A Snapshot of Ongoing Projects July 2020

“Into the Valley” 2018 by R J Hembree Photography
“Into the Valley” 2018 by R J Hembree Photography

1.) I officially announced the full-length “Asymptote” album in May of last year – sixteen months ago – saying that the all-instrumental album was “a hugely eclectic offering that I hope to release both digitally and on CD later this year” but, obviously, that didn’t happen. The project continued to grow in scope and complexity and I announced in my “2019 Year-End Update” that I intended “to make a trip out to Nashville in April and return with a completed album mixed to the premaster stage” but, again obviously, that didn’t happen either, primarily because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As things currently stand I have all the audio files for fifteen programmed songs on the album and am merely waiting until I am able to spend two or three quality days in Nashville at the mixing console with my co-producer Alex in order to finish things up properly. For the record – and I can’t stress this enough – I am also waiting the physical distribution channels to properly reopen before I complete the album.

These are the fifteen “Asymptote” songs that are already effectively finished, approximately 66 minutes of music, in alphabetical order: “Ameles Potamos” feat Ony (Greg Onychuk); “April Covenant” feat The Unified One (Stephen Speelman); “Brookside Interlude” feat Anne Epperly; “The Chase” feat Jeremy Barnes; “Continuity” feat Gormuzik (Gordo Bennett); “Dream Sequence Gunmen” feat Nazim Chambi; “Emelya Durák” (Емеля Дурак) feat Andrew Negoustorov; “Galactic Edge” (لبه کهکشانی) feat Farzad Golpayegani; “Hephaestus the Cuckold” feat Farzad Golpayegani; “Mister Wizard” feat Jason Cale; “Parallel Play” feat Jason Cale; “Power Curve” feat Jason Cale; “Quicksilberdrachenlied” feat Milt Gore; “Stare Con Te” feat Marco Iacobini; and  “Trompe L’Coeur” feat Nazim Chambi & Anne Epperly. I have two more songs “on deck” for “Asymptote” but at this point I’m not concerned if they’re ready for this album or not.

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Original photo copyright 2019 by Pete Feds Photography

2.) I had always planned on recording and releasing the three song “No Contest” mini EP separately from the “Asymptote” album and in digital-only formats but since production of “Asymptote” was held up we pushed forward with production of the “No Contest” mini EP. As I’ve described them elsewhere, the “No Contest” mini EP is “an eclectic trio of saxophone-driven songs overlaid with hints of jazz, blues, funk – and even a touch of progressive – but are straightforward rock at their core.” All three songs are driven by the superlative saxophone work of Jeff Saunders and all three songs are currently in the capable hands of veteran drummer Jae Sinnett so he can track live drums in place of the current MIDI-generated placeholders. We’re producing the EP locally here in Virginia and there aren’t any restrictions that might affect digital distribution so we fully expect to have the “No Contest” EP out sailing the digital seas by the end of September. Wish us luck.

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“I Kissed a Girl” cover by Randall Lee
via digital manipulation of one of Cara’s original photographs, used by permission

3.) As it will say on the release itself, “I approached Cara Isadora in February 2020 about singing the vocally driven songs of my forthcoming full-length ‘We Are Also the Dreamt’ album, a heavily prog-tinged affair full of operatic and madrigal nuances. During this discussion we discovered that we both had widely diverse musical tastes and decided to record a licensed version of my straightforward rock arrangement of Katy Perry’s 2008 hit ‘I Kissed a Girl’ just to test the waters of our musical compatibility and have some fun doing it.” It’s a harder edged, heavier version of the song than the original and we’ve finished recording all the tracks, including a killer guitar solo and embellishments by the virtuosic Milt Gore. I’ve already purchased all the necessary rights for downloads and streaming. Just like with the “Asymptote” album above, however, I have to wait until I am able to make a brief trip out to Nashville so I can sit at the mixing console with my co-producer Alex in order to finish things up properly. This would be a much briefer trip than the “Asymptote” sessions and physical distribution is not an issue so I hope to make it happen sometime within the next several weeks.

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ALSO IN THE WORKS:

“Hephaestus” digital painting
by Farzad Golpayegani, 2020

If I can make the “I Kissed a Girl” session happen sometime soon, and if scheduling allows for it, I intend to release a preview version “Hephaestus the Cuckold” featuring Farzad Golpayegani from the “Asymptote” album at that time. I will make it available exclusively via bandcamp but there will also be an accompanying video available solely via the Quicksilver Night site.

