Mesmera: The freedom of independence

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Album 3, And All Is As It Should Be, Distant Activity, Distinctive, General, Icarus, Lightfields, Mesmera, Music, Obscurer, Pieces, Reason

Mesmera is, much like every one of my solo releases since 2014, an independent release. For most of my solo musical career I’ve written and released music independently, and I figured I was overdue talking about why that’s been the case.

When I first started out I, as I imagine a lot of musicians do, had this idea in my mind that getting signed and releasing an album through a label was kind of the “big goal”, this nebulous idea that somehow being signed to a label would validate my musical output up until that point. I had already released a bunch of music for free on-line, and in retrospect I don’t think I fully appreciated the following I’d acquired by doing so. While this seems to be less of a big deal nowadays, releasing music independently to an international audience in the late 00s was a bit of a daunting prospect – especially to someone who had never put out a “proper” release before, and had no idea of what to expect or even what to do. It wasn’t my initial intention to release my first album independently, but that’s how things worked out.

Album #1: Distant Activity

In 2008 I released my first album, Distant Activity. This album was comprised of tunes written between 2006 – 2008, and I’m still incredibly happy with how it turned out. It was written and produced in a variety of bedrooms and student houses in totally inappropriate acoustic conditions using a laptop, Reason, a microphone, a guitar, and a Behringer audio interface. Once I had a mostly-finished version of the album to hand, I set about sending out demos and copies of the album to as many labels and individuals as I could think of. I must admit, I’m still pretty atrocious at the whole “blatant self-promotion” aspect of releasing music independently, and I can only surmise that I was probably worse at it in 2008. I received a lovely response from the good folks at Magnatune, but outside of that – nothing. Nada. Not a “thanks, but we’re not interested”, not a “good lord this is awful, go away”. Not a thing. This was initially a little dis-heartening.

A little time passed and I had a completed version of Distant Activity ready to go. The record was mastered, the artwork was ready, and I was just sitting on it. Rough around the edges, very much a product of its environment, but I was really pleased with how it turned out. One day I started thinking “you know what? I’m really happy with this, why haven’t I released it already?”. It was done, and I was sick of sending e-mail messages and CDs out to a seemingly ambivalent world… so I started taking steps to get it out there myself. I had a small run of CDs duplicated, I signed up for digital distribution through CDBaby, and because independent digital outlets weren’t much of a thing back then (to my knowledge) I decided to start selling it through my own website.

I had no idea what I was doing back then (some things never change!) – I hadn’t even figured out a proper release date for the album beforehand, it just came out when it came out. All that said, I was thrilled to see that people were buying CDs and checking out the album through Magnatune / CDBaby / iTunes / whatever. I was getting frequent feedback both directly and on forums, people were leaving messages on Myspace (yes, this was still a thing), it was an absolute blast. All of this was going on when I probably should have been paying more attention to my final year of studies at university, but I loved the experience. All of this was also going on while I was still getting my toes wet with the world of music licensing, which would prove to be a much smarter direction to go in.

This was a pattern I repeated somewhat with Lightfields, which I initially released independently in 2010… albeit this time I actually had a release date in mind before I released the damned thing!

And All Is As It Should Be

Fast forward to 2014, and I’d had a few label releases by this point (a topic I may delve further into in the future!). Distant Activity and Lightfields were re-distributed by Distinctive Records, And All Is As It Should Be was released through Lost Language, and my follow up Icarus was released through Distinctive Records. All of these are albums that I am incredibly happy with, and in retrospect I feel a large part of my experience in producing Icarus comes down to my own personal attitude towards it rather than anything on Distinctive’s end.

Icarus was a slog to complete. Distant Activity and Lightfields were two totally different albums stylistically, and rather than writing whatever felt natural I spent too much time thinking about audience and label expectations. Should I lean more towards the style I established with the former? Should it sound more polished? What if people are expecting something more like Lightfields? Why do all of my mixes sound awful? I ended up going through a multitude of album revisions, with the first rough cut being completed in 2011. I couldn’t bring myself to move on from it, and it was drove me nuts.

