The Remastered and Expanded Edition of my 2010 Album "Beautiful Isolation". Whilst the album was released in 2010, it was written throughout the year of 2009, which makes this year, 2019, its ten year Anniversary. The original 10 Album tracks have been remastered and there are now 14 extra "KingB-Sides" tracks included in the download.
Written and recorded during a self enforced period of isolation in the hills of rural Pembrokeshire, 'Beautiful Isolation' is an audio documentation of a year inspired by the natural beauty and remote setting.
“Beautiful Isolation” was somewhat of a landmark for me, both musically and mentally. It was the first material I began to write after finally overcoming an addiction which had plagued me for over a decade. The writing of the album allowed me to gather myself, my thoughts, and give me the strength and motivation to deal with my personal demons.
As such I took a completely different approach to my songwriting, and pushed myself to create something completely different from what I had created before.
I took myself out of society for a year, as much as humanly possible. Only venturing out to buy food and provisions and make field-recordings. The rest of the time was spent creating in my little self-contained, makeshift “studio”; which really was no more than a bedroom with a laptop, microphone, headphones and electric and acoustic guitars. Over this period I religiously kept sketchbooks detailing ideas and directions in which I wanted to take the music.
I’ve always been somewhat of a loner, an outsider. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of that, I wanted to embrace it and use that time spent with myself to fuel the thoughts behind the album.
In hindsight, this album, along with my follow-up album, “Lost Property”, should have been released under my own name, Chris Weeks. These albums are somewhat removed from my previous and subsequent Kingbastard releases, primarily due to the aforementioned situation I found myself in. It wasn’t until two years later, in 2012, that I decided to release music, in a similar vein, under my own name.
Essentially, Beautiful Isolation is an album that is built upon the idea of introspection; that it is ok to be alone; to want to be alone. Time and creativity can be great healers. You can find creativity and beauty anywhere and in anything. It’s all about taking the time to look. Not only at yourself but at your surroundings. Draw from what you see and hear. From your past and present, your experiences, good or bad, and channel them into something creative.
Now, to some, that may all sound rather pretentious. Still, it is an honest viewpoint which I find myself reflecting upon, a decade after writing and recording the album.
Having the main body of the album remastered has encouraged me to go back and listen and immerse myself in my own creations. Hearing these pieces again takes me right back to that moment. To me it is an audio-diary of that period of my life. Writing and recording the album gave me time and space to reflect on my past and move on from it. To start again, to strive to find beauty in the everyday, and not be dragged down by the “weight of the world”.
“Beautiful Isolation” means a lot to me.
Back in 2010, when the album was originally released, I penned a guide to the album for Clash Magazine. Read on for a personal insight into Beautiful Isolation's ten tracks.
1. Losing My Mind Through Bridge Meadow:
This track is all about setting the tone for the rest of the album.
Bridge Meadow is actually the name of a place you can only get to by walking through a sinister looking, poorly-lit underpass, which snakes through part of the town of Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. If you listen carefully at about [2:35] into the track there is a field-recording I captured on my Dictaphone; Walking through the underpass I kick a discarded empty can, I used this to signify the change in direction of the track. Another part to listen out for is the recording of a cuckoo clock [4:24], which was treated with various FX & re-sampled to loop in time with the music. It created a unique wind-instrument-esque element and the sound of the mechanism and chimes added an extra rhythmical quality to help move the track to its crescendo.
2. The Slippery Slope to the Lost Art of Conversation:
Essentially three tracks in one it begins with ‘The Slippery Slope’. Built around the acoustic guitar riff which plays both forwards & backwards in left & right ears respectively. This section of the track can be taken both literally and metaphorically. The backing vocals were actually my attempt to help remember a melody. I ended up liking them more than using the guitar part intended, so I kept them in the mix.
The middle part ‘The Lost Art of Conversation’ is an acoustic guitar track I’ve had in my head for a number of years, yet never fully ‘realised’ until recording this album. It’s a reflective piece which starts slowly in a sombre tone, meaning to reflect a state of isolation, then develops into a faster more free-flowing piece with what I like to think of as two guitars talking to one another; linking into the final section of the track you hear the sound of me typing on my laptop, having a ‘back & forth’ with someone on an instant messenger service.