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In addition to the full-length album, the mini EP, and the standalone single I mentioned above – projects that should all see the proverbial light of day in the relatively near future – I have been also spending a lot of time working on the music for the full-length album “We Are Also the Dreamt” but I don’t plan on beginning the tracking phase of it until 2021, after the official release of the projects I wrote about in the above paragraphs. I also have plans to record and release another cover song with Cara on vocals in 2021 but I’ll keep it under my hat for now. We’re making progress on all fronts, however annoyingly incremental that progress can sometimes seem.  New music is coming soon, I promise.

2019 Year-End Update

…All Things Quicksilver Night

The year is effectively over – as is the decade – and I find myself reflecting on the year gone by and making plans for the year ahead.

Quicksilver Night released the three-song digital-only mini EP “Presque Vu” in May and then an unplugged version of “October Skies” from that EP in November. Featuring Meagan Finning (vocals) and Jason Cale (guitar), Quicksilver Night’s “Presque Vu” is a trio of drivingly melodic songs, progressive but rooted in classic rock with Celtic overtones and Gothic undercurrents. Available at digital outlets everywhere, go to https://quicksilvernight.hearnow.com/presque-vu

Most of my musical activity in 2019 beyond “Presque Vu” centered around the forthcoming “Asymptote” album. I talk further about that project in another section below.

As I posted to my facebook page on December 6th: “Here’s a screenshot from the final slide of Spotify for Artist’s online presentation of Quicksilver Night’s activity for 2019. It’s a nice year-end validation if nothing else. Thank you all for your support!”

By far the largest part of the activity represented by those metrics from the 98K cumulative streams of the “Presque Vu” mini EP that we released in May. I tried several different avenues of Spotify promotion with various degrees of success and I believe I know which of these to pursue with the release of the “Asymptote” album in 2020.

As I posted on November 30th, Quicksilver Night’s 2018 full-length album “Symmetry” album was nominated for a Friday Night Progressive 2019 Indeprog Award in the “Vocals” category and won third place from among a great many more nominees! I was humbly but very pleasantly surprised by this accolade. I’m especially proud of the title track “Symmetry” – featuring as it does the powerful vocals of Jon Boylan and the amazing fretwork of Farzad Golpayegani – and am happy that it was played on several Internet-based radio stations in 2019 and spent some time as my most-streamed song at both Spotify and Pandora.

“Symmetry” is available as a physical CD and download/streaming at multiple digital outlets via this link:  https://quicksilvernight.hearnow.com/symmetry

Check out this excerpt of an amazing photograph “Into the Valley” by my friend Bob Hembree. Taken December 4, 2018 at Monument Valley, Utah, I’ve licensed this photo for use as the album cover of Quicksilver Night’s forthcoming all-instrumental “Asymptote” album.

Work continues apace on “Asymptote”: it is currently programmed to contain 14 songs at a total runtime of 59:01. As of now I have five of those songs essentially finished: “Mister Wizard” (feat. Jason Cale); “Power Curve” (feat. Jason Cale); “Brookside Interlude” (feat. Anne Epperly); “Trompe L’Coeur” (feat. Nazim Chambi & Anne Epperly); and “Hephaestus the Cuckold” (feat. Farzad Golpayegani). I have three more that are very nearly finished and only await final polishing by my collaborators: “Quicksilberdrachenlied” (feat. Milt Gore); “Dream Sequence Gunmen” (feat. Nazim Chambi); and “The Chase” (feat. Jeremy Barnes). I have heard samples of what these guys have done with those songs so far and they are unbelievable across the board.

As to the remainder, I just finished recording my guitars for three other songs: “Emelya Durák” (feat. Andrew Negoustorov); “Essere Con Te” (a working title, collaborator TBA); and “Dorian Gray” (another working title, featuring Jason Cale) and the song “Continuity” is in the capable hands of Gormuzik’s Gordo Bennett. For the record he wrote me on  December 16th “I’ll iron out what I’ve got and work out more solid ideas before I waste your time with it then I’ll send it along for your approval” so I’m greatly looking forward to that. I also have another pair of untitled works currently being spun up at the hands of my co-producer – my friend and invaluable ally – Alex that will be recorded before January is out.

