Album Update (and Recap): Avant

Avant is at that stage where it has suddenly lurched in the direction of being complete. This usually means that at any moment, with everything about 95% finished, it will slow to a crawl as a thousand small details scream for attention.

That said, the bulk of the writing and recording is done, so this seems like a sensible time to take stock.

First the new news, then a summary of previously announced stuff, such as track titles and the artists associated with them.

The Update

Number of Tracks

In total there will be 20 tracks,  well over an hour of music.

I grew up in an age when albums were the dominant musical structure–singles were largely passé, but downloads didn’t exist yet. This means that I write albums, and whether or not they succeed in doing so, they are meant to hang together. There’s a theme of some kind, there’s a specific palette of instruments, and there’s a very particular order to the tracks, plus some kind of arc across the whole thing.

So, in that context, even though I haven’t specifically broken Avant down in this way, it’s clearly a double album.

The Unknowns and the Old Boys

Each track has an artist associated with it, and I focused mostly on those whose work hasn’t always gotten the attention it deserves, especially woman, people of color, and artists who have publicly identified as LGBTQI. At the same time, I included some of the usual suspects as long as they didn’t threaten to take over.

I haven’t announced all the artists yet, but they’ve all been decided, so I can talk about the mix as between Relative Unknowns and Familiar Names.

Of the 20 tracks, 12 fall into the former category, and all of these but one are women, people of color, or in a sexual minority. The remaining 8 are names that you might well recognize, although they’re not necessarily the most popular, or even my personal favorites. They’re the eight who most insistently inspired a composition.

And here’s one more artist who can now be officially added to the roster: Japanese photographer Iwata Nakayama. His track is called “Eve,” which is the title his 1940 photograph, reproduced below.



Avant garde art–and especially surrealism, which is dominant on Avant–has always been self-consciously international, and therefore multilingual. Avant will mostly be in English, but with one track each in French (The Bride Stripped Bare) and Portuguese (one of the ones whose details I haven’t announced yet).

Maybe I could have performed in other languages by doing it phonetically, but I wanted each song was to be written in the language in which it was performed, not written in English and then translated.

If you speak French or Portuguese, you’ll see that the lyrics of the non-English songs include parallelisms and little bits of word play that wouldn’t be there, or would at least be strained, if they were translations from English.

Release Date

So far nothing’s etched in stone, but many of the signs and portents are pointing toward July. It could be August, though.


Like my previous albums, Avant will come with a digital booklet in two versions, one optimized for portable devices and a higher res one for desktops.

I’ve slightly revised the previously announced cover art, with the new version below, and further down is a previously unreleased illustration from the digital booklet. The images may yet be tweaked, but the art is getting close to being finalized.

SOMNIO 01 AVANT new cover 04

Les Reves 01

The Recap

I’ve announced quite a few details up to this point, mostly via Facebook, but I haven’t gathered them all in one place until now.

So here’s what’s been decided and publicized as far as the track list goes, including song titles and the names of the artist whose work inspired each one.

  1. Dada Dance (Hannah Höch, Germany)
  2. Hexen Texte (Unica Zürn, Germany)
  3. Cathedral (Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Germany/US)
  4. Eve (Iwata Nakayama, Japan)
  5. Every Page (Tristan Tzara, Romania/France)
  6. The Bride Stripped Bare (Marcel Duchamp, France)
  7. The Burning Giraffe (Salvador Dalí, Spain)
  8. Daughter of the Minotaur (Leonora Carrington, UK/Mexico)
  9. Sui Generis (Claude Cahun, France)

More information as things unfold.


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OOP Video Image Credits

The following are credits and links for all the images used in the Out Of Place video.  All images have been altered before being used in the video, with changes ranging from cropping and small adjustments to color balance to wholesale replacement of elements in the image (for example, the sky) with elements from other images.

Except where otherwise noted, these images were created by photographers participating in the Documerica project and are in the public domain. All other images are used pursuant to a Creative Commons Attribution License.

At the time of posting all links are working and take you directly to the image from the video.

