- March 19, 2019
Dani answers some of your questions about singing on To touch the milky way at YouTube
My Patreon backers give a small monthly donation, to help fund the creation of my art. They get additional private blog posts. You can join for as little as $3 a month. It’s a really nice way to keep the art flowing.
Dani answers some of your questions about singing on To touch the milky way at YouTube
You did it! We reached the goal with 24 hours to go. Your support made the The Gesture of History crowdfunding campaign a success! 265+ amazing people said, “Yeah, I like this! I want to be one of the backers that ensures there’s a physical CD & LP!” That’s remarkable! I’m so grateful. If you missed pledging the campaign and would like a copy, visit our Bandcamp page.
Hi Sam, I pledged The Gesture of History. It’s not much, but you and your projects have given me a lot of pleasure over the years. So this was a no-brainer and the right thing to do. Good luck from New Zealand, Paul
Hey Paul, $20 is still $20! It moves the campaign closer to the goal, so it’s very helpful. Best, – Sam
I’ve been following your work and your Projekt roster since the late 80s. The music world is in such disarray at the minute – it’s all image over substance and production over talent. We need you now more than ever! – Paul
Ha! I think there’s always been a faction of the music world that was image over substance (ie: much of MTV in the 80s, all the bad California bands in the 70s). But I know what you mean, and I appreciate it. – Sam
I’ve launched the Kickstarter to fund the CD and LP edition of The Gesture of History. I’m really thrilled with this instrumental collaboration with violist Nick Shadow and synthesist Steve Roach. It evolved from recordings around Blood on the snow/To touch the milky way into an album I think really stands up on its own! Listen to a preview track at our Bandcamp page.
The Gesture of History draws upon introspective passages where the organic texture and emotions of the viola play out over an atmosphere of engulfing mournful beauty. Delicate strings float upon shimmering, forever changing expressionistic backgrounds of processed viola, synth, and harmonium – sensitive and deeply moving. The modernist ambient compositions balance on the precipice, looking back in moments of reflection and rumination, while delicately holding the future in our hands.
I’m crowdfunding on Kickstarter where you can get involved to help create the CD and LP. Like when you donate to PBS, you’re contributing towards something you believe in. And you’re becoming a patron of the art. I really appreciate that many of you have already pledged on Kickstarter.
I’ve noticed fewer European backers on my recent campaigns; I suspect expensive shipping is the big consideration. Shipping often costs around the same as your pledge! To deal with this problem, I’ve partnered with a German webstore so all European premiums (in the under $100 tiers) will ship from “Projekt’s European Webstore” in Siedlinghausen. Read more about that here, with estimated shipping charges.
Thank you so much for helping this independent, fan-funded album see the light of day.
If you backed last year’s To touch the milky way Kickstarter campaign, you get a free download of Gesture immediately. If you don’t have that email in your inbox this backer-only update for a link to your download.
There’s a variety of CDs, LPs and other cool merchandise at our Bandcamp store. Including the only-now-available fleeting CD with the tracks from the Limitless and Bike Shop EPs, plus two otherwise unreleased tracks.
Hello. Another new year has begun. It’s hard to imagine it, really! When I write “2019” on a check or invoice, I stare at it for a second and think, “Huh, no way! You serious about that!?” 2019 is the 30th anniversary of Black Tape For A Blue Girl’s 3rd album, Ashes in the brittle air. I was doing an interveiw last night with a guy writing a book about 70s and 80s independent ambient music; he said the first time he heard my music was the track “Across a thousand blades” on a CMJ compilation CD. Ashes was how many people first discovered my music. After 2 releases on vinyl, it was the first CD release from the band (and from Projekt); it got the music out there quite a bit.
I’ll have more to say about Ashes in a minute, but first let me look back to a closer poit in time, 2018.
