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15. 2020 Witchcraft

January 2020 was the first month since February 2017 that I hadn’t released anything as Hello Whirled. This was primarily because, after being mostly DAW-less for three years, I had purchased an interface and a MIDI controller with the intent of using Reaper for my music from then on. This concert ended up being the first thing I realized in the 2020s, performed the day after I turned 21. I debuted a few Atlantic Witchcraft tracks here. The slight differences in “A Beautiful Fire” and “Blue Balloon” are exclusive to these versions.

I always forget I put this out. There’s context for why it exists but eh it’s funnier without it. These three songs were all taken from the support conversations of Fire Emblem: Three Houses and turned into proper songs. I had a lot of fun recording these songs and the EP probably remains the weirdest thing I’ve ever released. Props to Eli Gemeinhardt for the album art.

10 outtakes from Atlantic Witchcraft. Most of these were songs that were, shall we say, difficult to cut from the final album. In a perfect world I would have made Atlantic Witchcraft three albums and most of these songs would have been on them. “This Silver Hour” used an audio-to-MIDI VST demo that only ran for about two minutes. “In His Shadow” was going to be the album opener for a very, VERY long time. I think I axed it because it wasn’t a very complex song and it ran longer than almost everything else I’d recorded for the album. It’s also a blatant rip-off of Wire’s “Madman’s Honey” (more on this later). “The Last Cowboy” is a diss at Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. I wrote “Easily Entertained” as my second attempt at explaining my frustrations about what I felt was poor quality exhibited by the other local bands at TCNJ. I axed it because I felt it stood out too much in the running order. The sounds on “The Wrong Directions” are all from the Pokemon GBA games. I had a lot of soundfonts and used all of them when working on Atlantic Witchcraft. One of the guitars on “How To Follow Our Rules” is tuned to F# on all 6 strings. “Big 3” is my very not great Minutemen ripoff. Funny enough, it’s not the only Minutemen ripoff I wrote around this time. “Lomo” stands for “love of missing out”, because I never really minded if I missed some big show or party or whatever. I think my FOMO got worse during COVID, and I’m still feeling the effects of it (the FOMO, not the COVID). Really cool and awesome of me to not give the song a second verse. I’ll probably rework this down the road, because it’s a killer riff. The sounds for “Morning Will Come” are from an Earthbound soundfont.

The big kahuna. Almost two years out, I still think this album is a masterpiece. Hopefully you agree. “Atlantic Witchcraft” was almost left off the album, for reasons I do not remember now. It also wasn’t always going to be the opener, but I couldn’t think of another spot for it. At least one person has told me directly that they love this song. “A Beautiful Fire” was the obvious first single just for its simplicity. It only has three chords, which I don’t often do. The artificial harmony in the song’s second half is the result of trying to AutoTune the vocal to three notes, but getting the notes wrong and having all the vocals just tune to A. It ended up working, so I left it. I wrote the music for “Mercy Stares” as two different songs in 2019. The verse and chorus were joined when album recording commenced. “3/2”, pronounced “Three Over Two” was actually written lyrics first, a Hello Whirled rarity. Man, this album really starts out insanely strong. “If That’s Not Victory” was originally a lot slower, and certainly not organ-driven. At one point, this version was going to open the album, because I thought opening an album with a mostly guitarless song would make a bold statement. This song also has one of the strongest bass performances on any HW song. I think “Breakout Story” was about Michael Bloomberg, back when he was paying Instagram meme pages to support him. “You Feel Like Spring” is such a delightful little oddball. Microtonal EDM? Cool. Is it actually EDM? I don’t know or care. I think the demo for “Great Flood” was actually a little better if only because the center guitar wasn’t so loud, but this version is okay too. Probably the first not-great song on the album though. “Interference” is one of the smaller, weirder songs on here. Those are always fun to do. I believe the drums on this use the New Super Mario Bros soundfont, as evidenced by the “bah’s” on the chorus. Also I only recorded one guitar for this, but used effects to make it sound like two. “The 5th Day” was an attempt to make metal…not successful in that sense but it’s a solid tune. I do not remember what tuning I wrote it in. The “For The Town” music is, I believe, built from the Pokemon Platinum soundfont. I’ve always found the song to be oddly Britpop-esque. Not sure why. There’s something special about “Plastered”. This was the first song written for the album, under the name “Machine 1” for the longest time, and I think its spot as the end of the album’s first half really solidifies its importance to the album as a whole. The phrase “skin machine” appears in the lyrics because, before the song became “Plastered”, I wanted to call the song “Skin Machine”. I am really glad I didn’t. “Marianne” was originally “Marianne Type Beat”, because I thought it would be a funny title. Eh. I was playing a lot of FE3H around this time (and for another year or so after) so the name fit, but I want to clarify that this song is not about Marianne from Fire Emblem: Three Houses. “Homewrecker In 5” had kind of an odd journey. It originally featured fake oboes and clarinets instead of organs, and the second verse uses Vocaloid vocals that really, really didn’t work. I like “Carve In Case Of Change” but it definitely isn’t part of the album’s hit parade. I wouldn’t call it filler but it doesn’t have any huge oomph like most of the rest of the album. It does, however, have a melodica. I think the sample in the middle of the song is a black box recording of a fatal plane crash. There’s a full toy piano take of “Jupiter X” that mostly got axed because it clashed with the metronome. I wrote the main “riff” during the New Blood For The Sister City sessions. This song is probably about Elon Musk, scam artist. In my head, “Burn The Flower” is a Deerhoof song. I’m still really proud of it. For those counting at home, it’s in 13/8, and if you want to know the chords you’ll have to meet me in person because I’m not writing it out. Yes, that is a Vocaloid. “Fallout Shelter” features a slowed-down guitar and a sped-up guitar. Why? Cause it’s fun. I think this was going to be the closing track at one point. “Bitter Moon” is a personal favorite, just because it doesn’t stay in one place at all. This song has to have 12 chords in it, or something. “Draining The Lakes” was written for a RateYourMusic compilation. “Supernova” uses sounds from Pokemon HeartGold alongside live instrumentation. It’s one of the prettiest, saddest songs I’ve ever written. “Blue Balloon” is an amazing closer to this behemoth of an album. I was using a lot of amp simulators at the time (specifically Guitar Rig 5) so this was an excuse to really explore those options.

I was left with 15 finished songs that hadn’t made it onto either release. I decided to just put all 15 of them together onto this non-album album-length release. I reworked “Defaced” into “Screening” at the other end of the year. “Enter A Man’s Life With An Iron Finish” probably wouldn’t have been axed so quickly if I hadn’t jacked up the reverb on the vocals. I spent some pondering whether or not I should do something about it, and eventually decided the song wasn’t so good that I had to rush to fix it. I think this was also a lyrics first song. “Why Christians Get Sick” might have actually made the album if it wasn’t so loud. I’m not sure why it’s so loud. If I remembered how to play it, I’d try it again. “3AM Comet” probably would have been worthy of being on a proper album if it had been written a year and a half later. For whatever reason I could imagine this being on Wood Anniversary, but it was a bit ahead of its time here. “Breaking Cycle” took three tries to get right and it still just wasn’t good enough. I forget why “Electric Crawl” is stuck on here. It’s a great shoegaze tune. If I remembered how I made all the little bits of dust on “2019 To Dust” I’d have a great story to tell here, but honestly the whole song was put together pretty quickly. I still don’t particularly like New York City, but it’s mostly just Manhattan. Sorry, I’m a Philly guy. There’s not a whole lot to say about the last bunch of songs, except that you can’t unhear “Antialias” if you’ve been unlucky enough to experience it.

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