I’m rather startled to realise that it’s been almost three years since my last post here. They’ve been three manically busy years, and much of what I’ve been doing has been announced elsewhere, but a little catch up follows. Looking back on it, I’m rather shocked to see names like Coldplay, Robert Fripp, Peter Hammill and Microsoft. How did that happen?
Bloom’s 10th anniversary
Bloom, my first app with Brian Eno was released in 2008. I’d hoped to mark the occasion, but it somehow gained a momentum of its own. First of all, New York-based wearelisten approached us about an idea to extend Bloom into the third dimension with the help of Microsoft’s Hololens headset. This was a fascinating project which grew over the course of a year into Bloom: Open Space. It launched in Amsterdam early in 2018 to a great response from both the press and public. It’s a very complex operation, but I hope we’ll get a chance to show it in public again.
The second, very unexpected outing from Bloom came from Chris Martin, who had an idea for having Coldplay’s audience play Bloom en mass live when the band played their song Hypnotised. The idea progressed to a separate app, designed to complement the band’s visual identity. The band have yet to perform the song live, but the app can be used alongside the recorded version of the song and you can hear the band playing the app at the start of the version of Hypnotised from the Kaleidoscope EP. I’m not sure anyone’s realised, but if a group of people play the app together, something interesting will happen…
I’d been toying with the idea of adding some new features to Bloom for its 10th Anniversary, but after prototyping some of the ideas while waiting in for a flight to Seattle to discuss Open Space, it became obvious that we could do much more with it. Over the course of the summer of 2018, Brian and I started creating new sounds, visuals and ways of interacting, which resulted in Bloom: 10 Worlds, a vastly expanded version of the original. We had fun revisiting it – many of the sounds were created by Brian on his laptop as he travelled around Europe, with files with names like “Cadiz new dark blooms” materialising in my inbox periodically.
Reflecting on Reflection
On January 1st 2017, Brian released Reflection as both an album and a generative app (on iOS and Apple TV). What may have been less obvious was that we continued developing the app, with a series of updates loosely aligned to the seasons. These are quite subtle: changes of key and new sounds, but for an app that’s designed to be played at length in the background, these can feel quite significant. We stopped adding to it at the end of the year, but the app still continues to cycle through its seasons. Summer has just over a month to run, and the the haunting air of Autumn will begin to creep in.
Travis and Fripp : I-III
Another happy accident (do I do anything on purpose?) I’ve known flautist / saxophonist Theo Travis for many years now and we’ve worked together on a number of projects. We were discussing his duet performances with Robert Fripp. It turned out that most of these were recorded on multi-track, and it dawned on me that we could create an app that assembled new experiences by randomly combining different performances from each of the duo. They both liked the idea, and Theo then diligently assembled sections that would work together. As well as the playback mechanism, I designed visuals that represented each of the musicians’ performances. As we assembled the material, Robert felt that they should be split into three apps, each with its own flavour and identity. I find it fascinating to listen to these, performances that never existed but sound as if they could have.
Brian Eno Installations
I’ve worked behind the scenes on a number of interesting installations from Brian over the last few years, mostly creating tools designed around the unique way he works. These have included the Berlin Hexadom, the Kazakstan Expo pavilion, Four Seasons in Philadelphia and 77 Million Paintings. I love this kind of work, each project seems to be an interesting journey out of my comfort zone.
Tim Bowness / Peter Chilvers – Modern Ruins
Back in 2001, I somehow managed to release three albums in one year, but since working with Brian, my recorded work has largely been on the back burner. My long term collaborator Tim Bowness and I have been working on a follow up to California, Norfolk on and off since then (mostly off!) We settled on final versions of all the tracks of “Modern Ruins”, and set about finding a mixer. Somehow Peter Hammill, whose wonderfully dark solo albums formed a soundtrack to much of my twenties, agreed to mix it, and did a fantastic job. For largely mundane reasons, the album has been in a bit of a holding pattern ever since, but Tim and I regard it as some of our best work, and hope to release it very soon.
Finally, I’ve had my first bit of downtime in literally years this summer, and have been working on some new material which combines live instrumentals, ambiance and animation. These will, I think, begin appearing online very soon. And maybe even live…