Jun 6 2011

Preview track from the new album & live looping #101

Hello folks,

I thought it was time to let you in on some of the new music I’ve been working on this year. Most of you probably have Mandala by now, or have at least heard it on Bandcamp. And you will of course have checked out the latest Rejectamenta EP, which consists of tracks that didn’t quite fit on the new record but were recorded during the same period.

Yesterday I posted an unmastered preview track from the new record The Knowledge of Things To Come on my Soundcloud page. I had a great response over Twitter and Facebook from a number of people and thought it should be posted here on the blog.

I also thought this would be a good time to talk about what it is I do when I’m playing solo. Many people who bought Mandala have asked me whether I played all the instruments on the album. They were surprised when I told them it was just me playing solo live and I’ve found it is quite difficult to explain to non-musicians the concept and process of live looping without the music in front of me.

So I’ve annotated the track on Soundcloud with their rather useful timed comments utility. This had allowed my to provide you with a running commentary as the track plays through, explaining what is occurring musically and technically in real time.

Here it is…

the music of chance (unmastered preview) by simonlittlebass

Obviously this is one of the simpler tracks from a live looping perspective. A lot of what I do is a kind of musical plate-spinning exercise where I’m both playing and steering the arrangement live with the Looperlative. All the sounds on this track were produced wit the Pod X3 Pro going through the LP1.

The new record should be ready sometime over the next couple of months. It just needs mastering now. I also posted a preview of the album artwork via Instgram last night; got a good response for that too which I was really pleased about. The main image is by the excellent Icelandic photographer Johann Smari and the cover design is my own.

I was lucky enough to be invited by the excellent bassist and educator Lee Pellington (@Guerillabass on Twitter) to give a masterclass at Leicester College on Friday. We talked about what it means to be a freelance session musician and what you need to know to make it on your own. We also talked briefly about the solo bass project and I performed a few short live looping improvisations for the bass players in the morning. So, seeing as we’re looking at the process in today’s blog post, here’s a short video of one of my improvisations filmed that morning. The sound isn’t great and the noise of me pressing buttons is louder that the music, but you get the idea…


Hope you like it. It’s also up on YouTube if you want to share the link. Watch this space for news of the new record. As soon as it’s ready I’ll be sending out advance download copies to a few bloggers and music writers for reviews. If you are a music blogger, reviewer, podcaster or radio host and would like to be included in this select bunch, then drop me a line here and I’ll put you on the list.  Phil and Oliver, you are at the top of the list…

Until next time 🙂

Mar 24 2011

New Solo Record News…

Hello folks,

Thought it was about time I wrote a short post about this new record I’ve been working on over the last couple of months. It’s only fair…

Most of you have heard Mandala by now. Some of you might have the CD. More of you have probably got the download version from here, Amazon, or iTunes. So you know what it is that I do when playing solo. If you don’t, then click the Music tab at the top and have a listen 🙂

I’ve changed my setup quite a lot since Mandala. Both the live rig and the recording setup. I’ve now moved on to Pro Tools and my trusty Mbox 2 Mini; which has finally decided to start working with my LP1. The recorded sound is infinitely cleaner now and having it in Pro Tools will enable me to do so much more in post-production and will also make life a lot easier going to mastering. Just sold the old Toneport UX2 on eBay 🙂

ps. Geek Alert!! Am gonna talk about gear quite a bit here. Sorry to the Duke and TDC fans who’ve unwittingly stumbled upon a bass geek-fest…

I’ve added a Pod X3 Pro and a FBV Shortboard to the live rig which has, to be perfectly frank, revolutionized the whole process for me. I used my Lexicon MPX G2 for the guitar effects on Mandala and got some great sounds. But I could never get the kind of over-processed synth effects I was really after and the UI was an incredible faff to get around; especially during a live performance. I’m still using the Lexicon in the effects loop of the X3. Couldn’t quite live without the great pitch shift effects (which are the mandolin-esque parts on Mandala) and those strange shimmering sparkly noises, but they’re used sparingly…

The Pod X3 is fantastic. The sounds I’m using now are definitely inspiring me to write new material all the time. The presets are all top notch, easily editable and programming new patches from scratch is actually a pleasurable experience rather than a chore. Adding the FBV shortboard to the mix makes it ideal for what I do with live looping; it’s like having a whole bank of complete pedalboards right in front of me. The amp modeling has also opened up the control I now have over the basic sound of the bass as I write new tunes.

So, what’s the new material like? Well, most of the tunes are more organic and less ‘written’ than those on Mandala. I’ve revisited a couple of tunes that didn’t make the last album including Baliset and Go Quietly Now (you can hear the previous ditched incarnations on my Soundcloud page). I wanted this album to be very different sonically to Mandala. I’ve used a lot more ‘guitar’ effects and synth sounds than previously, and I’ve been more precious making any actual ‘bass’ parts sound more punchy and distinct. I’ve also been a lot more experimental with the recording/performance process. I’ve been looping more glitchy sounds, crackling cables and detuned effects to further remove the music from what would obviously be solo bass.

I’ve posted it before on the blog, but here’s one of the early demos again so you have some idea (sorry about the hiss)…

Glitch #1 by simonlittlebass

So far I have ten tracks completed that I’m really happy with. I’m going to continue spending time working on new material until the tunes gel as an album. I might even release the rest of the tracks as an EP around the same time. I’m finding this new looping rig really inspiring and the recording ‘hit rate’ has been much higher than with my previous setup. I’m probably going to release this record just as a download via Bandcamp, maybe adding it to iTunes etc later on. I might be tempted into doing a very short run of limited edition CD copies (100?), but I need to find a way of making it cost effective first.

I’m really excited about this new project. It’s been great working on this alongside the Little Alex material. Having the possibility of using live drums with my looped bass in a separate project has really helped concentrate my solo writing.

Exciting times 🙂

Mar 6 2011

Mandala News…

Hello folks,

This is just a quick update to let you know that my solo album Mandala is now available on virtually all the major music download providers including iTunes, Amazon MP3, Rhapsody, eMusic and Napster. This is thanks to those lovely folks at CD Baby (where incidentally, you can also buy the download!).

Now, CD copies are still only available form my website via Bandcamp, and the best way to help support me and my music is to buy the album from me directly there. I know some people prefer to use iTunes or Amazon and it is for this reason that I’ve submitted the album to these sites. I also really wanted the album to be available on Spotify, which it should be in the next couple of weeks.

Now for a little plea… If anyone who already has the album fancies writing a short review or posting their ratings over on the iTunes or Amazon MP3 sites, that would be much appreciated. Niche music like mine relies so heavily on word of mouth and personal recommendation that any help you can give would make a real difference. If you have any questions on how to go about this, please leave a comment here or contact me on Twitter. Thanks guys 🙂

I have already started work on the follow up to Mandala here at Little Towers. But that is another blog post entirely. I posted a little sketch over at Soundcloud a couple of weeks ago to give you some idea of the direction it’s heading in. Here it is again so you can have a sneak peek..

Glitch #1 by simonlittlebass

If anybody’s in Glasgow at the end of the week, I’ll be playing two shows with Maggie Reilly at The Tron Theatre on Friday and Saturday. These are very special shows as they are the first UK dates Maggie has played in over ten years. Seriously not to be missed. Hope to see some of you there.

Until next time…