Helioglobe is a collection of 10 tracks that thread together elements of Music Concrete, dark ambient & experimental sounds through a medium that I define as Sound Poetry. Each track has been built around a particular sound or rhythm that has inspired me. I then sample, loop, add fx, stretch, reverse & find an essential component that could be mono tonal in quality or merely a loud vibration or a ‘lost’ sound. I then may work with that single selected component or with a few & develop a whole track around those. During the arrangement process the sounds can invoke melodies or words that I then texturally mix into the layers.
Helioglobe really took shape when I moved my sound & recording equipment up into the loft space of my flat, a very clear but subtle element developed and became intrinsic to the ‘capturing’ & recording processes for each track. The external sounds caught in the loft can often infiltrate the condenser mic & then if clear enough I chop these down & incorporate them too. Mostly they are so subtle in the background but I am influenced by them enough to incorporate them through mirroring. I choose to do this as not only do they co-exist naturally within the recording anyway but they have infiltrated my audio sphere & become a part of my listening experience. Examples of this include seagulls on the roof in Your Parasites (Crawl Back), footsteps outside on a quiet night in Unseen Death Scene, fireworks in Sparkling Limbs & the car alarm in Helioglobe (the title track). I mirrored these sounds by creating very similar new ones which I then added in the exact place that they had interrupted the track whilst composing or listening in playback.
I used a collection of musical objects such as an old, broken & creaky squeeze box, a beautiful big bass drum, a djembe, some old harmonicas & tin whistles, a clapped out midi keyboard, a guitar & some old innards of miniature music boxes, which I adore. All of these instruments & objects, along with home made percussion objects were recorded straight into the mic. Consequently, as well as the naturally occurring external sounds to the loft space, the air from the instruments & my breath & the sounds of me moving about with the instruments got incorporated too.
Another recognition that I take from my loft space is that it acts like a void or a vacuum between me & the rest of the world but complete silence never happens up there, nature is scuttling along the roof or in the nearby trees, planes fly over, sirens in the distance, motorbike engines, fireworks, muffled voices etc. Being involved with the sounds without being able to witness their source only added to my intrigue as they had entered my aural space & existed within recording distance, but I could not always identify them or their source.
I adore both rhythm & texture & my two musical passions are singing & percussion. How these can fit together, or not, have been central to the making of Helioglobe & has provided me with hours of exploration. The percussion sounds came from any household object that I found laying around; hitting a biro pen on the side of an empty cider can provided the percussion layers for both Jar. Honey. Black & Black Honey Jar, the original version of this track. A wooden spoon swiped along a cheese grater is the main percussion sound for both Ozio & Your Parasites (Crawl Back). There are many examples of home made percussion objects & I have attempted to define & describe them in the track details below. When I recorded the percussion I ‘play’ the objects all the way through, this is preferable to looping a specific percussive beat & gives me a stronger feel for the progression of the track. It also encouraged me to think about realistic live performance. I like the inconsistencies of the slightly different sounds & different volumes which are picked up when I record the percussion, it makes the track feel alive.
Helioglobe is a made up word. Helio, from Helios means ‘sun’ & can be used as a prefix to make many interesting words. The word h-e-l-i-o is wonderful. I found it, it stuck & ‘globe’ fell naturally alongside it so beautifully. The two words together roll into & envelope each other:
Globe of the sun.
About the sounds, inspirations, influences & contributors
Light Matters 3.50
- A stairwell & radiator hit with a wooden pole
- A bottle of water
- A file scraped fast up & down a rough piece of wood
- Two biro pens tapped together throughout
The opening of this track envisions a lone woman in a big, heavy, black coat, stood on a boat, facing away from the viewer, pushing an oar through dark waters, large industrial gates or locks opening around her, unknown distant lights flicker through the darkness.
Show me the light, you are the light, I am the light. Why did you use me & confuse me? well you amuse me, thats when you lose me. Feel me, heal me, touch me, feel me, heal me, feel me, why don’t you touch me, why don’t you touch me? Why do you hate me, why did you make me, where are you lately? Come & find me, come & find me, heal me, feel me, heal me.
