Neolithic is currently out of print.
- I See Where This Is Going
- Something Else
- Small Victory
- Keys View
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Neolithic Notes Neolithic began as a title after I came back from a trip around the United Kingdom. Visiting the British Museum, Vindolanda along Hadrian’s Wall, The Holy Island of Lindisfairne, and many other sites of ancient (though not prehistoric) wonder left me with a desire to dig deeper than my eyes and camera could delve and learn something about the very earliest inhabitants of that amazing island. I was especially interested in examining the role sound played in these people’s lives. From Paul Devereux’s book Stone Age Soundtracks: The Acoustic Archaeology of Ancient Sites, I learned that sound was instrumental in the ceremonial rituals of ancient people and that evidence of this is still evident in remains like Stonehenge and Newgrange (another place I visited and which inspired my interest in archaeology). In effect, sound became a vehicle for transcending the physical world and interacting with the mystical, supernatural forces that shaped their world. That fascinated me, since it’s so much like the way we use music in our own world.
So I started to construct a theme that was similar to my album The Island of Sleeping Chickens only focused on the idea of Neolithic music for a modern world. My musical influence for this came not only from Boards of Canada (they influence everything I create) but two really fascinating works that I have written about previously: Chris Watson’s Outside the Circle of Fire and The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations. Both works are field recordings, only Watson’s consists of field recordings from nature and Conet features shortwave signals from spy networks. What I admire about both works is the way familiar sounds are made unfamiliar, strange, odd, and even creepy. The music seems linked to the preliterate world of Neolithic culture, but it also connects directly to the strange, unusual, and magical power that music still holds today.
So that was the theoretical genesis of the music I went on to create between 2006 and early 2008. Of course, along the way my mind drifted onto other topics, to the point that some of the songs on Neolithic don’t bear any resemblance to the high-flown ideas I started with. But they all fit together pretty well, I think. Here are some thoughts about each track:
“Henge”: This is one of the first songs I created for the album. The tension here is between peace and war. The melody is peaceful and soothing, but the found sounds (random TV signals, a shortwave broadcast of a football match, and my wife’s voice commenting on it all) reveal some tension in the peace. Steve and Luka are our cats, by the way. Remember that when you hear my wife’s voice.
“Mothuk”: This is another early song–and one of my simplest. The tension in this one comes from the way the acidic melody is twisted around the rhythm. The melody itself started life as an Armenian duduk melody that I created on my own duduk. I know, it doesn’t sound like a duduk–but that’s the magic of music, huh?
“I See Where This Is Going”: I got a guitar and wanted to create something with actual guitar sounds in it. I also wanted to create something with lyrics and a story. So there’s guitar here and words and my voice. What it all means is beyond me.
“Portal/Standing”: This spoken word at the beginning is my super distorted voice reading from Paul Bowles The Sheltering Sky (the moment when the main character dies). The song is about a journey into a passage tomb like Newgrange–the entrance into the world of death and the supernatural. That’s why there are so many echoes here. The rhythm at the end of “Portal” leads directly into the beat I use for “Standing,” and the scattered beat is my own counterpoint to the repeated sampled voice crying “Never question my authority.”
“Something Else”: I did a version of this song with vocals, but I hated it. So I took out the vocals, amped up the guitar, and created this.
“Greymane”: This is named after a World of Warcraft server (where I have a few characters and friends). It has nothing to do with WoW, but it has a good beat and you can dance to that part in the middle where the beat actually revs up.
“Small Victory”: I posted this as a music video (above). The video speaks for both the song and itself.
“Thison”: Weird, circular, and crunchy.
“Keys View”: Keys View is actually the name of an area of Joshua Tree National Park in the deserts of California (where I live). I took some field recordings on a hike up a hill around Keys, processed them with remnants of recordings of myself playing the Armenian instrument duduk.
“Heavenly”: There’s a “straight” version of this without the distortion. I like distortion, so this is the one that shows up on the album.
I hope you enoy the music on this album, and I hope this little essay hasn’t turned you off from listening! Sorry, but I’m a writer first–my “musicianness” is a distant second.
This is a video for my new song “Small Victory,” from the album Neolithic. The images were taken from NASA TV in 2007.
Neolithic: The Podcast
Before Neolithic was an album, it was a work-in-progress Podcast. Each track was posted online and on iTunes as soon as it was completed. The works below are the few remaining fragments of that podcast. The tracks are rough and unmastered versions of the final versions, which probably means they’re better than the final versions. These are either a fool’s cry for help or nice little tunes to while away the hours at work. Pick your poison.