Archive 01: 2003 – 2004

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Last week I released an album exclusively to Bandcamp subscribers called Archive 01: 2003 – 2004 which, as the name would suggest, is a collection of tunes originally written and produced between 2003 and 2004. However, me being me I decided to give them some much needed love and attention before giving them a proper release, and I figured I’d write a bit about why I decided to release these tunes now and the process involved in putting the album together.

Although I’ve been writing music since the mid-90s, I wouldn’t really say I “properly” got into writing music until 2002 when I purchased my first bit of music software. Up until that point I’d been using free software pretty much exclusively, along with one or two sample discs I purchased along the way. In 2002 I picked up Propellerhead Reason, and spent the next few years trying to find my musical voice, so to speak.

2003 was a particularly interesting year for me to revisit as it was a time when a lot of things changed in my life. My friends had started heading off to university, and I had come to the conclusion that my own future lie somewhere with music. I had originally planned to go to university to study music production of some sort, but after some arguably rash thinking I decided to put off my plans for university in an attempt to get a better grasp on what exactly I wanted to do. While I ended up working a couple of jobs in this time, I was in a bit of a personal limbo.

Up until this point I had been working almost exclusively with samples, so while I had a really firm grasp on the fundamentals of digital sampling and audio manipulation, it’s not much of a stretch to say I didn’t have much of a handle on synthesis techniques, effects processing, or even mixing, really. I had already started messing around with VST effects – and it didn’t take long to get to grips with the fundamentals of subtractive synthesis (thank you, Subtractor!) – but I was still much more focussed on getting ideas down than sound design at this stage.

It’s also worth mentioning that, prior to this period in time, I hadn’t been particularly interested in a whole lot of commercially available electronic music. The furthest I had delved up until then was in listening to a ton of video game music, and picking up a couple of albums by Frontline Assembly & The Alpha Conspiracy (Epitaph and Cipher, respectively). I listened to these albums endlessly. I was getting more into select film soundtracks as well. I wasn’t really sure how to categorise the music I was writing at the time, I just knew that I was having fun writing it.

During this time, I started posting more and more of my music online – specifically, to the now defunct Propellerhead Music Forum. This was awesome because not only was it a place for musicians to share their music, but they could also share read-only versions of the actual song documents for listeners to check out. Through this forum I got a ton of amazing feedback, learned a ridiculous amount by dissecting other peoples’ tunes, and even made a few friends along the way.

One such friend, whose music I also had a huge amount of respect for, introduced me to the likes of Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Biosphere, Freeland, Cliff Martinez, Massive Attack… well, the list goes on. This was a HUGE “holy shit!” moment for me as I started to realise that not only was there was this huge world of music that I had previously ignored or even shunned (I was very much a “dance music suxx!” kid at school), but it was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to focus on. Now… I feel I should probably mention that I’m certainly NOT comparing my music to these hugely influential artists, but this was really the first time I started listening to music and thinking “just how the hell did they put this together?”. I heard so much music and listened to so many sounds that, up until this point, were pretty much alien to my ears. It was amazingly inspirational. I still attribute my love of fusing organic instrumentation with electronics to my pre-existing tastes of the time and this sudden infusion of electronic music.

I still jokingly refer to material from this time as a bit of a “golden era” for me – not necessarily because of the actual music I was writing, but more because I was just starting to find my feet through experimentation, and I was really starting to expand my horizons as a result.

More recently, one of the things I had really wanted to do with the whole Bandcamp subscriber thing was to start releasing some of this old, forgotten material. I’d actually been toying with the idea of putting together a collection of old tunes for quite a while, and I figured that I now finally had a “proper” outlet for it. I decided to focus on re-mixing tunes from specific time periods for my archive releases, and 2003 – 2004 seemed a logical starting point. Anything before this point would have been pretty cringe-worthy I think, and I figured starting with a time period that I held such a strong personal attachment to would be quite interesting.

So… in late March 2017, I started putting together playlist ideas of tunes from 2003 – 2004 to release as an EP. I had settled on an EP as I thought any more and the whole thing wouldn’t really work as a coherent collection of tunes… but I started running into problems with this approach. No matter which songs I picked, I’d always end up changing my mind a day or two later, or think of something else I wanted to include. I figured the only way forward would be to just sink my teeth in and start working with these tunes. I knew with absolute certainty that I was going to include Contact (written in 2004), so I opened up the old song file and had a look.

Now, the great thing about Reason is that it has amazing backwards compatibility. Contact – like many of the tracks here – was written in Reason 2.5. I still had my old sample collection with the 2004 folder structure intact, so opening up these tunes in Reason 9 was as simple as finding the old song files, opening them up, and Reason would take care of the rest. As soon as I opened up Contact, I knew I was going to have to properly re-mix these tunes. Just to clarify – when I say “re-mix”, I mean that in a very literal sense – not in the typical re-interpretive meaning of the word remix, but in the “I need to break this mix down and start again” meaning of the word. At the same time, I wanted to preserve the old feel of these tracks. So… where to start?

