16. 2020 Burnout

After three and a half years of nonstop music, I kinda wiped out for most of 2020. It was a weird time. Weird enough that, less than a month after putting out Atlantic Witchcraft, I put out an album of Wire covers. I can’t say everything on here came out great, but some of it absolutely did (specifically the 80s Wire covers, a recurring theme from here on out). Because these are covers, I’m not going to talk about them too much, but let the record show that some of these are among my favorite HW recordings of 2020. Maybe it’s just because Wire are really good to begin with. This is mostly because I could talk about how good this came out, but because it’s all covers and only took a few weeks, I don’t want to spend too much time on this. Evidently, I didn’t spend too much time on anything else in this block, so…food for thought. Okay one last thing: depending on when you ask me, I may tell you that “Madman’s Honey” is my favorite song of all time. There were scrapped plans for a “Best Of Hello Whirled 2020” cassette and that cover would have been on it.

Man. This is so fucking weird. I hadn’t really done anything musical in a while (sort of, more on this later), so I challenged myself to record as much as I could in a week, and then everything I did would get released. Funny enough, two instrumentals still didn’t end up on here. The opener is an intense sound collage that includes clips of songs both used on the “album” and not, including the only official release of the original “Homewrecker In 5” mix (currently only available here). I should clarify before we move further: this is not an album. It’s a mess. “Many Changes” is one of the actual good songs here. It came out pretty good all things considered. Not that you asked, but this marked the first Hello Whirled release since 2017 to use my Simmons electronic drum kit. I moved it up to my bedroom and almost immediately had to replace the kick drum. I had a love-hate relationship with that kit that turned into a hate-hate and I haven’t used it in kind of a while. Anyway, the new version of “Her Face All Red” (now in its third incarnation since 2014) is good. “People As Clocks” rocks but it’s also definitely not where it needs to be. Could use a handy reworking. I’m only mentioning “Profanity Directed At The Listener” to address that it is probably the single most difficult thing to listen to on the entire Hello Whirled Bandcamp page. Shrill sawtooth wave? Check. Auto-panned sample of Elliott Smith interviewing Lou Barlow? Check. Serving no other purpose? Check. What follows is probably the most unnecessary Hello Whirled song: a new, barely different, slightly worse version of “Easily Entertained”. The only cool thing about it is, instead of opening with a sample of friend and former Hello Whirled member Alec Goss cursing out a fire alarm, it opens with Lou Barlow antagonizing a Sebadoh audience in 1993. I used a shit-ton of vocal processing on “667” just because I thought it would sound cool. Now seems like a good time to mention that George Floyd was killed while I was working on this, and that whole thing influenced the tone of the project tremendously. We don’t need police. “Dizzy” seems to be another installment in a series of songs that all want to be Cleaners From Venus. “They Said Fuck On CNN” is the other actually good song on here. Check it out when you have the time.

I thought it would be funny to do a 2-song Writer’s Block where I just covered 2 really long songs. It seemed to work out okay I guess. They’re both good. Not much else to say.

I had hit another lull and decided to record one song a day for two weeks, each song ascending in key by a half step. The goal was to go from E to E. Oh, and I was gonna film it all (the footage no longer exists). Did it work? Ehhhhhhhhhh. It at least starts strong with “Did It Decay”. “What Makes You” is cool in that it largely uses the same chords, but the first half is minor and the second half is major. “Expire” exists to inadvertently replace “You Feel Like Spring”. Dig the microtones and presence of an actual chorus. “Monuments” is the best song here, hands down. “Grand Prize Winner” is good but showcases Octave‘s biggest flaw: its production. Atlantic Witchcraft didn’t sound this messy, so I don’t know why this does, but it’s not good. “Explanation Of Days” is good too. I’m pretty sure I’d just gotten that Yamaha Portasound and this might have been the first thing I used it for. The “Cold Empty Stare” outro was originally several times longer. I had to fiddle with it to make it shorter. Granted, it’s even like that because I was fiddling around anyway. It’s a good tune. “Mental Crawl” rules too, actually. I always forget how good a lot of these songs are because of the ones that just aren’t as good. “I Am An Island”, for instance. I recorded it live because I ended up scrapping the song I’d started that day and needed something. “Synthesis” was actually recorded the same day as “Loneliness Is A Virtue”. It features guest screaming from Signal Valley.

This one just sort of happened. Seemed like a fun idea. It was. Also wild that this is the 3rd covers-only release in this block. This is what musician’s block looks, and sounds, like.

The last gasp for air before I got my shit together. There’s no cohesion to this. Eagle-eared fans will recognize “United Savings Bank” as the riff from “Chariot”, which was first demoed…in 2015 actually, then again as an 11-minute song for Falling Short Of Heaven that wasn’t finished. This also provided the first glimpse into the Hole Of Infinity project with the original demo for “Former Island” (still my favorite Hello Whirled song) and the refined demo for “Glad You’re Here”. “Atlas For The Useless (Demo)” was from one of two failed attempts to get Falling Short Of Heaven rolling. “Suitcase” and “Walk Like Magic” were outright outtakes…actually, I’m not sure with “Walk Like Magic”. There were two versions of that one that sounded roughly identical. “Shaking Hands With Angels” was the Octave outtake that got shafted in favor of “I Am An Island”.

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