This one grew out of an intriguing paragraph in Geoff Dyer’s The Ongoing Moment, in which Dyer noted that nineteenth-century photographic streetscapes often have a haunting, bereft quality partly because the long exposure time required meant that evanescent figures in the camera field – such as people – were simply not there long enough to register: only the buildings and streets remained. (The passage is on page 217 of the Pantheon hardcover edition.) The first verse (which, quite intentionally, is one long sentence) is drawn from ideas in that passage. Then I had to figure out what to do with it.
A few random details: this is, I think, only the second song I’ve recorded with no outside samples at all. Almost everything you hear is, in its origins at least, an acoustic guitar – in fact, the same, single track of an acoustic guitar, manipulated a zillion different ways. The solo was cut and pasted from a single sawtooth wave generated in my music software, sped up and cut to size and assembled into the solo, then sonically gone over brutally with the digital fuctwithizer. It might have been easier to learn to play it, even if only at half speed. The rhythms are tricky though. I had two models for the solo: architecturally, the long solo in the middle of Television’s “Marquee Moon,” which is essentially a four-minute elaboration of a D-major scale rising up over a couple of octaves; and in feeling and effect, Robert Fripp’s solo in Brian Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire,” which alternates between long, becalmed notes and frenzied, firefly-like jottings of chaotic excitement. The bridge background is a mix of voices (eight of ’em, four voices doubled) and keyboard flute (the same four parts, plus a bass mostly an octave lower). The flute was originally recorded off the cuff as a guide for the vocal parts, but I got used to hearing it as a placeholder while I was doing the rest of the track, and liked it (it reminds me of the flutes in Mogwai’s “Fear Satan”), so I just mixed it in with the vocal backdrop. The song also features a ShopVac and a table saw, both speed-altered to (approximately) an A. (As I said, even more geekly music talk is here.)
Monkey Typing Pool “Victorian Photographs” (December 2007)