Report from Solstice Cave: collabs, film, ads, more

A busy and fascinating few months at the Soundscape Cellar and Drone Factory. When you don’t hear from me for a while you can guess I’m either traveling or holed up making music. This time it’s the latter. In May I spent a week doing sound design for the sort of movie I prefer not to watch, a zombie film called “Deadgirl” that should debut in September at the Toronto Film Festival in their Midnight Movie lineup. Not my cup o’ meat, but I still had fun making rumbling and scraping sounds, for the composer and editor to mold to their B-movie needs.

Immediately after the film work, I prepped a bunch of new sounds for KFJC’s Day of Drone, which went off quite well. I have a recording of the 80 minutes that I played, and it sounds interesting enough that I might release it one of these days. In fact, it might form part of a series of download-only live concert releases that could see the light later this year.

Fresh from the Day of Droning I entered the rarified landscape of corporate identity, and created some sound design for an advertisement flaunting the new HP Touchsmart computer. I also mixed the ad, which makes use of an old song by Joan Jett. I then threw together a 15 minute ambient piece to entertain the theater audience in Berlin, who would be waiting for the start of HP’s big product unveiling event.

Finally, I cleared away the lucrative part of my schedule, so I could dig more deeply into a collaboration with Faryus (Andrey Sodovnikov) of Faria records in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He sent me about two hours of interesting drones several months ago, and after I assembled them into a flow that felt like the framework for an album, I set aside the project to tackle other duties. I dedicated the remainder of June to finishing this album, and I’m getting close. Comparisons? Similar to “Stalker” or “Below Zero” in energy, perhaps more blurry, quite haunting and beautiful in parts, deeply layered but hovering near the shadows. Title: “Zerkalo” – Russian for “Mirror”. Yes, there’s a Tarkovsky film by that name. Makes sense, considering the Russian connection. You’d think I liked Tarkovsky or something. “Zerkalo” should come out as a limited edition in Russia, and I’ll have 300 copies to sell here.

Not far from Saint Petersburg, Riga Latvia sounds like an unlikely place to perform at the end of August, but it appears to be happening. I haven’t seen my airplane tickets yet, but it’s looking likely that I’ll play at the Opera House in Riga on Saturday August 30. Could be I’ll arrange a drop in St. Petersburg for a small show as well, if I can work out the visa situation (postscript edit – looks more difficult than I thought.)

If that’s not enough, I’ll start teaching a semester-long course on audio mastering at nearby Cogswell College this Autumn, so I’m writing a syllabus in my spare time. This is my first time teaching an entire course. I’ll get some practice in mid-July when I give a short talk in San Francisco on just intonation, at a Leonardo Society meeting. It might sound strange, but I’m looking forward to these chances to increase my skills at public speaking.

Recent mastering jobs in the last month have included new releases by Ben Fleury-Steiner and Forrest Fang. Next week I plan to record some visiting South Indian classical musicians, and maybe a just intonation harpsichord performance at the end of the month. I’m always happy to put my ear on someone else’s music besides my own: a relief at times. In the meantime we’re picking fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and beans from the garden, the apricots and figs are starting to ripen, and our ’07 Mercurius Cabernet and Syrah are aging nicely in barrels down in the basement. Life is good this summer. Glad to be staying home.

By the way, have you ever heard the Manchester band “Elbow”? Bloody amazing. I saw them live in San Francisco last month after being introduced to them only a few months previously. I’m listening to them as I write this. Great song-writing makes me REALLY happy. Music this good made me want to try doing Amoeba 15 years ago, and I’m still a huge fan of thoughtful beautiful songs. Thank you, Elbow!

Signing out for now – Robert Rich