If you notice an error in any of the credits or links, please let me know at

01 Charles O’Rear

02 Michael Philip Manheim

03 Charles O’Rear

04 Greyhound Charles O’Rear

05 Ernst Halberstadt

06 Danny Lyon

07 Steve Snodgrass but with sky replaced and everything tweaked

08 Boyd Norton

09 Danny Lyon

10 Randy Heinitz, Flickr member, Creative Commons  Attribution License

11 Charles O’Rear

12 David Falconer

13 David Falconer

14 Flip Schulke

15 Patricia Duncan

16 Charles O’Rear

17 Road: oatsy40 & Sky: Pixabay

18 Road: oatsy40 & Sky: Pixabay

19 Dick Swanson

20 Dick Swanson

21 Leroy Woodson

22 Flip Schulke

23 Danny Lyon

24 Charles O’Rear

25 Terry Eiler

26 Michael Philip Manheim

27 Marc St. Gil

28 PunkToad, Flickr member, Creative Commons  Attribution License

29 Marc St. Gil

30 John Vachon

31 Bill Reaves

32 Terry Eiler

33 Charles O’Rear

34 Charles O’Rear

35 Boyd Norton

36 Flip Schulke

37 Tom Hilton, Flickr member, Creative Commons  Attribution License

38 Bill Reaves

39 emilykneeter, Flickr member, Creative Commons  Attribution License

40 William Strode

41 Danny Lyon

42 Charles O’Rear

43 Flip Schulke

44 Danny Lyon

45 Boyd Norton

46 William Strode

47 Arthur Tress

48 Terry Eiler

49 Terry Eiler

50 Danny Lyon

51 Arthur Tress

52 David Falconer,

53 Charles O’Rear

54 Arthur Tress

55 Charles O’Rear

56 Charles O’Rear

57 Bill Reaves

58 Marc St. Gil

59 Boyd Norton

60 Marc St. Gil

61 John H. White

62 Danny Lyon

63 Arthur Tress

64 David Hiser

65 Danny Lyon

66 David Hiser

67 Charles O’Rear

68 Kathy Drasky, Flickr member, Creative Commons  Attribution License


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Album: Time

Time was one of four albums I released on Halloween 2017. The three others form a trilogy under the overall title of Another Place (the individual albums being A City is a Sound, Alone in a Big Place, and Out of Place).

Time is different, being the first album in a different musical stream, called Somniophony. The title is a play on the word symphony, which is derived from (among other sources) the Latin term symphonia, meaning a unity of sounds.

Somnios, in Latin, means dream, so a somniophony is a sound heard as if in a dream.

In terms of instrumentation, the Somniophony stream of albums is much more overtly synthesizer oriented than Another Place was. At its core, Time is an album built around the slick, artificial sounds of synthesizers and the throaty, voice-like sound of the cello–an unusual combination that I think works very well.

Time (large)

The album consists of eight tracks, six instrumental and two with spoken word vocals. You can hear the first track, “The Heart is a Timepiece,” below, and the album is available here (my entire catalogue is available here).

Time comes with a digital booklet, like all my albums, in this case including the lyrics for the two tracks that have them and a series of digital images.

The second album in the Somniophony stream will be Avant, which is due out later this year. The cover art is below, and you can find details about it here.

AVANT cover

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Minimalist Alternate Cover Art

I’m a compulsive tinkerer, which means that my projects tend to go through a lot of permutations, and I sometimes perseverate on something when wiser folks would just let it go. Which is what happened with the cover art I created for the trio of albums in the series Another Place.

The final designs had a distinctly retro feel . In an era of increasingly atomized music, sold by the individual track, I miss the heyday of the album–not just sonically, but also conceptually and structurally.

As Howard Goodall has argued fairly cogently, in the period leading up to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but in particular after it dropped, the album became something far greater than a mere collection of recorded songs that more or less reproduced the sound of a band playing a concert.

Increasingly, the studio itself became the instrument, with songs composed of sounds and effects that were often impossible to recreate live. And the album, rather than the single, became the musical unit, with songs thematically connected across the span of the whole album.

The albums of Another Place revisit this approach, from their conceptual framework, to the compositions themselves, to the design. For instance, each one has a theme related to place:

  • A City is a Sound deals with the the city, and in particular the great American cities of the 1970s. These are places I got to know intimately–the smells of them and the feeling of their surfaces–as I walked around them, hitchhiking the length and breadth of North America for months on end.
  • Alone in a Big Place is meant to capture the experience of being alone in a desert, or on the sea, or on an island, or in a deserted building–or any other place where there is no one else around. Sometimes even in a crowd.
  • Out of Place is intended to convey the feeling that comes with being somewhere you usually aren’t. There’s a different perspective that comes with that situation, and often it’s surprisingly pleasant or instructive.

The design of the three albums was meant to have a vintage feel as well, with the top banner and its graphic.

All covers

To get completely into the spirit of things, I did some mockups of gatefold covers, a physical design that became popular just around that time.  These were never going to be used to house vinyl albums, but creating them put me in the right mood as I was writing the music. Here’s one for A City is a Sound.

Gatefold mockup for A City is a Sound.

Gatefold mockup for A City is a Sound.

And here’s one for Alone in a Big Place.

Gatefold mockup for Alone in a Big Place.

Gatefold mockup for Alone in a Big Place.

But after spending a lot of time creating designs that were meant to evoke the albums of the 1970s, I found that I wanted a palate cleanser. Something slicker. Something that was extreme in the opposite direction.

Just as the simplicity, and often minimalism, of punk and new wave followed the baroque richness of 1970s rock, I wanted something other. So I created an alternate cover for each of the three albums, spare and clean and graphic.