The first thing I did was to disable all post-mix processing in these tracks. A common mistake (which I still come across these days with great regularity!) is that people tend to think they can fix the deficiencies in a mix by applying crazy effects to an entire mix. This is generally a bad idea. A lot of these tunes had heavy EQ/compression/distortion effects placed on the entire mix. In some cases, simply turning these effects off had a huge impact on the overall sound. The reason I make such a big deal of encouraging people to get the mix right before even thinking about “mastering” is because I’ve been down the road of thinking you can fix anything in mastering, that mastering was the one thing stopping my tunes from sounding great. With a good mix, yeah, that sort of makes sense. With a bad mix? It’s a bad idea. Don’t do it. You can make a great mix shine with a light touch at the mastering stage, but you can’t fix a broken mix with tons of effects.

One of the major differences between newer versions of Reason and the older “classic” versions (as I like to refer to them as) is that Reason 6 onwards has a really, really nice mixer. When you open up old tunes in these newer versions of Reason, this new mixer remains unused as the original rack devices perform that function. As such, the first thing I needed to do was to figure out what each track in each song file corresponded to (not easy when you consider that my labelling system was pretty much non-existent so you’d end up with tons of tracks with names like “PEQ-15”, “Malstrom 3” and so on), and to route it to this new mixer along with all the appropriate aux send effects intact. Essentially, what this meant was that the first thing I did with each of these tunes was to re-route each individual channel to a new mixer and try to re-create the original mix in the new mixer. This was oddly cathartic.

Once I’d re-routed everything, I started to re-EQ certain instruments and tweak certain effects. I wanted to do this with a light touch as I didn’t want to totally change the feel of the music. At the same time, there were some tunes that had masses of mud for no good reason, painful highs, drums that would disappear under the rest of the mix… you know, fun stuff like that. A lot of the time this was easily rectified by utilising the filters on the new Reason mixer – carving out space for bass and kicks in certain tracks was generally pretty straight-forward. In certain tracks, rolling off the lows on the main reverb aux-send made a huge difference. Dialing back the release time on certain synths made little discernible difference to the feel of a song, but had a huge impact on the space available for the rest of the mix. Carving out space was very much the name of the game here.

In a couple of instances, I ended up layering some additional drum hits over the top of the existing drums. This was generally a last resort, and usually happened in tracks where I’d relied on a single heavily compressed REX loop for the drums or something equally silly. It’s hard to stop the drums in a mix from disappearing if you’re relying on something that sounds completely flat at the source. Thankfully I only had to do this a couple of times, and in each instance I was able to match the new drums quite closely with the feel of the original track.

The final part of this process was mastering. This was done with a light touch – I ended up just using a single limiter on each tune and leaving it at that. The bulk of the work had already been done at the re-mixing stage, so I didn’t want to jeopardise that. This was more about level consistency than anything else, and I really didn’t want to over-cook this release.

I repeated this process a few times and started thinking “well, I’ve got a good process going, I’ll just keep working on tunes from this era and worry about the track-list later!”. After a while I ended up with a selection of about ten tunes. I took these tunes out of the studio and listened to them in a variety of environments, and I was really pleasantly surprised with how well they sat together. The feeling of the era was intact and, thanks to the re-mixing and light mastering process, they sat really nicely together. Without really realising it, I had started to put together a decent collection of the music I wrote during this time period. At this point the EP idea went totally out of the window.

A few more re-mixes later and I had a collection of music from 2003 – 2004 that I was happy to release, a definitive album of works collected from this particular time period. Now all I had to do was figure out what to do about the cover art.

I played with a couple of ideas, mostly based on photography from time spent in Alaska in 2004. Visiting Alaska was a hugely inspirational time for me – I’d spent some time in 2003 & 2004 working in a small village pub to save up for this trip, and it truly is an awe inspiring place. It made sense to use artwork from such an inspirational place, especially given that a lot of the music on the album was written after returning from said trip. I ended up with two main ideas – one was a photo from Talkeetna lakes (which is what I ended up using), and another was a night shot that ended up looking like something from a dark ambient album. I fully intend to use the latter at some point!

All this said, returning from Alaska was the start of a more lonely time as my friends had found some stability in either university or work, and I was unemployed and pretty much broke without a clear plan for the future. I ended up coasting for longer than I really should have before getting a full time job and figuring out what I wanted to do with my future… but, during this time of lessened responsibility, I ended up sinking my teeth more into writing music and discovering new sounds. I ended up writing tunes like Contact, Neon, and Where Do I Go From Here during this time, most of which I’d say lie on the more introspective/atmospheric end of the spectrum than some of the other tunes on the album.