2018 was a great year musically. I finished the To touch the milky way album, Kickstarted it on CD/LP, drove around Oregon with Mercy to shoot photos for the deluxe edition, and got it manufactured and mailed out to all the backers. I talk a lot about the very cool people who support my music, and I’ll tell you why: backers are how I’m able to release my music these days. CD sales continued to plummet in 2018, streaming is king for generating income for musicians. My music is pretty “cult” (as they say in Europe) and “fringe” (as we say here in the USA). Even with half a million streams on Black Tape For A Blue Girl in 2018, that’s not enough to live off of, it barely covers a month’s mortgage. Your direct support allows me to keep releasing my music.
I appreciate that.
In late 2018, I also finished The gesture of history album which you’ll be hearing a lot more about very soon. This is the short description I am working on to describe it at Kickstarter: “Viola-based textural ambient drift music from Sam of Black Tape For A Blue Girl. Developed around Shadow’s viola, with enhancements from Steve Roach.” I gave an advanced unmastered copy to Scott (a patron and über-backer), he wrote, “The rich sound creates a hallowed, perhaps mournful, atmosphere. Far from being overtly dramatic, yet entirely recognizable as BlackTape with similarities to past instrumental pieces such as “With a million tears” (Mesmerized by the sirens), “With my sorrows (2012) (Remnants of a deeper purity deluxe), as well as Sam’s 2017 solo release Isotope and Terrace of Memories, his early-90’s collaboration with vidnaObmana.”
I know, I know! It’ll be much easier to figure out what this album is like when you hear it. In fact, everyone who backed To touch the milky way will get the download of Gesture once I receive the master from Howard. This will be around the Kickstarter’s launch in early February. I’ll be crowdfunding a CD/LP release.
Naturally, I am going to pay Shadow and Steve Roach for their involvement. In order to keep the Kickstarter goal manageable, I’m thinking of paying them from funds contributed by my Patron supporters. About 1/3 of 2019’s support (at current levels) will go to pay Shadow and Steve’s royalties. It’s cool, that’s why people are supporting me at my Bandcamp patron page: you help me cover the costs of creating my art.
Speaking of support, when I launched the Patreon-version of my patron area (back in 2014, I believe) I mentioned that if I reached $800 a month in patronage, I’d take a dedicated day a week off from Projekt, to work on art. We never quite got to that goal; backing is currently $408 a month at the rebooted Bandcamp patron area. Still, I’ve decided to take Fridays off. Working on this email list is part of making my art, just like writing the copy for the Kickstarter is part of my art. I’m also working on a video for “In my memories,” and soon I’ll be back in the studio working on music.
Speaking of patrons, I just got a new $5-a-month supporter this morning. Thanks!
And since I wrote this update, I’ve gotten another $5-a-month supporter, and a $10-a-month supporter. Join here and get the Exclusive Download of Ashes in the brittle air First Edition and 16 other downloads too! Thanks so much!!
Loren – vocals & acoustic guitar
Sue kenny-smith – vocals
Sam rosenthal – electronics
The Ashes archeological dig….
Ashes in the brittle air (the previously unreleased first version) is not recognizable as the album you know; this is a chance to hear a different 3rd Black Tape For A Blue Girl album. I scrapped this version, cut it apart, salvaged some tracks and reworked others. There are five unreleased songs, along with versions of six songs that appear on the final album. What you’re hearing is unmastered; it really needs an engineer to pull it together to sound coherent. But for the moment, it’s an interesting artifact from the late 80s.
Something quite different to begin the year of the album’s 30th anniversary.
Let me tell you the story of why this version of the album never was released.
I lived in Orange County, California, when working on the Ashes in the brittle air album in 1987/88. I moved from Florida in ’86 for my last 2 years of college. Over the course of recording, I graduated and started my first full-time job. I was 23; I worked on music nights and weekends using the analog 8-track in my friend Walter Holland’s studio.
I believe I met Loren through a letter he mailed after hearing my 1985 Tanzmusik solo-electronic LP. I loved Oscar’s vocals on the first two BlackTape albums; there wasn’t a problem that led me to look for a different vocalist, it just seemed like a cool idea to find a local bandmember to work with.
