Speedbath is Kristin's new 12 track album-to-be, released in-progress one track at a time from November 2007 to October 2008. Final versions are being recorded and art is being finished now — and files will be sent to the pressing plant in early February. This project is entirely listener supported; we've built this album stream as a way to say thank you for all you've done to help make it happen.
Collecting it all in one place like this has shown us just how much can be accomplished with the help and support of this amazing community. Thank you.
Full album download links are located at the upper left of this page, and individual track audio, lyrics, mix stems, and covers can be accessed just by playing a track using the controls to the right.
The music here is yours to download. Please consider making a one-time contribution in the amount of your choice using the form below:
Slippershell Notes: 26 November 2008
Welcome to the sparkly-new CASH Music.
As many of you may already know, CASH is an acronym -- it stands for the Coalition of Artists & Stake Holders. The name indicates just what we're all hoping to build here -- a coalition through which we blur the line that's traditionally stood between creators of content and the consumers of that content.
Just to head off any potential confusion, CASH Music is not "me", or "mine". It's a group of people that have built a framework that is not meant for any single artist. I'm only the first. Look for more artists soon. The next featured artist and a co-founder of the coalition is Donita Sparks. CASH will soon be open to any and all independent artists who want a set of tools to offer their music directly to their audience for collaboration as well as financial support.
We're all stake holders here. We all stand to gain from a productive relationship. Maybe it will help to think of this relationship as a conversation. For instance, I start the conversation by writing and recording a song every month, like the one I'm posting here this month, "Slippershell". You respond by listening & sharing "Slippershell" with others.
Sharing is encouraged, I license my work through Creative Commons. If you're unfamiliar with Creative Commons, do yourself a favor and check out the licenses I use. They're in plain English and provide better, more realistic and rational copyright protection.
Here are some beautiful things from a world none of us remember:
• a folk song is carried across the ocean, altered by the voices which relay it. Chord progressions, lyrics and instrumentation change as the original material is shaped according to different concepts of beauty in sound.
• a blues player walks a song from town to town, playing on street corners, in dance halls, at parties and bars. The song stays when the musician leaves, adopted and adapted to suit various personalities, voices and life stories.
Art is by nature a conversation. I'd like us to make it a community. Think about what you have to offer. Read-only culture is not enough anymore. We'd like you to treat this stuff as read-write. I'd also like to hear your comments on the songs I post each month. I'll read them all and reply too.
What does read-write mean? Maybe as you're listening to "Slippershell", you're inspired to DO something: paint a picture, write an essay, make a video, remix, or even re-record the song. Please do so. And share your work with me and the rest of the CASH community by uploading it somewhere and sending me a link. I'm offering my Pro Tools mix stems to make it easy to work with my recorded material. We will review all the links submitted, I promise. At some point, I'll release the songs I post here in the form of a CD. It's my intention that the CD release should also include lots of the stuff you send me. I think that would be incredible.
What we're doing today is just the beginning. It is in the nature of a share and share alike community to grow. Gradually, over the next weeks and months CASH Music will be revealing it's "real" self. Other artists will be involved, the final and fully-capable site will be launched and new features will be added -- all incorporating your input and creativity. CASH is a community that in the end will be defined by itself.
Here's an ugly thing we all see every day:
• Big business tries to replace your opinions because this makes big business money. But big business isn't me and it isn't you.
Here's something you can do about it:
• Demand substance. Substance in music, in education, in art, in health, in film, in information, in everything. When you find people doing something you like, support that endeavor as an investment in the future of quality output.
CASH asks for your financial support. Please consider contributing or subscribing in whatever amount is comfortable to you. Your money will support not only me and my work but CASH directly, allowing this community to grow and become something to be proud of. A forum for all of us as creative individuals to collaborate, creating "read-write" culture from user-generated content.
This should make for an exceptionally interesting conversation, don't you think?
Torque Notes: 28 December 2007
This song was written under water.
On my last tour, our bus broke down and left us stranded in Idaho for a few days. When my band members and I finally arrived at a hotel, we were at first too dirty and disoriented to mind that we were either trapped in our rooms watching bad t.v. or trapped in the hotel lobby with sports fans and evangelist types. It got old fast, however and so did living on complimentary apples from the front desk.
I took refuge in the pool where it was quiet, swimming laps for days. Under the green, hyper-chlorinated water I began to time trip back to a winter night at Logan airport where I sat on a bench in the cold for hours, waiting to be rescued, as I was doing now. This is how songs work; they take your life stories and mix them up because, like old relatives and unconditional lovers, they really don't care about getting it right, they just care.
