As you might already know, I put out a synthy Christmas album a few years ago. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a joke, or at best a novelty album. What you might not have realized, if you couldn’t make it through the first song or two, is that I put the silliest stuff at the beginning to make it easier to skip. Furthermore, I’m actually quite pleased with how the last 10 songs turned out, and they’re based on songs that many people don’t know.
I first heard Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols shortly before I made that album. It’s a lovely piece of Christmas music that doesn’t sound overly like Christmas music. Which is something that I find to be a welcome relief when you keep hearing the same handful of songs over and over again every holiday season. So I’d strongly recommend giving it a listen, whether it’s my version or the original, or both.
If you start with track 13 you can hear my version here:
Or you can hear what it’s supposed to sound like, as performed by a Swedish Choral ensemble:
Over the years of reviewing modules for Ask.Audio, I’ve accumulated a sizeable archive of diverse recordings. Some of them are even nice to listen to! I decided it would be fun to go back through my experiments and compile a list of my favourites that could fit loosely into the ambient music genre.
Some of these recordings feel like complete songs, while others are more rough with abrupt starts and endings. I hope you enjoy my selected ambient modular experiments!
When I released Belizean Heat back in February of 2018, I had hopes of making videos for at least some of the songs using GoPro footage I shot while there. I still haven’t gotten around to putting any of them together, so I figured it was about time I at least put them up on Youtube for people to listen even if they don’t have any fancy visual element to go with them. I realize a lot of people listen to most of their music on Youtube these days for convenience, so it makes sense to have it up there. Of course the album is also available on Spotify and Bandcamp along with other online sources if you prefer those.
You can find the playlist of the album below.
While staying at Caves Branch Lodge, we took a tour into Guatemala to visit Tikal, the former Mayan capital. While there, our informative guide told us stories of Mayan history and legends, as well as the efforts being conducted to uncover and restore this ancient site. It is his voice that you hear at the start of this song, telling the story of the twins that managed to trick their way out of Xibalba, and the lethal authority of the Mayan priests. The Mayan priests installed themselves as a necessary conduit for the people to be able to communicate with the gods. They were considered divine, and the people weren’t even permitted to look up at them. They would have to approach them and depart with bowed heads, or risk having their heads chopped off. To make matters worse, decapitation was an even less attractive option then because the obsidian axes they used were fairly dull, and the executioners had poor aim because they were often tripping out on hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Xibalba (pronounced She-ball-ba) is the name for the Mayan underworld. Stylistically this song was largely influenced by my discovery of Chicha and Cumbia music. A sort of South American surf rock from the 60s. If you’re not familiar with it I’d highly recommend giving this album a listen. It’s quite fun.
Xibalba is by far the most ambitious one on the album as it features me playing more acoustic instruments than any of the others. I played a few tracks of trumpet and trombone, as well as something called Xaphoon, which is sort of like a recorder with a saxophone reed. I also played a number of percussion instruments like shakers and hand drums. I even made a cabasa out of an old tin and some bottle caps. I’m not much of a guitar player, but I played a few chords and some slower sustained notes with an electric. The rest came from my poly evolver and sample libraries. I’m quite pleased with how this one turned out. I feel like it provides a nice contrast to the other songs without being too much of a departure stylistically.
This brings us to the end of the making of Belizean Heat. I hope you found this interesting and that it helped to deepen your enjoyment of the music. If you have any questions or feedback regarding the album I would be happy to hear it.
I was able to borrow a GoPro camera for my trip to Belize, so I actually have a lot of video footage. Eventually I hope to use that footage to make videos for at least a few of the songs. This song is actually more based on video footage than field recordings, and it spent a lot of time in limbo before I figured out a direction for it. Once I did settle on a direction it was actually completed quite quickly (by my standards). It was one of the last songs finished on the album along with Stowaway, which I talked about in the last making of post. Continue reading “The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 8 – Caves Branch”