Helioglobe (Breath & Words) 4.04
- Built around my humming, 2 tracks side by side to form backdrop
- Harmonicas EQ’d to vocal & hums
- Recording of a car engine, pushed through a transformer to represent a car alarm signal
- Squeeze Box, squeaky, creaky & full of air
This track was inspired by listening to someone talking about music, hearing their breath rise & fall between words, feeling their passion for the subject, then coming home to the loft to immediately attempt to capture that smoothness of breath, the shape of their words, the air around those words & sounds. During the recording process I became very aware of the vibrations of my lips on the harmonica & the force of the air as it was expelled through the instrument. This element combined with my breath intakes during the humming recording & harmonica playing influenced me to reflect upon the place of air & breath in music & recording. As natural processes, which breathing & using air to make sound surely are, I decided to keep any elements like this in the mix, & attempted to emphasise them in this track. This track was submitted to an event called S.E.E (Sound, Education, Experience) organised by WIS/WOS (Women In Sound/Women on Sound) & became part of a larger listening experience at Goldsmiths University on June 16th 2016.
The rhythm of your breath & words ~ inspire me.
Your Parasites (Crawl Back) 4.11
- I sampled both a hoover & a hairdryer to make the backdrop
- Homemade/found percussion tools played throughout
- Inspired by seagulls scooting along the roof above me so mirrored those sounds
This track came about by exploring the notion of parasitic people as well as naturally occurring parasites living on human hosts. Whilst initiating the recording process I noticed a beetle crawling along the mic lead. I shifted the lead slightly & it spun around & scuttled back along the wire. Like Black Honey Jar & Jar. Honey. Black I really like the poetic nature of the track from a few simple words. I also really liked the rhythmic stomp effect of the backdrop & stomped along whilst singing & adding percussion.
Your parasites are like memories, creeping under my skin, crawl back along the wire, crawl back along the wire.
Hunt Poet 3.49
- Recordings from a car engine ticking over
- A lighter & a match strike
- Many sounds made with my mouth, clicking, hissing & spitting
- Tapping a pencil on an empty wine glass throughout
- Own drum beats played throughout
Inspired by narcissism. I looped the backdrop with the key words:
“Dont fuck with me” originally written on the guitar. I like these words, I like their harshness & the expression & cutting intonation I could use whilst singing /speaking them. This one doesn’t get much radio play, not sure why.
Dont fuck with me, dont fuck with me….dont you fuck with me, dont you fuck with me, cos I wont let you know that all you see is lies, & I wont let it show that all you touch just dies. Dont fuck with me, dont fuck with me, dont you fuck with me, dont you fuck with me, cos I can see right through, I see through your disguise, & I can see through you, into your dark skies, so dont fuck with me.
Sparkling Limbs 5.09
- The backdrop is an older track reversed & stretched.
- Explosions created through reversing & time stretching techniques of a variety of sounds already within the backdrop
- keyboard fx
Whilst adding some extra keyboard sounds to an already interesting backdrop there were fireworks going off over the river close to where I live. The cracks and bangs resonated throughout the loft space & got caught up in the recording. I then mirrored them & enhanced them to become central to the backdrop experience. The words developed within a wonderful conversation & piece of writing from my friend, Alex. Alex Small writes short stories in a genre called Romantic Suicide Fiction, as a back lash to Mills & Boon, & we both felt that this is an over looked genre of writing & a wonderful place of inspiration. He sent me some of his words to a short story which I then adapted for the soundtrack. It is strangely sexual, magical & explosive & a fitting final & climatic piece to the collection. Alex is credited here for the idea & the majority of the words, the essence for this track came from his concepts of Romantic Suicide Fiction. This track starts off quietly & then gets louder & louder before fading out again.
Don’t break the silver thread that I finely (finally) wrapped around you, I won’t wait for this drug to work its magic. It’s a thin silver wire, finer than silk, stronger than steel, connecting me to your sparkling limbs. I see the promise of this breaking dawn, the smell of the ocean & far away distant places. I come & you come & I wrap my sparkling limbs around you. I won’t wait for this drug to work its magic. And I wrap my sparkling limbs around you…
- All the sounds for this have been taken from previous tracks which have been broken down & mono tonal elements have been selected & re developed.