Loren suggested we reuse two tracks from Tanzmusik as backing tracks for new songs (“The Return” is renamed “We return,” but is not the “We return” that appears on The Rope. “Year 90-10” became “Let the rainfall.”). When looking through my cassettes of rough mixes, the first two songs we worked on together are “We Return (from Loren’s 8-track)” and “Pop song (through sky blue).” They are both attempts at writing more commercial tracks. The early version of “Sky blue” with Loren (and no Sue), is bonus track #14. I know we worked on it for a while, but it just didn’t gel for me; I rejected it before the album was mixed; but for a long time it was slated to be included.
At the time (and still today) “Return” and that version of “Sky Blue” sound amateurish, they’re trying to be new wave, new romantic pop. I do like Loren’s vocals on “We Return,” but we threw in the kitchen sink in an attempt to succeed; the songs just don’t come together. Hey, I’m not blaming anyone but myself, I played the music on them! To me, they seem like Loren and I getting to know how to work together. Usually, I’d scrap the dodgy pieces and write better ones. With Loren coming over regularly to work on music, I’d try to change the things I didn’t like or didn’t think sounded BlackTape-enough, but I had a hard time getting rid of these two tracks.
On the other hand, I was excited when we hit on pieces that worked well, that’s why we kept working on music together. Of the songs I removed from the album, I think three worked nicely. “Let the rainfall” and “The sound of waves” are moody and image-evoking track (“Waves” is the first song I played guitar on). Loren brought in the track “Milan” already formed. We recorded it in Walter’s studio, I added some synths, but that piece is almost all Loren, and it’s lovely. These three would have made a nice EP, come to think of it.
(Aside: Interestingly, I see on Cassette Vol 6, April 1988, I was thinking of calling the album The hypocrite is me. There wasn’t a song named that at the time, it’s a title that ended up being used for a track on A chaos of desire.)
Songs were coming along, lyrics were getting written, and Loren’s vocals were recorded. I flew to England to record Sue Kenny-Smith on the songs written for her. Sue improvised “Is it love that dare not be?” in the studio. I don’t know if she’d already written it, or if it just came to her in the moment. She played it the way you hear it. One take most likely. Nice!
But back in California, Loren & I were having disagreements. We were butting heads about the songs. I felt there was some good material, and some stuff that should be rejected and replaced. Yes, we worked hard on those tracks, but I think you have to be bold and not cling to the mediocre pieces, especially when they stick out in comparison to superior tracks. They needed to be tossed to make room for something better. Also, keep in mind this was planned as an LP, there was a 40-minute time limit.
The other issue is a bit more personal. BlackTape is my band, I didn’t feel I should have to have disagreements with other people I invited to participate and assist me. I’ve never given others final say in BlackTape. It’s always my decision on which pieces make it onto the albums, or who sings which song, etc. Loren was not happy with what I wanted to do. I felt the album was weak in places, and his lyrics were New Agey and not in sync with the lyrics I wrote. I wanted to make changes to get the best album I imagined.
Part of the problem is expectations. Over the years since, I’ve never recorded vocals for a song I didn’t believe in and felt might not go on the album; I never want to waste a singer’s time, have them think their performance was going on the album and then let them down by cutting the track. On Ashes, it seems everything that was worked on was getting shoved onto the album, and that was a problem.
Now let me stop for a moment, and be realistic. I don’t want to write this like I’m the hero of the story, and Loren is the bad guy. This is about artists making art, and having different visions; a difficult situation. Creativity is subjective, and perhaps if Loren had been in charge of the album, and I was in his band, it would have turned out to be something quite interesting. But it wouldn’t have been Black Tape For A Blue Girl. I am the director of this band (true, at that point it was only three years into the band’s existence; but there were already two albums out, and before that I had recorded 10 instrumental cassettes.) I had an overall vision, I knew what was or wasn’t the 3rd BlackTape album I wanted to make.