I loathe mobile phones & phones in general, but my penchant for using text messages and instant online messengers and my self-induced isolation during the making of the album was, in some way, effecting my ability to hold a conversation in the ‘real world’, hence the full title.
3. Beautiful Isolation:
This is the track that really started the concept for the album snow-balling. It was one of the first pieces written & recorded and was inspired by a trip to the beach on a cold, windy day. I took a long cliff-top walk & was getting blown all over the place; the only person mad enough to be up on cliffs in such weather conditions, so I had to find shelter in a little nook. Once in that space the wind was gone, it was warm and I could just sit & stare out to sea. That’s when the title came to me, I quickly scribbled it down in my sketchbook and from then on the ideas for the rest of the album started to flow. I vividly remember finishing this track and taking it out for a ‘test-walk’ all the while frantically jotting down more and more ideas for future tracks for the album. (The String section at the end of the track was originally going to be a separate piece called ‘These Four Walls’)
4. The Deserter:
This track is all about the ‘little voice in your head’ that stops you from facing-up to things. The lyrical content says it all really:
“Don’t want to go outside, it is cold & wet, you can run for cover, I’ll forgive you, but I will not forget. Inside, outside, upside-down all the time, I hear The Deserter, he is here inside my mind, & he says… I don’t want to meet people, no not today, I don’t want to meet people, I’ve got nothing to say, & if I close my eyes does it all go away?...”
I feel the harmonica part best captures the mood I was in when writing this track, both distant and mournful.
5. Open Up Your Mind & the Door:
If The Deserter is the question, then this track is the answer. It’s a musical ‘note-to-self’.
This version differs greatly from the original arrangement. When I heard the original back in context with the other songs it just didn’t sit right for me, so I deconstructed and reworked it, stripping the track back to its bare bones and giving it a more unique and challenging arrangement. The piano part, initially used at the end, felt much more at home starting the track off as it means to go on.
Overall the mood is more ambient and a little more sinister compared to the original, but in parts has a more sunny, warm & cheerful disposition, hopefully evoking the promise of a new day, but with a hesitant, wary undercurrent running through it.
6. Multicolour Octopus Ink Nightmares:
Written & recorded in various stages, very late at night & very early morning, I had been suffering with insomnia & a recurring-waking dream which started off pleasantly enough. Multicoloured drops of ink splashed into jet-black sea water, producing kaleidoscopic visions, but these vivid colours would always end up amalgamating into a sinewy mass of bioluminescent tentacles trying to drag me under. I felt using a semi-psychedelic theme and an arrangement moving from a chilled, steady beginning to a euphoric middle crescendo and a dark ambient end best captured the dream sequence musically.
7. Seawater Fool – Firewater Fool:
I began to discover all these beautiful beaches and coves dotted about the Welsh coastline. One particular beach became my favourite spot to sit and watch the waves, (you can hear the field recordings I took of the sea and surrounding ambience in the first section of the track). The most enjoyable part to make was the ‘organ-grinder’ section mimicking the melody from the first section. This part represents the ‘fool’ of ‘Seawater Fool’ and for me is evocative of the sepia tinged footage of old seaside towns. The fool in ‘Firewater Fool’ is a different matter all-together, recalling times when my days were dark & fuelled by alcohol.
I had managed to go walking too far whilst the tide was out and found myself becoming cut-off and eventually stranded, with no mobile phone signal, as it came back in more rapidly than I expected (there’s a reference to that in the track where I say ‘No Signal’).
The first part represents my mellow inebriation, the end, the somewhat wobbly guitar and organ parts, a musical memory of my comical, drunken scrabbling back over slippery, craggy rocks in an attempt to get back to dry land, Fool!
8. Prendergast Cherry Grove:
The title belies the inspiration, influence & mood of the piece. Recalling a location from earlier in the album, it’s another place name through which the same underpass from ‘Losing My Mind Through Bridge Meadow’ leads. Throughout the track you can hear the sounds of school-kids & people on their way to work, the underpass being the only means of access to their respective schools & workplaces. I walked through it numerous times capturing the ambience with my trusty Dictaphone. Passing a multitude of different facial expressions I chose to back these field-recordings with a growing, layered ambient soundscape which evolves and shifts throughout from a light to dark mood, conveying the differing moods of the people as they passed me by.
