The Making of Belizean Heat: Part 1 – Ella’s Garden

The first song on the album takes its name from the beautiful botanical garden at Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Lodge. It was made by Ella Baron and has the largest collection of orchids and air plants in the country.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI spent a fair bit of time exploring the grounds recording birds and crickets, which you will hear at the start of the track. I also recorded a fascinating creature I had never heard of before: A perfume bee. These iridescent green insects rub their bodies against particular flowers to scent themselves to attract a mate. I sampled this recording into Izotope’s Iris, which allowed me to convert it into a pad sound that I layered with the main repeating string melody.

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Perfume bee approaching an orchid

Stylistically, the song was heavily influenced by Aaron Static and Fort Road’s remix of Ghosts, by Thomas Newman from the Road to Perdition soundtrack. I wanted to try to make something with a similar stately epic grandeur.

While I was busy gathering recordings, my wife was taking photos, including the ones used in this post. She has since used these images as source material for clothing design, like the dress below which used the orchid picture featured above. If you would like to see more of her work, be sure to check out http://www.juncodesign.com

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Black Orchid Dress by Junco Design

 

While making this track, I had a lot of fun using the Octatrack as a step sequenced filter bank, both for field recordings and my trumpet. Basically I would set different filter cutoff and resonance values to the sequencer and add some delay and it would turn any material into a groove. I used this technique to generate a lot of the drifting glassy rhythms you can hear throughout. Here’s a short clip of me experimenting with processing my trumpet.

 

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Belizean Heat Out Now!

I’m excited to share my latest album, Belizean Heat! It features nine songs that are each built around field recordings gathered during a short visit to Belize I took in 2015. If you listen closely, you’ll hear birds, crickets, underwater reef crackling, and a persnickety naval radio. One of my favourite recordings was of a massive colony of grackles.

This sound collage has many of the original recordings I used in the album.

The music I’ve made with and around these recordings is stylistically diverse. Hol Chan and Wind Dancer are influenced by Synthwave, Hideaway is an ambient piece, and Xibalba takes influence from South American chicha music. If you’re interested, I’ve made a Spotify Playlist with my album, along with some of the songs and artists that shaped it.

Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss the stories behind each song and share some pictures from my trip.

 

Warming the Winter With Belizean Heat

At long last I’m excited to say that I can start sharing Belizean Heat, the follow up to Sonidos de Cuba! I’m really pleased with how this album turned out. It’s quite eclectic, stylistically spanning from ambient and downtempo to progressive house and synthwave, but manages to be cohesive as a whole. It features a wide array of acoustic and electronic instruments, including trumpet, trombone, melodica, xaphoon, shakers, hand percussion, electric guitar and bass, Sonic Forest, Arturia MicroBrute, Elektron Octatrack Analog Four and RYTM, MFB Kraftzwerg, Dave Smith Poly Evolver, Novation Nova, and modular synthesizer.

Belize is a fascinating country. The coast is lined with coral reefs and mangrove islands home to vibrant aquatic life. Inland you can find lush jungles and Mayan ruins. While visiting Belize I captured recordings of birdsong, crickets, underwater reef crackling, a massive colony of grackles, and a persnickety naval radio. These recordings then provided the foundation and inspiration for the nine songs of this album.

The album will be officially released on February 1st, but in the mean time you can hear a short preview of a few of the songs in this video:

Free EP on Bandcamp!

I’ve released a free EP of some of my older work on my Bandcamp store. I discovered and developed my unique style of working with field recordings in these four songs. Sonidos de Cuba was born from these early acoustic explorations. I like to think of them as musical larvae or protozoa, which is why I’ve called the EP Proto-Sonos.

The first song is Rain Down. It rains a lot in Vancouver. Therefore it was a natural choice to use a bed of rain recordings as a foundation for a song. Continue reading “Free EP on Bandcamp!”

CDs and Contests and Gigs and News and Stuff

Hey look what I got!
Hey look what I got!

The CDs of Sonidos de Cuba have arrived! I’ve already given a few out to some of my Rockethub supporters and the rest of you will receive them soon. They look great thanks to Tania Clarke’s wonderful album artwork. Next I’ll send off a few to CD Baby so the physical copies will be available there too.

It’s a little funny. Two of the people I’ve given copies to have commented on how long it’s been since they’ve bought a physical CD. I know the format is definitely waning in use as people move towards digital and cloud based music, but I really wanted to have some physical copies. It just makes the album feel that much more real, complete, and professional. Continue reading “CDs and Contests and Gigs and News and Stuff”