Videos – Roger and Brian Eno, Tim Bowness and more

I’ve created a playlist of the videos I’ve made over the last year, for my own music and for other people including Roger and Brian Eno, Tim Bowness and Markus Reuter.

I was pleasantly surprised at how many there are – sixteen in total – I started creating animated videos as part of my Shadowplay EP in late 2019, then extended the technique for two tracks from Modern Ruins, my album with Tim Bowness.

Brian Eno suggested filming in slow motion from trains for his collaboration album with Roger Eno, Mixing Colours. I jumped at the idea and filmed many more for the official album releases. I submitted an additional one, Dark Sienna, when they opened up the project as a competition. This became the official video for Managanse from the accompanying EP.

I’ve since had three commissions ; two videos from Tim Bowness’s Late Night Laments album, and Across the Azure Blue, a beautiful instrumental improvisation from Markus Reuter and Gary Husband.

In other news, while somewhat hampered by the pandemic, I’ve been creating alternative mixes from Modern Ruins, making beautiful textures with fretless guitarist Jon Durant, bringing all the apps up to date and attempting to push my generative work further. More news as it happens. Or probably several months later when I remember I have a website.

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Tim Bowness & Peter Chilvers – Modern Ruins

Tim Bowness & I are releasing Modern Ruins, our follow up to California, Norfolk on April 10th through Burning Shed.
It’s been 18 years since we released California, Norfolk. I’d started to think this was never coming out, but at last the planets seem to have come into alignment. The album was mixed by Peter Hammill, one of my favourite singer songwriters. I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around that one.

We’re also reissuing California, Norfolk, again as a double CD. Letka’s Far Off Country, with guest vocals from Brian Eno is also available at a reduced price.

Buy now from Burning Shed or download from my Bandcamp page.

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Roger and Brian Eno – Mixing Colours videos

One of the more enjoyable things I’ve been able to count as “work”: filming videos and matching them to tracks from Brian and Roger’s upcoming album Mixing Colours. I wasn’t involved in the album itself, this was a lovely way to get to know it. More of the videos to follow in the coming weeks.

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Shadowplay – now available

“Shadowplay”, a five part series of animated instrumental improvisations is now available to watch on YouTube and Vimeo.

Having worked on Bloom, Scape et al with Brian Eno for over ten years, I think I’ve developed a form of synesthesia, and it seems as natural to think of a piece visually as sonically. I created unique software for each piece, which interpreted my playing in realtime to create the visuals. I often projected these onto the wall as I improvised, it’s a very pleasant way to work!

The audio only version can be purchased from my new Bandcamp page and is available from all the major streaming platforms including Apple Music and Spotify.

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Shadowplay

On November 1st, I’ll be releasing “Shadowplay”, a five part series of animated instrumental improvisations. Having worked on Bloom, Scape et al with Brian Eno for over ten years, I think I’ve developed a form of synesthesia, and it seems as natural to think of a piece visually as sonically.

I created unique software for each piece, which interpreted my playing in realtime to create the visuals. I often projected these onto the wall as I improvised, it’s a very pleasant way to work!

The videos will appear on Youtube and Vimeo on November 1st. At the same time, audio only versions will be available for purchase via Bandcamp, and for streaming from Spotify, Apple Music and more.

Meanwhile, I’ve uploaded a free track to my new Bandcamp page. “Undercurrent” was recorded immediately after the Shadowplay sessions. Although darker in tone, it gives a hint of the mixture of improvised piano and electronics to come.

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A busy few years…

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.

Audiovisual

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…

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Brian Eno : Reflection

Brian Eno’s latest album Reflection was released at midnight to start the New Year. Continuing a long line of unusual credits on his album, this time I’m down as providing “Mutation Software”.

I’ve also developed the deluxe app version of the album, which has been released simultaneously. It runs on iPhone, iPad and (a first for us) the Apple TV.

It’s been a beautiful project to work on – for some time now Reflection has been wafting through various rooms of my house as I’ve been testing different versions. I enjoy my job.

App available now from: https://appsto.re/gb/_-vxgb.i

Screenshot

Screenshot from the iPad version.

About the generative versions:

BRIAN ENO:
“REFLECTION is the most recent of my Ambient experiments and represents the most sophisticated of them so far. My original intention with Ambient music was to make endless music, music that would be there as long as you wanted it to be. I wanted also that this music would unfold differently all the time – ‘like sitting by a river’: it’s always the same river, but it’s always changing. But recordings – whether vinyl, cassette or CD – are limited in length, and replay identically each time you listen to them. So in the past I was limited to making the systems which make the music, but then recording 30 minutes or an hour and releasing that. REFLECTION in its album form – on vinyl or CD – is like this. But the app by which REFLECTION is produced is not restricted: it creates an endless and endlessly changing version of the piece of music. The creation of a piece of music like this falls into three stages: the first is the selection of sonic materials and a musical mode – a constellation of musical relationships. These are then patterned and explored by a system of algorithms which vary and permutate the initial elements I feed into them, resulting in a constantly morphing stream (or river) of music. The third stage is listening. Once I have the system up and running I spend a long time – many days and weeks in fact – seeing what it does and fine-tuning the materials and sets of rules that run the algorithms. It’s a lot like gardening: you plant the seeds and then you keep tending to them until you get a garden you like.”