My goal is to make a trip out to Nashville in April and return with a completed album mixed to the premaster stage with one caveat: at that point, after I have everything sounding as good as I can reasonably expect and it’s otherwise ready for mastering, I intend to engage a professional drummer and bassist to re-track the drums and bass for the entire album. I will probably keep the MIDI-driven synthetic tracks but will mix them well-beneath the live tracks where they can provide subtle drive and layering beneath the real drums and bass, more felt than heard.

Also in the works, Farzad and I are in talks to produce a video to accompany the song “Hephaestus the Cuckold”; Farzad is an incredible visual and graphic arts wizard as well as a musical alchemist and the song suggests imagery that naturally lends itself well to Farzad’s surrealist/expressionist stylings. I will make further announcements on this front as they become warranted but at this point I’m fairly certain I want to go ahead with it and I am debating on whether to release the video ahead of the album and exploring the possibility of embedding a copy of the video on the CD itself. We’ll see.

So, to sum up, Quicksilver Night had some small degree of success in 2019 and I’m looking forward to the possibilities 2020 has to offer.  Life is good; have a great year!

“October Skies (Unplugged)”

“October Skies (Unplugged”) is available at digital retailers everywhere via this link:
https://meaganfinning.hearnow.com/october-skies-unplugged

As it says elsewhere on this site, “the ringing crystalline timbre of Meagan Finning’s voice can be found throughout much the Quicksilver Night catalog going back to the beginning…” Featured on Quicksilver Night’s 2019 “Presque Vu” mini EP, “October Skies” is a song about home as a place where one’s bones seem to resonate with the landscape. The original version of this song was plainly rooted in classic rock but with clear Celtic overtones so we decided to record another version using more traditional instrumentation to try and accent these. This unplugged version, just like the original, features Meagan Finning on vocals and Jason Cale’s acoustic guitar but we stripped away everything else and added flute and bodhrán (an Irish frame drum). We then invited the incredible musician Jay Shenk to improvise viola over the entire piece.

Meagan Finning: vocals
Jay Shenk: viola
Anne Epperly: flute
Jason Cale: guitar
Randy Hagin: bodhrán

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jason Cale at Crabhouse Studios Hampton, VA
Music and Lyrics by Warren Russell (ASCAP)
Produced by Jason Cale & Warren Russell
© & ℗ 2019 Quicksilver Night Productions

Explicating “Exegesis”

Topical Then, Relevant Now … or is it?

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

– (generally attributed to) Edmund Burke


Exegesis (from the Greek ἐξήγησις from ἐξηγεῖσθαι ‘to lead out’) is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text.

Quicksilver Night’s 2015 album Reliquary touched upon several subjects that might seem atypical, depending on your personal listening proclivities, and the song “Exegesis” is an example of one such. In general terms the song “Exegesis” is a broad message of warning at our societal predisposition to manipulate the props on the geopolitical stage with all of the attendant jingoism and scapegoating that energizes the process. History plainly shows where this often leads yet we blithely move ahead, unwilling or unable to discern the likely consequences of our meddling.

The first verse speaks to the process by which we look the other way as our civil liberties erode under the steadily rushing stream of “national security” and we compromise our societal values in service to some titular “patriotism”.

So expedient, slowly deviant…
Though subordinate, we all compromise…
Inarticulate, we still recognize
shadows rising…

The second verse refers to the unforeseen consequences of imperialistic meddling with sociopolitical dynamics in an environment where fanatical religious fundamentalism and/or deeply ingrained ethnic and sectarian resentments were suddenly liberated after simmering under decades of systemic oppression. To those unfamiliar with history it might seem that I was solely referring here to the rise of the nominal Islamic State but it goes far beyond that to encompass any number of historic events that can be characterized as having been thusly catalyzed.  For the record here, the Latin Hic sunt dracones (literally “here there are dragons”) is the warning on medieval maps about unknown dangers in an uncharted territory.

Protest innocence, ghosts of ignorance…
Bread on depths obscured, what do we dare bait?
Sinking unobserved, Hic sunt dracones
Pearls cast to swine…

Historically a scapegoat is an animal that would be symbolically burdened with of sins a community and driven away into the wilderness, carrying those transgressions away with it. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – Latin for “Who watches the watchmen?” or, perhaps better, “Who guards the guards themselves?” – is indeed the long-standing admonition to be wary of those in positions of unrestrained power.

