1 hour ago
BEHIND THE SCENES FROM THE FLOOD - SWEET WATER: For those of you who noticed that “Sweet Water” sounded like something from an earlier album of mine, you were right! There’s a certain archetype of song that served as the title track to my two previous records. “View” and “Thanks In Advance” are both slow, sensitive guitar ballads, and the closing chapters to the stories of those albums. So I thought that, considering “Sweet Water” is about being on a long plane ride at the end of an even longer journey, and daydreaming about a) a wistful vision of finally going home again, and what a relief and how awesome it will be; b) a deeply reflective look back on the events that brought it all to this point, and perhaps even further back than that… I thought it would be interesting to evoke the sound of those earlier songs, now over ten or even fifteen years old. That’s why the artwork is literally a postcard of that vision, the peaceful return to home after an epic voyage. But can you really go home again after something like that?
This will be a bit a long, but we’re at the moment of truth here, so I hope you’ll indulge me.
I’ve talked a lot in previous posts about Guthrie Govan (Official)’s incredible performance on this song, and how hard we worked to get it (ICYMI: it took months!). The only thing I’d add in terms of why it had to be him: Who else could rise to the challenge of being the sole melodic instrument to follow the massiveness of “World Class”? Or using a sports analogy, it’s the NBA Finals and you’ve got one shot to win it all. And you’ve got Michael Jordan. Do you give him the ball or not? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
But let’s not forget about Joe Travers’ incredible groove and emotionally charged fills on this song, especially in the ending (we’ll get to that in a bit), and Mike Keneally’s double-tracked acoustic guitars. I wrote those parts on keyboard (we actually kept them as a second layer in the background), and sometimes it takes a virtuoso to track something that sounds simple, but actually isn’t.
And yes, that’s me on the lead guitar in the ending. At first I was embarrassed to follow up Guthrie with climactic lead guitar bits, but it turned out that the shift in the song’s final minute actually wanted a different lead voice to help change the scene, so to speak. And it worked emotionally as well (more on that crucial bit below). So I got used to it and ended up keeping it. Thanks again to Forrester Savell for skillfully re-amping those tracks - they needed every ounce of love, I can assure you!
Now, let’s talk about this song’s ending, because it’s where the whole album has been leading to from the very first minute. As I said to Forrester more than once about this part: These 30 seconds are the whole ballgame.
I knew from early on that, eventually, the end of the album would reprise the melody of the very first track, “The Scouring Of Three & Seventeen”. And I had the song “Sweet Water” in my back pocket from early on as well. I even had most of “Let Go Of Everything” (the last track) in advance. What I didn’t know was exactly how it would find its way from where the “Scouring” reprise comes in (at 6:41) to the start of “Let Go”. The total duration of this key bit is 30 seconds. I purposefully saved it for the final move of the writing process, and it was the very last thing I composed for the album in any harmonic detail. I even almost made those 30 seconds a separate track, but I thought that would be giving the game away, so I thought better of it.
I know I’ve been talking a lot about Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, but at this crucial point, in terms of album structure, I was thinking deeply about Yes’ “Tales From Topographic Oceans”. For those who missed it, I’m a big fan of that album’s massive scale - four songs, 20 minutes each - but felt very deeply that Yes did not compositionally stick the landing in the album’s final minute. I get what they were going for at the end of the final song, “Ritual”. It’s a twisting series of chords that builds to a massive climax, one that doesn’t go where you think it will, and instead ends on a minor chord, and leaves you feeling disquieted. But the chords in the buildup, to me, were a strange random harmonic jumble, and the come-down just dissolves into an anti-climactic nothing. With a bit more cohesion and care, it could have worked, but somehow it just didn’t. And quite arrogantly, I always thought to myself: I wish I could have heard the “right” version. As crazy as it sounds, that was my goal as I sat down to write the climax of my entire double concept album - to make mine work by honoring the spirit of what I thought the end of TFTO should have been!
