Obscurer (2015)

Obscurer is an instrumental album written during 2014 primarily using a modest selection of analog synths and drum machines, and released in February 2015. It is available as a free album via Bandcamp, and is also available via iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and Google Play (among others).

“Obscurer” is an instrumental album by UK-based electronic musician Adam Fielding, written and recorded in 2014 and released in February 2015.

In a departure from his more densely layered approach to production, “Obscurer” was largely produced using a modest selection of live recorded analog synthesisers & drum machines. This stripped back approach to production results in a deeply atmospheric listen wrapped around an intensely emotive core, reminiscent of Fielding’s earlier works.

From the deeply comforting embrace of “Safety” through to the dark playfulness of the title track itself, “Obscurer” is an album that revels in reflection and introspection.

Obscurer was written between June – December 2014. Following a hardware-centric collaboration with Tom Pritchard (resulting in the Neffle albums) I decided to spend a little time periodically experimenting with some more hardware-focussed material of my own. I’d previously experimented with recording using hardware in the past, though these experiments had been largely limited to live step sequencing and on-the-fly jamming. I wanted to keep that feeling of live tweakability while aiming for a fuller sound as demonstrated with the Neffle albums, which led me to a more typically sequenced approach. This gave me more of a structure from which to base my ideas, while still allowing for more spontaneous live recordings.

In a similar sort of fashion to my previous two releases (AdFi & Pieces), I didn’t begin this project with any particular end-goal in mind. My main motivation for experimenting with hardware was purely as a means to give myself a slightly different creative outlet – I tend to spend an awful lot of my time staring at a screen these days, so I thought it’d be interesting to allow myself to write some sort of electronic music that didn’t involve me spending lots of time doing just that. This approach led to me & Tom recording the aforementioned Neffle albums, which relied entirely on step sequenced live jamming, which was both a hugely enjoyable experience and a complete experiment. We had no idea going into it whether we’d come out with anything particularly amazing or anything like that, and I certainly didn’t expect to come out with the amount of material that we did.

It was after the Neffle sessions and during the run up to the release of Pieces that I decided I wanted to continue working on hardware-centric material as a separate creative outlet, so I started allotting a chunk of time each week to working on one or two ideas. By stripping things back and focussing purely on writing music without the flexibility of working with software I ended up with a pretty sizeable collection of material by the end of the year. My hardware set-up remained constant throughout the Obscurer sessions, which led to the vast majority of these ideas having a surprisingly coherent feel to them.

I continued working on Obscurer tracks following the release of Pieces, still with no particular goal in mind – it was only once I’d decided to wrap things up at the end of 2014 that I went back and listened to some of these ideas and thought “ok. I think I’ve got something here”. One of the things I particularly enjoyed about working on Obscurer was how spontaneous everything felt – the very nature of the project meant that I couldn’t obsess over small details, but I always had a satisfying jumping point in the form of a basic mix and effects setup. This meant I could get down to just writing music without having to worry about patch selection, sound design, mixing, or anything like that. It was a particularly freeing approach to writing electronic music that I found to be a particularly enjoyable contrast to my usually more detailed approach. That’s not to say I wasn’t careful with what I was doing, it was just… different. Which I guess was the whole point all along, really.

Once again, once I decided I was going to release Obscurer I decided it should be a free release. I’ve been incredibly happy with the reception for Pieces, and I decided that continuing with a PWYW release structure was in keeping in line with the more experimental nature of Obscurer as a whole. Again, these are songs I wrote for myself. If anything, I had originally wanted to release Obscurer slightly earlier to make the most of the wintry atmosphere that I felt would complement the album perfectly. That said, I didn’t want to rush things, and – ultimately – I feel like the end of February was a perfect time to release the album anyway. In a sense, this album goes one step further than Pieces in the sense that this was really written with absolutely no goal in mind – with Pieces I at least had the vague notion of using some of the tracks for production use (although, again, this was more of an ancillary motive). While that’s something I’ll certainly be pursuing with Obscurer, the thought never really crossed my mind while working on it. It is, in many regards, a curious anomaly, which is what makes it so interesting from a personal point of view.

Is it something I’ll ever approach again? Perhaps. I’ve since bought a dedicated hardware sequencer, and I’m sure I’ll be picking up more hardware toys as time goes by. That said, already my hardware set-up has changed so, regardless of where my hardware experimentation goes from here, it’s likely that nothing else I write will ever sound exactly like Obscurer… which is an interesting prospect from a purely artistic point of view. I imagine that hardware will certainly feature at least slightly more heavily in my work from here-on. Again, in a similar way to Pieces, Obscurer will remain – for me – a very personal time capsule.

Obscurer was officially released in February 2015.

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