2/08/2006

"Matinee" Outtakes

Cleaning out my little closet of rhymes I came across several numbers that had been attempted/recorded/demoed etc. around the time I started conceptualizing Matinee. Some of this stuff was me trying to figure out how I was going to be pianistic, since I knew I was going to throw a huge curveball at myself by writing on piano. Which was really just a way to force myself to change. Some of this stuff was throat-clearing. There's some live recordings of chestnuts. So in the first installment of what we'll call The Matinee Outtakes we will hear (with thanks to th' Viscount for turning me on to this here download site):

"Complicated" A song that bears further study at some point when the right tools are available. This recording just got a little soppy with th' fake strings and became a demo. I really wanted to hear if the arrangement would fly, though. I bet with a few tweaks in the string arrangement and a nice 8-piece section this would be nice. "It wasn't done by grand design/There's no conspiracy/I just can't swing the Hades thing/For you Persephone". The middle eight is crazy with the vocals and the phasing.

Interesting. That ending would be good with real strings.

"Piano Sonata #1" A pretty and strange little fantasy. Just a little beyond the limits of my talent because that's how it's supposed to be, I'm told. I like the processional thing at 2:25. It goes on for another good minute or so but I was getting god damn carpal tunnel.

I wrote this in the fall of '02 when I had just come back east from california and was suffering from Autumn Thrall. I did the score by hand. Much by candlelight. Because that's how it's supposed to be, I'm told.

"Anymore" Wow, this is some crazy shit. This is a work song that I wrote because I got a tip that Ambrosia were reforming and needed material. So this was probably exactly what they didn't want, a glorious pastiche of 70's soft rock with all the trimmings; massed harmonies, Wurlitzer, major 7ths galore, leslie guitar, a short, interminably repeated hook phrase. You know they wanted their Deep House Breakthrough song.

I won't pretend that "Anymore" wasn't a guilty pleasure, a sort of Dukes Of Stratosphear for my generation. The sound of a first kiss. Seals and Crofts and "If You Leave Me Now" and all that. And I rolled all the Ambrosia crap in, too. The parallel minor 7ths of "How Long Has This Been Going On" and all that.

Pretty crafty. As crafty as anything on Matinee. But ultimately pastiche. '75 O'Clock. Ha ha.


"Like Dying" The string quartet/piano version. Recorded during the "Song For The Weary" sessions in August '03. Same live quartet, same chirping birds and insects. I didn't consider this against the big studio version that I recorded in California in '02 simply because the strings start out a bit badly intoned. It's a live stereo recording with the piano and I couldn't pitch-correct anything. I did overdub a vocal double here and there and some timpani.

Nowadays people's standards for what a small string ensemble should sound like has been warped by synths and pitch correction. The crying quality of a beating major third is a beautiful thing but try telling that to someone raised on E-mus.

Anyway, this is goddamn pretty and I remember being a little moist of eye while recording it. When I rehearsed with the quartet for the first time in our spare room Lori did get pretty choked up. I'd been obsessively scoring and rescoring and talking about doing this for a good year and a half and to hear it come to life was fucking mind-blowing.

When I get two thousand clams I'll make an entire album like this. I'll record in the same loft on that farm in Amherst and I'd record it all live. Just because. And then My Work Will Be Done.

"Can't Go Home" Another interesting and crafty number. I wanted the main instrumental motif of this to sound like a '70's TV show, like "Taxi" or something. Everything about this song is autobiographical, including people and place names. I think another run at this would yield an effective recording. This is demo-y and a little fractured of structure. I do like the break where the fretless doubles the piano solo. I think this song would be totally happening with a nice real Wurlitzer and a Hammond/leslie. And a nice distressed loop with real drums.

The chorus chord structure I-v-IV-vi would definitely inform a lot of Matinee. It's so mournful and jazzy. It's definitely the engine that drives songs like "Monday Wedding". I think this lyric is pretty much there. I like "Did my time in Hollywood/Got myself a deal but man, it took me down some/Played a million empty rooms/Wasted all the years when I was young and handsome..." It's all so melancholy.

"The Long And Winding Road" I tracked this live as a warmup one night when I was writing. For inspiration. I did a few of these, "Alison", "Lilac Wine", "These Foolish Things", stuff like that. The piano sound is a little pale but I mostly nailed a take. I got a little stimied on the instrumental bridge because I forgot it was coming but got most of it.

Not perfect but interesting.


"Mr. Death" A foreboding song. Unrelenting. It all came from that dancing-skeleton verse progression. This was originally a string quartet song that was not un-"Eleanor Rigby"-like so I'd had the lyric around for a while. It's the dark side of "Like Dying". I got a little bit of a death bug around '02 and it continues to inform my creativity. 9/11 did a fuckin' number on my head among other things.

The guitar solo is a Fripp imitation that quickly goes way out. I cut it up and pitched it and did all sorts of ugly things to it. And during the synth solo at the end it reminds me a lot of "The Fez".

There's a ton of random synth foreboding in the back of this number. I tried to create a soundscape that evoked a vast emptiness like outer space.

The lyric is pretty mental:

"Mr. Death is waiting at the end of my street
With a long cigarette and a necklace of teeth
And I'm floating beneath the trees
With the full moon weeping

Mr. Death is standing by the door of my car
With a Halloween grin and a head in a jar
And his eyes are like two black coals
And the red sky's falling...

And I don't want to go...
I don't want to go alone
But I can't stop myself from dying...

Mr. Death is sitting on the stairs of my house
And I won't let him in and he's calling me out
And his voice is like dry dead leaves when he says my name...

Old Mr. Death and his Lady Macbeth
Have been fighting for who gets to reach into my chest
And it's rock paper scissors beneath the October sky...

And I don't want to go...
I don't want to go alone
But I can't stop myself from dying..."

I like that "rock paper scissors" shit.

2 Comments:

Blogger fgfdsg said...

Funny, I was just working on a post about how the recent reissue / outtakes of albums have become standard, and how these outtakes inform our understanding of the original work.

That being said... these are cast-offs? You realise everytime you throw amazing shit like this out there I die a little more.

On first listen... don't dismiss 'Complicated', it's a real honey of a song and well worth keeping in mind for your next album. Far too good to be abandoned.

I understand the 70's theme song thing with "Can't Go Home", having tried to capture that style when I was younger, you've nailed it there.

I also like "Mr Death" a lot, since i haven't heard you work in the style. Mad guitar solo. In the anthropomorpisation stakes, remind me to introduce you to "Mr Sex" sometime.

3:01 AM  
Blogger fgfdsg said...

Re: Mr Death

For some reason I picture the pair of them playing Knucklebones, though by the time I was in school our 'bones' were made of plastic.

I'm sure you know, but if you don't:

http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/w/x/wxk116/roma/tali.html

Another good death-obsessed children's game I spent too much time playing - "Oranges and Lemons", except our version went "Chip chop chip chop off with this mans head!"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oranges_and_Lemons

If you want to read some more Autumn and Death imagery, try Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes".

6:19 PM  

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