Shamanic Revival

taken from private journal

There’s a certain fine connective tissue between my creative projects. I know I’m partly guilty of flitting between proects rather than nailing down and ploughing through one idea with sustained focus.
I said in an earlier entry that I’d attempt to not do this, but I have to admit that chopping and changing tends to work quite well for me, I am retaining creativity daily after all.

I tend to find when I reach a creative block, especially when it’s music related, my mind tends to do one of two things. I either completely shift gears to another method of self expression or I return to something earlier where I got stuck. In the most recent case, it has been returning to a little project I’ve gradually evolved over the last couple of years.

Here’s a brief back story: For about thirty years I’ve been a fan of the former band ‘The Shamen’. The road got a bit bumpy in their later years after their bassist,(my first musical hero) Will Sinnott died, so my main point of  admiration tends to focus on the era between 1988-91 where the band, in my opinion, transited through their *golden age*.

When I lived in Norwich, the city centre market used to have a stall that sold bootleg recordings of gigs. I’d make a weekly visit there on the look out for stuff I was into, one one occasion I spotted a Shamen bootleg of them playing in Bournemouth doing a ‘Synergy’ club night. Because Synergy was a type of show that was part rave, part concert with a seamless transition between DJ sets and live acts, whoever had bootlegged the show also made a point of recording about half an hour’s worth of the DJ set. Most of the tunes in that section of the recording were old club classics of the day, elements of What time is Love by the KLF, Renegade Soundwave’s ‘The Phantom’. To my mind the standout track was the unexpected and fucking brilliant instrumental remix of Shamen track ‘Oxygen Restriction’

This version was unique to my collection as it appeared to have never been released… I had the tape for quite a few years, complete with poor quality cassette hiss, peoples voices forming a background ambience. I always felt frustrated that I had such an amazing recording so badly recorded. Sometime around 2003-2004, I found myself no longer owning a tape machine and it seemed that tape was dead in general. I clearly recall sizing up the tape, during a clear out and thinking ‘ah, I suppose I’ll never play this again’ and throwing it out with other rubbish. I have learnt to bitterly regret that choice over the years since then. Here’s why:

1. There are a small number Shamen Bootleg recordings online, none of which are the Bournemouth show.
2. I have since learnt that the reason the version of Oxygen Restriction is so obscure, Is probably because it was an on the fly live mix performed by Will and another DJ, ergo it was unique.
3. It looks like I was the only owner of the bootleg of the concert. If anyone else had it, they’ve never made it publicly available.

4. Since disposing of the aforementioned cassette, I have been haunted by the memory of the tune and remember it vividly enough to now be able to do something about it…nearly.

Needles to say, as I’ve gradually progressed with my ability to sequence and play music (Mainly on Nanostudio) I’ve made attempts to recreate the music I remember. I guess because I’m a perfectionist, I’ve felt frustrated at the things I know don’t sound quite right, or true to how I remember them.

Nanostudio sadly became a defunct DAW after having survived a few years and several iOS updates and phone iterations. The developer Blip Interactive decided to retire the app in the advent of the iPhone X and cease updating the software, consequently any Apple devices running the latest operating system could no longer open the old music production software.

For me, this meant that every piece of music I’d created and learnt from over the last four years had to be relegated to a digital graveyard. I still have my old phone with a working copy of my first DAW, including early attempts at Oxygen Restriction.

Musical creativity has shifted to the excellent and very portable GarageBand for iOS, where I’ve put focus into updating the more successful music projects from my earlier efforts. I know I’ve appeared to digress but bear with me on this.

The beauty of working on GarageBand whilst on commutes and work breaks is that nearly everything I create can be exported and built upon in Logic X for a more professional and polished sound.
Recently I’ve returned to the quest to faithfully recreate that long lost bootleg mix of Oxygen Restriction, and its definitely progressing along in leaps and bounds. Call me an anorak, but I felt a sense of glee when I spotted an old Shamen video of Colin Angus playing a Yamaha DX7 ; “A clue!” I thought. I found an app that was free and claimed to be a faithful emulator of the old DX sounds. Sure enough, one of the settings had a synth noise incredibly similar to the opening chords of Hyperreal. Coincidentally, the same sound was used in that obscure Oxygen Restriction version, so that’s another box I can tick.

Revisiting the Shamen as I do, I have found my imagination wandering around on other things I have always admired but felt haunted by for various reasons. For example, it transpires from various other publicly available bootlegs that the band evolved ideas for their tracks over the course of a live tour. The track Phorward played live was a significant departure from the version on the album of the same name. Elements of the Pro-gen rap can be heard in Colin’s singing. I’m particularly fond of the Bootleg ‘Shamen Live at Suberrania’ as it sounds like Colin and Will were on fire with energy. The songs were incredibly punchy and performed with precision. Once again, I have the nagging spectre of dissatisfaction with audio quality.

On the one hand, I could think ‘it was of the moment- should’ve been there’. On the other hand I think ‘I could probably make a close approximation of these tunes and make snappy instrumental versions of them’ The creative drive dictates the outcome, the lack of perfection of my musical ability remains the only hindrance …but I’m working on that and confident that I’ll get to where I need to.

Contender tracks are:

Phorward: current obstacles are sourcing the opening samples.
“and they can’t find it? Then we’ll find it! We all know damn well they won’t. They haven’t been able to for 50.000 years looking at it that way. It requires an alteration, a change…”

*Update: Source located*

War Prayer:

*Awaiting bass recording from session bassist*


*Vast collection of modern equivalent samples currently amassing*

You, Me and Everything (Evil Ed live Subterrania ‘Funky’ version)

*Original samples hard to identify: If you know the gaps to the following problem, I’d love to hear from you “Yaaaaah (Got) Here it is (Unknown) ???????? Hit it (Got) cold rock stuff (Got)”

Splash 2/What’s Going Down?

*Sequencing started, having trouble with the main synth riff which is a 6/8 loop the notes are correct, the synth sounds are just wrong.

I don’t mind taking on the challenge of recreating and experimenting with the works of another long respected artist. I personally feel that an attempted copy will teach me where my strengths and weaknesses are, it will allow me greater insight into the creative processes of arrangement as the original tracks provide a template. Given that I sometimes struggle with my own arrangements, having a form of replica will provide insights into how Colin and Will worked back in the day, as I’ve learnt from my attempted recreation of Hyperreal last year, seeing a track laid out on the piano roll of a Daw is an insight that almost everyone lacks when they hear a tune that they love. It can be quite an education.