In August of 2012, Michael MacNeil and I decided to attempt a musical collaboration of sorts at a cottage in northern Nova Scotia. This cottage, perched atop a hill and encircled by pines, sits upon the craggy shores of the Northumberland Strait, the body of water which divides Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Between the two of us, we cobbled together what would become a workable amalgamation of instruments and cabling: a decent preamp, a fairly shitty laptop, a drum machine, synths and midi controllers, monitors, a bass, a guitar, a few ok mics and various percussive elements. I also brought a contact mic with me from Montreal that I bought at a music store in New York. I probably thought it was a pretty cool thing to own. It cost eight dollars. Perhaps I thought I could make something like a Matmos record if I owned something such as that; or, conversely, the next 'Vespertine'. This daydream, unsurprisingly, has yet to materialize.
Anyway, I think all we accomplished over the first night or two was reorganizing furniture to suit our new 'studio', and plugging some things into some other things, all while dyeing our innards a deep crimson with the boxed wine we'd purchased in a neighbouring town. Our 'house red' of choice (it was on sale) was called 'Copper Moon', whose namesake served as a fine substitute for Neil Young's 'Harvest Moon', if you chose to drink enough of it and belt out a vocal homage between swills. (We did.)
Jutting out from the cottage is a wooden deck, on which sits a glass-topped patio table and two green lawn chairs. This provided the perfect setting for sipping wine and whiskey throughout the balmy summer nights, until some daylight would creep out of the ocean and over the tree line, suggesting we finally go to bed. I think it was into the wee hours of the second night when Michael, during a meandering musical conversation, began banging out a rhythm on the glass table top. People have all kinds of ways of communicating music: written notation, numbers (tablature), hand gestures, colours, etc, etc. In our case, I suppose we took the primordial route, like a couple of grunting wino apes. Regardless, this rhythm got me excited, and I rushed inside to grab my contact mic and a sampling keyboard. I taped the mic to the glass surface, pressed record, and the two of us slapped our open palms on the table in unison. This was to become the beat used (with a little massaging) for 'The Awaking Sound'. We built the song around that sample the next morning.
On a different night, what became 'Furry Little Teeth' presented itself to us. From the wooden deck we heard carnivorous shrieks in the trees at the bottom of the hill, followed by intermittent rustlings. In all of my summers spent in that part of the world, I've never heard anything quite like it. It was unnerving. After much speculation (What exactly were these opposing animals? Fox vs. partridge? Hedgehog vs. racoon? A nefarious snake choking an unsuspecting house cat?), Michael recorded a few minutes of this audio on his phone, afterward layering synths and various found sounds.
The photos of us were taken on top of a triangular plot of land overlooking the strait as the sun rose. We'd found our way to the beach with a flashlight and climbed its small peak in the dark. Now in that exact spot there exists a very fancy cottage alongside an in-ground swimming pool. I wonder if the owners have ever looked past the pool from their windows and noticed the entire Atlantic Ocean, glimmering under the sun?
Unfortunately, before we could complete a final mix, my weak little laptop sputtered and stepped over that line beyond resuscitation. Being the extremely intelligent person that I am, I did not back anything up, and all was indeed lost. What we were left with was semi-complete mixes that I had already sent to Michael, which he then mastered, doing what he could with what he was given. No less, these songs and this time are both meaningful enough to both of us to justify sharing them with anyone who cares to lend an ear.
released March 27, 2017
Images by Nicole Aline Legault and Michael MacNeil
all rights reserved