The last tune I wrote in 2004 was Aeroplanes & Fireflies, which I figured would make for a fitting opener as I felt it really captured a sense of things to come, which provided a nice warm-up and contrast to some of the more introspective tracks throughout the rest of the album.

It’s a wonderful feeling to finally have these tracks out there. It’s an incredibly personal collection of tunes from a defining point in my life, with several tunes having never truly seen the light of day up until this point.

Archive 01: 2003 – 2004 is available exclusively to Bandcamp subscribers in the format of your choice, along with a whole host of other subscriber exclusive content including October Sessions, Apparitions, Traces, and Call Of The Void.

Site Update, Jan 2017

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in General, Music, October Sessions, Site

If you’ve visited the site at all over the past few years or so, you may have noticed that things suddenly look a little… different around here. Well, truth be told, I figured it was about time to update the site to better reflect what I’m up to right now, including a new selection of production tunes on the front-page which you may or may not have heard elsewhere. Go ahead, check it out 🙂

So, what else has changed since the last time I posted? Well, not much, really… besides moving house and setting up a new studio. You know, nothing major. Hey, here’s a picture of my desk because why not.

It’s still very much a work-in-progress, though after spending a month or so getting everything in an actual useable order I’m thrilled to have everything back up and running again. The past few months have been particularly fruitful in terms of new music, and I’m thrilled to have been able to give my old studio a proper send-off in the form of some excellent October sessions last year, which I fully intend to release at some point.

Also, since the last time I posted here a production album was released through Heavy Promos which I worked on alongside the incredibly talented Otto Cate and Brian Skeel, and it was a total blast to work on. Definitely more aggressive in places than you might have heard from me before, but it encouraged me to start messing around with a seven-string guitar towards the end of last year which is seeing a fair amount of use in my most recent output. Seriously, I really should have picked one up sooner!

If you’re a Bandcamp subscriber you may have also noticed an extra mini-album pop up this year called Call Of The Void. COTV is a collection of minimal, moody hardware jams that I wrote and recorded during 2015 – 2016 and I figured it was an appropriate way to start off the gloomy new year (I was so tempted to release it right before Christmas 2016 but figured that wasn’t such a smart move…). So that was pretty neat, too.

Looking forward to seeing what the rest of 2017 has in store!

October Sessions: Out Now

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in General, Livestream, Music, October Sessions, Subscribers

October Sessions is my latest Bandcamp exclusive release. If you’re already a subscriber, you can download it immediately in the format of your choice. If you’re not, then I’d say with three albums, one single, and a ton of other exclusive goodies in the bag that now is a pretty damn good time to check it out! (this reminds me, I really ought to upgrade that crappy video at some point)

October Sessions is an album consisting of previously unreleased tunes written and produced entirely during October 2014.

I’m really happy with how this particular release turned out, though between PiecesObscurer, and The Broken Divide all coming out between 2014 – 2016, I never really felt like I had an opportune moment to release it… until now!

As with Traces, I’ve also put together a preview mix for non-subscribers if you want to get a feel for the album in general.

On a related note, I may or may not be continuing my October Sessions tradition this October due to some pretty big circumstantial variables (i.e. “I might be moving house & studio”), but it’s something I’d really love to re-visit again and see what pops out. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds 🙂

I’ve been focussing on writing a lot of production music this year, which has seen me trying out some heavier styles than I guess you’d typically associate with me – it’s been a ton of fun to work on those, and I’m looking forward to seeing where those tunes end up.

I’ve also had a few people asking me about my lack of live streaming lately – I haven’t given up entirely on those, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to give the usual “I’ve been quite busy” excuse with regards to why I haven’t done any for a while now. It’s definitely something I’d love to get back into – right now I feel like I should at least do one final live stream from my current studio before I move, but I’d like to get moved and re-settled before I really get back into those.

The Broken Divide: out now

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The Broken Divide, my new solo album, is out RIGHT NOW. It’s completely free, and you can download it in the format of your choice from my Bandcamp page here.

UK-based musician & producer Adam Fielding returns with his latest solo album proper in the form of “The Broken Divide”, written & recorded during 2013-2016, and released in May 2016.

“The Broken Divide” is a riveting fusion of Fielding’s intricate electronic production style and deeply personal songwriting, with themes of wonderment and beauty contrasted against deep introspection and chaos. Based around a series of fragile memories and personal journeys, “The Broken Divide” makes for an emotionally charged and strikingly vulnerable listen as Fielding weaves his way through a wide range of musical styles and moods.

Opening with the contrastingly beautiful and frenzied layers of “The Beginning And The End”, the stage is set for moments of reverence and heady contemplation, such as the explosive “Defining Moments” and mournful “Time To Go”. As a whole, the album revels in emotion, atmosphere and expression, retaining Fielding’s signature blend of lush electronics and organic instrumentation.

With “The Broken Divide”, Fielding has crafted a uniquely expressive and intense work, sure to reward listeners seeking both substance and style.

Having been working on this for the past three years, it’s really quite amazing to finally be sharing this with you all. It’s been a long journey in more ways than one. Putting this record together really made me appreciate why I got into writing and producing music in the first place, and I channeled an awful lot of myself into this record. In many ways, this album represents a very particular snapshot of myself over the past decade or so.

I’m both thrilled and somewhat apprehensive about sharing this album with you, and I sincerely hope that – as I did – you find the journey to be a rewarding one.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me over the years, and to every single one of you who has ever listened to my music. It’s a hell of a thing to live in a world where I can freely share something so intrinsically linked to myself with people from around the world, and it’s too easy to slip into taking that kind of thing for granted. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your support.

The Broken Divide 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 bonus tracks and instrumentals.

The Broken Divide: Release notes

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Distant Activity, Icarus, Lightfields, Music, Subscribers, The Broken Divide

With just one day to go until the release of The Broken Divide, I figured I should probably take a second to write about the actual release of the album itself and how it came together after I finished writing it (which you can read about in more detail in my previous TBD-related blog posts).

Before I talk about the release of The Broken Divide, I’d like to talk a little bit about the release of Pieces. Pieces was the first album/compilation thing that I had released independently in about four years or so, and so I decided to try something a little different with the release.

There are two great advantages to releasing music independently, as far as I’m concerned – the first is that it afford you complete creative control over what you put out. Pieces was something I’d been toying with for a while, and I knew I wasn’t in a rush to release it. This gave me plenty of time to sort out mastering, album artwork, and release formats. I’ve already talked at length about my approach to pricing (or lack of) and the “audiophile master” release of Pieces – both of which you can read about here and here. I mention this because it’s an approach I’m taking once again with the release of The Broken Divide.

Which brings me onto the second big thing I love about releasing music independently – the freedom to experiment with release methods. One thing I have been experimenting with recently is the Bandcamp subscription format. I still believe in making my major independent releases easily accessible to everyone, but the subscription system affords me the means to get bonus goodies across to people who might be more interested in checking this stuff out without necessarily “cluttering” my discography for those who just want to listen to my albums. It’s an interesting balancing act, but after releasing Pieces I had more or less decided quite early on that my next album release was going to be another pay-what-you-want release on Bandcamp.

Sorry guys, you're on your own.
Sorry guys, you’re on your own.

Alas, another similarity between these two releases is that there is no physical CD version. Back when I was releasing my first or second albums, this idea would have been kind of abhorrent to me – I love picking up CDs where I can, but the sad truth is that demand for physical copies of my music is nowhere near substantial enough at this point to warrant getting a decent run made and, as with many other people out there, I have no problem with my own musical purchases being digital… provided I can download it in the format of my choice. Maybe one day I’ll consider a limited run of CD copies for some of my more recent releases, but for the time being it’s not going to happen. That said, digital downloads of my music have skyrocketed in the past few years so, hey, there you go!

On a similar note, I have still in no way whatsoever been bitten by the vinyl bug. It’s a growing format but it’s one that I just don’t get – for me, it’s kind of a weird situation. There are many releases for which the “best” version is the vinyl release, simply because the most tastefully mastered version of an album is usually the vinyl version. Nothing to do with the format (outside of some physical constraints due entirely to the medium itself which go some way to preventing bad mastering practices), but because people who listen on vinyl tend to be more picky about this kind of thing. Which is great! But there is nothing stopping people from releasing tasteful masters of their albums digitally, and I find the lack of options kind of strange in that regard. Maybe in a few years I’ll be all over vinyl, but for the time being… not happening. It’s not something I’m interested in and it would be both disingenuous and financially bonkers for me to go down that route.

This is all kind of interesting to me because this will be my first “big” solo release since 2013 – I’m super happy with all of my interim releases (Pieces, AdFi, Obscurer), but this is the album that I would consider the “true” follow-up to Icarus. That album had a bit of a troubled release, to be honest. From issues with the artwork, digital outlets still not stocking it correctly (go ahead, try and find it on Amazon UK), payments and recoupable costs having to be chased up for about a year, and a general lack of post-release support… yeah, it was not pretty. Hell, for a few months I had no idea which label it was going to be released through thanks to a total communication snafu. Alas – due to the nature of it not being an independent release, this is all stuff that was generally outside of my control. Icarus really made me appreciate how much I’d taken full creative control for granted over the years, and how it’s something I’m not willing to relinquish for my own solo releases. The release of Pieces made me really, really appreciate how much I’d missed releasing music independently… the general feeling I got during both releases was completely different. I’d like to emphasise that this in no way somehow reflects my own personal feelings of both albums from a musical point of view – this is strictly from a release/logistical perspective.

