‘night slay’ came from a sleepless night of scrubbing through trance presets. a dark rave-y lead popped out at me and the piercing hard-panned main melody swiftly emerged. later i asked Sam Lui (@tough_crybaby ) to scream “I want you to get out!!”, a phrase that had been turning over in my mind for a while.. there’s a sample from a vocal session with Fury Mimey (@thevillagefool ) as well. i opened a set at @trans.pecos with an extended intro of Night Slay paired with a sermon inspired by a book on physics called “Sympathetic Vibrations”. when the time finally came around to finish the track, it felt right to include a few lines from that, and i knew it would work as the album opener.
𝚂𝚒𝚕𝚎𝚗𝚝 𝙴𝚗𝚎𝚛𝚐𝚢 𝚏𝚎𝚊𝚝. 𝚂𝚕𝚞𝚞𝚛𝚙𝚎𝚎
‘Silent Energy’ is mi second proper hyperpop track ever, the first being ‘True’ from the last Broken Spear album.. i wrote silent energy in 2016 the night before christmas in seattle – mashing up a twinkly enchanted pluck with a “Drive”-y synthwave bass. I had recently met Cassidy (@sluurp.me ), a genius who learned ableton in weeks and was pumping out mindblowingly dense arrangements that broke all the rules. it was a no-brainer to loop her in – amazing voice. we tracked at @cu_records , a diy studio some friends cobbled together from an abandoned tv station in new york. ‘silent energy’ was released as the album’s single by @spaceship_org - with a beautiful manga illustration by Aida Cheng (@_aidayc ) - though now it has new track art. a few months ago while adding the final bells and whistles, I decided to switch up the ending to give it a spooky feel.. the title/lyrics are inspired by the Hisaishi-scored ambient 1991 Japanese surf-romance film, ‘a scene at the sea’.. “angel of you.. gliding cold blue..”
𝚂𝚊𝚖𝚙𝚕𝚘 𝚏𝚎𝚊𝚝. 𝚃𝚛𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝙼𝚊𝚑
‘samplo’ is the first proper sample-based hip-hop beat i’ve worked on, hence the silly name.. very Friendzone-inspired. used samples from Within Temptation, a Dutch symphonic metal band, Hiroshima, an amazing 70s smooth jazz outfit whose LPs I nabbed in seattle because of the graphic design, and the theme song of My So Called Life, which is also a conceptual driver of ‘Catalano’ and ‘Real Thrill’. I sprinkled some carly rae jepsen + bieber samples (the last Broken Spear album sampled Purpose soooo much – maintaining the tradition!). I hit up the Ohio-based @trillmah for some flaming rap vocals – she has been a big inspo of mine since we worked on a hip-hop film together in 2013. She is a fellow qpoc, performs with @noromanceohio /@sistaspincrew / collective The Future Is Now, and helped make samplo the hardest-driving track of the album!!
𝚂𝚎𝚛𝚒𝚘𝚞𝚜 𝙵𝚞𝚗𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚜𝚎 𝚁𝚎𝚊𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚢
‘serious funhouse reality’ was born in a farmhouse in fort plain, ny, where I was working with @mohawkvalleycollective - I was in bed, reveling in the quiet night nature sounds and grateful to be away from the city. I was thinking about the guitar tones in “yellow”, the #naomipunk album that had just dropped. I had recently acquired a #peavey stereo chorus, and jotted down an idea in my iphone notes (the goldmine of all art!) when I got home, I recorded a bunch of industrial, solid-statey guitar gestures/harmonics into a sampler, looped a huge death march kick, and stacked layers of sampled guitar, arranging them in a way that suggested a “live” dueling energy, riffs cascading over eachother. I recited ‘Serious Funhouse Reality’, an idea I was working on at the time (now titled Funhouse, Inc lol), laid down feedback, and an anthem was born.. “Watch the smiley bend..”
‘birthmark’ is the most nostalgic seattle-seb track on Truth Pieces. working title was ‘emo wave’. I had recently made this Sophie-esque version of smashing pumpkins’ ‘mayonaise’ after hearing a really over-the-top cover of ‘today’ at a secret @pcmus show in BK. So I was in an emo guitar mindset sitting in bed experimenting with new tunings, and wrote the main Birthmark riff, which is very in the spirit of the emo/gaze bands i was in (Uda Ox, Cool Void). Alyssa (@alyssagengos , vocalist of @goldmedal.us ) came to Scorpio Vegas for dinner one night, and afterwards was down to record some toplines. she listened to the instrumental a few times and then did one take and knocked it out of the park –Rachel Goswell genius. I was really emotionally affected by the take, and decided to keep it in the spirit of the Truth Pieces ideology, improvised lyrics and all. I recorded a double of the melody to thicken it up and added a synth/choir outro which felt like a fresh-sounding addition to the lush guitars. there’s a version out there of Birthmark with vocals by Sam that’s super Avril and emotional in a different way that might be released one day..
