Unwavering Sentinels of Dreaming is my pandemic record. Don’t worry, it’s not about the pandemic. It’s also short. When I was travelling around the world in 2018, I wrote and recorded the 40-song Year of The Bird collection, eight months into lockdown and I’ve managed 4 songs and an instrumental.
Much of the EP was written on 7- and 8- string guitar. If you’re not a guitar nerd, it’s probably enough to know that “normal” guitars have six strings, and that 7- and 8- string guitars are usually played by metallers who add lower-pitched strings to their arsenal to get a deep, “chuggy” sound. That’s a technical term. Anyway, I didn’t do that exactly, but I did use low strings to create bass guitar-like tones. Guitar nerds might be interested to know that I tuned my 7 string Charlie Hunter-style: G C F c f a# d, with bass flatwounds and regular strings; the 8 string was tuned EADadgbe, but it didn’t make it into any of the final recordings because it was too hard to play.
I’m not really sure why I wrote and recorded these songs on extended range guitars, apart from to see what would happen. In the end I diverged a bit – all of the tracks have additional instruments (acoustic guitar and/or synths), and the lo fi hip hop track is all done in software. But the other tracks feature one track of 7 string guitar, voices, some have a track of acoustic guitar and/or drums and synth, and that’s it.
Of all the tracks, Many Moons (it has a video that I made for it that you should watch, you are gonna love it) leans least on the 7 string. It’s much more focussed on the acoustic guitar. It tells a lightly science fiction story of a scientist marooned far from home, making her life in an isolated fishing village work, whilst never quite giving up hope of being reunited with her loved ones.
I’m Not Locked In Here With You, You’re Locked in Here With Me sounds very lockdown-focussed, but (beyond the Watchmen-quoting premise), isn’t really about being stuck at home. I just find it weird that there are so many police procedurals on TV, and statues of terrible people around. Musically, it’s the most simple – with just a Novation circuit, one 7 string guitar part, and my voice. The thing that sounds like a bass plus an organ is a 7 string with a Leslie effect – another trick I stole from Charlie Hunter.
The Night of The Comet is partly for musical podcast pal Jenny Owen Youngs, who has been forced to endure a million messages from me about extended range guitars. It also tells a story of a real thing that happened over the summer (unrelated to Jenny) through a fantastical lens. I like the way it shifts from a Cuban-inspired verse (Marc Ribot is to blame for that) to a more electro/poppy middle 8 – those weren’t styles I’d instinctively put together, but they gel for me.
Lo fi microtonal hip hop beats to chill out and/or study to does exactly what it promises, admittedly for a short time.
The EP’s title track, Unwavering Sentinels of Dreaming, was inspired by Los Angeles, and people’s journey to the big city, and then to an even bigger city with palm trees looming over them in a weirdly implacable way. This was the only track conceived before lockdown – although the actual writing took place in March. It was also the first proper song I wrote on 8 string guitar – although, as aforementioned, it was recorded on 7 string in the end.
I hope you like the EP – I hope it’s sweet and distracting for a little while. If you’re reading this, then thanks for reading this far, thanks for your continuing support – please do consider buying the EP on Bandcamp, where you can buy other music I’ve made, and get a discount when you get the full digital discography. Or at your favourite music place. But if you can’t, or don’t want to do that, I hope you enjoy listening – if you like it, pass it on.