Making Escape Velocity

Escape Velocity was released in 2006 on the Gears of Sand label. Here are some notes on the composition and recording of the disc.

Most of the material for this CD was composed in 2004, although a couple of pieces date from much earlier. The disc was recorded in 2005 direct to CD via the digital output from a Roland Fantom S. The only other instrument used was a Korg ER-1 percussion synthesizer, which went direct into the Fantom's inputs. No outboard effects were used in the recording.

The title track, Escape Velocity, was started in February 2004, the first few days I had with the new synthesizer. The opening pads were one of the first sounds I created while exploring the Fantom's capabilities. After doing a CD that had very little percussion, Sonic Approach, I wanted to get back to the vibe of my first two discs and work the drums back in. I also wanted to compose some shorter pieces than usual to fill the first half of the CD. I was watching a lot of the complete transmission releases on DVD by Spacecraft Films of the Apollo moon missions and this inspired the piece and the title, referring to the thrust needed to escape the Earth's atmosphere.

The second piece, The Farthest Rille, was originally submitted for a compilation, but was not used. Another shorter piece that was composed around the percussion line. I also wanted to incorporate more classic instrument sounds into this CD, which explains the abundance of Mellotron, electric pianos and organ sounds throughout the disc. The title of this piece comes from the Hadley Rille, a valley-like structure on the moon explored by the Apollo 15 mission.

In/to is one of the earlier synth compositions I came up with in 1994. I've rerecorded this piece a number of times as I like to revisit a few pieces now and then to see what new ideas can be brought to them. This was one of the last tracks recorded for the disc, and as I was sequencing the CD the idea redo this one made sense. It was composed and recorded in one pass for the main bass and chord parts. The solo and some other textures came after. When I've played this piece live I don't use the sequencer but just a patch with the bass and chord tones. It works well as bridge between more complex pieces.

Next up is Orbits, the long track for the disc. This started as two separate pieces that were bridged by more ambient sections. It became more organic as I recorded the track. The more lively, percussion sections evolved out of an earlier piece called Drunken Shadows that I wrote for a collaboration between Dave Fulton and myself, which we'll do someday. I tried recording it as a standalone piece but didn't really fit the mood of the rest of the disc. That's when I separated into two pieces, but they still didn't fit on their own. I then bridged them with a nice drone and floaty mellotron string sound. I then used these sounds to compose the introduction and outro for Orbits.

Next is Four Days On, which I originally composed and played at the Gatherings show in September 2000. I've wanted to record this piece for a while and since I was using the Korg throughout the disc it fit well. This was really composed around a couple of percussion lines that I built using the Korg and it went from there. In a sense this piece is a cousin of Engine Room from The Opposite of Staring Into Space disc.

And, the disc ends with Third Force. Starting with a melodic electric piano intro, it grows a little more sinister, and then moves into the second section that introduces and then intertwines two melody lines, one using an organ sound and the other using a synth sound. They were each played to give a syncopated feel. Then we hit the next section starting with a kalimba sound and quickly moving into some sequencing madness. This section is close in feel and sound to Sonic Approach. Which ends with a thud. Literally. A low, slow tom rhythm with a real bass sound and the screaming lead that fades in, says it piece, and fades out. This final part is directly inspired by King Crimson's Prince Rupert's Lament. The Third Force is the reconciling force between positives and negatives.

One piece that did not make the disc is Magnetic Center. A short track (4:00) that can be best described as progressive ambient jazz, with a rock edge. It was inspired by the Jazz Crusaders' recordings of the 1960s. It's full on with drums and solos galore. This track is currently available as a free download to anyone who purchases the Escape Velocity CD.

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Go back to the Escape Velocity page.