‘Touchstone’ By Solarstone… A Users Guide!
‘Touchstone’ is an album all about illuminating musical inspirations. Once Richard had wrapped on its production he gathered together all the scribbled on Post It notes that had been amassed in the studio, the ones that he’d been using to jot the inspirations down (along with some additional thoughts/recollections on the tracks) and produced a ‘users guide to Touchstone’! So, with just one week to go before the album is released, here’s his full inside-track on Touchstone…
Intravenous: This piece of music, which weaves in and out of a genius arpeggio played by Nigel Summers is a nod to ‘On The Run’ by Floyd.. Rather than sync Nigel’s guitar to the bpm of the sequencer, I decided instead to record Nigel’s guitar dry, and sync everything else to it precisely. Great idea in theory – not so great in practice. It took me an entire day to achieve, but the slight changes in tempo throughout the track give it a sense of urgency which I think is difficult to achieve with a static tempo. ‘Intravenous’ was written as a precursor to ‘Twisted Wing’, together they take the album into a tense and darker middle section.
Electric Love: I love uplifting trance music, but find that many tracks these days focus too much on the percussion at the expense of the melodic elements. Rather than adding percussive layers, I created movement and energy with lots of running analogue arpeggiated lines instead. The song is a love song really, it’s about considering how your actions affect others around you, be they lovers or friends. It’s a dreamy trance record. Bill McGruddy (the vocalist) and I spent a day freezing on the south coast of England to make the video in January 2010.
Twisted Wing: The opening line ‘You cannot fly, and every night you dream of scaling heights’ came to me whilst listening to a radio program about an actress in the 50’s now retired. She was describing herself as having ‘dusty wings’, and would relive her nights on stage in her dreams… it was incredibly moving. The lyric suggested a majestic orchestral progression to me set at an energetic pace. I wrote the lyrics with Julie Scott. When she hits those high notes I get goose bumps every time.
Slowmotion: Written with Finland’s finest Dj (and my good friend) Orkidea , ‘Slowmotion’ has undergone many incarnations, rearrangements and remixes. It didn’t make it onto Rain Stars Eternal, it just didn’t work with the rest of the music… but I knew it had a rightful place on Touchstone. The addition of the Édith Piaf sample and the editing gave the track the extra dimension it required for a place on the album. Even though it is much slower than ‘Twisted Wing’ it seems to lift the pace at that point in the record, most bizarre!
The Best Way To Make Your Dreams Come True Is To Wake Up: A very long title, for sure, but as one of my colleagues said “what better than poetry in a title itself”! The title is a direct reference to the French poet Paul Valéry, who coined the phrase. I had fun with some new vocal compression techniques when recording this track, so much so that I tweeted the geekiest tweet of my life, of which I am thoroughly ashamed. I only began to feel comfortable with my own singing voice around the time of ‘Late Summer Fields’. The response from my fans to that track was a real surprise, and it freed me in a sense, to sing the lyrics I was previously writing for other artists. The lyrics in ‘The Best Way’ were a product of my insomnia, when I’m working on music I struggle to sleep properly, in addition, when I recorded the vocal take for this, I had a terrible throat infection, but being the masochist that I am, I thought it would lend the performance a rough ‘edge’.
Zeitgeist: Orkidea and I both love Trance music from the early 90’s for it’s intelligent arrangements, the inclusion of many different parts and the weaving of different textures and elements throughout the tracks. Each time we write together, we assign different parts of a simple melodic progression to different instruments – it’s a ‘question and answer’ mentality. Zeitgeist is a pure club record, its relentless arrangement doesn’t let up for a moment. I fell in love with ‘Yellow Moon’ by Catbird when it appeared on the Solaris International show as a ‘Chillout Moment’ back in 2008, the ‘Fly with Me’ vocal sample was shoe-in for this track.