Following the release of Icarus I realised I needed to try a different approach, and I remembered how much fun I’d had releasing music independently – at this point, it had been over three years since I had done so. I also figured that if I was going to do that, I wanted to take the opportunity to try out new ideas. I had come to love the idea of rewarding fans for purchasing my music rather than punishing people for having the audacity to seek it out. I also loved the idea of working on a release that didn’t have an over-arching concept, that didn’t impose any kind of expectations on myself, and that felt completely natural to write. That release was Pieces, and I absolutely thoroughly loved working on and releasing it. People responded really well to the pay-what-you-want approach. As such, I decided to adopt a pay-what-you-want model for all of my independent releases, and rewarding fans while encouraging listeners became my go-to model for releases. This is a model I adopted for subsequent releases Obscurer and The Broken Divide and now Mesmera (whew, at last – bringing this back around to the album at hand!).

Mesmera continues in this tradition. In many ways I consider it a bit of a spiritual successor to And All Is As It Should Be (which I considered a spiritual successor to The Dawn EP at the time…), but it’s what I wanted to write. It came together naturally because it scratched an itch I’d had for quite a while, and that’s why I was able to bring in ideas from 2016 despite having only “properly” started working on it in 2017. It was wonderful to be so hands-on with every single aspect of the creation process, as in many ways creating the music is only one step (albeit a large one) towards completing an album. I went through several artwork revisions (with my incredibly patient buddy Tom Pritchard), track-list orders, mix approaches… but it never became obsessive or manic, and it never felt like a slog. It always felt like I was working toward something I wanted to create at the time, and that’s something I feel I lost sight of while working on Icarus. Again – can’t stress this enough – I am 100% totally and absolutely thrilled and happy with how Icarus turned out, but I’d rather not repeat that creative process again if I can help it!

Mesmera is available NOW through Bandcamp. You can listen to it in its entirety and download it from my Bandcamp page. Bandcamp subscribers also get access to an exclusive audiophile master, along with a beatless arrangement of the album. It’s also available to stream & download from a wide variety of digital distribution outlets.

October compositions

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in And All Is As It Should Be, General, Music, Pieces, Production music

Wow. I’m still quite overwhelmed by the response to Pieces. Thank you so much to everyone who has checked it out over the past couple of months, it really means a lot that it’s been such a popular release… especially given the experimental nature of it’s release! So far it looks like the audiophile master hasn’t been a massively popular choice (though, I must admit, I suspected that would probably be the case), but I’ve been overwhelmed at the response to choosing to release it as a PWYW compilation. Thank you so much to everyone who has bought it through Bandcamp, and I hope you’re enjoying the bonus tracks!

Anyway, I thought it’d be a good idea to let you know what I’m planning on doing this month. October has been a pretty special month for me over the past few years, and I plan on continuing this semi-tradition this year. But first, a little background.

In October 2011, I started working on a few ambient re-workings of existing tracks. I continued working on new tracks in a similar style once I’d re-worked three tracks. These tracks became And All Is As It Should Be, which was then released in 2012.

In October 2012, I wrote a large collection of songs that would later form the backbone of Pieces. A lot of these tracks were picked up for production use, and a lot of these tracks were used on Pieces. Two of these remain unreleased (last time I counted!), and I’m sure they’ll make an appearance at some point.

In October 2013, I wrote a few songs that… erm… I’m keeping to myself for now. I don’t want to sound cryptic, but I will say that they formed the foundation of what I’m hoping will be a future release. I also wrote some more tracks for Pieces.

And this year, I plan on writing lots of short ideas, similar to what I did back in 2012. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them, and I have no idea what style they’ll take. So far, it’s going in a direction I hadn’t anticipated… which is great! Who knows where this idea will take me.

Pieces: What’s in a name?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in And All Is As It Should Be, Civil Protection, General, Pieces

Pieces is a strange collection of songs. You may have noticed that I haven’t really been referring to it as an “album” over the past couple of weeks wherever possible (though, it’s always easier to label a collection of songs as an “album”, so now and then I take the easy route!), and there’s a very deliberate reason for that.

