Friday, 14 February 2014

2013: Things That Happened

I'm unfashionably late to the New/Old Year party, but hey, writing the obligatory "end of year roundup" blog in mid February is still acceptable, right? Getting past the hubbub of Christmas, New Year and whatnot made it easier for me to reflect on the previous 365 days collectively known as 2013. So, "what actually happened?"...

Whilst there was no new full-length Lee Fletcher album in 2013 I kicked-off the year by releasing an eclectic set of commissioned reimaginings (remixes) of songs from the previous year's 'Faith In Worthless Things'. As a companion piece rather than follow-up album (which it isn't) I think 'The Cracks Within: FiWT Remixes' works pretty well, and the "name your price" digital download format helped to raise several hundred pounds for the MS Society through voluntary donations.

In July I released a cover of Mike Oldfield’s 'Islands' as a digital single together with collaborators Lisa Fletcher and Markus Reuter. My new arrangement was very different to the original and felt close to the ambience of 'FiWT'. That said we had some new collaborators working on this recording such as Peter Gabriel / King Crimson (and everyone else's) bassist Tony Levin and CENTROZOON member Tobias Reber... The track was positively received and garnered a little airplay on regional BBC shows plus various commercial / independent alternatives. In November it won Best Single at the South West Music Awards - Somehow I never mentioned this on the blog previously! So, I now have 'award symmetry' on the main studio shelf ;-) I've said it before, but awards don't really have ANY impact on the way I work, but they're undeniably a great way to get the music heard by new ears.

My main production gig of 2013 was for Billy Bottle & The Multiple, a wonderful 7-piece band with a semi-revolving lineup helmed by composer / musician Bill Harbottle. 'Unrecorded Beam' is a song-cycle woven around the poetry of (American author, poet and philosopher) Henry David Thoreau. It's progressive, it's jazzy, it's melodic and turbulent in equal measure – I was very happy to work with Bill and The Multiple (surely contenders for "the most polite / friendly band ever") on this special project. As well as producing I mixed and mastered the album and contributed subtle Fletcherisms throughout (treatments, soundscapes, electronics, etc.) augmenting the musical arrangements and underpinning the emotional dynamics. The digital version was released just before Christmas, with a physical "coffee table edition" CD coming out via Leo Records this very month.

Another release bearing my creative imprint was 'New Peace' by US drummer Troy Jones (and featuring a host of wonderful guests inc. Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, and members of the Touch Guitar Circle). My Unsung Productions partner and friend Markus Reuter produced whilst I mixed and post-produced, sprinkling treatments and refining / shaping the arrangements. It's a pretty unique record, and I'm pleased to say that on the back of this collaboration Troy will be contributing to a future solo project of mine…

Getting out of the studio (and indeed the country) during a rare UK midsummer heat wave (remember that? It really did happen) I took part in the 2nd Touch Guitar workshop hosted by Markus (Reuter) and Trey Gunn (of King Crimson & David Sylvian / Robert Fripp notoriety). Together with other members of the Touch Guitar Circle I lived and worked in a ramshackle house high in the beautiful Austrian mountains for a week... It was a challenging and at times uncomfortable experience, not helped by the thousands of flies that gatecrashed our digs - I kid you not - nonetheless for the first time in years I enjoyed being "a player" rather than composer / arranger. The experience will undoubtedly spill over into future musical endeavors and at some point I'll acquire a U8 Touch Guitar and pick-up the process at home. This was a very important event in my creative calendar.

Donning my well-worn mastering hat I, well, mastered a great number of records throughout 2013. Many are listed in my Discography, though due to artist / label scheduling there are several still "in the vaults" awaiting official release... Mastering is still a much-misunderstood art that encompasses far more than merely "making it loud". I enjoy these projects as they often allow me to dip my toe into genres that I wouldn’t otherwise swim in that often. Plus the discipline and active listening skills required continually serve to improve my general production work.

I've always been quite a visual orientated artist, even when it comes to music, (I tend to 'see' arrangements in my mind's eye) so when upcoming film-maker John Tomkins asked me to provide the soundtrack for a short film ('Indietro') I was intrigued enough to get involved. Due to an incredibly short production schedule there was no time to score from scratch, so I prepared special alternate mixes / edits of pieces previously heard on 'FiWT' and 'TCW', mostly without vocals... This worked very well, and I’m open to doing more substantial film soundtrack work as and when the right projects come along.

So there you have it - Highlights of my professional life over the course of a year, summed up in a few hundred characters. I missed out a lot of details, (such as a series of production seminars presented to music academy students) and in-between all of the above I managed to have some kind of a life and be a father / husband too. Heck, I even rekindled my relationship with the great outdoors and started going out on regular costal walks, something that has already inspired future work.

Oh, and I almost forgot something very important - I began writing words that would eventually grow into a new solo album project... Already this year several of these pieces have been fleshed out into song structures and an album is in the making. This will be one of my major focuses in 2014, but there's no rush or panic to get it out - It'll come together as and when I feel it should.

Looking ahead I'm also going to be producing a new 'ambient' project by Markus Reuter, his first Soundscape-based album in several years, plus there are a few other potential productions currently at the "talking" stage... I've also rekindled my love of photography, so perhaps that'll work its way into my output along the way. (Who am I kidding? It definitely WILL do ;-))

So, we're mostly up-to-date here again ;-) As always, even when I don’t blog the latest news I do tend to update the other sections of this site, and there's Twitter and the Facebook page (when I can stomach it) too!

Cheerio, and thanks for your ongoing support x