Track 7: Electric Ant

Anchor Blog Series: Entry #7

Electric Ant

https://soundcloud.com/zammuto/08-electric-ant

I think ‘genre’ is a very superficial concept.  From my perspective, music is about the details and those trump any category that can be applied to a track or an artist.  There is a certain spirit of playfulness and subversiveness that is universal in good art, no matter where it comes from or what it sounds like.  I want to make records that ignore artificial boundaries and attempt to reveal a unity that is under the surface.  Life is short, and I’ll be damned if I get stuck in one place (creatively speaking) for too long, there is too much to try and learn.  I hate the idea of becoming or maintaining a brand.  Its clear from the reviews of ‘Anchor’ that at this point in my career I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.  Every review of the album began with a paragraph about ‘The Books’.  Many people don’t want me to change, but if I don’t others will complain that my approach is stale.  There’s no way to win this game and so I intend to ignore it and focus on thinking freely, following my internal compass and working with people I admire and respect.  That is, I’d rather be damned if i do.      

Electric Ant (lyrics):

I met her on an airplane,
50,000 feet high,
Complained about the champagne,
She had a sparkling whine,
We talked about the plan of the city,
And how she could have done it better,
She was so profanely pretty,
You could tell she was a money getter,
 
She told me, “Buy low, sell high,
This valley got made by raining money from the sky.”
She said, “Buy low, sell high,
Even if the thought of spending your life here makes you wanna die.”
 
It’s gonna be alright if we keep sub rosa,
It’s gonna be alright if we keep sub rosa,
It’s gonna be alright, underneath a hung rose all night,
Don’t wanna be alright, underneath a hung rose.
 
I met him on a bullet train
He was the ammunition
You could feel the room shift,
When he made decisions,
You could see his head split open,
Half man, half man,
He had no use for the real estate,
He was the middle man.
 
“Buy low, sell high,
This valley got made by raining money from the sky.”
“Buy low, sell high,
Even if the thought of spending your life here makes you wanna die.”
 
It’s gonna be alright if we keep sub rosa,
It’s gonna be alright if we keep sub rosa,
Don’t wanna be alright, underneath a hung rose all night,
Don’t wanna be alright, underneath a hung rose.
 

Obviously, this song is about my disillusionment with the cancerous obsession our culture has with making money at all costs.  In the verses, the game was to start with a sort of cliche image of overly confident business people in transit and then abstract it to reflect human systems as a geophysical force.  That is to say, zoom into a self-involved individual and zoom out to reveal the ant army.  But then, the chorus is in a completely different key, sort of ruing the fact that we are generally so reticent about what really satisfies us. 

To be honest, it was kind of a nightmare working on this track.   It was an exhausting process of tweaking and second-guessing and I almost killed the track several times, but somehow it survived.  I have a feeling this track will split the audience between those who really like it and those who really don’t, and to be honest I kind of like it when that happens, so I’ll always take that risk and release it.  In fact, one thing I am really proud of with ‘The Books’ and ‘Zammuto’ is that our audience is filled with ‘individuals’.  We are able to largely avoid the ugly groupthink that plagues mass art consumption.  People respond to different moments in the show in very different ways, and I remember looking out into the audience to see little pockets of laughter or a single person in tears, like little sparks going off.  It feels very open-ended and makes me think that music should be ‘spongy’ in a way that it’s absorptive because it’s mostly empty space.  It’s been one of the greatest privileges of my life to be able to travel around the world and play concerts. It’s funny, but I often remember the travel better than the shows.  I get emotional when I’m traveling.  I love people watching, and being in a foreign place always gives me fresh eyes to notice patterns.  People’s motivations are very, very consistent from place to place, despite the cosmetic differences between local cultures.  People thirst for opportunities, watch out for their own, and then spend vast amounts of time and energy looking for escapes, both large and small.  I think we’re all kind of in it and above it at the same time, and ordinary moments can be very dramatic when you take a certain perspective. 

Technically speaking, The idea for the main groove in this track came from the same initial session as track 4.  I was playing around with TR808 samples running through outboard gear (mostly the Vermona Retroverb and Lexicon PCM81) which I could tweak in real time to create a lot of different but related textures.  I’ve noticed, in my hearing, that when bass notes go really low I can’t hear the pitch very clearly.  I think I must have narrow ear canals or something, but the bass kick on this track is right on the threshold for me, which created an underlying feeling of uncertainty of where the floor is.   Also, finding the right vocal effect was key to making this track work, and I needed to find a vocal sound that produced a feeling of heightened presence and alienation at the same time.  Usually I record vocals dry and then apply effects later, but in this case I recorded the vocals through the effects in real time and committed to the wet sound from the beginning.  In this case it’s a classic lexicon gated reverb with different amounts of pre-delay on the verses and a chorus/delay on the chorus.  The bass in the choruses is from the DSI Polyevolver.

Tomorrow, I0.

Yours,

Nick

Upcoming shows: (starting Oct. 26)  New York - Philly - DC - Durham - Atlanta - Asheville - Nashville - Louisville - Cincinnati - Columbus - Buffalo - Boston - North Adams, MA 

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