Two new releases on the Beauty Is the End front, one, a decidedly dark and textural original, the other, a pensive and beautiful Crosby, Stills & Nash cover.

Cherub Allies” is the sister song to “The Glass Wall,” released earlier this year. Where “The Glass Wall” had its focus turned outwards upon a post-capitalistic, xenophobic, decaying urban wasteland, “Cherub Allies” examines the complex landscapes of inter-personal affairs. I really love the lyrics for both. Clinton wrote both songs, and their lyrics are up at their respective Bandcamp pages (linked above).

“Cherub Allies” was my first foray into drumming entirely with electronic sounds. I’d triggered some 808’s and bass blasts with my soul/hip hop projects, Shubangi and AzudemSK, but that was always in the context of an acoustic performance. For “Cherub Allies,” I plugged my full electronic drumset into the laptop and triggered sounds I sought out with Clinton and my bandmate/hip hop producer, Duuq. Three sections of the song called for three very different sets of sounds, from tight and complementary in the second refrain where my drums enter, to full and boisterous in the bridge thereafter, all leading to a massive acoustic battery seeing us out in the final refrain (those Masshoff Drums samples give me goosebumps).

It was a fun project, and I’m excited to keep exploring the world of sampling. For me, it’s a very 2020/21 experiment, which very accurately describes its context in time. In pre-pandemic times, the songwriting process would often entail (or consist entirely of) band sessions, everyone sweating and breathing into the same practice room air, songs collecting in the middle like clouds in moist air. In that process, the pieces are in place, each musician has his or her equipment and sound, and each works to shape the material using the existing building blocks. The song takes life over the course of the session and with each collective performance, to be recorded when it’s ready.

Now, in a pandemic, it’s in some ways the opposite. Recording comes right away, by necessity; the song is put together piece by piece and sent along to the next musician. The material doesn’t form in the physical space between the band, and isn’t created in the moment, from its existing composite parts. Rather, each person comes at it separately, and can take all the time he or she needs to find the perfect sounds and record the perfect take. Material is king, rather than synergy. (As an aside, it’s easy to get lost here in perfectionism, but then, sometimes that’s exactly what live band sessions lack: The inability to declare it “good enough” and move on.)

The e-drums are therefore, for me, very much a product of their times. I can sit at home, on my own watch, browse sounds, examine MIDI information, cut and recut and recut, and even try different sounds after doing a take. (For this little attic musician, that’s still mindblowing.) I suspect, after the pandemic has loosened its grip on us, I’ll still look upon the e-drums as a Corona hangover.

Anyway. Back to the releases, and to mention another collaboration-from-afar: The music video for “Cherub Allies” is a beautiful bit of visual wizardry by artist Shane LoBuglio. It captures the mood of the piece wonderfully, and I still don’t have any clue how he put it together.

Beauty Is the End’s other recent release is a cover of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Helplessly Hoping,” and Clinton did this one all on his own, down to its beautiful, watercolor music video! (What’s that you say? The shakers on “Helplessly Hoping” sound very nice as well? Well, thank you! That’s the one bit I contributed. When Clinton sent me the track for potential drums, he already had in place the electronic drums you hear in the final cut. I thought it’d crowd the piece too much to add anything more.)

I think it’s beautiful work by Clinton across the board.

One of the prettiest pieces I’ve heard by Clinton is currently in mixing, slated for release by mid-summer, so stay tuned for that. I had to buy a concert percussion sample pack for it, in case that whets any appetites…

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