PETER CHILVERS:
“Moving the composition into software allowed an extra opportunity ; the rules themselves could change with the time of day. The harmony is brighter in the morning, transitioning gradually over the afternoon to reach the original key by evening. As the early hours draw in, newly introduced conditions thin the notes out and slow everything down.”

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Ten years working with Brian Eno

albumsto2016-2

Ten years ago today, I headed into London to start a new job assisting Brian Eno on the generative score to the highly anticipated Spore computer game. That was all I was originally contracted for, but I ended up staying around, ostensibly to look after his computers. That alone kept me busy ; technology seems to stop behaving in his presence.

That job has repeatedly morphed, yielding a number of bizarre job titles: “Digital Archeologist” on his 2008 collaboration with David Byrne for a start, followed by “Sonic Archivist” for his collaborations with Leo Abrahams and Jon Hopkins. We settled on “Musical assistant to Brian Eno” for the closing credits to The Lovely Bones. The proposed credit had simply been “Assistant to Brian Eno”, which Brian vetoed as it sounded like I cut his hair, “which wouldn’t be challenging.”

After completing Spore, it seemed obvious that there was much, much more that we could do with generative music. We created a prototype of Bloom, running in Flash using a Wacom tablet. This was actually before the iPhone was even announced, and it sat quietly in limbo for a year and half, until Apple kindly set up the App Store for it. We followed Bloom a year later with Trope, then Bloom HD for the iPad and Scape in 2013.

In 2009, Brian asked me to help out with the Pure Scenius concerts at Sydney Opera House, which featured Leo and Jon, Australian band The Necks, and Underworld vocalist Karl Hyde. Karl and I became good friends ; four years later I joined him as keyboardist and musical director for his first solo tour and was thrilled to return to Opera House, this time to play.

As time has gone on I’ve become more involved with the musical and audio side of his albums, creating an instrumental edit of Drums Between the Bells (with Rick Holland) and engineering High Life, his second collaboration with Karl Hyde.

Most recently I accrued a job title I hadn’t expected: Assistant Producer on The Ship, an album I loved working on and also contributed keyboards to. Personal bias aside, I think it’s one of the most extraordinary albums I’ve heard.

After ten years, seeing behind the curtain hasn’t dimmed my admiration. I’ve learnt a huge amount through working, and particularly enjoy the moments where I can uncover some new corner of music technology and see how he’ll apply it. Or, more usually, break it. I feel incredibly privileged to have landed a job I enjoy so much.

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Brian Eno’s The Ship sets sail

Brian Eno’s latest album “The Ship” has at last been released today. I’m extremely proud to have worked on such an extraordinary album.

Eno The Ship
This is the most I’ve been involved with one of Brian’s albums. In addition to recording, I’ve been credited for the first time as Assistant Producer, a role I drifted into without realising it. I’ve also played keyboards on most of the tracks, including the gorgeous cover of I’m Set Free that ends the album. I’m very pleased to be on a track with Leo Abrahams and Jon Hopkins, two musicians I greatly admire, even if I recorded my part twelve years after theirs!

EnoShipCreditsCropped

It’s been fascinating seeing the album develop from a series of studio experiments on multiple speakers through installations in Stockholm and Barcelona and back to the studio again. The result, to my ears, is an album unlike anything else Brian, or anyone else for that matter, has done before.

The Ship has been receiving some great reviews, but The Boston Globe’s one is hard to top:

“The experimental-listening event of the year… one of music’s most creative forces is only now reaching the zenith of his artistry.”

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A Marble Calm : Selected Tracks

I’ve made a compilation of tracks from A Marble Calm available digitally for the first time on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify and most other digital channels.

The album is probably the most ‘me’ of any of my projects and blends textural instrumentals and drifting songs, drawing inspiration from the ambient songwriting of Brian Eno, No-Man and David Sylvian, contemporary classical composers Arvo Part, Gorecki and Taverner as well as the more spacious elements of ECM Jazz.

A Marble Calm - Selected Tracks

1. Another World (featuring Tim Bowness)
2. Surfacing
3. Mississippi (featuring Steve Adey and Theo Travis) [A Marble Calm Remix 2016]
4. The Conquer and Divide (featuring Tim Bowness)
5. Blue Turns to Grey (2016 version with Theo Travis)
6. After the Flight (previously unreleased)
7. Submerging

Four tracks are taken from the 2004 debut Surfacing, including two songs with No-Man vocalist Tim Bowness. I think they are two of our most distinctive collaborations.

The centrepiece of the album is the 24 minute Blue Turns to Grey, the title track that formed the first side of a limited vinyl release by Tonefloat in 2007. The sublimely talented Theo Travis has since contributed flute to both this and a reworked version of Steve Adey’s Mississippi.

The compilation includes one previous unreleased song, After the Flight, recorded on and off over the last decade.

Copies of the 2004 CD release Surfacing are still available from Burning Shed.

a marble calm surfacing case

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