- Percussion comes from hitting 2 drum sticks throughout & a wooden spoon striking/scraping a cheese grater played throughout.
- Drum beats are my own but looped
Definitions of ozio:
n~ apathy and inactivity in the practice of virtue (personified as one of the deadly sins)
n~ having no employment
n~ any of several slow-moving arboreal mammals of South America and Central America; they hang from branches back downward and feed on leaves and fruits
n~ the trait of being idle out of a reluctance to work
ignavia, indolenza, infingardaggine, oziosità, pigrizia, poltronaggine, poltroneria, svogliatezza, tedio
~inactivity resulting from a dislike of work
n~ a disinclination to work or exert yourself
Unseen Death Scene 4.18
- Field recording of footsteps on wooden bridge
- Home made percussion objects pushed through a variety of effects
- Fly is 81970_benboncan_fly from freesound.org
- Vocal sample from Craig Manga
The idea from this track came from considering how it would feel to be the first person to enter a previously unseen death scene. A bit grim admittedly but I felt an intrigue & curiosity with the concept. The footsteps added some irony because once those footsteps appear then the scene is no longer ‘unseen,’ it has been witnessed. Some of the sounds were influenced by external loft noises, including a squeaky gate, as well as from internal loft noises. There was a fly buzzing around up there at the time & I have used this idea & sound previously once before on a track called Dirty. Little. Illusions. The fly is obviously representative of another visitation or encroachment into an unseen death scene. Craig Manga has sensuous & gruffly vocal. He was happy for me to take a vocal sample from another shared track & use it here. Craig is the chief songwriter & vocalist with Mangabros & music producer of Lupus & curates a wonderful late Friday night radio show on SineFM/SineXL called New Weird Planet. He is integral to getting new sounds from underground electronic artists out there & into the world. His enthusiasm is addictive, slightly compulsive & overwhelming but he’s a wonderful musician & promoter of the dark, avant garde obscurities of life. I thoroughly enjoy working with Mr. Manga. The words chosen for this piece are also ironic. The imagined corpse is clearly “still & silent,” & I can imagine the first witness to the unseen death scene as being “still & silent,” initially anyway. When I reached the end of this track I waited for the emergency service sirens, they never came. The corpse must still be there.
Be stilled, be silent.
Jar. Honey. Black 4.22
- Recordings from tuned wineglasses (destined for & used previously in a track called Sounds Like Porcelain)
- Percussion is from tapping a biro pen on the side of an empty cider can & played throughout
- Rubbing of drum skins adds to the backdrop
- Main backdrop is sounds from a radiator, enlarged & enhanced with a variety of fx
- Drum beats are my own & played throughout. It took ages to record & get a good sound, it was February/March time & the skins were tight
- Whispers, breath & loud expulsions of air from me are central to the atmosphere
This track is a re interpretation of Black Honey Jar which appeared on the EP Ghosting The Edge in April 2016. I decided to re evaluate it & re interpret it cos I felt that I could push it further. I added a monotone element of breath from the breath stems, stretched it, reversed it & added that as a new sound which really worked. I love the poetic nature of this track, the way it organically developed around a few words: “put the lid back on the jar” for example, was very exciting. I love a bit of wordplay & in this track there is ambiguity with the sentence: “as black as your honey lies…” ‘lies’ could mean tales of deception or ‘honey lies’ could imply how the honey sits/lies in the jar. I do not know which one is the actual intended meaning. Interestingly, once the vocals were layered up in a different pattern I could hear the words “six, six, six” coming through on the alliteration of the “s” sounds of “sacred soul.” Well, I liked that very much so kept it in. I toyed with the idea of enhancing it by adding another vocal layer of me chanting “six, six, six” but it’s not necessary, it’s already in there, with no manipulations from me. The visuals I get from working with his track echo the devilish theme as the drum skin rubbing sound invokes ideas of a heavy, slow moving creature/beast/monstrosity pulling itself across the floor or a dead corpse being slowly dragged along the floor. I found this original idea & these ideas for sounds first in an earlier track of mine called Bright New Wings where this heavy dragging sound conjures up a variety of potential slow moving bestial images. The essence of this ‘Honey Jar’ track however, is to remind me not to take the lid off the jar in the first place. I stuck with rearranging the words of the original title cos it reminds me of the adage: Pot. Kettle. Black.
