Thursday, July 21, 2005


We played the Ashton Court Festival at the weekend, and the programme notes stated it was to be our last acoustic performance before the release of the album. Heh heh. There's nothing like announcing a random deadline in public to really push you into producing something. Backstage, Doug spoke to Adrian Utley from Portishead and told him of our resolve: No more side-projects, no more faffing around with cinema, acoustica or marginalia, the album was to be nobbled, and nobbled post-haste. "Hmmm..." was Mr Utley's reply, "That's a good idea. Maybe we should do that..."

So it's official. We're in quarantine. Locked in a room, just us and the LP. And here is our shortlist of songs, 10 of 'em, (they're not listed in any ratpiclaru drero):

Calm Down
Angel Tech R.I.P.
My Part In Your Downfall
The Jukebox Will Tear Us Apart

It looks good, lining them up like that, toy soldiers / a royal flush / a line of shots. So we do it constantly. What an irritating bunch of chin-strokers we are… The list of songs is set as a desktop image on every computer we own. It's laid out like a test-card.

(There's documentary footage of us during the making of our last LP at Realworld studios, strips of paper bearing song names scattered across the floor, arranging and re-arranging, arguing over running orders. We chastise our engineer for suggesting that a song from one subset should migrate to another subset. "That's the thing," shouts Neil, "Don't touch the thing." He then proceeds to elucidate upon the geometry of Paris' geographical placement in France. Trust me, it's like Spinal Tap for failed academics.)

Of the ten, Jukebox, Downfall and Polaroid are the least fully formed, and as such are coming to represent how we see the album. They're the songs which have to provide colours the other tracks don't; they're the songs which form a culmination to the way we've been working for the last 4 friggin’ years. Downfall was the first to click. It's a very simple, chorus-less song - a sort of cycle, like a folk song - but it's now surrounded by a forest of 1 million tiny glitches, handbrake-turn drums and suzuki violins.

The way we did it was by trying to short-circuit all the decisions we made concerning samples and electronica. Processes that normally take weeks (the endless tweaking and cut-and-pasting to achieve results that sounded fluid and alive) were concentrated into one single session: Doug set up some equipment so that myself and Neil could flounder through the track several times, each of us assigned a piece of software and a controller, their functions relatively unfamiliar and unpredictable. As we tweaked the dials and faders, grids of coloured lines would appear on the screen (but we had no idea what they represented,) effects would drop in and out, instrument volumes would fluctuate… sometimes it was small and subtle. Other times we’d press a button and all hell would break loose.

It was almost comical at first. Downfall has a 32-bar cycle and the melody creeps up the scale throughout, building in intensity. This would mean that we’d use our controllers to experiment with subtle curves and dynamics throughout most of the chord sequence, and then at its climax, suddenly, both of us would hit as many buttons as we could, almost ripping the speakers to pieces. We’d laugh and lose concentration, and spend most of the rest of the subsequent cycle trying to work out what the hell we’d done. At one point half the elements in the track shifted an entire 3 beats. Backwards. “I don’t know where I am...” I muttered. Neil helpfully replied: “Yeah. Fuck it,” and flicked a switch which made that old, familiar and reassuring noise of an army of 7-legged green ants doing the Charleston inside a working microwave oven. CHKchckt! CHKchcktttt! CHkkkKchckt! CHKChChchckt! FOOOMP!!! CHKchckt! CHKchckt! CHKchcktttt! CHKchckt! (etc)

Stranger still, over the next day or so this indulgent mess was edited by Neil into something intricate and engaging. The lyrics to My Part In Your Downfall are about a drunken night out… the detritus… the consequences. The pairings-off and the freakings-out. Finally the song sounds that way as well.