purpose. I think it’s cool how it adapts in the busy environment. Midday church bells from Astoria, Queens can be heard during the fade.
10 “A Radar is Born”
Now isn’t that a pretty chord? “Radar” was born with the B section riff, which haunted by brain while driving for hours on I-29 during the late summer of 2014. The entire song is another example of the slippery rhythms that permeate AOR: The feel is slightly unhinged, yet not overtly nuts like some of the other dance numbers herein. The guitar solo section features a bed (queen size with paisley comforter) of harmonized bass, making it a distant relative of “Walk on the Wild Side.”
11 “Femur Simulator 2″
Winding down now. This one came to life while visiting some friends’ lake house. As such I consider it a strange souvenir of the Ozarks. “FS2″ contains another freakout bridge, this one featuring some more found audio along with a sample of “The Frown Returns” from the Gentleman Echo album Research Arc.
12 “Disembarker X”
“Disembarker X” is the one who departs, who steals away into the amethyst evening, possibly without finishing his or her drink (but probably doing so). “Disembarker X” is the sound of Absolute Ozone Robot signing off.
Thanks and a tip of the space helmet to:
Venus for enduring the rumbling and clanging emanating from my office; Mas for the Yeti; Benny for Fender delivery and everything always; Ryan for enduring the mixing process; Rex Woodwind for soup; The Great Vehicle; Alberto and Dahveed from Giant Deer Bear; Duke Wisdom; and to the mysterious “Chaucer” who painted the version of Paul Klee’s “Senecio” that serves as the album cover—purchased in an antique mall in Harrisonville, MO. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!
Finally: This album, of course, is dedicated to Jim Van Horn, 1947-2014. I used a few of his guitars on here and their Juju made it all the better.