When Mudrock suggested we throw a KH solo song down for CASH during the recent 50FootWave recording session in LA, I knew this was the song. Rob Ahler's emotional drumming is somehow wintry, Mudrock's production anthemic without pretense.
In order to reduce file sizes, we've made the mix stems available as lo-res mp3s as well as the normal (but huge) WAV files. Soon, I'll be posting what someone called "sample packs" -- short clips from each of the stems, to make remixing a little easier. Not this month, but soon.
I want to take a second to thank you all for your comments, your financial support and especially the time, effort and creativity shown by those of you who have chosen to post remixes on my "-RW" page. It's been a great first month.
Around Dusk Notes: 24 January 2008
My latest song from "Speedbath" is here. It's called "Around Dusk" and I hope it treats you well.
Now that CASH is a viable entity and not just an amorphous blob floating around in our heads, those of us who work here are becoming increasingly aware of its quieter gifts. I knew this construct was necessary in order for us all to share interesting music, but intangibles like political implications are now sneaking into my world view.
I've always believed that what I do has more in common with the field of research than the field of entertainment. Of course, from the beginning, I knew that in order to reach people with sound, I had to make records and play clubs. Sounds simple, gets ugly.
In order for someone like me, (The Artist) to reach out and grab the Music Business Experts who in turn, reach out and grab someone like you (The Audience), they ask you in not-so-subtle ways to play by the "rules" of the entertainment industry.
These rules are not mysterious, nor are they difficult to follow. In fact, there's only one real rule: be attractive. If you work in the recording industry, you must play attractive music, you must be an attractive human. If you work in the film industry, you must make attractive movies, you must be an attractive human, etc.
The definition of attractive is where we all fall down. Healthy people view it as a melange of sensory, intellectual and emotional input. Healthy people are attracted to music and film -- and humans -- that move us.
The wildly unhealthy entertainment industry views attraction as: easy. That's it. Just like high school! This is how bimbos happen and I don't just mean the Barbie doll kind. Male bimbos, female bimbos, musical and filmic bimbos...a bimbo is anything one-dimensional enough to be taken at face value with no potential for insight or growth on the part of the consumer (oooh...scary...insight!)
Every time Nothing is wrapped in Fashion and sold to the Public, a bimbo is born. Bimbos always make someone money. They're e-e-e-e-easy.
I've watched musicians I loved buy into this insidious phenomenon. The idea that to bring their music to more people they'd need to dumb it down. Whether they believed in their own success or their own failure didn't matter, the end result was the same: something imaginary killed their art.
The "experts" ask, are you a bimbo? If your answer is no, then you flunk the music business and eventually you disappear. If your answer is well...I could be...here's a picture of me 'looking cool'...here's a flimsy song... then you're allowed to share your music with the public. But what music? You dumbed it down! Why bother? For twenty years I lived with this quandary.
Thank you, CASH people, for removing me from that ugly world, for taking our amorphous blob and running with it. I make records, I play clubs, I'm in the music business, but I no longer have to answer to some vague idea of a "market" or demographic. I no longer have to play by the crap rules of the entertainment industry, I only have to answer to my stake-holders.
Now my job is to throw myself, body and soul, into my research and share it with you.
Note: As of this writing, Kristin's CASH subscribers come from 12 different countries on 5 different continents.
"Are You Shore You Can Sell This?" - Illustration by Wyatt True O'Connell (at age 3)
Morning Birds Notes: 26 February 2008
We stopped somewhere in the south on the last tour to put my band in a motel and park our tour bus outside of it. On tour, Billy and I sleep with the dumpsters and the parking lot animals.
I like dumpsters; you can throw garbage in them. And I like parking lot animals 'cause they have a hard time but they make the best of it. They're also fun to watch in the morning while I drink my tea and wait for the band to wake up and bring me oranges and little boxes of cereal from the breakfast bar.
Sometimes parking lot animals are excellent: giant roaches, squirrels, peregrine falcons, snakes. Sometimes, they're just fine, like the morning birds that wake all southerners at dawn. Morning birds (there are many different kinds -- all they gotta do is wake up and start singing in order to fall into this category) remind me of my childhood in Georgia. I love lying on my bus bed and listening to them, wondering where the hell I am.
