“III”/Unofficial Liner Notes & Gossip

04/25/2015     / / / / / / /

Dan, Brian and Alec give the skinny on “III” …

“East of the Sun & West of the Moon,” originally on 2xLP with handmade woodcut-printed cover art. These tracks were generally recorded in our studio with everyone switching instruments a lot, but more often than not Brian is on bass and Dan is on drums, and Alec is on keyboards or guitar. Some songs are jams, but most were recorded one track at a time. Lots of overdubs and other instruments played, and sometimes it’s hard to remember exactly who played what or why.

1. Narconaut: The working title of this was “Interstellar Sandwich Artist,” and it has some backwards guitars and backwards haikus about pulp space heroes. This was also one of our best live tracks and we almost always played it first in the live set because the thunderous opening got everyone’s attention. The riff was something Alec got from a guy named Steve who was a roadie in Camper Van Beethoven. Our friend potpie played the second best sine wave solo in Rock History on this song.

2. Venus: Brian played the dirtiest part on this song  on a cheap 335 copy that has since been disassembled for parts. This was probably the song we worked on the most because it had so many parts. The middle bridge, which sounds like a gypsy-folk string interlude, has our friend Court on mandolin but originally featured Brian doing a Van Halen type guitar solo. The ending part was difficult to nail because it has 2 alternating time signatures. 4/3/4 then 4/4/3 over the drums doing straight 4/4 doing triplets. Brian plays guitar and Alec plays bass on this song. Working title was “Crapamunga.”

3. Terpsichore: A shorter version of what’s on “North of Tomorrow & South of Yesterday” (see below), to fit on the LP.

4. Lozenge Club: this is a loop from a jam we did in practice, and the longer, actual jam (“Lozenge Jazz Club”) is on “North of Tomorrow & South of Yesterday.” Trying to sequence a double LP, this was the last track of side A — we used bits of longer recordings as interludes.

5. The Forest: This is essentially an electronic improv track: Dan looped the Moog Voyager through multiple looping pedals, and Alec made an 808 style drum kit in Reason and improvised along. We later added some overdubs including a guest bass from our friend Aubrey (who is now playing in Chef Menteur), and Brian added some free jazz horns. The sample is from a Smoky the Bear ad, that we stretched out slightly more each repetition.  Check out the video Dan made of this song, he did it with old school home made liquids and trays like they did at psych shows in the 1960s and 70s instead of using digital effects. Working title was “Beards of Canada.”

6. Oxen of the Sun: Dan had played this riff, solo, at a local thing called Noizefest on an electric banjo, for about 30 minutes, and his knuckles bled for the last half of it because that’s the kind of hardcore banjo player he is. The rest of the band called it “Danjo Bloody Danjo” after that. He refused to clean the blood off his banjo head. It later became a CM song, with the addition of other instruments and a vacuum cleaner intro. And of course it was the perfect song to inject a 2-minute Farfisa solo that starts out super-quiet and builds, then goes into noise-guitar over baroque bass, then resolves into a post-rock ballad. The main riff and the feedback throughout is the electric banjo going stereo through 2 amps but most people assume it’s a guitar.

7. Ganymede: Every CM album before this one had a ultra-long space opera drone on it named after a moon of Jupiter and this continues the tradition. It takes a specific and patient mindset to make this kind of music. It’s great stuff to zone out, go to sleep, meditate, write or read to…. because you can disregard it as background music if you need to, as Brian Eno said about ambient music, or you can pay attention to it and hear subtle, interesting things unfold.

8. Long Stand (Part II): shortened to fit on the LP, the whole track is on “North of Tomorrow & South of Yesterday” (see below).

9. O.T.O.: intro is Dan playing banjo through a wacky EH pedal and Alec playing lap steel. When the main song starts you hear a homemade tamboura that Dan made. Dan wrote the main riff on bass, and Brian added a guitar part, and Alec did a sitar solo before the song builds into a whirlwind of the song. The working title was “Crain” because Dan liked the bass tone’s similarity to John Cook’s from the band of that name.

10 … Plateau: Based on a fingerpicking rhythm on guitar Alec came up with, the name comes from the translated name of a Mongolian folk song, that just seemed to fit, although the song builds and builds slowly. Brian plays lap steel, bass and other guitars, Dan plays banjo and drums, as usual. Other instruments include hammered dulcimer, mellotron, and more guitars … we always played this live in combination with the next track…

11. Lion: An open-tuned acoustic guitar loop Alec made and pitched down, that turned into a massive space rock jam, with Dan’s one-key Moog solo, then a pretty cool dirty solo that Brian did on guitar, leading into a Jethro Tull code that leads into …

12. King Richard: a comically medieval but beautiful Richard Thompson style outro that Brian played on a very badly intoned kid’s toy guitar. The perfect way to end a double album.

“North of Tomorrow & South of Yesterday,” or “64 Slices of American Cheese and other Whipped Delights,” a companion to ”East of the Sun & West of the Moon,” and never before publicly available … these tracks were recorded at the same time as the tracks on “East of the Sun … ” and were originally offered only as a bonus to some upper-level Kickstarter supporters of the double vinyl.

1. Ribbons … : a song we did a bunch live, and this is a live recording in the studio with our good friend Mike Mayfield (who has been in several incarnations of CM in the past) guesting on drums… It’s another one of Dan’s massive banjo riffs, Alec playing Persian-style Farfisa, Brian on bass.

