By general consensus this seems to be the least favoured
of my solo albums. I'd have to agree that some of the
playing, recording and sound choices seem a bit clunky to me
these days as well. Nonetheless this is an absolutely
crucial set of recordings in terms of my development and
it's safe to say that if I had not undertaken them in
exactly this way and with this result much of my subsequent
work would not have come about.
In the preceding records - "Skin", "And Close as this" and,
indeed, "Spur of the Moment" I'd been introduced to the
world of sequencing by Paul Ridout, who was working as a
programmer at the time. (These were the days when such a
role - being in charge of everything MIDI - was the preserve
of specialists.) After these experiences I realised that
this was the way of the future and that I'd better get on
that learning curve PDQ.
At this time my computer was an Atari and the software
Pro-24 by Steinberg. In today's terms very primitive, but
quite enough for me to be getting to grips with then.
Evidently I didn't go full pelt into ONLY using sequences -
guitars crop up all over the place on these recordings - but
I believe that they were, effectively, the backing track for
each piece here. Control, I thought; but I had not yet
learnt to loosen the grip on those controls and this is what
leads to a certain squareness in the results.
My biggest mistake here lay in the rhythm tracks. They
simply don't groove, I'm afraid, and I stick my hand up in
full acknowledgement of the fact. I might also, perhaps,
have varied the instrumentation more than I did; but at this
point I was interested in using a specific musical palette
and this led to a certain uniformity of sound.
Enough of the negatives - I was learning all the time,
particularly in the area of putting together keyboard and
guitar parts into a structured whole, and the continuing
evolution and importance of Backing Vox. Indeed, I was also
crash-coursing my way though string arrangement (Time to
Burn"). David (Lord) was going to do it, but ran out of
time, so the responsibility (and fear!) fell on my
The songs are a diverse set. Several are "socially
connected" - the only time my writing has veered in this
direction apart from the "Future Now"/"pH7" era. Some are
very personal - "Time to Burn" is something of a goodbye to
Tony Stratton-Smith, who died just prior to this; "This
Book" and "Auto" are, effectively, vignettes from my days of
Both "This Book" and "Smile" are covers. The latter is a
Herbert Gronemeyer song which I translated, the former one
of the Miguel Bose pieces; this is not a translation as such
because I worked up these lyrics from scratch and they were
then translated into Spanish and Italian for his
Other stuff: a long overdue hommage to M. Shakespeare and as
always a couple of mystery/identity/memory pieces,
"Invisible Ink" and "Under Cover Names".
One of the things which pops up on these recordings and
which was later developed (apart from the method of
recording) is the attempted use of systems music in an
emotional way; most noticeable on "Hemlock" and "Invisible
Ink" but present in other songs as well.
There you have it. Not the pinnacle of achievement or even
of performance but, as I've said, an absolutely crucial
staging post along the way.
Final incidental notes: both photographs are in Italy...the
swimming pool in Tuscany and the view down onto the stage in
Rome, taken by Armando Gallo.
Later notes: several people have intimated that I'm being a
bit harsh on myself/this album here...that there are good
songs on it and that the instrumentation and recording style
were of its time. I'm in agreement with this and don't mean
to give the impression that I'm disowning these recordings.
As I've said above, without making them I would not have
been able to continue along subsequent paths.
It seems to me, though, that if anything I should err on the
side of harshness in these self-critical evaluations...with
the proviso that it all made sense to me at the time and
continues to do so, if differently, today. It wouldn't be
helpful or informative for me simply to say "These are all
marvellous", would it? Even though they are....