To be fair, Loren was enthusiastic about collaborating, and he strived to have the music exist the way he wanted to hear it. He was doing work he believed in, and standing up for his ideas. I know now I could have been more clear from the beginning about how I envisioned the collaboration. I messed up letting it get too far away from my initial idea of working together.
These are things I see clearly in retrospect. I was just 23 at the time.
What I know is I was not happy with my own album, and it was no longer fun working on my music. Art needs to satisfy the artist. I understand why bands explode from “Creative differences.”
(And yes, it is true, at times I talk about BlackTape and myself interchangeably. “My album” shows how connected I am to what I create, even when I’m working with bandmates on the music.)
By late summer 1988, the mix was finished, and included songs I didn’t believe in. Plus there was another problem. Walter Holland had assisted me with mixing Mesmerized by the sirens, this time I did this mix myself. It showed! The engineering on the multi-track recordings were not great, and the final mix was shrill. I just didn’t know a lot about sound, from a technical perspective. I recorded to 8-track tape, then mixed through an old 16-channel board to an 2-track open reel. There was a lot of knob moving that needed to be done in real time, and fader fading, and sending to reverb and delay. It was tough to do a good mix of a track start to finish, especially as there was no compression available. I was trying to ride the levels on the tracks along with everything else, because the volume levels were all over the place.
This shrill mix – completed after a straight week of work – was just one more problem with the album that pushed me to a breaking point. I was dissatisfied with my mix, and dissatisfied with a number of the songs… I did what artists always do: I freaked out!
Loren and I had a falling out (though I cannot remember the particulars of that), I cut a bunch of songs and wrote new ones. Cassette Vol 10 is named “Post Seperation 1988.” I remember calling Oscar, stressed and anxious, to ask if he’d sing the new track “Across a thousand blades” and “The Scar of a poet.” These turned into two of the best known songs from the band’s first five albums. When listening to the final version of “Poet,” I know definitively that Oscar is the person meant to sing the song. It’s a perfect showcase for his style and voice.
I was motivated by the pressure of having only half an album completed; I created a number of new songs quickly, and reworked a few of the existing ones to remove Loren’s contributions, and pull something interesting out of the recordings (“Ashes in the brittle air” and “Through sky blue rooms” were especially nice in stripped down form; another piece with Sue turned into “You tangle within me.”) I wanted to keep everything I recorded with Sue, as those three hours in the studio were so productive and beautiful.
Listening to the final album today, I regret that Oscar only sings two songs; I should have asked him to sing some of the ones on the 2nd side, or written a few more for him (imagine if I had written another couple songs like “blades” and “poet!”). I probably felt a time crunch to get the album done, after the delay with the first version. The first two BlackTape albums came out a year apart (86 + 87), and now it was looking like the release date would be two years after Mesmerized. The album came out in 1989 as the band’s first CD release.
The album changed dramatically from the first version you’re now hearing. I achieved what I set out to do: revamped the album into something that felt like Black Tape For A Blue Girl.
This first version of Ashes has never been heard by anyone but me. A fan (Randy!) asked for many years that I release it. In 2015, I sent the 1/4-inch 2-track mixes to my guy in Canada who did a super high-quality transfer to digital. It was quite expensive (thanks Patrons for paying for that!!) and only confirmed what I remembered: my mix was thin. And not very good in places. In my studio I went back to the cassette rough mixes and transferred them to digital. On some tracks, the roughs were better then the final mixes. What you hear is some of the finals and some of the roughs, and occasionally I blended in bits of the rough over the final, to bring back an instrument or effect I had removed.
As you can tell from that, I didn’t have a finished master of the album to work with; I reconstructed this from my notes and from digging through the cassettes. It was daunting, and at times tedious, and I’ve procrastinated for many a year. The 30th anniversary seems like a perfect reason to get this to you, at last.