The Last Defeat (Part Two): As a teenager I loved the way that Genesis would split an epic track into two parts on an album, so I decided to go one step further and save ‘Part Two’ for the next album. It’s one of those little bits of detail which resonate with fans too. Lucia Holm of Sunscreem had long been a heroine of mine, I was delighted when I succeed at coaxing her into writing a vocal for the track. ‘Part One’ was, to my mind. a musical vision of a battlefield when all is quiet and peaceful, but Lucia interpreted it as making love for the first time, I was practically in tears when I heard the song. The Strings, Rhodes and Hammond added some drama to the song as it takes a diversion into the dubby middle section. I edited this down from a mammoth 13 minutes for the ‘Touchstone’ sequence.
There’s A Universe: Musically the combination of electronica and 60’s instrumentation is a pastiche of influences from many great British bands of the last 40 years. Billy and I both sing on this one, spookily we struggled to remember who had sung what when it came to the backing vocals, our voices seem to morph into one. I recorded 16 layers of harmonies for the ‘aah aah’ section, if you listen closely at one point you can hear the telephone ringing in the background. The song itself is an ode to universal love, grabbing it with both hands when it’s there, and savouring the memory when it has gone. After all, as the man said “It’s better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven’t done’.
What Do Touchstone Contest Points Mean?? PRIZES!!!
When we kicked off the future-perfect viral campaign for Touchstone 4 weeks ago, we promised you prizes… Not just any old cleaning-out-the-cupboard prizes, but for our highest point achievers something super-exclusive! And now we’re delighted to announce exactly what that will entail! The 10 people with the highest point count at the end of the contest (full details here) will receive a 1-of-10 signed vinyl test pressings of a special mix of a Solarstone track. Only ten pieces of vinyl will ever exist, and if you’re a winner you’ll be able to lay claim to owing one of them! Instant forum/chillout room cred! In addition you will also receive an exclusive Touchstone winners t-shirt, signed CD and poster/sticker pack. Hot, right!? But that ain’t all. For one person – the individual that spreads the word of Touchstone, the farthest, the widest and the loudest – will have a Solarstone remix of a Solarstone track named in their honour!Your place in dance music history confirmed… forever.
It’s never too late to start participating in the contest. If you’ve got a large circle of electronic dance loving friends, you could be shooting up the Touchstone ranks within hours of starting! Kick off or check your progress right here.
Previously On ‘Touchstone’
Mini-Doc #2 Goes Online.
The first one caused a minor sensation and now, just one week before the release of the album itself (standby for an in-depth track by track next week BTW), Richard has online-d the second behind-the-scenes Touchstone mini-doc. Part 2 sees documentary team Our Man In The Field leave the countryside studio setting and head with Richard into the heart of London, for Solarstone’s performance at the O2 Arena in April. Throughout the 3 hour set, he first debuted many of the album’s tracks for the first time and you can see how the epic 10 minute title track Touchstone dropped for the first time.
Click here to get viewing! http:www.solarstonetouchstone.com
The Touchstone Launch Party @ OTR!
To mark the release of the new album and the start of what promises to be an incredible supporting tour, on June 25th quality trance beacon Off The Rails will play host to an all-guns-blazing, all-lasers-firing launch party. In one spectacular coming-together of Solar, Solaris and Swarmy-ness, the tribe of Stone will descend on Sheffield, ready to unveil the album!
On the night’s musical menu, well naturally enough Rich will be playing an extended set in which he’ll showcase for the first time all the new material he’s been working on over the last 18 months. There will also be a LIVE Solarstone PA with Rich reteaming with vocalist Bill McGruddy. The pair have been working together since the late 90’s, when they produced a clutch of electronic classics, including Z2 ‘I Want You’ and 2nd Element ‘Underwaterfall’. On the 25th they’ll be performing ‘Electric Love’, ‘Is There Anybody Out There’ and ‘Jump the Next Train’ live for the first time – not something to miss!
