Recording A Ring Around the Atlantic (2011-12) offered a chance to create richer arrangements than I had previously, and experiment with layers of music. Peter Gabriel records, with their cathedral of sounds, were one reference point in our studio discussions.
Cellist Gordon Withers pointed out that Atlantic seems to sit in a world between popular and classical music. Take track six. Messages Across the Atlantic begins with a sparse piano line and vocal, then adds string instruments, drums and choral vocals in an uncommon blend of styles. We made a conscious decision to exclude electric guitars.
Messages gives way to Very Very Suffer, a field recording of me playing a nylon string guitar on a rooftop in Guatemala City, with the attendant sounds of birds and a plane passing overhead. This is matched to a second recording of a friend, Abu Kamara, speaking about his life in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The chords transition into The Hard Path to Peace, which features a jazz rhythm section made modern pop through electronic manipulations.
Atlantic is meant to be heard as an album, straight through; even with an A and B side (the latter beginning with “Conjured Lights”). There is an industry trend toward making songs as loud as the technology will allow, even for songs or moments within songs you might otherwise think of as naturally quiet. Atlantic is mastered with quieter points. This technique gives songs room to develop and lets our ears rest; to enjoy silence before a dynamic build.
I’m back trying out new musical directions again now, toward a future fourth album tentatively called Trans-Pacifica.
Thank you for listening. — Peter, November 2012