Listening to this now, for the fourth day in a row, I don’t dislike the tracks as much as I did in 1988. I still know it’s not the record I wanted to release then, and I don’t regret my decision to rework it. As a sonic archeologist, I find it interesting to listen to this artifact, 30 years later. Ashes in the brittle air (the previously unreleased first version) flawed, but close to the way I heard it in 1988.
– Sam 1-6-2019
Hi. I posted an update to the To touch the milky way Kickstarter. I talk about the shipping date growing closer, sending out the download codes later this week, and being saved by a random thought.
If you’re one of my generous patrons at Bandcamp, I posted a thought about anxiety regarding creating, and wondering who is this critic in my head? My 58 supporters help me create by donating a little bit towards my costs as an artist. Very cool. Whichever way we connect, it’s all very cool. It’s nice being in touch with all of you who care about my art, and want to see me make more of it.
This post serves as your last call to get in a preOrder for the Remnants of a deeper purity T-shirt reprinting. If you want one, order at the Projekt webstore so I know how many to print. The second pressing of the 2LP vinyl is also available on that link. The image below isn’t exactly the final blue color, but it gives you a good idea of the shirt design. Available in all sizes: small to 2XL.
We’re getting closer and closer to the release of the new Black tape for a blue girl CD/LP, ;To touch the milky way. It is available for preOrder at the BlackTape Bandcamp store. the Projekt website, and also our new Projekt European Website.
I’m reading the latest book from my favorite Jungian analyst, James Hollis, Living an Examined Life: Wisdom for the Second Half of the Journey And also Craig Ferguson’s autobiography, American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot. You can guess which one has more laughs.
We’re two months away from the release of To touch the milky way, the new album from Black Tape For A Blue Girl. The CD + LP are up for preOrder at the BlackTape Bandcamp store the Projekt website, and also our new Projekt European Website.
I’ve set up the preOrder on the second pressing of the 2LP Remnants of a deeper purity (with the 8 page booklet) and a reprinting of the classic ’99 Remnants tour shirt. Both at the Projekt webstore. European fans can get the LP from the Projekt Euro Website.
To touch the milky way is an ethereal, darkwave, dreampop album. Like many Blacktape albums, each song is in a somewhat different style, which gives vocalists Michael Plaster (SoulWhirlingSomewhere) and Danielle Herrera opportunities to explore and stretch, bringing you and them to new places. The songs… oh? It’s so hard to explain what the songs are about in one sentence. I’d say the lyrics are influenced by questions I ask myself. I’ve created characters who question where they are at, is this the life they wanted? Wondering how to move forwards, or if it would be better to abandon the path they’re on and start something new. We all feel that turmoil, frustration and anxiety. Where are we? Is it where we expected to be at this point in our life? And are there other choices that could be made?
Musically, this is one of the most “solo album” Blacktape albums I have created. There are appearances on a few tracks from (The Dresden Dolls) drummer Brian Viglione, violist Nick Shadow, and multi-instrumentalist Chase Dobson… but much of it is my electronics, acoustic guitar & harmonium. There’s an element of textural ambience in the 4-piece movement that covers the first two tracks of the album.
Oh!! Talking about music! I can’t wait until you can hear it, instead of reading my words.
November 2nd is the street date, we plan to start shipping October 26ish, after packages are in the mail to the 255 Kickstarter backers who made this release possible.
Thanks so much everyone, more soon!
PS: You might dig this! The new Lycia is coming out on Projekt. That’s right: two of Projekt’s biggest mid-90s band are releasing new albums at the same time! PreOrder IN FLICKERS at the Projekt Website (where you can also get the shirt) or the Projekt Bandcamp page.
thanks for supporting independent music
Hello, Sam from Black Tape For A Blue Girl here. With all the different message I write (Projekt lists, private messages for my patrons, and updates to my Kickstarter backers), it dawned on me that I have been woefully negligent at posting regular updates about BlackTape things I’m busy with each day. I plan to fix that! Let me catch you up…
The new album is done! Howard mastered the album’s seven tracks; after some final adjustments last week, it is perfect and ready and I sent it in. The LP plant has the audio master and the album jacket artwork. The company printing the deluxe art cards received the pdfs. And I’ve turned in the artwork to the CD manufacturing plant. Everything is moving along, though I think we’re a bit behind schedule for an August release, unless the LP pressing plant is really speedy. I think September seems more realistic for getting everything in the mail.
