Tuesday, July 14, 2015

LA History: An Observer

And So The Story Goes

My brother Ryan is a great musician. He moved to L.A. in 1994, after graduating from art school, intent on making it in the music business. Arguably, he did. His band eventually got signed, he got a song in a movie, and was the talk of the town for a good 5 minutes or so. More about them tomorrow.

He also helped several other artists and bands out by placing their songs in movies when he was a music supervisor. If you've been reading this whole series, you can see that he was a central part of this scene in many ways, and connected me or was connected to almost every one of the people mentioned here.

Towards the end of my time in L.A, my brother asked me about working together on his new album. His concept was to be faceless and anonymous. I was thrilled at the chance to work with him. I've been impressed and envious of his skills literally since the first day he picked up a guitar and started writing and recording.

For the "An Observer" self-titled album, he wrote all the songs, sang, and played guitar. I did pretty much everything else. He'd bring over clips of things on floppy disc, some built in FruityLoops, and we'd rebuild them in Cubase.

He'd come over on weekends and weeknights. We finished the whole thing in less than a month, and posted it to a website he built, now long gone. It was mostly easy and fun. I remember leaving the door to the studio open and letting the sunny days and beautiful L.A. nights in while we were working.

This remains some of my favorite work from my late-90s Los Angeles period. Our influences are proudly on display (Tiger Mountain-era Eno, the 80s, krautrock, The Residents, Star Trek, Kraftwerk, Massive Attack, Pink Floyd, The Beatles...to name just a few). The songs are neat.

I think the record sounds really good, especially for being recorded in a garage in the Valley and not mastered.

Mostly I love it because it is the only time to date I was able to collaborate with my incredibly talented brother.

This Life Is Such A Small Affair

"Brown Study" is a kind of Buddhist pop song, and kicks off the album. It's remained a favorite of mine and several of my friends. Ryan and I made the wah-wah guitar by running an ordinary guitar track through a Moog rack EQ and manually sweeping the band while re-recording it. Chris Fudurich triggered drum samples using an electronic kit on top of the programmed beats.



"She Lost Her Mind" is perhaps the best overall song on the album (though my personal favorite remains "By Degrees"). It is tightly written, shows off all our influences well, and deploys all of its hooks to great advantage. I particularly like the Eno/Bowie whammy guitars, the Eno one-note piano hammering, and the Eno "oh-oh-oh-ohs".



Unlike many of the other projects I've written about, Ryan and I actually finished this album. It's solid all the way through. And here it is, in total, free. Our gift to you. If you like either of these tracks, you'll like the album.

Ryan also created the artwork for this album cover himself. He is a great visual artist, and did the covers for many other albums -- My Captain Kirk "The Shape Of The Universe" album (including the trading cards), My Anu album "Songs for the Last Man on Earth" (including individual art for every song on the album), ALL of DKO's albums and demos (including the Head Set album), and Farflung's "A Wound In Eternity".

In some ways, this is a record ahead of its time -- a home studio creation of high quality, but not "studio grade", lost in a sea of music, never to be heard or spotlighted, but no less beautiful or great for that. Many records are made like that now, though sadly, not by my brother, and only occasionally by me.

Just Let It Go

This was more or less my ultimate L.A. record. It's hard for me to imagine topping this with the skills or ideas I had at the time. I'm proud of everything this record represents.

Yet when it was done, it was hard to see what could follow. That the record was somewhat designed to be lost also made everything about its creation -- and, perhaps, my time in Los Angeles -- seem like a Buddhist sand mandala: Arguably a pointless exercise, but for those who understand, for those who have ever done it, beautiful in its construction, discipline, transience, and memory.

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