"Pieces v1.0"
“Pieces v1.0”

In my eyes, an album is something that was written & arranged to take the listener on a very deliberate journey – a collection of songs that follow a specific theme, or a deliberate series of themes, designed to complement each other. Where some people may refer to certain album tracks as “filler”, in my view it’s much more important whether such tracks work in the context of an album taken in its entirety than as stand-alone tracks. It’s along this way of thinking that I didn’t refer to And All Is As It Should Be as an album for a very long time; AAIAISB was more of a collection of selected ambient works, and while I can now say with absolute certainty that it has a strong journey-esque feel to it, it was certainly never written with a particular goal in mind. AAIAISB started life as a series of ambient re-works of existing tracks because I thought it’d be an interesting exercise, and it was something I found myself completely absorbed in once I got going. The aesthetic came as a natural extension of what I was doing, but it wasn’t a deliberate choice from the offset… but as a result of that naturally evolving aesthetic I feel, in retrospect, as though it’s earned the right to be called an album.

Pieces, on the other hand, was written over a much longer period of time than And All Is As It Should Be, and it certainly wasn’t written with any particular aesthetic in mind. I started working on Pieces one night back in August 2012, and it all came about from not being able to sleep one night. You get no bonus points for guessing which track I started writing that night (spoiler alert: Sleepless), but I wrote it and realised that I had no home for it. I was putting the finishing touches on Icarus, and it didn’t fit in with the rest of those tracks… so I held onto it. That was the start of a pattern of holding onto disparate tracks that wouldn’t fit in anywhere else, with one big exception.

In October 2012 I decided I was going to go to town and just write as much music as I possibly could. Regardless of whether I thought an idea worked or not, I was going to write loads of music and deal with it later. I ended up with 17 tracks at the end of the month, and I was incredibly happy with how the experiment turned out. In the months leading up to that (and somewhat thanks to my experience with writing Sleepless) I’d been working on refining my workflow in Reason. I had a very particular palette of sounds to work from (a lot of my own patches & techniques, and a lot of sounds by Tom Pritchard), and I found the chilly late-Autumn atmosphere particularly inspiring. I was experimenting with Blocks in Reason, and my Propellerhead Artist Feature was filmed around the time I was working on these tracks. Of those 17 tracks, only 5 made it onto the final version of Pieces, but two of them made it into my Artist Feature (if you’re interested in hearing those, they’re still on my Soundcloud page, and can be listened to using the player below). The rest found their way into the hands of various production agencies & music libraries, so all of them found a home. I was worried about breaking up that collection of songs for a long time, but it was definitely the right call. While they still stand as a lovely personal time-capsule in a similar vein to AAIAISB, I am much happier with the finished version of Pieces than I was with those tracks in isolation. The title of the project comes from this particular run of tracks, but feels much more relevant in the context of the finished article than the original 17 tracks.

(june 2015 edit: sorry, this playlist doesn’t exist any more as the tracks found a new home)

That said, I continued writing odd songs over the course of the next year and a half, and it was only in late 2013 that I realised that I had a pretty hefty selection of songs without a home. I listened to them all, and I was surprised at how well they all sat together. A few songs had originally been written with album 4 in mind, so those sat well together. I’d written a few tracks around Sleepless, and I wrote a chunk of material during that particular October. I’d also written a couple of more post-rock inspired tracks after putting out the debut Civil Protection album. Here were four disparate collections of tracks that were all written to sit together in small groups, all thrown together to see what would happen… needless to say, I was very pleasantly surprised!

So, while I might not refer to it as an album in the strictest sense, that doesn’t mean I’m not happy with it as a complete work… and, for all I know, I’ll probably change my mind somewhere down the line. I’m already starting to feel that it has a pretty solid aesthetic quality to it, and it seems strange that these totally unconnected works would fit together like they were always supposed to. In that sense, I can’t think of a more fitting title for this particular project.

