Handing over the mic to artists/musicians who break down their new albums track by track/share the thought process behind the creation. Today we’ll hear from Darryl Blood (Turkish Delight / Hail Citizen) whose new solo album Air Drop is out now.
This song came about around the beginning of June, when I was invited to submit music to a podcast called Toneshift. The podcast’s theme was centered around social injustice. It took about 4 days to complete the song from start to finish.
For the higher melodies on the verses, I used a method where I taped off parts of the piano strings, to give them a sharper attack.
I shook a plastic jar full of nuts and bolts to create that marching rhythm which I also wanted to sound like shackled chains. The title of the song comes from Ralph Abernathy, who was a leader in the civil rights movement and a close friend to Martin Luther King Jr.
I remember watching footage of civil rights protests and race riots on YouTube, past and present. It was really intense pouring over this sea of rage and racism, and seeing how history keeps repeating itself. At the time I was writing this song, it was an incredibly tense moment for the world. The recent passing of George Floyd and the police brutality that lead to his death had struck a chord. I decided to include the chant, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” as another reminder of injustice in reference to the shooting of Michael Brown back in 2014.
The cricket at the top of this song is also the same cricket you hear in that breakdown in “Abernathy”. It lives in my garage somewhere, and sometimes when I’m recording, it modestly starts chirping away.
All of these prepared piano pieces, titled “Air Drop” and numbered respectively, are improvised pieces that I first recorded on my iPhone as a video file. I later extracted the audio then edited and mixed them into the final songs. They are numbered in the order that they were recorded over a period of two days in April. I then re-shuffled them in the sequence to fit the flow of the album.
I was asked to compose a song for a film back in March and scrambled to write this over a weekend. The movie in question is indefinitely on hold at the moment, possibly delayed from all the shutdowns. They had a temp track that they wanted me to keep in mind to fit the vibe, so I based my musical direction off that. When this album started to come together, I decided to give it a home since it seemed to fit the purveying ambient mood.
This one is definitely the most crazed of all the Air Drop improv pieces. I tapped some drums through my midi controller trying to follow along to the neurotic prepared piano. I like the restlessness of it all and creates a brief respite from the sleepy, ambient vibe. A wanted a friend to add some trumpet on it too, but it never came together. In retrospect, I think that may have been a bit too busy.
I started working on this song back in April. I had found this retro drum machine pattern I really liked in Logic, and just started integrating some Moog sounds around the rhythm hits. They instantly started sounding very vintage together, but it still needed something melodic to tie it all together.
I looked back through some old cassettes of mine, and came across a piece called “Intrique Electronique (Conversation Between the Elements)”. It was from an electronic music based side-project I was in with my girlfriend at the time, Patsy Bugden, called HOUSES AND TREES, back in the early 90’s. At the end of this song is a very ambient sounding Yamaha DX-7. Once I placed it into “Novella”, it fit the mood perfectly. At first I was convinced that I had actually played the part, but it was in fact Patsy. My main sampling keyboard at that time was a Casio SK-5.
Jazz hands! This was simply a rhythmic exercise, exploring different ways to play the prepared piano percussively. Like most of the Air Drop pieces, it came together pretty fast.
This developed from a livestream Instagram performance I had taped in April. I had recorded my upright piano through Logic so I was able to use a section of the performance for the finished piece. As people were commenting on the live feed, someone commented that they felt like a voyeur watching my performance, thus the name stuck. A few of the piano strings had been treated, which you can hear triggered at different moments.
This was my first recorded attempt of the prepared piano improv pieces. I simply treated the strings a whole octave from C# to C# on the upright and struck each key once or twice as a climbed up the scale, and then overlapped the takes in post. The funny things is that when I was recording the piano, after playing each note, I would hear a crow call outside my garage, way off in the distance. It was uncanny. I would wait after each crow call, and then strike a key. It’s buried so low in the mix, but you can still hear the crow calls in isolation if you listen close.
I had a demo of this on my upright piano as far back as March ’20, about two weeks into the start of the Quarantine. In a way, this was the start of it all for the album, although at the time I didn’t know it. I was just sitting at the piano and I taped this quick improvised succession of chordal patterns on my iPhone.
I went back and relearned the piano line in Logic about a month later, using the demo as the guide for the chords and set it to a click. The finished piano on the track is actually a piano patch called Boesendorf Grand Piano.
The word “still” just popped into my head for the song. The title comes from the German word “Stille” which means silence or stillness. It felt like the obvious closing track.
“AIR DROP” IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR STREAMING AND PURCHASE THROUGH BANDCAMP: