Robinlike, or the Anxiety of Influence


Usually, when I have a “new” song to post, I make the announcement over on the News page. But this one requires a bit more explanation than I normally feel comfortable offering there. The song, “Robinlike,” is one that I quickly recorded several years ago and have since been reluctant to make more widely available. Why? Because more than anything else I’ve recorded, it was an exercise. That is, it was a learning experience, one that was so blatantly derivative that I didn’t think—no matter how much I loved it—was a good representation of what creativity I have.

In short, it was an attempt to emulate something that I’ve heard and loved for years: the swirling guitar textures and soundscapes crafted by Robin Guthrie, who is best-known for his work as a member of Cocteau Twins, but who has also excelled as a producer, a solo artist, and a collaborator—especially with Harold Budd. The process couldn’t have been more direct. I plugged my favorite electric guitar into my Alesis Quadraverb Plus and my Line6 Pod, selected some patches, did some tweaking and started playing. After I had eight bars that sounded good, I fired up my digital audio workstation (fancy words for recording software), set levels and hit record. I made up the rest while I played. Thus, everything after 1:18 was about my trying to create a form and a progression on the spot that somehow did justice to the germ of a piece I started with.

In the years since I recorded it, I’ve let at most five people hear it. All of them have loved it and wondered why I would state that I’d never “release” it. My reply, that it was too derivative, never really resonated with them. So, after listening to the track during one of the moments when I was utterly bored with Sarah Palin’s nomination acceptance speech, I decided I should just let it out. Sure, there are things in it that I’d like to fix. But I think it sounds pretty good as it is. Of course, I’d love to know what you think … that’s why that comments link is down below…

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