Pieces: What’s in a name?

Posted on Posted 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.

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