RECORDING | Gentleman Echo – Research Arc

Gentleman Echo - Research Arc

Gentleman Echo - Research Arc

Here comes one of those sort-of-finished-what-the-hell-are-you-waiting-for projects. Once upon a time, the year was 2000 or so, with nothing else pressing, I was inclined to create a series of experimental, DIY, lo-fi, use-what-resources-you-have recordings. They were completed over the course of probably no more than two weeks on a Teac A-3340S reel-to-reel 4-track machine with limited outboard gear consisting mostly of some rack-mount guitar processors. My plan was to augment what instruments I was going to use (a few guitars and some manner of Boss drum machine) with the analog recorder as an instrument in and of  itself, exploiting and manipulating the tape in the time honored fashions of countless studio dabblers before me.

But wait – didn’t I just say the recordings were “completed” in “2000 or so” but that the project was “sort-0f-finished?” What the hell has been the delay? Have I been waiting for someone to piece the thing together these years down the line ala Dennis Wilson’s Bamboo? Or, like some low rent Tom Scholz, am I poring over every last detail of a proposed masterpiece? No. Basically, I’ve been distracted and sidetracked by real life. As I pointed out, there wasn’t much equipment available so it took a while to get around to doing a proper mix/master. This eventually took place in about 2002 when the music entered the digital realm at Upper Sandwichclock, a project studio of lasting obscurity. And then there was the art work. I’ve cobbled together several album covers (which sucked and reeked of amateurism) over the years, but as I’ve spent more time around talented designers have picked up enough knowledge to make me dangerous to myself. I’m no Hipgnosis, but I’ve come up with something I like; the image above is the final cover.  I hereby declare this project complete.

Isn’t this exciting in the extreme? Can you contain your enthusiasm? You can’t? You say you’d like a blow by blow synopsis of each track? Of course I’ll provide it. What you should do is get a copy from me and read along. And here it goes:

01 isol
This is the track that says, hi, welcome to Research Arc. Some welcome. If an album’s opening track serves to assert a thesis for the overall recording, isol would seem to set up a panorama of alarm and disconcertment.  Yeah, that covers a lot of what is here. At this point I’d like to add, like all the great old Queen albums, that no synthesizers were used in this recording. But, like, that’s just because I didn’t have any. isol contains sounds that are obviously guitar and sounds that are obviously a whale trying to sing Timetable by Genesis. In other words, analog tape trickery is present from the start. Crushing waves of dreadful racket are realized via Floyd Rose detuned distorted guitar (an Ibanez RG550) at half speed. I think there may be some backwards stuff in there too – just swelling chords, nothing to make you kill or worship Satan or anything.

Download isol

02 Ducks Receive Injections
From the time it was born until yesterday, this piece (I hesitate to call anything here a “song”) was known as “Where’d You Get the Ducks?” It became obvious to me that this number would have to be renamed. I like it much better now. At any rate, Ducks is a trippy dubbed-out affair that seems like what might happen if Al Jourgensen and King Tubby collaborated on remixing some Bjork master tapes. Or something. It is sure to be a big hit in the dance clubs of NGC 4414.

03 Cruel Mastodons
They’re very cruel.
Like a lot of the content here, Mastodons is mostly about texture. As I’ve grown older (and older and older) I’ve developed a wider appreciation for the purely sonic. It’ll never take the place of Abbey Road, but music that is about a sound is very appealing to me. I mentioned that a Boss drum machine was used on these recordings. Mastodons and Ducks (don’t those two just go hand in hand?) both embody how – manipulated deconstructed mutations. And speaking of mutation, there is a very nasty strain of slide guitar going on here. I think it should probably be reported to the CDC.

04 The Clandestine Umbrella
Not all of the experimentation on Research Arc consists of me jacking around with tape speed or direction. Umbrella is an example of xenochrony. In opposition to the standard idea of a guitar solo being an interactive melodic extension reacting to an accompaniment, the solo on this piece was recorded first with no associated environment, just a key. Afterwards, chords were added with respect only to  the key and the span of time dictated by the length of the solo. Whatever interplay happens is purely synthetic and coincidental. Umbrella also features occasional deranged and detached lap steel blurbs which arise to comment and (thankfully – I wouldn’t say I’ve exactly applied myself to the steel) disappear.

05 knfll
The title is a mistyping of “knell” that stuck. knfll is one of several Arc tracks to feature a sample from that cinematic masterpiece Night of the Lepus. The clip pops up at 1:22 just before a fairly vicious guitar solo.

06 Squalus
Squalus is the first element of the Oceanic Oppression Trilogy. This piece takes its name from a doomed submarine – and maybe it shows. The vessel sank in 1939 with 33 on board, all of whom were rescued the next day. This is how I imagine the night stranded on the ocean floor.

07 Mollusk Eve
This is the cue  for a creature outside the sunken Squalus, an impartial witness to the goings on. I’d really forgotten about so many of the bits herein. The electric guitar theme of Eve haunts me just a bit.

08 Thou Shalt Not Drown
And finally with the sample, “mommy, what’s a control group?” Drown attempts to conclude the underwater saga. There was understandable tension among the crew during those long submerged hours. Some, starting to go slightly mad, even started to theorize that their situation was part of some black government experiment (possibly under cover of some clandestine umbrella?). Ok, I made that up. More distorted half-speed drum loops form a foundation for scuzzy altered lap steel. I think there is some whacking on a wine bottle (presumably emptied) going on too.

1950s Oahu lap steel

1950s Oahu lap steel

09 Eitas
Eitas is a wash of Impressionistic colors. The swelling, major 7 chords made me think of Erik Satie. In reverse.

Download Eitas

10 The Frown Returns
So much for pleasantries. A hopelessly slowed down acoustic guitar provides the environment for clipped distorto-paranoiac sputtering. This is another track which moment by moment offers little in terms of melody but which dwells in the scope of the programmatic and cinematic.

11 Uninclude
Digitally delayed drum looping is the key. You can hear and feel some 5-string bass lumbering around somewhere downstairs. And that’s a “vocal” over there in the right channel. Egads. This is a track which certainly would have been omitted from any number of Trans Am or Can albums.

Download Uninclude

12 Searching for Patterns Where Really There are None
This song (oops, I used the “S” word) used to be called Musiker Obscure. Until yesterday. I think looking too deeply for something that is just not there is a mistake we all make. It can cause one to apply false meaning to objects and situations. By the same token, it is quite easy to miss the obvious. Somewhere in between exists an optimized consumption of life as we know it. Searching is almost an exact replica of Rocket Queen by Guns N’ Roses. Ok, it’s not, but it is similar in that it seems to be two distinct musical ideas attached together under the guise of one title. You can hear real crickets and night bugs recorded on purpose out the window of the house I used to live in in Blue Springs, MO. Then there’s more half-speed acoustic guitar mixed way out in front of what was maybe supposed to be a pseudo Clare Torry Great Gig in the Sky type of tortured wordless vocal, but in reality is closer to John Fahey’s “Ghosts.”

The Teac

The Teac

And that is how I remember and/or reimagine the Research Arc album. Gentleman Echo, by the way, is just one in a series of musical aliases I’ve been known to use. I think of it as a category name for those projects which might be of an “out there” nature.://


One Response to “RECORDING | Gentleman Echo – Research Arc”

  1. […] release by the ongoing project known as Gentleman Echo. (Read about the life and times of Resarch Arc if you’re into that type of thing.) The recording is an excerpt from the piece “Here to […]

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