Ramblings | January 2, 2017

2016 In Retrospect

Watching Press GangWith 2017 just out of the starting blocks, it seems a good time to round up some recent news and reflect on 2016.

One of the biggest ongoing stories of 2016 was the deaths of many iconic musicians, starting with Bowie in January, but the more positive side to it was the amount of good new music coming out in the prog world. It really feels like the scene is thriving creatively (if not necessarily financially just yet). Of course we also lost Prog magazine, which went into administration with the rest of TeamRock. Anecdotally it does seem as though there was enough of a market for Prog to find a way to make it profitable and that it was caught in the fall-out from the failure of the larger Team Rock business. Another pointer, perhaps, that trying to treat a scene like prog as an interchangeable part of a wider commodity portfolio is a mistake, but these are topics for another post.

Apparently, one of the best releases in 2016, according to both ProgRadar and Progzilla’s broadcaster The Ancient One, was Patchwork Cacophony’s Five Of Cups! Well needless to say I’m honoured. The reviews the album’s been getting have been really positive though, as always, I’m finding it very hard to get coverage. Fireworks Magazine, ProgRadar and ProgArchives have all carried some good reviews and I believe there are more in the offing. At one point it sounded like I was going to get reviewed in Prog magazine which would have really capped my year, but of course  Team Rock’s demise will mean that doesn’t now happen. Being listed in some “Best of 2016” lists was an unexpected bonus though and I’m thrilled to be included, not least of all given some of the stellar company that puts me in there.

Talking of stellar company, another piece of news from 2016 was that I’ve been invited to join Gandalf’s Fist‘s live line-up on keys in preparation for their gig at the HRH Prog Festival in March. We’re playing a 90 minute set and there’s a lot of material for me to learn, and all of it bar the last week will be learned in isolation, culminating in us all turning up to a rehearsal studio for a week in March to shake hands, introduce ourselves, and stick all the parts together.

It would have marked the first time I’d been on stage since Fusion Orchestra 2’s last gig in 2015, but for a last minute invitation to guest on keyboards at Dave Press’s Press Gang gig just before Christmas. Despite being mainly (figuratively and literally) in the background on this one, it was great fun and all being well I hope to play with them again this year.

So, gazing ahead into 2017, what’s in store? Well, the Gandalf’s Fist gig at HRH Prog Festival is clearly the most set-in-stone major event. I have a couple of collaboration recordings kicking around which need finishing off, and indeed collaborations will be a key theme for this year. So, no new Patchwork Cacophony album this year, but work is ramping up on Broken Parachute‘s second album, and so far it sounds a lot more proggy than the debut. I’ve guested (very discreetly) on a track on another album which is due to be released this year — more on that when it’s announced — and there’s a few other people I’m hoping to work with in some shape or form. Maybe this year will be marked by a scattering of single-track and EP style releases? We’ll see.

In any case, it’s looking like being a varied and exciting year musically.

Ramblings | November 24, 2015

PatCo2 update:

With Patchwork Cacophony 2 very firmly under way, I thought I’d write a short blog about where I currently am and what needs to happen before the album is finished.

As of a few months back, the track list is complete. Of course, until I actually release it it’s still notionally subject to change as things progress but I have what I believe is a strong set of tracks and I know what order they will be in. I have a couple of places where I want to  write some more lyrics or otherwise develop a section a bit more but for the most part I would say I have a pretty complete demo of the album now. What’s more, I think it’s a stronger, more consistent album than the first Patchwork Cacophony.


Ramblings | October 29, 2015

Thoughts on Imogen Heap’s Mycelia

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about Imogen Heap’s “Mycelia” vision. For a while, mainly due coverage which majored on the “Yay, because Bitcoin!” while being scant on technical details, I couldn’t understand how it could possibly address the problems in the digital music industry.

The penny has finally dropped though: this is not about stopping people sharing music or downloading without paying, this is about stopping the music industry itself from losing artists’ royalties in the maze of legal and accountancy hoops and jargon that make it hard if not impossible for anyone to be sure of what they’re actually owed or indeed how much revenue their music has generated. It’s about reusing the technology which makes it possible for Bitcoin to operate securely and transparently without a central authority to make music distribution operate without a central authority.