Except the birds that sang to us this particular morning began singing at a time that was only technically morning, like three minutes past midnight or something. And they sounded awfully...agitated. We spent a restless night hoping they were okay and wishing they'd shut up even if they weren't.
Somehow, they made it into a song.
I especially like the hypnotic repetition in the first part of this track. Each instrument is playing its own loop; only the rhythm guitar and bass are playing together. The resultant cacophony is not as unsettling as you might think, given that your ear learns a bit more of each part as it goes by.
The quiet part, I couldn't make quiet enough. I just pulled instruments out, then pulled out more until I had only sweet/sad left. Something about a "purifying sin" demands a certain amount of respect and, for a musician, that usually means get out of the way.
Speedbath Notes: 23 March 2008
I love to watch musical passages in a song diverge. When the down beat of a melodic phrase falls on a different chord each time it comes around or when listening to the drum pattern and guitar part together feels like doing two math problems in your head at once.
This song is all about half steps and rhythmic skips. It was crazy/exhilarating to play and is crazy/exhilarating to listen to -- at least for me. It's a nice little "yay!" and "f*ck you!" when music shouldn't work but does anyway.
"Speedbath" is the title of one of my son Wyatt's comics. It seemed to fit this song, which has the word "speed" in it (that counts, right?). Both Wyatt and the song are equally wacky, anyway.
Krait Notes: 24 April 2008
Rizzo says this songs is "big". I agree, as it uses big imagery: Garden of Eden, primordial ooze stuff. It goes humanist biblical on your ass, with a little Raising Arizona thrown in.
Which life tends to do too, sometimes. Not a bad way to be here on this planet, really, if you can stay wide-eyed. So far, my eyes are still wi-i-i-de open.
Krait's a happy song, I think, calling children, "the crawling milk-fed", "ids", and asserting their need to be strong in the face of "wasted time" and "naked shame".
The production technique is small-to-big and the sonic vocabulary unrelated to the natural world. A lot of distorted and backwards and run through this or that. But the feel stays organic, which is part of Rizzo's genius.
Static Notes: 27 May 2008
Rizzo and I hit on interesting sonic vocabulary with this one. Somehow, playing this song by myself, I was sounding like a jazz combo. So we played that up with sharp guitar and "room". Room plays loudly on this track.
Which tends to make a song sound like it was recorded live, in a club. This usually helps the listener hear heaviness and sweat and import in the performance.
I find that it's best to leave the track alone at this point, so that nobody begins picturing the fifteen musicians that'd have to be on stage in order to make all this production possible. In other words, once you begin erasing overdubs, you know you got the core presentation right and should just walk away.
Billy thinks Static is about my friend Mark who died last year. I don't know, really, but Billy's usually right. Mark will never seem dead to me, just...gone. I like to think of him tearing down roads in the sun and rain, still having bones and hope.
Moan Notes: 25 June 2008
The last CASH track, "Static", was light shining through a crack in the door. "Moan" flung the door wide open.
This jazz-miked drum kit, warm bass and overheated tubes guitar sound set the stage for a flood of songs in keeping with this recording technique. I don't quite understand the process, but it seems as if songs needing a certain treatment wait in the wings until I'm well-versed in that treatment. Then they come crashing into the room, bumping into me and each other...taking up space and demanding attention.
"Moan" brought to life a fistful of Throwing Muses songs. I honestly didn't think I would ever write another Throwing Muses song. For some reason, I assumed my guitars were only capable of bringing about convenient music. Of course, music is hardly ever convenient. It imagines you have nothing better to do than serve it. It not-so-gently suggests that you refrain from eating and sleeping and paying the rent until you've given it everything it asks for.
Which is fair, 'cause it only asks for physicality and sociability. It needs a body (no matter how long it takes, how much it costs and how many people it takes to get that barn up off the ground!) and then it needs to walk out into the world, wearing its new clothes, so that it can start living its new life. It pays us back in dividends by telling us what it learned out there in the ether, before we met it.
And by letting us play. The other Muses are ready to work. Which is maybe a past life re-visited, but it's also a dream come true. Songs don't know the word "past", anyway. Songs are forever now.
Elizabeth June Notes: 26 July 2008
This is Betty's song...my friend Betty, whose ghost haunts Palm Springs, or at least haunts me in Palm Springs. She died here, lonely. I was too afraid to see her old to go looking for her. But I bet she was beautiful up to and through the end.