‘contemporary ecology’ is an ideology anthem, like Serious Funhouse Reality. I kept saying ‘contemporary ecology’ as a joke in response to some grass on Kevin’s (@jester_rodeo ) foot, or overgrown plants behind a glowing bus stop. a dumb jab at International Art English, which I’m guilty of finding fun/funny.. was writing a paper about dark ecology at the time lol. i got vocal takes from Sluurpee (@sluurp.me ), watergh0st (#watergh0st ) [with whom i tracked an insane nu-metal session on her 7 string which I have to use still] and SINDY (@vaingirls on soundcloud), a prolific Finnish bubblegum bass star. made a nice build with a VST choir.. would love if someone made an advertisement with this song
‘real thrill’ is indebted to W.G Snuffy Walden who did the score for #mysocalledlife - me and sean (@shelanty ) have been talking about doing a #onetreehill score for forever because we’re obsessed with that show (we have matching tattoos), so this is kind of my first attempt at tv soundtrack music in preparation for whenever that happens. me and Maurice (@sunspeaker_ ) were watching MSCL and marveling at the marimbas/ new age instrumentals – it felt very OPN in its modeling synth preset sincerity. so I played some old drum samples and synths through my solid state guitar amp for that 90s grain, and laid down some soaring jazzmaster lines with some very expensive reverb VSTs sprinkled on top. ‘real thrill’ is the prelude to ‘catalano’, predictably.
𝙲𝚊𝚝𝚊𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚘 𝚏𝚎𝚊𝚝. 𝙹𝚞𝚕𝚒𝚞𝚜 𝙼𝚎𝚝𝚊𝚕
‘catalano’ has an accompanying Noisey/Impose/Fader video interview with me in drag as Julius lol. I unironically sing in this #daughtry / #nickelback voice all the time around the house, and I love any chance to record as Julius. it’s so fun becoming that character, the pitiful caveman problematic romantic. this tune is about Jordan Catalano/Jared Leto in the television show #mysocalledlife - after chipping away at meticulous midi interludes for a while, it was fun to write a traditional-length love burner on acoustic guitar. I recorded live drums for this one (authentic!) with the help of CU Records’ Luis Collado (@luiscollado_ ) it was the last ‘truth piece’ to be finished recording-wise – sasha (@sasha.stomberg ) agreed to add last minute harmonies and we recorded during nighttime: she sings real sweet and quiet so if you solo the stems you can hear coqui frogs chirping in the background outside our window ( ^ω^ )
‘copper’ has an accompanying video piece. the instrumental was written in my room in harlem in spring 2017 (nuts that I’ve moved 3 times since then..). I was scrolling through my iphone notes for inspiration and found the lines spoken by the song’s Narrator from when I lived in st. Petersburg, Russia. I was friends and classmates with Sasha (different Sasha from the vocalist on Catalano!) – who I met because we rode the same marshrutka to school. she’s an amazing experimental filmmaker/animator and lives in an OG soviet tenement and made a beautiful comic about depression which a lot of people liked. she told me this thing about her hair once when we were going to her friend’s apartment to play Go and do a freeform synth session. (her friend worked construction at Sochi Olympics which turned him into a guru) anyways, the line about the hair stuck with me. when I first read that line over the post-punk crooner loop in the Narrator voice, I knew I had discovered something original-feeling – that was the beginning of Truth Pieces.
‘Tenor Crystal’ lives in the same universe as ‘Contemporary Ecology’ - a very earnest, glossy trance pluck world.. I got kind of obsessed with the heartwrenching qualities that a super childish melody can have – this feeling of nostalgia or movie score-like profoundness, like the ending of Inception when you’re a 9th grader. Maurice (@sunspeaker_ ) helped wrangle together the ‘sticky’ arp sound that comes in near the end. It’s always so satisfying to have the rhythm of a song be totally synth melody driven – it’s kind of a running joke that drummers ruin everything.. kinda mean but true?
𝟸𝟻 𝙻𝚎𝚐𝚜 𝚏𝚎𝚊𝚝. 𝙿𝚎𝚛𝚕𝚊 𝙷𝚊𝚗𝚎𝚢-𝙹𝚊𝚛𝚍𝚒𝚗𝚎
‘25 legs’ has an accompanying video piece and is probably the truth piece where I surrender the most creative control to a collaborator. Perla and I had been exchanging poems, and she sent me this one called ‘Notebook1’ which was partially modeled off of a poem I had sent her.. it was basically a better version of what I was going for in my poems – I loved it. also FYI Perla is the only person I know that can produce arresting visual art using analog drawing tools. she came over to Scorpio Vegas two summers ago, where our huge backyard receives this stunning dappled light. we recorded an “ASMR” version and regular spoken version of the poem, and shot Video8/digital 4k/35mm still portraits. I added some “hypeman” vocals. the music is a reverse delay seattle post-punk guitar riff (which I can somehow still manage to churn out at a never-ending rate lol) with some juno pads. still hits me with this awesome haunting feeling of dread when the instrumental dip out then return in a different key at 2:18.
‘aiko’s theme’ is based on a character in #inioasano #goodnightpunpun manga series. she deserved a theme. I freestyled in bed on my 25 key keyboard (final days in that tiny harlem apartment..) in the only key besides Cmaj I know how to play. it felt emotional in a Hisaishi way, and I liked the idea of including “human” qualities of non-quantized, velocity-sensitive midi recordings on Truth Pieces. over a year later I returned to the midi and shifted notes around, but kept the personality -all the rolled chords, etc. I spent time automating the harp and fm piano doubles so that they weave around eachother and step back to allow the other to shine in the right moments. Samples are from Reply 1997 (k-drama), Pro lyubov (Russian film), Garden of Words (Makoto Shinkai anime) and #onetreehill , the latter being a nod to a similar OTH sample used in ‘Alone in This World’, the closer on my last album, True. the Russian sample closes the track, with «Любовь это..» trailing off.. It’s a scene of a couple talking in bed in the morning light. “Hey, can I ask you about something important? Sure, what? ..What are your thoughts on love? (literal translation is “what about love?”, which is even better) ..Love is..” The listener never gets a full answer, just a high-resolution sketch of a specific scene’s energy, which is what the Truth Pieces approach to music is all about.