Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Fill Up The Ache

Download Fill Up The Ache.

This is another song from the same period as States Away and alot of the songs I'll post over the next few weeks, which is from around 1999 - 2002. I never quite finished the mix and always felt like it was a little muddy, but it's one of my favorites from this period.

To be completely honest, almost every song from this group was inspired in whole or in part by a really bad, extended breakup I'd recently gone through. States Away, for instance, is about accepting that a relationship has no future. This song happens to be the most oblique and the least direct about it, but the song's sense of anger definitely originates from that same place. However, if I can be extremely self-indulgent (and why not, for God's sake, this is a fucking blog about music I never finished) this song is ALSO a weird meta-study of how therapeutic writing a song to get through negative emotions actually is. AND, it's also a song about the process of anger -- the intro verses are contemplation, the bridge is frustration, and the ending verses and chorus are the full expression. HOWEVER, mostly this is a song about feeling stagnant and bored and fucking sick of everything being exactly the same all the time. "It's not enough, oh what you have tried. I'm stuck every time and unsatisfied. No matter which way that I wanna take, it's not coming back to fill up the ache." I recognize how ridiculously silly this paragraph is, but I've still enjoyed writing it.

I built the song, oddly enough, around a sequence of a vibraphone sample, which you can hear come through the mix a little in the intro verses and pretty clearly in the bridge. It was the first time I'd explored simpler, more straightforward rock guitar in awhile, after getting caught up trying to imitate Polvo (who, incidentally, just announced they're in the studio working on a new album -- YES!) for a few years. I really like the tone of the guitar overdubs in the intro, which I multitracked a few times to get that nice, open-string sound. I also like how the string samples gradually build throughout the intro and I've always liked the simple piano overdub in the bridge while the 5 or 6 feedback guitars meander around each other. However, I did an absolutely terrible job on the drum sound. I've neglected to mention that Christian Brandt played absolutely incredible drums on this song and States Away (and a few more I'll be posting). Christian is/was a fantastic drummer that I had the pleasure of playing with in Lo Magnifica and played on all the recordings from this era. His skills come through despite this engineer's inept capture.

The delay on the ending guitar solo was created with a Roland Space Echo, one of the coolest pieces of equipment I've ever owned. It's essentially a tape delay in a box. One tape head records the input on a tape loop and the next tape head plays it back. The sound echoes and gradually degrades, which makes it sound very close to what you might imagine echoes from space sound like, if you were imagining them in the late 70s.

I was browsing music classifieds in the Chicago Reader around 1996 and read an ad describing some amazing piece of musical equipment I'd never heard of. I called the number, talked to the guy, and drove out to this boarded-up storefront in the Austin neighborhood, which is just inside the Chicago city limits on the west side. I knocked on the door and this guy, an obvious 70s casualty, had basically barricaded himself inside this storefront with all this vintage audio equipment. It was really pretty amazing. I miss doing things like that -- spending Saturday afternoon driving out to some random suburb to check out a guitar pedal in some guy's basement. Well, I think I miss them. Maybe they just sound good now. I bought the Space Echo and we utilized it in the studio at the Noize Floor for a few years. It's now part of the equipment collection at the Phantom Manor recording studio in Chicago, being cared for and put to good use by my former Noize Floor partner Mr. Mike Lust.

For the next post, I'm going to change gears and post a little synth experiment called "Thanks for the Ride Home From School" -- check back in a few days. Hope you enjoy this one in the meantime.

Download Fill Up The Ache.

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