So vicarious, martyred surrogates…
Drive the goat away (Quis custodiet…)
Blind, the sheep remain (ipsos custodes?)
Bleating the lines…

Marching in time…
Soft chime the bells…
Straight into hell…

I felt a strong desire to add some sort of summarizing paragraph but I sort of think what I’ve already presented here stands on its own and if it doesn’t then, rhetorically, what more could I possibly add anyway?

…except perhaps look around you and consider whether or not it might be happening now.

Non-Musical Elements in Song Production

The Word of the Day is “Ambience” 🙂

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was perhaps the seventh or eighth album I’d ever gotten in my young life (long ago, yes) and had a huge impact on the way I listened to music and my understanding of what popular music could be in terms of content and production. An element of this that I’d long ago internalized was the use of spoken voices and ambient sounds to enhance the message of the music whether this noise is beneath the music, almost subliminal, or if it is prominent enough to obscure the music itself. There are other albums in the Pink Floyd discography that I could use as a reference here – as well as numerous other artists that also have used these techniques to great effect – but I refer here specifically to Pink Floyd primarily because Dark Side of the Moon laid the conceptual foundation in my head and also because I imagine that the music of Pink Floyd is familiar to most people and the best possible touchstone for this blog entry.  I once saw a snippet of video documentary in which Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour said something about how his band mate Roger Waters would not hesitate bury a musical moment underneath factory noises and the like if he thought it served the song.  It has stuck with me ever since.

I’d be a fool to try and deny the Pink Floyd influences across my catalog as Quicksilver Night because it’s self-evident throughout much of it but I think it’s doubly apparent when it comes to the song “Homecoming” from the Presque Vu mini EP. If you listen you’ll likely be struck by an overall gospel-like quality to its main themes – and I hope this is the case because it was intentional – but there comes a point when the tonality shifts to B minor (around 2:39) and the song assumes a deeper melancholy as the plaintive piano sounds while the pastor intones gentle words of hope and comfort. These words and the solo piano are soon overtaken by powerful chording and an insistent solo guitar that fairly drowns out everything else. As composer and producer I meant for a guitar solo – as it is wonderfully played here by Jason Cale – to evoke the sense of mental cacophony that obliterates all the sympathies and words of condolence that are heaped upon us at such times. The first verse lyrically touches upon that same thought; if you’ve ever sat numbly at a memorial service while well-intentioned people offered you half-heard words of consolation then you know exactly what I mean.

Rain whispers softly graveside, mute and yet unrelenting
(Echoes in your head, meaningless and so confused)
And you hear the words spoken from a page (makes no sense at all…)
Lines from an actor on the stage, curtains fall…

Stand in the open doorway; breathe of the dust and shadow
(And then say good bye to the ghosts that fill this room)
With your hand on the lines that marked you grow (turn and walk away…)
Mind on a child you used to know, yesterday…

Paint spatters on the carpet, free by a careless brushstroke
(Searching for a sign of what lies hidden here)
Like new skin covering those old dead scars (layered, buried deep…)
Thin, and you know just where they are, underneath…

As an aside I’d like to add that an acquaintance of mine experienced the loss of a loved one contemporaneously to his hearing this song and it resonated with him enough so that he played it on his podcast and quoted the lyrics with a catch in his throat. I’m still not quite sure how to feel about that; I was unaware of the timing and feel somewhat badly about it in spite of his assurances that no harm was done. Still, admittedly, it seems to me that there’s universality to the experience that I hope I’ve tapped into as a songwriter.

If you’re interested in perhaps checking out other such instances throughout the Quicksilver Night catalog then here’s a list of most (I likely missed something, TBH):

Symmetry (2018)
“The Symmetry Overture” (track 1): children at play
“Quicksilver Night” (track 3): a Sudanese camel market
“The Ship of Theseus” (track 4): waves and wheeling gulls
“Child of Spring” (track 8): ticking clocks

“Exeunt” (single, 2016): traffic

Reliquary (2015)
“Ultima Forsan” (track 1): ticking clocks
“Sojourner” (track 3): footsteps
“Exegesis” (track 4):  rain, distant thunder, church bell, sheep, & birds

Lucent (mini EP, 2012)
“Again the Cusp” (track 3): desolate winds

Some are more original than others, admittedly, while some are almost de rigueur in progressive rock (e.g. a ticking clock to evoke the passage of time, etc.)