Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
New album finished.

New album finished.

Back in March of 2022, I started to mull over making an album of music.

Already at that point I’d made enough music to fill an album. But those tracks were conceived and delivered as bits and bobs, in whatever style I felt most connected to at the moment. I was learning a lot about synthesizers — all their mysterious workings, their byzantine functions, the mystifying acronyms. I now could tell a VCA from an LFO. The power of modulations, the subtle beauty of oscillator drift became familiar. This is how I whiled away COVID time in 2020 — with bleeps, bloops, squares, saws, cutoffs, resonances, envelopes, noise generators.

Although I never had the chance to learn piano, I could plunk out basic stuff with two hands. Now I had a way to turn my rudimentary skills into vast orchestras, sweaty 1980s neon tangerine dreams of Vangelis. I was in heaven!

I decided to try to build some music around a theme. What’s more thematic of 1980s style synthesizers than the sophomoric trope of outer space travel? NOTHING, that’s what. So I started inventing places to go in an imaginary spaceship, unbound by relativity or even basic logic. I’d find a riff I like, build drum patterns, and decide that’s the sound I wanted. The sound of visiting the red dwarf star nearest our own solar system; a young, blue supergiant couched in a brilliant nebula; or the decrepit, ancient star called Methuselah that’s lived as long as most of the entire universe.

I also made some more ambient, cinematic pieces that sounded more majestic or ominous. One of these was literally the last piece I wrote for the album just a couple weeks ago. This ambient track, The Long Sleep, was about an intrepid explorer’s decision to undergo cryogenic suspension for a thousand thousand years in order to travel far enough to see things from which he would never return to describe to another human being.

Along the way I ditched some material as well. I’m still learning how to edit myself. Most of what you create as you learn is terrible. But it’s said that it’s important to keep creating, and throwing away helps you make room for more creation. You’re blowing the debris out of the pipes. While I don’t believe the survivors will necessarily stand the test of time, I feel like discarding some of what I made means I’m doing my job as an artist, trying to improve and weed out the absolute crap from the only marginally crappy.

I ran out of gas at the end of 2022 for numerous reasons, including dealing with how to rejuvenate the live band I’m in. Then when our dog Dixie died in February I didn’t really want to create anything for several months. But eventually I did go back into the studio to generate new weird bleeps and bloops, and that led to some more ideas, and soon the proverbial hopper was full of things I’d made and didn’t hate.

I ended up with twelve tracks which which I was relatively happy. Or rather, happy enough to let them go and internalize the most tragic and rewarding lesson of art, that you only abandon, you don’t ever truly finish. That was my intention: to abandon my tracks on the public doorstep of streaming services so I could move on to work on new things. No wonder artists are often such terrible parents.

So these twelve pieces are now a new album by my electronica alter ego Stickster, which I decided to call Leaving the Cradle. Not only a blindingly obvious reference to space travel, it also winks at being a creator in (to be overly generous) late bloom. A half a year late, but it’s still a goal attained, my first full length creation. I can’t worry at this point whether it’s good or not — because it’s on its way to streaming services now. No takebacks. Okay, sure, I could pull it back if I got cold feet. But it already feels like an artifact of the past. I’ve already left it behind, small and irrelevant, shrinking against a backdrop of stars in the rear-facing camera as the spaceship thunders on through the unknowable void toward some other interstellar phenomenon.

(The first single is available through many streaming services now — some are linked here.)

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