Ramblings | July 19, 2015

The Legality of Ripping CDs

The High Court has overturned a change in the law which allowed listeners to make copies of music they had purchased for their own private use. The Musicians’ Union was instrumental in this judgement having argued for “fair” protection for their members.

As a consumer I feel this is far from fair, but as a musician I am absolutely livid.


Ramblings | December 19, 2014

New Music Discoveries

Since freeing myself from either listening to Patchwork Cacophony or wanting a break from thinking about music I’ve been immersing myself in new bands and albums. Rather than do a full review of everything I thought I’d just do a quick round-up of things that have been catching my ear recently.

Carise Blanton - Not Old, Not New Hounds of Love Fifty Words for Snow The Star Diaries machines_dream The Man Left In Space Capacitor


News | Ramblings | Releases | December 11, 2014

Patchwork Cacophony Released!

Catchwork Cacophony album coverMy solo album, Patchwork Cacophony was officially released on Monday, and should be available directly from my website and from amazon in various European countries. Wider distribution should follow shortly. It’s also digitally available through the usual channels but I’d strongly recommend that anyone interested gets a copy on CD. Some digital formats (notably mp3) cause gaps between tracks where there’s meant to be a smooth segue. I’m not sure how iTunes’s AAC handles it. If do you prefer digital, bandcamp will let you download it in FLAC format which properly supports gapless play back, but then you’d still be missing out on the artwork…

I feel like I have written more words about it than any other subject but looking at my blog seems to tell another story, so here’s the full story on the album.


Ramblings | November 23, 2014

Patchwork Studios Refit

Patchwork Studios has been my — and Fusion Orchestra 2’s — creative home for about a decade. It’s at the same time invigorating and distinctly unsettling to see it in pieces, being rebuilt in a different shape.
In amongst the cobwebs there are actually cable runs and bits of equipment in here that were wired up for things to do with Spinedance (the band that Col and I were in before we started FO2). I found a set list for one of our gigs amongst the wiring diagrams while I was clearing out, with songs like Billy Jean and Can’t Get You Out Of My Head on the set list (though needless to say, they were quite “alternative” in their arrangement). One of the two computers running the studio has a floppy drive in it. It might be working but I have no idea where to buy disks to check that.


News | Ramblings | November 14, 2014

Patchwork Cacophony updates

After along, long wait, the release date is in sight for my debut album Patchwork Cacophony. All being well, it will be available to buy on the 8th December, though pre-orders will open before then. You can read the publicity material and blurb about the album elsewhere on the ‘net, but here I’m just going to talk a bit about it from a personal perspective as an experience.


Ramblings | March 8, 2014

Reading Music

I can’t read music. Well, actually that’s not quite true. I’ve passed my sight-reading in my piano exams and I do occasionally work through a score when I want to learn something specific note for note, so obviously I must be able to read to some extent. Perhaps it’s fairer to say that normally I choose to believe that I can’t really read music.


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Ramblings | February 1, 2014

Album Of The Year

I’ve often been tempted to join in with the game of posting lists of Top Ten albums or the like, but every time I’ve tried to construct one I’ve found it too difficult. There are too many albums that I love to pick so few, and yet to pick a top fifty would seem a bit pointless. My picks would also change dramatically with mood.

Recently I had the idea that I would, instead, pick an Album Of The Year for every year since I was born. That rapidly got extended to “since 1970” because too many of my major influences date from before I was born.

Having made my list, I’ve realised I’m going to need to allow myself a little latitude as there are a few years where several really important albums were released. Oh, and needless to say this is an exercise in self-indulgence: these are the albums that matter to me, that I listen to regularly now or that marked some musical milestone for me. They are not the ones that I necessarily think should be universally acknowledged as the highlight of everyone’s year.

In any case, I will try to list one every couple of weeks. And so we begin