when the things that heal us hurt us and the things that hurt us heal us came from grief and loss.
The songs were written over the second half of 2017 and were recorded and produced in early 2018 with the assistance of both Creative New Zealand and personal donors.
The dominant themes of the album were fragility, collage (making things up as we go, creating a picture from seemingly unrelated items) and the sense of being paralysed to the spot unable to create lasting momentum in life. Much of the techniques used in the production of the album were informed by these themes.
The aim of the recording process was to capture the sense of fragility before the songs became too polished or rehearsed so in many instances vocal recordings were done in first take in order to allow the uncertainty of the vocal parts to come through (Catch and Release).
A whole song (That Sun_That You) was written as it was recorded, being built up from the slow addition of new and unknown parts. Both the melody and lyrics were composed on the spot which explains why some sentences are hard to make out at the beginning, coming from an instinctive burble.
A prominent feature of the album became the processing (reversal, pitch-shifting) of the vocal parts which were then chopped and assembled in a collage-like fashion through songs (Molybdenum, Remnants, Ghost in My Mind).
The ideas of motion and the processing of emotion, the spine, mechanisation and evolution, were expressed through the use of sound recordings of pulleys and rail cars. Disconnection, loneliness and memory were conveyed through electrical signal and highly processed voices to give a sense of a ghostly, ungraspable presence. The torments of the mind become unintelligible, insistent, dislocated voices.
These corporeal, physical sounds sit alongside the beautiful plaintive melodies that portray loss and a resultant paralysis to the spot as a result. Minimal instrumentation and the presence of breath bring a sense of space and an embodiment where both the hurt and healing are experienced.
The songs were beautifully accompanied by Tim Jaray on bass/double bass, and Rick Cranson on drums/percussion. They were recorded and mixed by Lee Prebble at Surgery Studio in Wellington and mastered by Mike Gibson.
In a year of withdrawal from the world, I turned to homeopathy, therapy, journalling, collage and songwriting as a way of getting through grief and for coming to a new understanding of the impact of childhood loss. Through this process, I wrote songs as a response to the images and metaphors that resonated strongly with me.
The songs became a way of telling a story back to myself and allowing the understandings I gained to develop over time. They are largely placed on the album in chronological order and are curated much like a visual exhibition.
Grief, loneliness, despair are oddly universal and yet deeply personal experiences. No one can truly go to the same place as the person in the throes of their own pain. My journey through them came to rely on any image, quote, thought, picture that didn’t necessarily make any logical sense but resonated somehow.
This new album gathers not just my own personal heartbreaks but the various creative methodologies I’ve used and appreciated over time. Through images and symbols of conveyor belts, Russian dolls, turnstiles, and creatures of the deep, I’ve allowed myself to move through the world of metaphor. I stuck pictures up on my wall and I mined them. The pictures became collages, and the collages gave way to songs. The songs gave me the sense that the deepest parts of me had been heard.
Without realising it, I was recreating a collage my former partner had given to me, but the images were now transforming and taking on new meanings.
Hence an underwater flower stem became the polyvagal nerve (lessons in the importance of connection and soothing each other). The fish became cowfish.
Butterflies became hip joints, the erotic underwater lily became the liquid metal molybdenum and I learned the importance of desire as a force for my own agency and connection in the world.
Ever since my parents’ separation and having abruptly left my home, I had felt unable to create forward momentum in life. Instead I had the feeling that I was constantly turning on the same spot.
The final song (Remnants) written and appearing on the album was the culmination of this process, the ‘epiphany’ if you like. It was a powerful instance where the meaning of the song only made itself known to me after I had written it.
The power of creativity lies in the ability of the subconscious mind to make connections that can bring about new understandings and ways of looking at the world. What better way to walk through this life, than to be able to catch various synchronicities, coincidences, and resonances as our very own tailor-made messages.
People feel they are not creative, as though they were to magically just come up with something in an instant at a three hour creative workshop.
Creativity, like anything, is a muscle to develop and is less about coming up with a new and original thought and more to do with learning how to observe and recycle our observations in a new way.
These methods are available to anyone and you can find out more about them here.