I wrote an update at Kickstarter about the mastering earlier this week.
For the last year I’ve been meaning to find time to put together this video of the track “Sometimes, Sunshine” from Revue Noir’s 2008 album ANTHLOGY ARCHIVE. If you don’t know Revue Noir, it was my post-Halo Star collaboration with Nicki Jaine. We played eight shows between 2004-2009 and worked on a bit of original music. It’s pretty much part of the Black Tape For A Blue Girl timeline in my mind, as Nicki sang with BlackTape before & after, and we performed Nicki-solo & BlackTape material at those shows.
The reason I wanted to get this video made is there’s a youTube Dark Cabaret collection video that includes “Sometimes, Sunshine.” It has over 3.5 million plays, but we receive only 1/24th of a pittance for every play. A friend suggested uploading a video with nearly the same title as that video. That’s what I did. My video includes unseen 2005 photos I shot of Nicki for the album cover session, and a bit of video of Nicki from a show at Dances of Vice. Give it a look. I like it!
Nicki is still one of my best friends, we talk often. She’s not involved or interested in the music business anymore (it stressed her out). She’s doing great, otherwise!
Did you know that I play piano on this 2005 Steve Roach track, In The Eye Of Noche?
There are multiple sides to BlackTape’s music. On the albums I integrate the diverse styles flowing from ethereal to ambient to song-like pieces. Sometimes you’re in the mood for the songs, so I created a playlist at Spotify with tracks from this side of the band.
I plan to create more playlists. One I’ve been wanting to hear for 15+ years is “All the instrumental tracks with Vicki.” In the old days, I used to thing about these things and then shoot the idea down. “Do I really want to invest in a CD ‘overview’ that features instrumental tracks?” I know Eric would love that album, but would it sell enough at stores to make a good investment? Now I don’t have to worry. I can put that playlist up on Spotify for everyone to enjoy, without having a lot of CDs sitting around that I have to sell. Good deal!
No, this isn’t a new art piece I’m working on. This is a photo I send to the pressing plant that screwed up the new pressing of Remnants vinyl. What happened is they shipped me a new batch of 150 copies of the LP and all the jackets were split open. This is not a gatefold release, this is the single-pocket vinyl jacket split and spread out on my kitchen floor. Grrrrrr. The vinyl looks and sounds great, it was just the jackets. There always seems to be a problem with American vinyl plants.
I had to complain and argue, and go nuclear. When I refuted the credit card charge they suddenly became cooperative and offered me a refund of enough money to reprint the cover at a different plant. That will be at Precision the Canadian vendor I am working with on the To Touch The Milky Way album.
The recent Kickstarter included a vinyl option with Milky Way, These fleeting moments and Remnants of a deeper purity. For those of you who didn’t get in on that pledge, I am planning a special package in a few months. I will reprint the 90s Remnants T-shirt, offering it in a combo pack with the vinyl (and perhaps a tote bag)! Stay tuned for that.
Something else to stay tuned for: I’m finishing a digital-only release of tracks that Nicki Jaine sang with Black Tape For A Blue Girl at 2010’s Steampunk World’s Fair. Martin Bowes (Attrition) mastered it; I’m sending it to my digital distributor Monday.
I haven’t posted music or artwork from the new album, so it can be a wonderful fresh experience when my backers open their packages. Dani and Michael provide wonderful vocals. Mercy and I created evocative imagery for the cover. It’s going to be fantastic!
Thanks for your support and interest in Black Tape For A Blue Girl.