I guess the pieces came together, but I guess it’s up to the listener to decide whether they fit or not.

Pieces: Where’s the CD version?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in And All Is As It Should Be, Distant Activity, General, Icarus, Lightfields, Music, Pieces, Site

After my last posting about the audiophile master, it might seem a little strange to some that I’m not releasing any kind of physical version of Pieces. Surely, if there’s a version of the complete work that’s catered towards people who want to listen in a dedicated listening environment, it would make sense to put out some kind of physical release?

A fond memory
A fond memory

First up, I know there are plenty of people out there who prefer physical media over digital releases. I totally get that, especially in the case of vinyl – doubly so given that vinyl masters often offer the best way to listen to an album in an environment designed for listening. However, as I pointed out in my last post, this point in particular has nothing to do with the release medium whatsoever. I’m not a vinyl aficionado, but I still buy a lot of CDs. There’s something about the first listen ritual and checking out the artwork and any liner notes (if there are any).

Having said that, if I can’t get my hands on a CD copy of an album I particularly want, I have no qualms with downloading a digital copy… and that’s something I’ve found myself doing more and more recently. Strangely though, more than a few CD releases are comparable in price to their digital download counterparts (especially when you factor in additional costs for lossless versions – a practice I’m not particularly keen on), so for the marginal extra expense in cases like that I’m much more likely to go for a CD if possible. From a completely vain point of view, I also like to keep my music on a shelf so people can see what I’m into. To me, having that kind of thing on display is much more aesthetically pleasing than a bunch of files on my computer.

In short, I’m neither for nor against physical media at this point. Like I said, I’m not a vinyl aficionado, but if everyone were to suddenly stop selling CDs tomorrow and instead offered lossless digital versions of all of their music at a reasonable price instead, I don’t think I’d lose a whole lot of sleep.

None of this really explains why I’m not releasing a physical version of Pieces though and, predictably enough, it all comes down to numbers. Well, two sets of numbers, at least.

Firstly, I only had a pretty small run of CDs of both Distant Activity and Lightfields made in the first place. Icarus and And All Is As It Should Be were completely out of my control as both were distributed exclusively by Distinctive Records & Lost Language Recordings. I still have a few Distant Activity discs kicking about, and I have more than a few Lightfields discs still. The sales of downloads vs. CDs in the case of these two albums is incredibly one-sided in the favour of downloads, outside of pre-orders. I don’t have a huge amount of marketing clout (read: I have no marketing clout), and I have never been under any illusion that my music is going to suddenly become a cross-over best-seller. That’s not why I write music and put out albums, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be in a position where I’m able to write music and make noise for a living without being entirely dependent on album sales. CD sales have declined massively for me over the past three years or so, and now it’s at the point where I feel like getting a CD run put together would be a complete financial waste of my time. Unless there’s a sudden run on physical versions of my existing releases, I don’t see myself putting out another CD release again. Anybody who is able to read this article is probably more than likely to have a sufficient internet connection to be able to download my music. The important thing for me is to put out my music at a comparable standard of quality to a CD release wherever possible, which is why – when possible – I’ll always try to make my music available in lossless formats as well as lossy formats. The financial incentive is gone, and I’m no longer as bothered by the need to have a physical release as I once was. Been there, done that.

Secondly, there are three versions of Pieces. Which version would I even put out? I could put out a physical version of the main album itself, which would be kind of pointless as you can download it for free. I could put out a physical version of the extended edition, but then what about the audiophile version? I could include that as an extra disc, but then it’d be at a lower quality than the actual downloadable release version (the downloadable version is released as 48khz/24-bit files). And even then, why would you want an extra disc with the exact same music on it? I don’t think I’ve ever bought a double-album that featured the exact same music on both discs – I’ve bought a couple of albums with instrumental versions available on a separate disc (which is something I took on board with the digital releases of instrumental versions of Distant Activity & Lightfields, and is a trend I plan on continuing with future vocal works), but never with the exact same material on both discs. I’m sure that such a thing exists, and if anyone has come across a good example of such a release then let me know!