ANYWAY. Bitching and moaning aside(!) – the point I’m trying to make is that returning to that mindset of retaining full control during the writing, production, and release process for a “big” solo release was a really wonderful feeling, and I think that feeling of releasing something completely on my own terms because I wanted to is something that runs throughout the entire album. In many ways the huge contrast between the release of Icarus and Pieces fuelled the direction I took with this album… knowing that it was probably going to be an independent release made me think “hey, that means I can pretty much do whatever I want!” which is, y’know, exactly what I did.

So. One more day to go. I hope you get some time to check out the album in its entirety once I release it into the wild, and I hope you like what you hear. Cheers!

The Broken Divide 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 bonus tracks and instrumentals.

The Broken Divide: Fragments

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Music, Neffle, Obscurer, Pieces, The Broken Divide

I started writing what would eventually become The Broken Divide towards the latter half of 2013. This was coming off of the back of the release of Icarus (which was released in April 2013) and a couple of other production albums. For the first time in a long time, I was working with a completely blank slate. Being in a similar situation right now (although, as of writing, I’m currently working on another project which is keeping me very busy and sounds amazing), that particular feeling of starting fresh and working on something completely new is both incredibly exciting and daunting.

Generally speaking, when I’m working on a production album or doing some other kind of freelance work, I’ll be working to a very particular specification or purpose. That’s sort of the whole point. Over the past several years I’ve taught myself to be flexible in the face of stringent specifications, and nowadays I actually find having a place to start to be hugely beneficial. I’ve never experienced a creative block while working on a job, and I think having that initial direction is a huge part of why that’s the case.

This was definitely not the case with The Broken Divide.

In a strangely similar fashion to Pieces, a lot of the writing process for The Broken Divide was fragmented into clusters of tracks. Over the course of writing the album, I stuck to the same general source of inspiration (which I detailed in a previous post) that drove me to write the title track way back in 2013, but it was a tough process.

When the ideas were coming, it felt completely natural to want to express these ideas and emotions. It’s also worth bearing in mind that I was working on a lot of other audio-related stuff during the creation of The Broken Divide… I knew I wasn’t tied to a particular deadline, so I wanted to let it all happen naturally. I experimented a lot with different ideas during the creation of the album, which is why I ended up with releases like Pieces and Obscurer. It was a real reminder of why I enjoyed releasing music independently so much – when you’re working with audio for a living, there’s a wonderful sense of freedom in having a completely open creative outlet.

When the ideas weren’t coming, it was frustrating. I knew I was onto something that I wanted to release and put my name on, and after writing what I would consider to be the second “cluster” of tracks, it was particularly frustrating because I knew for sure that, with what I’d already hit, there was at least an album’s worth of further exploration in the source material. The clusters were almost forming their own narratives, and that was something that really excited me.

Having a clear idea of what you want to do and knowing that you’ll get there eventually is fantastic from the point of view of having something to strive toward, but it’s creatively frustrating in the sense that you just want it all to be out there. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely adore the creative process of writing music. I love it to bits, and when I’m really into it… I’m really, really, really into it. That’s why I do it! But there’s something incredibly satisfying about getting these ideas out, taking a step back and realising “yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted – and I made that”.

After completing this second “cluster” (which was around mid-late 2014 or so), things slowed down

This was nearly a thing.
This was nearly a thing.

for The Broken Divide. I did some more production work, was busy with sound design work, released Pieces, worked on the Neffle material… it was a fantastic time creatively, but during this break from The Broken Divide I started to doubt whether I would be able to complete it as an album. I started thinking about alternative release methods and, towards the end of 2014, gave serious consideration to releasing what I had as a series of EPs.

“So why didn’t you, then?”, you may be wondering. Well… for the past few years, I had an annual tradition of writing a load of music in October. I called these sessions “October Sessions” – original name, right? The idea was to write a load of sketches, and just see where it took me. It’s how I got started with Pieces, and in 2014 I had another really good burst of creativity during October. I started experimenting with the idea of mixing some of the ideas from these sessions into what I already had for The Broken Divide, and I liked the results… initially. I even sent this weird mish-mash of an album to a few people and said “hey guys, this is my album!”.

After a couple of months had passed and the new year had settled in, I realised this was a terrible idea. I love what I already had for The Broken Divide, and I loved what I already had for my October Sessions – but the two were not supposed to completely co-mingle, and it was tonally jarring to listen to it like that. But! It made me realise that I knew for sure that I could finish The Broken Divide, and that the parts that worked as an album worked really, really well for me from the point of view of continuity and narrative. It just needed one final push. Knowing that I wasn’t in a rush to release it, I made the decision to hang onto it until it was a complete album. As far as I’m concerned, that was a good idea. As a whole album, there was a really solid sense of coherence and progression that would have been missing from a series of EPs. That said, I still like the idea of releasing EPs while working on an album – I’m glad I held off this time around, but next time around it might be cool to release a series of EPs in advance of an album… as it transpires, albums take a really bloody long time to write!

