Things That Go Bump: Mystery, Vibe, and the Occult

By Robert Leo Newton

2014 was a year out of the ordinary for me, musically. For ten years I led my flagship Progressive Rock band, Blood Root Mother, through half baked song sessions, teen clubs, working class recording studios, and begging for gigs in the unforgiving war zone that is the Minneapolis Rock music scene. I had finally been making a living off of nothing but music for a few years, mostly through teaching, but things were not entirely hunky dory.

Rob Newton with progressive rock group, Blood Root Mother.

Rob Newton with Progressive Rock group, Blood Root Mother.

As the five year relationship that had ushered me into adulthood crumbled, I found myself disillusioned with the prospect of pursuing original music as anything more than a hobby. It is difficult enough on one’s own, and to divide the responsibilities among a group of six had become ridiculous. Though, I suppose that is a story for another time.

I decided to take an indefinite hiatus from the band scene. It was a difficult decision, those were and are still the best musicians I have ever worked with, and it is doubtful at this point that we will all be able to work together again. So, 2014 began with the bittersweet freedom that comes with the relief from some stressful responsibilities. Now, without a band or a partner anymore, I had time. Too much time.

Coyote_CoverIt didn’t take long before my artistic inclinations took hold and I began to work. I whipped up a new batch of vintage styled Rock and Roll tunes under the album name “Antique Club Banger”. During this process I discovered an even larger project of abandoned material on my hard drive entitled “Coyote”. I decided to finish both and take my show on the road. For the first time ever I made arrangements to embark on a national tour, and, to my surprise, succeeded—but that is a story for another time as well.

Before I even left for my trip, I started planning a new project for the Fall. I wanted the material to reflect the Autumn feel, expressing my interest in mystery, vibe, and the occult. Antique_Club_Banger_CoverRhythm tracking began at Jesse Ray Ernster’s studio in the spring, and by the end of the Summer I had completed my Fall release, “Things That Go Bump”. Due to my friend Jesse’s superior equipment and expertise, the sound of this album was of a significantly higher quality than my two previous efforts. We spent large amounts of time sculpting guitar sounds with various amp modeling hardware, chanting ludicrous backwards messages, and of course enjoying some home grown craft beers of the Twin Cities.

What resulted was the following tunes:

Things_That_Go_Bump_Cover_FullNight Belongs To Me: An acoustic piece with a gentle swing I wrote outside of a Perkins years ago. I was having a cigarette break while reading “Diary of a Drug Fiend” by Aleister Crowley. Still near the beginning of the book, I was feeling the uplifts of love and wonder from a new romance, tempered by the danger and overall creepiness of the night. The lyrics evoke the classical elements in a pseudo mystical fashion. The tambourine sound is actually my car keys on my knee, I am very happy with the slide sound I got out of my Fender Stratocaster.

Spare Parts: Perhaps the oddball of the recording sessions, Spare Parts started as a random ska-like piece from my Finale files on my laptop, Finale being music composing software. As my musical literacy has developed I have gotten into the habit of writing everything down, no matter how minute. While digging through my notes one day I chose to turn this piece into a stomping teen-angsty rock tune about unrequited love. Jesse added some digital effects to the mix and transition between tracks.

The guitar solo is especially weird as I sculpted some angular melodic lines, leaving much space in the mix. We then filled that space with delay and reverb, adding a second track where Jesse would manually work a knob on the effects unit that would make the sound oscillate faster or slower. The result is a pretty bizarre sounding solo.

Hymn To Bacchus: This piece began as an after thought while reading “The Occult” by Colin Wilson. I was filled with an almost anxious excitement to create something beautiful and I quickly laid out a Beatle-esque “progressive pop” song. The melody and chords are more or less predictable, with a few moments of detachment thrown in to accompany my theme of Dyonisus, the god of wine, frenzy, and earthly delights. As the sun set I penned the words and kept the song mostly to myself for years until it ended up on this record.

Come On Over (Turn Me On): The only cover song on the album, this song only fits in with my loose theme in that it has quite a creepy vibe. I love the line about the spider having been out catching flies. I can’t say much else about the tune as it isn’t even mine, only that I’ve tried to make it my own, and I made a definite effort to have the piece build in intensity throughout.

Hymn To Phoebus: Another song scavenged from my Finale notes, this tune started as a song fragment intended as a sister song to Hymn To Bacchus. Evoking the sun god Apollo, I illuminate on aspects of balance, hard work, and perfection. While recording, Jesse and I created an effect setting for the guitar, radically altering the sound into something resembling some strange orchestral instrument. We used this to create some answer phrases to the vocals on the later verses, and this is still one of my favorite sounds that I have ever put down on record.

Mr. Hume: Mr. Hume is a polka-esque sea shanty type tune that talks about Daniel Dunglas Home (pronounced “Hume”), a Scottish “mystic” from the 1800s and possibly the greatest charlatan of western history. Some of his supposed feats include levitating, producing disembodied hands, and playing a tiny encased accordion from a distance. He apparently even had the famous author Nathaniel Hawthorne fooled yet unimpressed. Perhaps he performed these feats in actuality, perhaps he really did commune with the dead. I don’t really care, as I’m far more interested in turning it into a creepy piece of music.

 

We used a broken accordion, not only for a solo section, but also to create the wind-like, creaking sounds that endure throughout the song. Finally, through some arcane means, we came up with some magic words to utter, which we then played backwards. Then, we phonetically figured out how to pronounce those backwards words and recorded a track of chanting based on that. THEN, we played that track backwards, resulting in by far the most satanic sounds since, oh I don’t know, Led Zeppelin.


To hear the full Things That Go Bump album, Coyote, and more, check out Rob’s website, robertleonewton.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Facebook, and head on over to his SoundCloud for more of his latest work!

I am thrilled today to welcome our newest Featured Artist. For someone so talented, Robert Newton is a very approachable, kind person. He describes himself as “just a little too different” for any traditional genre, but his work is fantastic. It has been my pleasure to have the opportunity to help him showcase it.

 

– Roggen Wulf


Rob_Newton_001About Robert Leo Newton

Robert Leo Newton is a singer-songwriter, music teacher, and recording artist from the Twin Cities. He is a fourteen year veteran of the indie progressive rock scene. (Read more…)

 

 


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(Robert Leo Newton, 2015)

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