So I reached back to the very beginning of my musical training - classical piano - and imagined what it would feel like to have a feeling of “ascension while twisting”, as if you were being lifted up into the heavens by a whirlwind, experiencing euphoria, but also while blinded and disoriented. This would symbolize the protagonist’s internal feeling of almost reaching home, at long last, where everything is Right Once Again.
I sat at the keyboard with a C3 organ patch dialed up, started where the “Scouring” melody ended, plunked my left hand down onto a low octave, and began constructing voicing after voicing, one by one, with the bass note ascending and the upper chord changing and twisting each time, knowing that I somehow needed to get to B minor in the end, and that the final twist should feel like a traumatic shock, not a letdown.
It took four days of hours-long sessions, walking away, coming back, waling away, coming back...and finally, I felt I had it. Then I arranged everything else around the organ part - the acoustic guitar arpeggios, the high choral chords, the lead guitar breaks (kept from this original demo writing session), the higher melody guitars pinging the octaves, and then the drum part, which I programmed in exacting detail (god bless Joe Travers for playing it hit for bloody hit).
And finally, in one last nod to “The Wall”, I threw an explosion effect on the song’s final massive downbeat, the connection between the end of “Sweet Water” and the start of “Let Go Of Everything”. Because why the hell not.
What does this massive crestfalling mean for the story of the album? And for the more meta-meaning of the listener’s experience of hearing a progressive double concept album make this hard screeching turn in the 85th minute? I’ll address that in the explainer for the final song. ... See MoreSee Less
21 hours ago
Bryan Beller shared a post.
1 day ago
Well, will you look at this... 😉
(I didn't get a chance to scribble "this is magenta now --->" on my goatee for this graphic, but you get the idea.)Hi ASIA! We’re coming back to you this June-July 2020! Stay tuned for more news / dates in a couple of weeks. ... See MoreSee Less
2 days ago
EDIN-BRAH: Thanks for a great show last night in your fine city. You are very loud. I think my ears are still ringing just from the crowd response! We're currently driving in the Aristo-van (yes, a van) from Edinburgh to Manchester, and we're all fans of the beautiful green rolling Scottish hillsides on the road out of town. The sheep seem to like it as well. There are many of them.
So it's on to Manchester, then. Is it appropriate to say that we're mad for it? (Guthrie says yes. Who am I to disagree?) Hope to see you there.
(crossposted from The Aristocrats page) ... See MoreSee Less
Bryan Beller shared a post.
4 days ago
I've woken to the terrible news that Lloyd Schwartz of Tech 21 NYC passed away, apparently unexpectedly and suddenly just after the NAMM Show concluded. Lloyd and Dale Krevens were two of the very first people I ever worked with in the industry regarding artist arrangements for gear, and they helped me get an original rackmount SansAmp PSA-1 in 1994, which I *still* have and use! One of my favorite moments of every NAMM Show would be coming over to Tech 21's booth, seeing Lloyd's smile through that huge beard of his, and checking out the latest fun stuff. Recently it was the dUg Pinnick signature amp, and I played the intro to "Out Of The Silent Planet" like a giddy fool while Lloyd watched and grinned.
I know many folks literally *just* saw and hung with him at NAMM. For all of the reasons I'm sad to have missed NAMM this year, this is the biggest. RIP, Lloyd.With heavy hearts, we regret to inform you our beloved colleague, friend and music industry legend, Lloyd Schwartz, passed away last night. At this time, we do not have information regarding funeral or memorial arrangements. Kindly understand we will be unable to answer any questions. Lloyd was an integral part of our family for 27 years and we are devastated. ... See MoreSee Less
BEHIND THE SCENES FROM THE FLOOD - "SWEET WATER": The record's penultimate track & final complete "song" ties the 85th min. of this progressive double concept album back to its 1st, & then takes a hard screeching turn at the last moment. Words: (top post) https://t.co/W0IOfDDsyy
Super fun hang with Scott Devine of https://t.co/s0YaVE84tz this morning in Manchester! At some point we’ll share our fun with the interwebz. 👍🤘
Well, will you look at this...
Hi ASIA! We’re coming back to you this June-July 2020! Stay tuned for more news / dates in a couple of weeks. #thearistocratslive #asiatour