In any case – the final push came in 2015. I ended up with a mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks during this final push, and once I slotted those into the existing collection of tracks it just brought everything together in a ridiculously satisfying way. I started sending out this pre-mastered version to a few friends, and I knew this was it. At the end of the year, I set myself a release date that would give me plenty of time to get things finalised – after all, I still needed to sort out mastering, artwork, bonus materials…

The Broken Divide 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 bonus tracks and instrumentals.

The Broken Divide: Instrumentation

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Music, Subscribers, The Broken Divide

Something I’ve always been quite keen on in electronic music is the fusion of organic instrumentation with electronic instrumentation. There’s an oddly humanising feel or grounded sensation to be had when combining precisely sequenced synths with recorded/performed instrumentation. It’s something I’ve really strived for since Lightfields in particular – in that instance, I was fusing live instrumentation with electronics to give a more energetic, spontaneous feel to the album. With The Broken Divide, I thought it’d be interesting to use some non-traditional instruments and sound sources to aid with the sound of something recognisable and inviting, yet unusual and kind of unfamiliar at the same time.

The first track (“The Beginning And The End”) is a good example of this. There are guitars buried in the mix, about 2/3rds of the track make use of a piano – which is heavily processed at times, the percussion is formed from a mixture of drum synths and odd recordings, and there are field recordings all over the track. Even the frantic synth-type sound used during the crazier part of the track (you’ll know which part I mean if you give it a listen) was based on a recording of me sticking my finger on the end of an amped up cable. The recorded percussion is a mixture of rubbing hands, clicking batteries, scissors, shakers… I really wanted to give the percussion a strangely loose, human feel to it underneath the precisely timed electronic kit.

Of course, this is just one track. Although there are plenty of guitars and pianos across the album, I decided to avoid using strings and orchestral elements. Although I’ve used orchestral elements extensively in my work before (and still do!), I felt like there’s such a strong automatic association between orchestral instrumentation and “cinematic” music that wasn’t really representative of what I was shooting for with this particular album… I didn’t really want to invite that comparison through my choice of instrumentation, so I decided to avoid it entirely for The Broken Divide. I was incredibly tempted to use some strings in the penultimate track (“Time To Go”), but decided against it in the end. I think it was the right call, as the fusion of sparse electronics and piano/vocals complements what I was going for with the track on an emotional level. The only time I decided to use anything approaching orchestral instrumentation was in the title track, which uses a heavily processed and frantically bowed (read: abused) violin layered up with a stretched version of itself to give an ethereal-yet-familiar sound to it.

I guess one of the key reasons for my decision to avoid orchestral instrumentation was that I wanted the instrumentation & production to be in service of the music and emotional component itself, and not the other way around. There’s one track on the album where I used the sound of rattling keys to signify a transition, running with the theme of travel and unfamiliarity I was basing the song around. There’s another track that makes use of my first acoustic guitar (which is an old, battered thing I picked up from a charity shop that I’ve been meaning to give away for years) which tied in quite nicely to the memory referenced in that particular track, which really complements the personal connection I was going for.

There was a certain point during the creation of the album where I started to think “this is probably going to be an instrumental album. I need to focus on writing some vocal tracks to round it out, or just add vocals to the stuff I’ve already got written”. In hindsight, this was a really stupid idea. I started to make the mistake of comparing The Broken Divide as it was with my previously released albums, trying to fulfill some kind of audience-expectation quota with regards to vocal tracks rather than just letting it happen naturally. The vast majority of the instrumental tracks on the album just didn’t click when I started experimenting with adding vocals to them and, consequently, took away from the underlying memory or emotional state that I was trying to convey. That said, as I started working on the final third of the album or so, I ended up writing a few vocal tracks that fit the overall mood of the album pretty much perfectly. I also ended up writing one vocal track that didn’t fit the mood of the album, but I thought it was a really nice track… so I decided to include that with the extended version of The Broken Divide (which is exclusive to Bandcamp subscribers). In fact… thinking about it, the main hurdles I seemed to encounter when putting the album together were when I started to do things that went against the nature of the album as it was shaping up, or other things that simply didn’t fit the natural flow that ran throughout the production process. Lesson learned!

I guess that’s quite indicative of the album in general, really. The entire production process seemed to come quite naturally once I stopped trying to force it. Although I wanted to keep things interesting from a production and sound design point of view, trying to force it toward a particular direction was distracting at best, and contradictory to the album I wanted to write at worst… and I think the instrumentation is quite indicative of that. Every layer has a particular purpose and a particular role to play, and it was nice to be able to serve the emotional flow and theme of the album through the instrumentation itself.

The Broken Divide 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 bonus tracks and instrumentals.

The Broken Divide: What’s in a name?

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Music, The Broken Divide

The Broken Divide is something I’ve been working on for a few years now, and it’s an incredibly personal body of work. I thought it would be kind of interesting to talk a bit about what exactly I mean by that, and where the name itself actually came from… sort of.

In keeping with tradition, the first track I worked on and had in a more-or-less complete state for The Broken Divide was the title track. The title track was written and produced in October 2013, and was my first proper foray back into writing solo material since the release of Icarus earlier in the year. There’s something very refreshing about working with a completely blank slate, and – as happy as I was (and still am!) with Icarus as a musical work – I knew I wanted to try something different. So that’s exactly what I did.

The Broken Divide, v1
The Broken Divide, v1

I had been thinking a lot about events and memories from the past decade or so when I started writing The Broken Divide. The more I worked on it, the more I seemed to get sucked into this mindset of drawing strong emotional connections to events and places that I hadn’t really considered for an awfully long time. Even the very act of developing an album focussed primarily around memory and nostalgia began to feed back into the album itself. I’ve frequently thought of nostalgia as a means of looking back without really getting a true sense of how the pieces fit, and – as things panned out – there are certain parts of the album that explore how beautiful-yet-disparate that kind of fixation can be.

As for the actual title track itself – and, by extension, the name of the album – it was written about a very particular place, close to where I grew up. I never really thought much about it as a kid, but in recent years when I’ve gone back to this place I’ve realised that it’s both an aesthetically wonderful and conceptually bizarre place – at times calm and peaceful, and at other times loud and terrifying… and often times both at the same time. I thought it was interesting that I’d have such a strong nostalgic connection to a place like that, and it really got me thinking about how our own recollections and experiences alter our interpretations of the world around us. The Broken Divide is a reference both to that particular place, and the divide between recollection and reality. Memory is a fragile thing, especially in a constantly shifting world. Without really realising it back in 2013, I’d found my underlying concept. It’s a concept I’ve flirted with before now, but never to such a direct extent.

Now… I realise that a lot of this probably sounds more than a little self-indulgent and, hey, I guess you’d be totally correct in that observation! Generally speaking, when I’m working on a new track or solo project, I’ll tend to come up with a vague idea of a scene or story while I’m working on a particular musical idea. Sometimes I’ll come up with an idea beforehand. These “scenes” can range from quite detailed ideas to a somewhat more abstract playing-out of events. The Broken Divide is the first collection of music where all of these “scenes” and ideas came entirely from my own personal experiences, along with the memories and frequent mental gymnastics associated with them.

I must admit to being incredibly tempted to posting a detailed explanation of where all of the track ideas and names came from, along with the particular thoughts and memories associated with them. I actually ended up typing up the inspirations associated with each track once the album was completed, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised how counter-productive it would be to post that. In retrospect, putting this album together was almost an attempt to make some sort of sense out of some of my memories and recollections – the things that make me who I am. That said – while I might have a particularly strong connection to these memories and “scenes” – the emotional connection and recollection of these memories is something I wanted to express in the music itself, rather than the exact “scene” associated with it… and the wonderful thing about music is that it’s generally completely open to interpretation.

I understand that for some people that this might seem like a complete cop-out, but I don’t want it to seem like there is only one “correct” way of interpreting this album. Despite it being an incredibly personal work, I don’t really feel like it would benefit the album in any way for me to explain the story behind each individual track in detail. In fact, in some cases, having these particular ideas associated with the individual tracks might even take away from your own interpretation and enjoyment of the music. And that’d be kinda crap, right?

“So why bother with this post, then?”, you might be wondering. Fair question! While I might not think it necessary to explain in detail what the story is behind every single track, the fact is that it is still an incredibly personal body of work (I might have mentioned that once or twice, you know). Having a vague idea of the concept behind the album might give you a better sense of what I was shooting for without force-feeding my own interpretations and expectations of the music itself.

…plus, y’know, I thought it’d be kind of cool to explain where the name came from.

The Broken Divide 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 bonus tracks and instrumentals.

“The Broken Divide” – the new album, out 5th May

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Music, The Broken Divide

UK-based musician & producer Adam Fielding returns with his latest solo album proper in the form of “The Broken Divide”, written & recorded during 2013-2016, and released in May 2016.

“The Broken Divide” is a riveting fusion of Fielding’s intricate electronic production style and deeply personal songwriting, with themes of wonderment and beauty contrasted against deep introspection and chaos. Based around a series of fragile memories and personal journeys, “The Broken Divide” makes for an emotionally charged and strikingly vulnerable listen as Fielding weaves his way through a wide range of musical styles and moods.

Opening with the contrastingly beautiful and frenzied layers of “The Beginning And The End”, the stage is set for moments of reverence and heady contemplation, such as the explosive “Defining Moments” and mournful “Time To Go”. As a whole, the album revels in emotion, atmosphere and expression, retaining Fielding’s signature blend of lush electronics and organic instrumentation.

