Here we are!
With my fake press credentials I have scored an early listen and opportunity to write about the new Cap'n Ghostnote EP, ‘FM Jazz’! When presented with this bold idea for a record, I knew that Captain Ghostnote was too much the perfectionist to declare two different styles to emblazon across his cover and fail to deliver on each. I listened and said, "I've nothing to ask. He sort of wrapped things up with a nice little bow on it. In a change of pace today - I'm just going to cut straight to the analysis of these tracks because there's no use in you listening to me babble about anything aside from what's below. Then! We have the Artist himself commenting on my commentary! Don't ask how we did it. It's very scientific in nature and you don't want to hear me start from the top. However, you did come here for some FM JAZZ -
Pretty immediately it’s apparent why Cap’n Ghostnote chose the title ‘FM Jazz’. I don’t think 2 things go together more when first tuning into this first track then FM and Jazz. At 37 seconds the intro leans into a marvelous piano run, which is not only a perfect fit for the attempt that is the album’s namesake, it is oh so very Cap’n Ghostnote.
It shows a remarkable level of skill sitting right alongside sonic imagery that is both Glitchy and entrancing. And just as soon as you were getting cozy in your head-bobbery, you’re thrown another curveball by this Wizard of the transition (an attribute I admire greatly in The Cap’n and something I can always stand to improve on myself. He just makes it look so damn easy!).
At 55 seconds we welcome back those elements which I like to call ‘the weird’, as the artist allows his electronic freak flag to fly. Seamlessly, we hear the ‘Jazz’ portion of ‘FM Jazz’ re-incorporate around 1:13 as the straightforward piano parts inter-mesh with a collage of bleeps and bloops wondrously orchestrated and very well thought out. Slowly, these more experimental elements slide out to allow for the piano to really take your breath away again at 1:46. I’m again finding myself dazzled at how much has been cohesively plugged into this track for the short runtime of this track so far! There is so much that has occurred, and we’re not even at the 2 minute mark yet!
Near the 3 minute mark I find myself head over heels with the direction this has once again been taken. With a dramatic key change, the piano turns 180. It’s a hopeful and happy run which we are now engrossed in. A very pleasant surprise from the downtrodden tone our global community has taken in this whacky-ass year that is 2020. You can’t help but bop to this! It is positively infectious!
Continuing to blur the lines between straightforward and stylistically experimental, this piano part never loses its lustre, but recedes back into a decrescendoing spiral that sees this track to a finite and certain conclusion amidst a sea of pitch bending madness!
In The Captain's Own Words - To me, Jazz is improvising in every way possible. Where you might state that grooveboxes are ‘programmed’ and only play fixed patterns, I program basic patterns and improvise on the fly. Model:Cycles is a cool FM-based groovebox that I use for most of the patterns. I load them in via the Octatrack to jam with. I record the jams on the fly. The first loops, like the bass loop, I recorded with the Volca FM. I chose to start with loops and improvise to them; although as a bass player I could have improvised the bass lines too. I decided not to; especially the programmed, repetitive bass lines gave me enough ‘anchor’ to not ‘fall into chaos’. For the rest I have tried not to modify or tweak endlessly. Jazz is about live jamming and I wanted to keep the live jamming feel a little bit.
A slower funk trope greets us, in order to lure us, into Fabulous Morning. We’re invited in, but measuredly. This departure from the tempo covered in the majority of the rest of the album, is very purposeful. It’s again an invitation to take a look beneath the hood, presented to you with just enough time for another shift to take you on a ride.
At the one minute mark, we hear the overall vibe that has taken our breath away through this EP re-emerge. There’s all sorts of glitchy electronic elements running about, always with a commanding piano part sitting up - top, lassoing in those rowdier moments. I’m finding this track to be much more rhythmically based in its foundation, the bass part guiding the lower ends of the audible spectrum cleanly through anything the lead part may wish to toss it’s way.
Just as we get cozy, at 2:50 things begin to break down. The glitch machine starts to hiccup in the background. The piano continuing, unflinchingly. We’re getting a tad weirder here, folks, but not ever at the cost of maintaining just how damn SMOOTH this is. That is, we have the ‘weird’ present in the background, without ever losing sight of the importance of a jazzy piano in order for this whole thing to work. Great structure, intricate performance and an all-around provocative and interesting track.
In The Captain's Own Words - I wrote this piece in ’17 and never got around to finishing it. The rhythmic structure fits the FM Jazz concept, I think. So, I re-recorded it with FM synthesis parts and added percussive tracks with both Model:Cyles and Octatrack. It’s the most laid-back track on the EP -or the least chaotic- but still the percussive glitches place it seamlessly between the other, more recent tracks. To me, this track reminds me of the fact that you could play the music on this EP unplugged, live, and with acoustic instruments only. If chord progressions and melodies are strong -or at least unique- enough, you’d be able to play them unplugged and they’d still stand. That goes for a lot of music. A good song can be played in a lot of styles and set-ups without losing power. I hope to have achieved that.
Fundamental shift time! This time around, we enter the world of ‘FM Jazz’ with the keys responsible for the elements of ‘weird’. This is some of the most fusion I’ve heard the album reach on that spectrum as the glitchy electronic parts pervasive throughout play off the piano part, resulting in true, off-beat chaos that, again, the Captain never seems to have any trouble controlling.
It’s a spot many other musicians would not have the attention span for. There’s a lot going on at once. But, he’s Captain Ghostnote for a reason! He is able to slip these things in and out, weaving all the way, while seemingly traveling in a straight line to the casual listener.
I’m not sure there’s a better way in which FM Jazz could have led us out un. Fairy Mesmerize sort of summarizes this entire effort beautifully. Somehow incorporating everything we’ve been hearing this entire time into 2:13.
In The Captain's Own Words - I had to slip this track in as a bonus. The awesome jazz Lady, @Pinkgreenmusic invited to jam along to a very creative, inspiring and mesmerizing little piano loop she played. I instantly fell in love with that loop. It reminded me like a slap in the face that listening to other musicians playing is always inspiring. Especially when they’re this good and do something new and unique. Listen, learn, react… That’s certainly ‘Jazz’; swiftly picking up what a fellow musician plays and improvise to that on the fly. To decide to do that ‘FM Synthesis only’ is limiting at times, but at the same time challenging and inspiring. And it has to be said: if ‘MasterMaster’ Paul Blandford (@danfurmusic) does a master, it escapes ‘attic studio’ level and starts to sound like the records you used to play. Editor's Note It should be known that aside from being a 'Master of Mastering,' Paul is also an absolute 'Master Debater.' To the point you don't want to be in the same room as the guy,