9. Sound the Alarm, There’s a Dark Sea Rising:
I consider this track to be three tracks in one.
I was inspired whilst out walking, heading for the sea again, but to get there I had to go through a busy town hearing a cacophony of shop alarms, car alarms, ring-tones, sirens etc…
Sound The Alarm is my contrasting, folk-tinged response to these abhorrent sounds.
The mid section notates when I arrived at the beach. The weather was getting progressively worse and the sky had turned a dark grey, causing the sea to turn inky black. The wind was picking up and the sea was becoming more violent, however as quickly as the dark skies had appeared the clouds parted, letting some rays of sunlight through. The sea mellowed somewhat before I witnessed the final onslaught of the wind, causing everything to appear like it was moving in fast forward, time-capture footage. The waves smashed against the rocks, the clouds tore across the sky, but the sunlight gave everything a serene sheen. I sat and watched this swelling crescendo build and build and finally come to an end with one massive breaking wave. I wanted the end of the track to try and capture this moment.
(The short acoustic and whistling section at the very end of this track is a call-back to the first track on the album, emulating the vocal pattern).
10. Hapus A Ddaeth I Ben (Croesi Bysedd):
Considering that I owe a lot of the inspiration for this album to my beautiful surroundings I thought it apt to end the record with a song title in Welsh. Translated into English it’s ‘Happy Ending (Fingers Crossed)’. Starting out again with a field recording taken on a beach, this time in quite blustery conditions, it is meant to be a positive and bright intro, followed by a darker interlude played on a little toy piano (with painted on black keys!).
I see this track as a reflection back across the rest of the album & an ode to the promise the future can hold; a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps an end to my isolation and a moving on to pastures new, whilst not forgetting the past and the period of time taken to write & record the album and the personal issues & problems faced throughout.
I think the reflective quality is highlighted by the use of the slide guitar. I love the way it lulls me into a dream like state when playing/listening to it and the fact it can produce a sound that’s melancholy yet comforting. This is a mood I tried to capture throughout the album, whether I was successful or not is up to you…
...Beautiful Isolation is a fantastic achievement, and an unqualified success. It’s a phenomenal patchwork of splintered themes, fully-realised songs and splendid sonic exploration. I’ve hardly scratched the surface in this review, there’s so much going on. I’m no fan of the ‘buy-if-you-like’ tagline since it reduces music to lazy ghettos. But if a record that is part early seventies Floyd, part Future Sound of London, part side two of Eno’s Before and After Science and part Animal Collective sounds at all intriguing to you, I’d say get your wallet or purse out.
Music Musings & Miscellany.
...Documenting a year of recording in the remote Pembrokeshire hills, 'Beautiful Isolation' is an apt title for this collection of tracks, part ambient/electronica loveliness, part conceptual field recording. Perhaps reflecting his cabin fever, individual tracks barely focus for longer than is necessary, re-enforcing the need to experience the album as one complete document.
Acoustic guitar and ghostly voices also appear through the haze adding a uniqueness to the album, bordering on blissed-out psych-pop in places. A masterful assembly of sounds, textures and song fragments...
...Weeks' creative imagination is in full flower throughout as the album moves from one luscious setting to the next. Moments of ambient tranquility rub shoulders with acoustic folk passages, with all of it enhanced by field recordings and saturated textures of one kind or another. The opening track covers so much ground in its seven minutes, it can be heard as an exemplar for the album as a whole. After swooping in on a wave of choral exhalations, “Losing My Mind Through Bridge Meadow” meanders exploratively, testing out various directional possibilities, before phased vocals penetrate the mist with the trippy “I'm losing my mind” refrain to establish the album's overarching style: electrified psychedelic-folk. The nine tracks that follow include their fair share of treated vocal harmonies, strings passages, and kaleidoscopic arrangements that shape-shift episodically rather than stay in any one place for too long. “The Slippery Slope to the Lost Art of Conversation,” for example, segues from an early vocal passage to a lilting acoustic guitar picking spotlight before coming to rest with a repeating carousel melody. Consequently, the album feels less like a collection of ten self-contained pieces and more like a seventy-minute travelogue that takes in innumerable scenes...