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Album cover of '9iP' by James Kennedy


By James Kennedy

'9.i.P' came out in 2013 & was my 1st Solo release. KYSHERA's album 'Made in China' had come out the year before so I was definitely pretty deep in to all things of an experimental & progressive nature around that time! Usually, artists start out mainstream & become gradually more progressive as their career develops but for me, I jumped in as left field as you can go, right from the off and then having explored those waters, swam back towards the mainland, content and yearning for an actual song. I can't personally even listen to '9.i.P' anymore – it's too dark, too challenging & too technical – but I'm still really proud of it for it's pure artistic statement & technical ambition. Throughout the album I experimented with Micro Tones, Polyrhythms, speech rhythm, Noise, Serialism, dissonance, Musique Concrete & pieces composed purely of Timbre rather than melody & rhythm. I wanted to see what emotional responses could still be yanked, or what listening experience could still be achieved if all words, chords, melody, beat & recognisable sound were removed. It's a pretty high brow affair for a very niche audience but for anyone who is completely confused by the album or for anyone with an interest in technical, experimental music, here's a track by track breakdown of the vision & techniques used throughout.


1) Water Babies


This was an attempt to see what pleasant sound environments could be achieved without the use of any pitch, rhythm or recognisable sounds. Every sound in the piece was derived from a single sample of the Big Ben bell in London. Bells are great for sound manipulation because of the way their harmonics all morph in & out of each other so I achieved the main sound texture by slowing down a strike of the Bell to ridiculous lengths. Some of the fast, fluttery sounds were made by speeding it up and adding Doppler & Pan effects among other things. I thought the end result sounded like something you should hear in an Aquarium and was quite meditative to listen to. By only using Timbre and no other element of sonic composition, I think the results can still be pleasant and can also create sound environments that you actually couldn't achieve by using notes & rhythm.


2) Spectra


This technical little beast took months of editing! There are hundreds upon hundreds of tiny little samples that I made each & every one of by myself – and all of them only feature once before the track races on to the next. Likewise with the drums, no 2 bars are ever the same throughout. The track is a sonic onslaught with all manner of sounds thrown at the listener at breakneck speed. It's some of the most relentless editing I've ever done.


3) Planck


This creepy number is composed entirely out of 'Micro Tones' - in case you don't know, many cultures around the world have many more notes in their music than the 12 we use in the West which is why some Eastern music can often sound dissonant to our ears but with the aid of the computer I was able to go way further than some of the Quarter Tones that are commonly used around the world and produce a ton of very finely tuned 'Micro Tones' and assign them to my virtual ensemble. Hearing traditional instruments like Pianos & Violins take solos with these notes is straight out bizarre & that Choir is just...wrong! That said, I was pushing the concept of Micro Tones to it's absolute extreme but you can hear their more tasteful application in the music of the incredible Bulgarian Womens Choir – if you haven't heard them already, go and check them out NOW!


4) New World Order


This joyful little number is made completely out of NOISE! A complete sonic blast of all the senses! I made this hell of a sound by slamming all of the keys on a Piano, adding delays & loops and slamming the whole thing through a chain of Distortions, Fuzzes & sonic destroyers! I then did the whole process several times & dunked it all on top of itself to make an even bigger wall of noise hell. There's other things in there too which I can't remember exactly but no doubt there'll be seriously distorted screaming & much abuse and mangling of other poor instruments. And why not eh?!


5) Dark Suits


This 7 minute ditty is composed exclusively using 'Speech Rhythms'. When we talk, we don't use standard musical rhythm - our speaking rhythm is 'all over the place' and I was interested to see how that could translate into music. I'm by no means the first person to do this – Speech Rhythms have been much more tastefully explored by many Jazz & Classical musicians already BUT where my experiment differs is that I had the help of a computer to accurately track the rhythm of actual speeches, rather than an improvised musical interpretation of them. I imported some awesome historical speeches from Martin Luther King, Kennedy and others and then went through the arduous process of tracking every vowel & consonant by hand and assigning a drum sound to them. So for example, a breath or an 's' sound would be a Hi-Hat, a 'b' might be a Kick Drum and a 't' could be a Snare hit. I spent weeks making these drums parts by manually tracking & assigning sounds to speech. When finished, I then had all of the rest of the instruments follow the timing of those drums and then I muted the actual speeches out. Just to make it even more listenable, I couldn't resist the temptation to switch the musical genre every couple of bars. You're welcome.


The middle part of the song is a Musique Concrete 'movement' if you will, composed entirely from the sonic manipulation of speech. There are also, for the first time in the 'song' here, fragments of actual speech and you can hear how the drums match up with it. The final 3rd of the piece features a full rant by David Icke which I left in, in all its glory, with it's accompanying drum part & climax.


6) 3


As with the opening track 'Water Babies' I wanted to see what emotions or feelings could be evoked by pure, non-musical sound – rather than by pitch, harmony, words & musical structure etc. Whereas 'Water Babies' is a pretty pleasant listen, I wanted to see if I could create an unsettling, unpleasant feeling without using any recognisable sound, dissonance, words or standard suspense techniques. This is the result and it's definitely one for the whole family.


7) Time


For anyone with an interest in Poly Rhythms, Nested Poly Rhythms & Tuplets, this one's for you! Again, with the benefit of the computer I was able to create complexities of rhythms that are impossible for us mere humans to perform. Not only am I interested in these types of rhythms (which are not often used in Western music but are very widely used in other cultures) but I also like how they demonstrate, musically, just how 'relative' & elastic the notion of time & meter really is. That's why you hear the Metronome ticking throughout whilst all these crazy rhythms weave around it – it provides the reference point around which the sonic illusion of time bending can take place. At no point does the metronome slow down or speed up but due to its relative nature to the varying meters & speeds of the rest of the sounds in the piece, it sure does feel like it at times! This song uses Tuplets & Nested Polyrhythms in their most extreme form but they can actually be used in much more tasteful ways and are much under used in Western music.


8) House Of Mirrors


In contrast to the rest of the album which uses modern technology to experiment with sonic ideas often unattainable until now, this song uses only live, natural sound – in fact, the whole piece is constructed from sounds made exclusively with my mouth! There are no studio effects anywhere on the 'song' (other than the 'multi-tracking' of parts) as I wanted to push the limits on the wide scope of sounds available through that most versatile of instruments – the human voice. Again, it's not a particularly pleasant listen but hopefully an interesting one? Unless of course, the sound of human crying, screaming, gargling & retching is your thing, in which case...this one's for you!


9) Under


The last track on the album is a pretty straight forward one. I thought I'd reward whichever listeners had managed to get that far with a little audio 'cleanse' at the end of the expedition. 'Under' is a very simple sound scape made with layers of Synth Pad sounds and ambient noises from my collection. It doesn't really contain any determinable pitch or rhythm as such and is mostly a testament again to the range of ambience's & moods that can be created with Timbre alone.


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