The night will also feature many other DJs including Netherlands sensation Sied van Riel, recent Solaris Recordings debutante Mark Pledger, DJ Ange and OTR’s residents Hidden Agenda.
Solarstone felt that the solarSwarm should also represented on the night, so back in March he launched an exclusive competition for one of them to win the opening set at the launch party. In and amongst some truly excellent mixes sat one from Jahawi (yes, he of Electronic Architecture fame). The young Kenyan’s sophisticated, stylish prog-trance blend so took the assembled Solar-crew that it was named the victor! Jahawi will be flying in from Kenya specifically to play the event, and yes, it is indeed his UK debut!
The other star of the night, well that’s Off The Rails itself. The Sheffield based trance night caused a seismic ripple to pass through club-land since their first events just 3 years ago. After quickly becoming known for truly world class DJ bills, first rate productions and a unique venue and atmosphere, OTR has given the UK club scene a much needed beat injection. If you’ve not yet, been then you’re in for the night of your life!
You can get a hold of tickets for the Touchstone launch night direct from OTR’s website with just a couple of clicks of you mouse… starting here!
Click here for the Touchstone microsite.
Mini-Doc #1 Goes Online
Back in February, with the Touchstone album safely in the can, Solarstone met up with renowned dance music documentary makers Our Man In The Field to give them the inside track on it. In the first of two Touchstone ‘mini-docs’, Richard returns to the Solarstudio to talk about the creation of ‘Electric Love’, ‘Slowmotion’, ‘Zeitgeist’ and the title track. Viewing these are going to become an essential part of the album experience… so don’t miss! It’s showing on the ‘Touchstone’ microsite now.
The Touchstone MiniMix
The Touchstone mini-mix has just gone online and is available through the site’s music player. Your very first opportunity to get a listen/preview of the album’s material is here, now! In taster form the 10 minute feed will give you instant hits of all of Touchstone’s wider-than-widescreen auditory goodness. Click here to listen to it via the Microsite, and if you’ve not already done to sign up and get participating in the release (full details further down the page)!
Touchstone Back Story…
In 2008 he produced Rain Stars Eternal, his rebirth 2.0 artist album and in 2009 he imagined and created Electronic Architecture – his IDMA-nominated concept compilation vision. Now, for a new decade, Solarstone returns with… Touchstone. In ways big and small, conscious or otherwise, inspiration happens to everyone, everyday of their lives. Musicians are perhaps intrinsically even more open to it. Lines thick, thin, straight and curved are drawn to productions that span back over many decades… In his own production work, identifying these inspirations, down to their smallest elements is something that Solarstone (composer, producer, singer & DJ Richard Mowatt) has long been captivated by.
Touchstone, his new artist album, brings these inspirations out of the cortex and into the light, ‘musically mapping’, for the first time, an artist that has at every turn sought to redefine the word trance. As with every album ever produced, influences are there to be picked up on by the listener. On Touchstone though they are first illuminated, clarified and examined by the artist himself. Richard himself goes on to explain: “To me musical inspiration comes in many forms. It can be artists that I’ve fallen in love with wholesale and still venerate to this day, or simply fragments of music that made a lasting impression at arbitrary points in my life”. ‘Touchstone’ is a culmination of all those inspirations – I really hope you’re going to enjoy examining them as much as I did whilst making it!”
Get The Widget And Send Touchstone Viral!
In a wholly new cutting-edge fashion we want you to Participate in the album’s release! We have created a points = prizes feature on the website for registered users to help us spread word of ‘Touchstone’ around the worldwideweb. You can help us by embedding ‘Touchstone’ widgets on your social networking pages, forums & websites. The widgets enable people visiting your pages to listen to tracks from the album and then themselves get involved. You can recommend friends to join and every time your widget has a friend sign up or creates a sale, you automatically get points added to your account. And remember best of all: Points are going to equal some pretty incredible Prizes!
This post originally appeared on Electronic Nightlife, now a part of beatcue.