Childhood thing that was difficult:
I wanted to go out and play with other kids for sure but there was this fucked up older kid in my neighborhood who used to tie kids to trees and rev the back wheel of his dirtbike very close to them, threaten to kill family members etc.. There were also adventures and babes and romance and all that other excitement that were vital but would sometimes peak in terms of stress about venturing out.
I started to appreciate the rain because it just removed the decision about going out altogether, I could just stay home and be imaginative. Rain for me has always signaled safe alone-ness and loneliness.
Fast forward 20ish years to the time of recording this, I was diagnosed with Bipolar, which clarified and complicated things about my world. I opened this tune’s garageband file from around that time and did a little editing . I was also reading this book at the time called The Terror that provided the setting:
The Terror is a 2007 novel by American author Dan Simmons. It is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s lost expedition of HMS Erebus and H
MS Terror to the Arctic, in 1845–1848, to locate the Northwest Passage. In the novel, while Franklin and his crew are plagued by starvation and illness, and forced to contend with mutiny and cannibalism, they are stalked across the bleak Arctic landscape by a monster.
Tuunbaq is the name of the uncanny spectre that is out roaming around the ships at night, that they really do not understand, and they have to muster the heroism and courage, and recruit a lot of mania, to walk supplies miles across the frozen plains to their sister ship the Erebus. Definitely has some echoes from childhood and some of the very real physical dangers of exiting the house on Spring Valley rd.
No one really knows what those men went through beyond horrific descriptions found in diaries. I try to capture the worst bipolar episodes in diaries, and occasionally re-read them just to remind myself to appreciate the good times and not drop the ball because of how high the stakes are.
I liked trying to capture the aesthetic of the arctic landscape, it’s this otherworldly place that’s really harsh and beautiful, jagged pristine white, whipping winds, occasional eerie calm with northern lights overhead, it’s wonderfully described in the novel.
The three part harmony at the end was about my mom dad and sister, and what the crew had imagined their loved ones thinking when they would read their letters that were sent from the last harbor before setting out to the northwest passage. Felt appropriate now given my inability to visit my older parents and younger niece and nephew due to Covid.
Hypnotic repetitive part is just self talk to appreciate the beautiful aspects of depressive episodes, that to me are beautiful in the way obsidian is beautiful.
Dislodge your heart from the shelving of the pack ice
Abandon the tomb of servitude
Set out on the plain again
Set out on the plain again to the rising sun.
Not so bad it’s not so bad,
Even though you can’t ignore it.
Not so bad not so bad,
though you can’t live without it.
Man I like the way it rains.
It reminds me of the times,
I felt lonely and sad,
I felt longing inside.
Looking for feedback on
Anything you want to share.
nurphgun July 24, 2020 9:32am
Obsessed with this. I was on board immediately. The screaming at 1:16 GETS ME!!!! What I wouldn’t give to be able to scream like that. You have some pipes. I relate to feeling relieved when there’s no choice but to stay home. I dug the first two weeks of quarantine for this reason; VERY MUCH over it now, but yeah – it’s real, and cool to hear a song about that specific feeling.
Z July 27, 2020 8:17pm
Many thanks Nora! Really glad to hear my vox landed for someone whose pipes I envy!
Did you know Iceland is broadcasting people screaming to alleviate lockdown stress? Good for the soul!
nick July 21, 2020 4:14pm
love it man. great midi drums—pretty freaking convincing. glad you’re back in the world of the DAW. i think young zack rockin-out-in-the-green-outback would be proud of this one 👍
Z July 27, 2020 8:18pm
He would! Bet yung Nick would drum along..
ryan July 20, 2020 8:47pm
Yyyyyyeah, a lot to love here for me. Intro/verse vocal melody is beautiful. Absolutely love the subversion of the expectation to go big after the intro. Totally fooled me. Instead, we get that lovely instrumental section that turns into a vocal-led section later on. An excellent decision. The scream at 1:28 is perfect. Felt it in my gut. Gorgeous Fleet Foxes outro—I think it sells the previous sections in a super unique way. Almost like—”You thought those sections were the extent of the range of influences? Check this.” Amongst a heap of other feelings, this song makes me psyched to hear the rest of the record this track might be a part of and just sit back and enjoy a diverse sound world unfolding.
A note on mix/future tracks: The majority of the punch is coming from the drums and vocals right now, but it’s such guitar-forward music that I want more of the punch to come from them. I’m sure you’re already working on that now that you’re dialing in your recording/mixing process. But thought I’d mention.
Stoked to hear more!
Z July 27, 2020 8:20pm
Many many thanks for the feedback! You’re always on my shoulder when I’m recording. It’s funny – I approached the mix of this by getting the drums and vox to be prominent. Ironic now the guitars are a little distant but I’m gettin’ better!
More to come!
Ben July 20, 2020 1:57pm
zack wtf man. this is wild. it just STARTS and the vocals are rawww and cutting right from the beginning. Introduces a melody instantly. I love these kind of melodies where i’m almost expecting a minor melody but NOPE, you’re getting a major line. love that little very brief moment of silence before it launches into the chaos. the scream at 1:28 too. The whole thing is evocative and uneasy and great. The harmony at around 1:47 too.
What was the instrumentation and what was the recovery/recording/re-recording/re-mixing/re-mastering/editing process? I was waiting for your big, produced neon chef entry and here it is.
I really, really like the delivery/composition of the melody/line “Dislodge your heart from the shelving”
I used too many slashes in this comment. /
Z July 20, 2020 5:01pm
Thanks Ben! Loved starting the song without a long, throat-clearing, “thank you all for coming out today…” exposition.
Instrumentation was: drop-tuned electric guitar (C), 3 Vox tracks, MIDI bass, MIDI keys, MIDI drums, synths, and a lot of (over excited) Valhalla SuperMassive reverb (it is free, and it is dope, download it!)
The recovery process was really just like “I’m going to open up this file and organize it, then try to clean up the mix with the new things I’ve learned over the last few months/years.”
The original recording process was not a process. It was fits of inspiration and frustration that eventually gave way to some piece of music. I think back then I was just holding myself accountable to recording something – anything – rather than nothing at all.
Going back to clean up the mix, all of the original recording issues were still there waiting for me (i.e. the vocal tracks were too close to the mic, different timbres, clipping, having to just go for something before my laptop died, all kinds of BS). Difficult to organize your mix process around vocals when the vocal tracks are so all over the place.
Listening to the GB file I said to myself “okay, I’ve learned a LOT in the last few years, and I know which of these problems are mix issues and which are tracking issues – don’t waste time polishing turds, just love it for what it is and be hella excited about your new confidence with recording new material.”
BTW mastering was just EQ compression and limiting on the stereo out track, flipping through presets and then a little tweaking to taste.
Thanks again for your feedback, it’s really great for me.
Ben July 21, 2020 8:36am
“okay, I’ve learned a LOT in the last few years, and I know which of these problems are mix issues and which are tracking issues – don’t waste time polishing turds, just love it for what it is and be hella excited about your new confidence with recording new material.”
Also just downloaded that verb and fucked around for hours with it.
Yeah all the problems and challenges you documented about the recovery process (of old recording files!) are near and dear to me. Mixing your modern-day sensibilities, tech, plugins, taste, influences, habits with the time capsule of whenever you felt inspired to make the original recording. I find myself doing it fairly often.
Carseat July 19, 2020 9:22pm
Wow. I really like this. I enjoyed the jaggedness of the dynamics in the instrumental part as well. I really dug you belting it. Definitely some emotions behind it. I like it.
Nate July 20, 2020 12:29pm
interesting juxtapositions, guitar lick at :20 was great.
Drums sound great, love how the cymbals sound when the crash comes in
I’m a little iffy on the transitions between sound worlds / sense of spaciousness. I could use a clearer sense of repetition. I’m very down with through composed stuff… I think a more intentional use of builds/breakdowns/ etc would be cool. Every part of the song feels great, but the order feels a little disjoined. Sort of like this comment lol.
Listening a 2nd and 3rd time — I think the loud-ass part could almost be before the guitar lick? I think it feels like a long time without vocals, especially when later on there are vocals almost the whole way though. Having a super aggro part immediately before or after the gentle keyboard part could be cool
Nice! Good work on this!
nick July 21, 2020 4:09pm
yupp love that :20 lick
Z July 27, 2020 8:27pm
Nice to meet you Darcy, and thanks for listening!
Hey Nate – thanks for the feedback about the composition – a few assignments back I’d asked specifically for that as it’s not my strongest muscle – I tend to through-compose and then try to figure out a way to repeat things but usually feel like I’m forcing it. I appreciate the specific suggestions, I’m figuring out how to quickly re-arrange sections in Logic to try things out in a non-destructive way.
Nick “Lick” Pope