With “The Broken Divide”, Fielding has crafted a uniquely expressive and intense work, sure to reward listeners seeking both substance and style.

As it says – on the 5th May I’ll be releasing my newest album, The Broken Divide, over on my Bandcamp page and through all major digital music retailers. I’ll be updating this site with samples and information leading up to the release. As has been the case over the past two years, The Broken Divide will be available freely via Bandcamp, with exclusive bonuses available to Bandcamp subscribers. In a similar manner to Pieces, these bonuses are…

  • An extended version of The Broken Divide containing additional tunes cut from the main release and instrumental versions of all vocal tracks. The removal of these bonus tracks from the main release is no reflection of my own perceived quality of the tracks, but I felt that they didn’t really fit the overall feel of the album itself. The instrumental versions provide an interesting alternative to their more vocal-centric counterparts.
  • An “audiophile” master of The Broken Divide. This was an idea I had while releasing Pieces, and some people really seemed to appreciate the additional choice of an alternative master… so I decided to do it again! If you are unfamiliar with the concept, then it’s a similar idea to Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks audiophile release. For most people, the regular master of The Broken Divide will be the preferred listening experience. For those with high-end equipment and a dedicated listening space, the audiophile master of The Broken Divide may offer a preferable listen. Although the regular master is compressed to what I feel is a tasteful level, the audiophile master eases up on the compression (resulting in a less “loud” master) quite considerably, features slightly altered mixes, and has a wider perceived dynamic range across the board for those who are into that kind of thing.

Again, as was the case with Pieces, although I think these bonuses are really, really (really!) neat for subscribers, I’d like to re-emphasise the fact that the main free release of The Broken Divide was written, produced, mastered, and compiled in exactly the way I wanted it to be. The free release is in no way compromised from my original vision of this album… but I felt that this was a nice way to thank people for supporting me by subscribing.

Updates will come throughout the month, including a series of posts related to the creation and release of The Broken Divide. I’m really, really looking forward to finally being able to share this album with you as it’s been quite a long time coming, and it is without a doubt my most personal record to date.

You can pre-order The Broken Divide from Bandcamp and get immediate access to two pre-release tracks.

http://adamfielding.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-divide

Live-streaming and trailer placements, ahoy!

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Livestream, Production music, Reason, Tutorials

So – about that live-stream I mentioned last time? Well… I had a blast! Thanks so much to everyone who turned up, and for those of you who missed it… here’s a link to the archived version on Youtube.

Unfortunately, due to some encoding issues on my end (at least, I’m presuming that’s the case), the video gets pretty garbled at points during the second half. The audio remains fine throughout, but I hope to have this problem sorted for next time.

(For anyone interested: I was streaming to Twitch using OBS – I decided to try using the Apple Hardware x264 encoder (because hardware encoding = better, right? RIGHT?!), only to realise that hardware encoding with an integrated video processor was a really dumb choice. I’ve since switched to the “vanilla” x264 encoder and set the profile to “veryfast”, and tested it under a similar CPU load which performed without any hitches… so hopefully that’ll do the trick)

For anyone who just wants to check out the result of this two hour music making session – look no further!

Also – I was careful during the creation process not to use a huge amount of external samples or protected sounds, outside of some lovely free drums from Samplephonics and a patch from Tom Pritchard’s Vast Refill (which is an outright STEAL for $9.99, in my honest opinion). I got in touch with both guys to double-check that I’d be ok to post the project file, and they both gave me the go ahead so… if you’re a Reason 8 user, here’s the project file! Please note that it uses a few Rack Extensions, so you’re likely to end up with at least a few RE placeholders in there.

I fully intend to make live-streaming a regular thing, and I’ve got a few ideas in mind for what I’d like to do next. I won’t be writing a new song live every week (because, yeah, realistically that might be a bit much), but I’d love to dive into some old songs to examine techniques, talk about sound design, and generally open the floor up to discussing stuff while I’m in my studio. I’m tentatively slating the same time next Wednesday (24th Feb, 7pm GMT) for a “dissection” session (where I’ll examine one or more old tunes, open to requests), so we’ll see how it goes! I’ll post a confirmation once I’ve had some time to think about it.

If you want to join me for the next session, head over to my Twitch channel and be sure to subscribe!

SO. While I was busy waffling on and insulting my audience during my live-stream (still not entirely sure what possessed me to insinuate that part of my audience may have been dicks but, hey, there we go), I got a rather interesting e-mail confirming that one of my trailer cues from last year had been placed in a trailer for a film called Identicals. You can check out the trailer below – my music starts right around the studio logo at 0:24, and continues throughout.

So… yeah, you know. No big deal.

*shakes uncontrollably*