AP ACIAS MIN obverse 02

Creating a design this simple as these seems like it should be easy, but in fact it took about as much planning as the 70s covers, though the execution was less time consuming. I wanted each cover to contain the least possible information that would still convey a sense of what the album was about.

AP AIABP MIN obverse 03

Coming up with the right avatar for the theme of each album, without letting it get too detailed or complex, took some doing.

AP OOP MIN obverse 03

So here they are.

They scratched the itch they were meant to satisfy, even if they have no practical reason to exist. If you own one of these albums and prefer the minimalist design to the original, or just want some variety, feel free to download them.

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Album Art Outtakes, “A City is a Sound”

When I created the album art for “A City is a Sound,” I used images from the Documerica Project, in which the U.S. government engaged a number of very creative photographers–many of whom went on to fame and acclaim–to document environmental issues.

The photographers took a very broad view of their mandate, in fact creating a portrait of the United States during a few short years in the 1970s–the exact period that was the subject of “A City is a Sound.”

"Two Girls Smoking Pot During an Outing in Cedar Woods near Leakey, Texas" (1973) by Marc St. Gil.

“Two Girls Smoking Pot During an Outing in Cedar Woods near Leakey, Texas” (1973) by Marc St. Gil. I applied curves because it was dark, and tweaked the colors, which  were faded. Done in two layers (foreground women, and background), as well as detailing two smaller elements (the top worn by the woman on the left and the strap around the neck of the woman on the right).

There were so many impressive, evocative images that there were many I loved that, for one reason or another, weren’t right for my particular project. That said, I couldn’t resist refreshing some of these outtakes with the same kinds of techniques I used for the album art: brightening dark images, reinvigorating faded color, and, very occasionally, reframing an image if it wasn’t level.

"Puerto Rican boys playing softball in Brooklyn's Hiland Park" (1974) by Danny Lyon.

“Puerto Rican boys playing softball in Brooklyn’s Hiland Park” (1974) by the great Danny Lyon. I applied curves and tweaked the colors.


The pairs of images on this page give you the before and after versions of a few of these images. I’ll post more another time.

"Broadway Local" (1973) by Erik Calonius.

“Broadway Local” (1973) by Erik Calonius. I brightened it and adjusted the colors.




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Creating Album Art for “Out of Place”

When I created the album art for Out of Place, the third album in the series Another Place, I wanted a visual counterpart to the theme that ran through the music: that finding yourself in a new, strange environment can be disorienting, but that can be a good thing, allowing you to escape old ruts you’d gotten into and letting you see things from a new angle.

Image Pair 01

I was looking for images the were reminiscent of travel snapshots, but that often involved odd juxtapositions, and that encompassed possibilities that were sometimes inviting and sometimes uncomfortable.

Image Pair 02

I also wanted them to combine the everyday feeling of family photos taken on holiday with a sense of the extraordinary, the dreamlike. The first factor led me to frame the images like old-time Polaroids, while the second guided the selection of images and the way I tweaked their framing, color, contrast, and other elements, to give them the kind of surreal edge that can come when you’ve been driving just a little too long on a hot desert road.

Image Pair 03

Out of Place is available on my Bandcamp page, as are my other three albums.



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Out of Place

Out of Place is the third album in the trilogy Another Place. All three albums (along with the first in another set) were released on Halloween 2017.

Each album in Another Place with a theme related to location: A City is a Sound, Alone in a Big Place, and Out of Place.

Here’s the idea behind Out of Place:

Sometimes finding yourself unexpectedly in a strange, new place can be oddly welcoming. This album deals with that experience, from a woman who’s chosen to live her life in one sterile airport hotel after another, to a woman who wakes from a blackout in the middle of a desert, to a woman and man who fall in love at first sight at the scene of a multiple murder.

Includes a 49-page illustrated digital booklet, with short fiction to accompany each track. The booklet comes in two versions, one hi-res for use on computers, and the other optimized for portable devices.

Here’s a sample track called “The Nouveau Baroque”:


The digital booklet for Out of Place is extensive. Each track gets a title page featuring an evocative photograph, followed by a piece of short fiction, ten in all. Here are a few of the images from the booklet, along with one of the stories.

AP 03 OOP Booklet PDF DAP 03 OOP Booklet PDF E

Here’s one of the pieces of short fiction, followed by a couple more images.

F3 AP 03 OOP book story only CORRECT SIZED PDF 09AF3 AP 03 OOP book story only CORRECT SIZED PDF 09BF3 AP 03 OOP book story only CORRECT SIZED PDF 09CF3 AP 03 OOP book story only CORRECT SIZED PDF 09DF3 AP 03 OOP book story only CORRECT SIZED PDF 09EF3 AP 03 OOP book story only CORRECT SIZED PDF 09F

And a couple of final images.

AP 03 OOP Booklet PDF C

AP 03 OOP Booklet PDF L

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