2. Farfisa Duo Raga: Alec got a Farfisa Duo like Rick Wright, and it took awhile to get fixed, and recorded this meditative piece.

3. Omnilab: And now for something completely different! (Alec’s wife Christy got him an Omnichord as an anniversary present.)

4. Terpsichore: This song’s working title was “Jazzy Diano” because Dan played a jazzy riff on the Rhodes, and Alec and Brian joined in quickly with guitar and bass parts, and it just followed. Brian even laid down a 3-part trumpet part, facing the wall because Dan read something in Tape Op magazine about John Fischbach (who mastered this and our earlier albums) recorded Stevie Wonder’s horns that way. The vocal sounds you hear towards the end, were voices Alec surreptitiously recorded on the streetcar near his house, neighborhood ladies talking about buying soft-shell crabs. There are lots of overdubs on this one including an autoharp that we had to figure out how to retune to make the two chords work. We had to make this song shorter to fit on “East of the Sun & West of the Moon,”  but we put the long version on “North of Tomorrow & South of Yesterday.” Terpsichore is the name of a street in New Orleans, and is also one of the nine Muses.

5. Where Wings Take Dream: An electronic gem straight out of the mind of Brian Abbott using samples of Falstaff speaking in Henry IV, part I or II.

6. Pastranomy pastranomi: Left as an exercise for the listener.

7. One Fret Beyond: A jam we played a lot to this Staxxy bass-line Brian came up with. This is just a practice space recording and never got the full studio treatment.

8. The Long Stand (Part I and II): Brian and Alec switch off on the electric sitar on this one. We usually played both parts of this track last on our live set, and was always a great ender no matter how things went before. The voices (heard in Part I) are the dispatcher from a well-known cab dispatcher that Alec recorded from the back seat of a taxi. The vibe of this song is more like older Chef Menteur, songs like “Gilgamesh” which was never released but also featured electric sitar. We had to cut the first part off to fit on East… but we wanted to have the full version on North…

9. Lozenge Jazz Club: See #8 on “East … ” a live practice space jam… very “Night Court” … exploring the boundaries of taste

10.  Sinks of Gandy: A dirgy folky demo on bass and banjo that Brian and Dan put together when Alec was on vacation. Named after a cave in West Virginia

11. Phallus Marinarus: Another practice space jam that we don’t remember playing but people seem to like a lot

12. The Mamluk Qalandars: A practice song, with Brian on drums (!), Dan on electric banjo and Alec on Moog

13. Don’t Invite a Centaur To Your Wedding: Brian recorded this through a pair of cheap headphones that he deconstructed and put in the inside of a ukulele

14. Sorry For the Delay: Another jam in the practice space, that we joking called “Shiny Happy People” because it was way more upbeat and major key than any other CM song. Mike Mayfield guesting again (he was helping us with live shows at the time), this time on synth. Alec on guitar, Brian on bass, Dan on drums. The title of this song was waiting to be used for an album title (and maybe still will someday), but got attached to this song.

15. Kenny G Goes To Guantanamo Bay: Another song recorded while Alec was on vacation. Dan had the idea that he and Brian would take turns recording tracks, not having heard what was recorded before, and picking the name of the instrument out of a hat. The result was not too different from some Plastic Ono Band tracks.

“Force Majeure,” previously only available on cassette (sold out), lovingly remastered for CD by Josh Warren. Personnel on this was Alec, Brian and Dan again, but Phil had joined the band in support of live shows dealing with the previous album release and had begun contributing to songwriting new material. On all these songs Brian is on bass, Dan on drums, Phil on guitar, and Alec on guitar and Farfisa. Songs 2-4 were recorded live in 1 or 2 takes at the Living Room, a studio run by Chris George and Daniel Majorie across the river in Algiers, part of New Orleans. All of these songs were part of the live set we came up with in support of “East of the Sun … .”

1. Faeroe: Originally written as an intro to the next song, there’s some melodica, airy vocals a la “I’m Not In Love” … Nordic and other ambient tones …

2. Pyrymyd: This song was originally called “Pharaoh”. A lot of people were shocked when they heard this song … “This is Chef Menteur?” But they weren’t shocked in a bad way. Alec had recorded Phil’s band the Gubernatorial Candidates and Phil had started out playing with us on live shows, then he started working with us on live shows. We definitely moved into a more 1980’s direction, with some Talking Heads guitar and Fela organ influences along with the Clash and the Fall at this point. It also has Brian’s best bass fill of all time, which always makes us smile, especially knowing the situation under which he recorded it. Wait for it!

3. Death Wraith: In rehearsals we called this song “God Fucks Everyone” because the chord progression was GFE. Dan says this is his favorite Chef Menteur song.

4. Surface Tension: A seaworthy sound, riding the waves … The evening was damp with reverb.

5. Immense Dimension: This song is 3 in one, in classic prog rock tradition, and Alec wanted it to have three names, like something from “Tales from Topographic Oceans.” On the recording, as live, Alec switched from guitar to organ and back in one take — the organ part is due to his listening to too many Ethiopian records. Synth drone part is simultaneous overdub with Alec on Korg and Dan on Moog at the Living Room.

Courtesy of ColourHorizon