Recorded by the great and powerful Ethan Allen, of the late Kingsway studio in New Orleans and the first two 50FootWave records. Ethan worked on Throwing Muses' Limbo, as well as Sky Motel and the Echo single.
Ethan's Royal Triton in LA is a studio full of lovely old mikes, an iso booth jammed with old National Geographics and undelivered Christmas presents, and a control room decorated with tiny gears, bad lamps, broken tools and Ethan's gentle smile.
No drums, no bass per se, though we achieved bass frequencies by dropping one of the acoustics an octave. The track sounds sweet, yet bizarre. Somehow, a B flat crept in, though there's no such note in the chords I was playing. Maybe it's Betty, singing along. Betty sure liked to sing.
The lyrics hurt my feelings 'cause I miss Betty and I missed her end, but I like to think of her sweet, yet bizarre self having only palm trees to answer to, after a life fraught with tension. Bullied by the entertainment industry, she was riddled with insecurity...a great brain, not given a minute to think.
The song says she found some peace.
Mississippi Kite Notes: 29 August 2008
I know I just played this song yesterday, but all I can remember is hearing it pour out of the speakers. I guess because I didn’t stop to think before jumping in. All I had to refer to was a seriously scary piece of notebook paper with Sharpie scribbles all over it.
I fished this out of my bag on the flight back to the U.S. from the Edinburgh Fringe festival, dizzy with the flu, and added fuzzy production notes on top of lyrics on top of chords on top of sheet music on top of rhythm and structural changes. By the time we landed in Newark, it was a mess (Rob Ahlers calls my song notebook “an ugly mind”).
So when Rizzo pressed “record” yesterday, I squinted at my notebook, then just started putting stuff down. I could have fucked this song up real bad.
Mississippi Kite just goes, though; I couldn’t really get it in its way. It’s driven by the lyrics, which is something I rarely say about a song. They’re hot and bothered, as usual, but also woozy: this day as a dream.
Those lyrics got happy over the rhythm section and then I could do no wrong on top, adding some rather delicate overdubs and then stepping out of the way.
A happy feel can still make a sad song, though. Mississippi Kite talks and lists and spits and talks some more, never really shuts up, but ends up only telling you that something’s missing.
Fortune Notes: 27 September 2008
I think Fortune's my favorite Speedbath song yet. Not that I have favorites or anything. It's just such an interesting take on Wonder Bread and the East River and gold, smoking devil people. When I finished writing it, I felt like I'd just met someone who's very cool but too weird to hang out with for an extended period of time.
Recording it at Steve Rizzo's Stable Sound with a CASH meeting going on in the next room, I got to know it a little better, pulling the CASH guys in every now and then to critique an overdub or evaluate my girl-drum levels in a mix. Fortune turned out not to be such a weirdo after all, just kinda spacey. Now I wanna hang out with it all the time. I'm a total sucker for lead bass.
And then it just floats away, which I'm also a sucker for. I'm not normally a lyrics guy, given that I don't talk right or understand human speech, so when Act 2 kicks in with only reverb-soaked melody, spooky and sweet, I feel nicely ...I don't know...let off the hook.
Fortune says it's piece and then wanders out of the room, lost in a zone.
Rubidoux Notes: 26 October 2008
Rubidoux was written in the back seat of Rob's car, somewhere between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Rob drove, Billy and I bought the gas and we all laughed hysterically for about six hours. My face ached from laughing that day.
Bernie wasn't with us, he was up in Seattle and I wanted to include him, so I tried to text him everything that was said, then lost track when the sun went down, fumbling with my phone in the dark. I promised him that 50FootWave's last drive down the coast would not be our last ever. "Watch out for owls," he said before I turned off my phone.
Rob and Billy sat up front, listening to the radio, but Rubidoux played louder and louder in my head until it drowned out the suck-ass songs the boys were dancing to up front. So dark and blue and sweet, this new song seemed to make everything look beautiful. Even the In-n-Out Burger trash on the floor looked good.
Back home in New England, I recorded Rubidoux late at night with Rizzo. In the stillness around midnight, you could hear waves breaking down the street: midnight is dark and blue and sweet at Rizzo's. Still recovering from a bout of laryngitis (the Scotland Sorrow) my voice was creaky and difficult to control, but all the other instruments worked.
Because I'm in California again, Rizzo and I have spent the last few days tweaking the mix via mp3 and telephone. Rizzo's board exploded, was sent away and replaced and we continued to tweak. I'm pretty sure it sounds good now: dark and blue and sweet.