You can stream the album, or download individual tracks or click through for more info on individual songs, using the sidebar on the right; if you’d like to download the whole album in mp3 format, you can do so with these links:
I wrote Inchoatery for the 2010 RPM Music Challenge, an annual internet double-dog-dare to write and record an entire album of new material in February. (My previous RPM album was 2007’s Manifests.)
The name is taken from a lyric in track five of the album, Drunk Again, and rhymes with “poetry”; it’s a nonce inflection of the adjective “inchoate” (in KOH et), a word which can refer to something only just begun, or something poorly or imperfectly developed, or something confused or disordered.
The text of the album is a loose narrative of a break-up of a man and a woman and the fallout thereof, in vignettes focusing mostly on the situation and mental state of the man over time. It’s an intentionally non-specific album, focusing more on general ideas and tropes of breakups and breaking down than on any specific character’s story. It is not biographical or autobiographical.
Musically, the album is an attempt in part to capture, in a solo effort, some of the live rock band sound I’ve been a part of over the years in other groups; there are elements of the album’s sound and arrangments that intentionally strive for the things that work well in a live band context but which have not been so much a part of my solo recording work over the years.
Part of the fun, and a significant part of the challenge, of putting this together was trying to find ways to make what was in a band context a fairly organic process of cooperative musical development work out as a one-thing-at-a-time solo recording process. I’ve learned in the process to appreciate how much value there is in having a live crew to work with in developing a song.
Inchoatery also owes a cultural debt to, among however many other things, the rock opera Hedwig and the Angry Inch; as someone who grew up around but was never much into classic musicals, I found Stephen Trask’s marriage of musical theater tropes with straightforward balls-out rock arrangements really goddam exciting when I first encountered the film. Inchoatery isn’t Hedwig or anything quite like it, but there are flickers of homage in some of the harmonic decisions I found myself making over the month.
The album follows an arc from the breakup to an attempt to reconnect and move on. These are very brief thumbnails sketches of the songs; click through to each one’s page to see the full lyrics and details on the writing of each.
1. I’m Done – the tear-down, no-taking-it-back shouting match fight that starts the album and ends the relationship at its core. Loud, fast, rocky.
2. So Fuckin’ Free – manic euphoria; the relief of something a long time in the coming finally having transpired, manifesting in braggadocio and self-righteousness. Almost something from a stage play.
3. Pathetic – the downturn, after the mania fades and the reality of the loss of familiar comforts sets in; “anger and self-doubt”. The first big driving epic ballad on the album.
4. Uh Uh – neurotic energy; the idea that while he’s wallowing she’s out having the time of her life. Ass-shaker featuring vocoder.
5. Drunk Again – slipping into the bottle. Laid back lounge thing.
6. Stumble – instrumental; a broken, lurching waltz in 5/4. Theremin solo!
7. Get You Laid – drinking buddy pep-talk at the bar during a show. Not a great place for conversation.
8. Tell It All – trying to start fresh, and not making it. Back to straight rock after a bluegrass intro.
9. Meanwhile – what she’s up to; humanizing the absent half of his story. A second ballad.
10. Rewrite – catharsis if not conciliation; where he is now. The big finale.
11. Metaphorsturbation – pity meets self-consciousness meets public performance. Jazz backup spoken word at the open mic.
Work on the album began Monday, February 1st; I finalized the mixes for the album on the afternoon of Friday, February 26th.
Most of the text and the arrangments for Inchoatery were written between February 1st and February 7th, with initial demos of ten of the eleven songs recorded in one day, on February 8th, as proofs-of-concept. The eleventh song, Rewrite, was written during the following week to provide a capstone to the narrative.
I spent the center of the month, from the 9th through the 19th, revising and supplementing the existing lyrics and going over the arrangements on the demos with an eye for improving the structure of individual songs and the track-to-track flow of the album. One of the challenges of doing all this writing work in such a short period of time is that there’s none of the normal allowance of time to just relax and let a new song in development gel. As much as anything, this middle part of the project was a forced gelling period—I listened the demos to death in hopes of solving as many problems by brute force as possible.
I recorded the album cuts of the songs over the final week from the 19th to the 26th, laying down most of the drums on the 19th and taking the weekend off before burning through the rest of the instrumental and vocal tracks on the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th. Mixing commenced in earnest on the 25th, with small fixes and final additions to the recordings made on the 25th and 26th as problems with the mixes arose. By 5 pm on the 26th, the mixes were as good as my limited engineering sense was going to get them.
Inchoatery‘s eleven tracks runs for just over 37 minutes, short for an album but long enough to feel like it’s not cheaping out as far as I’m concerned. Trying to add more substance inside of the month felt unlikely; adding length without substance would have been shameless padding.
The album was recorded and mixed in its entirety in Garageband on a Macbook Air, using an M-Audio Fast Track Pro interface for audio input, a Studio Projects B1 condenser for vocal and acoustic instrument tracking, and an Audix Fusion mic set on the drums and micing the electric guitars and bass, with a PodXT driving effects for the latter as well.