From the point of view of my own vanity, I’d love to keep putting out physical releases. I still remember holding my first Distant Activity CD, and holding something that I’d put so much work into in my own hands. But I’ve got to be realistic, and – especially with Pieces – I don’t think it’s the right call.

That’s my take on things. Maybe in the future I’ll think about putting out a vinyl release of my next album or whatever I do, but honestly I just don’t see it being either financially viable or practically relevant any more. If I started taking my solo music live, I’d think about it (but that’s a topic for another time). As it is, though, I’d much rather put that effort into writing music, and releasing it in a variety of formats and versions to suit the actual listening experience. There are things I can experiment with in the world of digital distribution that would be much more costly to try out with physical media, and that seems like it should take a much higher priority over my own brief personal satisfaction.

December update: Icarus, production albums and all that fun stuff

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Album 3, And All Is As It Should Be, Icarus, Music, Production music

I can’t believe I’ve left it so long since I last updated this site – as I’ve said before, that’s normally a good sign and this is no exception. I’ve got some great news.

Album 3 has a name, one confirmed single and is – more or less – complete!

My next full-length album is called Icarus, and it pretty much encapsulates everything I find enjoyable about modern electronic music – full of absorbing, interesting textures, detailed sound manipulation and – most important to me – solid tunes and genuine emotion. If you’re into hyper-compressed, aggressive-for-the-sake-of-being-aggressive, substance-over-style throw-away tunes then I’d strongly suggest looking elsewhere. But if you’re into genre-crossing music with a heavy organic edge that rewards repeated listening you’re going to be in for an absolute treat. The composition and production of the album itself is more or less complete and, having been working on it for so long, I must say that it’s a strange feeling to know that it’s finished. Well, I say “finished” – there’s still plenty of work to be done on the actual release-side!

The first single from Icarus will be the title track. The Icarus single will feature a wide variety of remixes from some incredibly talented musicians and myself. It’s due out in Q1 of next year, and I’ll be providing further updates regarding the single and the album itself as the release dates draws closer.

Also… just to settle some confusion: For those wondering why I keep referring to my upcoming album as my “third album” despite And All Is As It Should Be being, technically, my third artist album… that’s simply because this is my third full-length album of completely original material. AAIAISB was completely new material, though a good chunk of it consisted of re-interpretations of older works. I’m no less happy with it as an album than my other full-length releases – far from it! In fact, I put most of it together around this time last year and, as such, the album itself goes remarkably well with the current UK climate… the nights are drawing in, the frost and bitter cold is taking hold and it’s a great time for some chilled introspection. If you haven’t checked it out already then I’d strongly recommend doing so as it is a rather good accompaniment to this particular season (if I may say so myself!). Another reason I keep referring to Icarus as “album 3” is simply because, when I started writing it, it was the third album I’d been working on! Needless to say, I’ve been at it for a while.

In addition to all this Icarus-related excitement, I’ve been working on a huge selection of production tunes (for TV, film, advertising, radio – that kind of thing) in the past few months which has, I’m pleased to say, found a home! Just to clarify: this is in no way related to Icarus whatsoever, though there are obviously elements of my production music that carry over into my own solo work.

I’ve also been working on some more synth-pop inspired music lately which is, again, completely unrelated to Icarus or my production music. There’s a track up on my Soundcloud page called “There Is No Turning Back” which should give you a good idea as to what I’m going for but, again, I’ll be providing more information as this project develops. Stay tuned!

And All Is As It Should Be: out now

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Ambient Project, And All Is As It Should Be, Music

And All Is As It Should Be is out now!

Adam is no new kid on the block. After two self released albums he has released quality electronica on labels such as Distinctive, Play and Solarswarm. He has also used his writing and production skills in other projects, including sound design and freelance composition for bespoke projects for TV, film and commercials.

With his stunningly emotional and evocative ambient album-work “And All Is As It Should Be” Adam takes us on an journey to his ethereal and cinematic core. Filimic pads, soaring washes of sound, spine-tingling chord movements all tied up with a underlying sense of quiet purpose and musicality.