Have you got a wicked self, have you got a sacred soul? As black as your honey lies as bright as your darkest skies. Put the lid back on the jar, put the lid back on the jar, put the lid back on the jar!
She (Singing & Feeling) 6.09
- Homemade percussion tools include an old music box, drum sticks slapped together, shaker egg, all played throughout & recorded in layers.
- Vocal stretching & shortening is central to this track
- Vocal sample from Rachel Gaskin – Whitrod
- Drip recording from 343763_Inspectorj_dripping_medium_a at Freesound.org
This track was inspired by taking the one word sample from Rachel singing the word “singing.” For this track I sang alongside her & then took my vocal, reversed it & stretched it, began to overlay them all together & then things started to happen. New words (strange words) & sounds crept in via the monotonality processes where I chopped & stretched the vocals & then the vocals really developed into something else, despite being essentially nonsensical, the words began to make sense to me. It was just stopping raining at the time so the external sounds of that have been enhanced here with a downloaded drip sound. The fuzz & distortion were enhanced by me. I have added a grungeliser effect to give several tracks a crackle, again, this mimicked the rain outside on the roof, which muffled my listening capabilities so I decided it worked for me somehow as it gave me a different listening experience. I reproduced that ‘muffling’ through a crackle effect because what I noticed through all of the muffling from the rain splattering on the roof was the purity & clarity of Rachel’s one word vocal through the monitors, I wanted to keep & balance both that clarity with the varying splattering & dripping effects of the rain, so I aimed for that.
Singing, singing the feeling is, singing…
Sea Shanty Prayer 3.05
- Time stretched guitar melodies
- Influences from creaky gates
- Vocals from Jim Wylde
- Vocal reversing to create new melodies
This track started out as an ordinary guitar ballad with some hints of drowning, lost love and distress. However, once I had some awesome vocals from Jim Wylde of Sp3ct3rs & Soft Altars & began to play with all of the sounds together the images of drowning, creaky masts and sinking ships lost out at sea took over my senses. My vocal melody became a call to prayer and reaches out across the darkness whilst Jim’s vocals are deeply muttered, desperate for salvation. I love the vibrations in this piece, not just from the creaking, wavering ship masts but from Jim’s deep, rich vocal which perfectly bumps across the bottom of the ocean, dying to be heard, reminiscent of life & love, another voice lost at sea. I apologised to Jim as what he originally recorded on the original guitar ballad as a duet is nothing like this finished piece, however, once I have a golden nugget of sounds like these there’s no stopping the process & a tragic, dark sea shanty prayer is everything that I am happily left with. This track was recorded very loudly in comparison to the others for a full, dramatic effect so be aware of the impact through the speakers.
Open those eyes, don’t play the fool, you’ll never drown me in the deepest pool, not in your ocean, not in your heart, not in this motion, not in the dark. Feel free to watch me as I close my eyes, I can always see through all of your lies, can’t you feel me, I’m next to you, you will always find me close to the truth…
© Conceived, composed, recorded & produced by Sarah Gatter (Sky High Diamonds). This is all my own work and I reserve all the rights to the music, words & compositions with the exception of Sparkling Limbs where the words were co written with Alex Small.
Acknowledgements go to my gorgeous son for keeping the spirit of music & electronic music alive in me, to Ruby Black of DigitalDIZZY, a truly devotional hooligan who likes to encourage & support, & to my friends & family who gave me wry smiles when I said I’d rather be up in my loft listening to strange sounds & scraping a wooden spoon up & down a cheese grater, rather than hanging out with them. Also to my mum and dad, who whilst very uninterested in what I do creatively encouraged me to keep doing it solely cos it makes me happy. Thanks also to my contributors for their beautiful efforts & willingness to be involved: Rachel Gaskin – Whitrod, Jim Wylde, Craig Manga & Alex Small.
Thank you for taking an interest
In a loft in Cornwall between Feb ~ June 2016
Please email me for more information:firstname.lastname@example.org
I work under the name of Sky High Diamonds © & can be found on:
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