Shut the doors, lights out, stereo up and prepare to be enveloped.

And All Is As It Should Be is a full-length album of selected ambient works written during the end of 2011 and released through Lost Language Recordings. The album features a mixture of new, re-worked tracks from my Lightfields album and original ambient works. You can find it via the Lost Language page (including LCD version), iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, Audiojelly, OneRPM and DJTunes (among others).

You can listen to the track “Where Is This Leading Me” here:

I’m incredibly happy with how this turned out as a complete body of work – the main reasoning behind making this was to get back to my downtempo/ambient roots, and it was incredibly satisfying to work on an entirely beatless project focussing on the overall mood, atmosphere and melody. I’d like to say a huge “thank you!” to Tom Pritchard for allowing me to use his photo as the album’s cover art (which sums up the overall tone incredibly nicely) and for his outstanding programming featured throughout the album.

You can read a bit more about the background and creation of And All Is As It Should Be via the music page on this very website.

I’d love to know what you think of it if you choose to give it a listen.

Cheers!

“And All Is As It Should Be” album due out on 9th July through Lost Language

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Ambient Project, And All Is As It Should Be, Lightfields, Music

Big news! My ambient album And All Is As It Should Be is due to be released on the 9th July through Lost Language Recordings. I’m really proud of this as a complete body of work, and I can’t wait to share it with you.

And All Is As It Should Be is a totally beatless journey into introspective ambient electronica with an organic edge, making heavy use of lush atmospheric synths, acoustic guitar, piano and some occasional ethereal vocal washes. Featuring a mixture of re-workings of existing tracks from Lightfields and original ambient tracks, And All Is As It Should Be makes for some excellent late-night headphone listening with a heavy cinematic twist.

More information and previews to come in the weeks ahead, so keep checking back for updates.

Distant Activity used in BMW i8 Concept Spyder video

Posted on 4 CommentsPosted in Ambient Project, And All Is As It Should Be, Distant Activity, Licensing, Music

Well now, this is pretty neat. BMW have used the title track from my album Distant Activity in a video for the i8 Concept Spyder. Looks like it’s been getting quite a few hits as well… whether the viewers are aware or not, it’s great to be reaching more ears!

On an unrelated note, my ambient album (which I haven’t been talking about for a while) may have found a home. Watch this space.

Redemption EP out now and other musical news

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Ambient Project, And All Is As It Should Be, Collaboration, Licensing, Music


Quite a while back I contributed vocals to a track by Refracture (whose music I’m a big fan of – his blend of melodic breaks and sheer energy is right up my street) called Redemption which, as it happens, was released on Beatport a couple of days ago. Since then it’s been featured at #1 on Beatport’s “10 Must Hear Breaks Tracks” for the week of its release which was both a bit of a surprise and, needless to say, quite nice! You can check out the song on Beatport by following this handy link. It was great to work with Refracture and I’m really pleased that it’s going down so well.

On a somewhat different topic, you may (or may not) recall that I mentioned that I was working on an album of selected ambient works a month or so ago. Well, the album itself has been completed and I’m currently in the process of trying to find a home for it. Given my total lack of skill regarding the fine art of blatant self promotion, this might be tricky. The album itself is currently going by the title of “And All Is As It Should Be” and features a mixture of reworked and original songs. Rest assured that, one way or another, it will be seeing a release in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future. Just to clarify though: this release has absolutely nothing to do with album #3 (to be released through Distinctive) and came about simply because it was something I really wanted to do. I’m still very much plugging away at album 3 and I’m really liking how it’s turning out.

While on the subject of other musical projects, I’m currently working on a selection of tracks which are considerably heavier than my usual output for the purposes of licensing. So far I’ve got a decent selection of tracks going and it’s a pretty hefty contrast considering the decidedly mellow nature of the ambient album I was working on.

So, yes, I’ve got a fair few bits and pieces going on at the moment. No rest for the wicked!