Holland derives from “holtlant” which means “wood-land”

Nice title, uh? I thought to share this bit of information with you to introduce the new blog post (I’m thankful to Wikipedia).

I spent ten days in wood-land, and a few tage in Berlin, Germany, to play shows and record some exciting new music with an international cast of musicians. Let me articulate. EchoTest reconvened in Alexanderplatz – just me and Julie Slick, though (Alessandro was busy with another gig in Italy). We were in Berlin to play a private show, supporting our hero and uncle Adrian Belew (double duty for Julie), but we managed to squeeze a couple of other gigs in, so that we could make good use of our three days-german-rendezvous. It was the first time we played in Germany as EchoTest. I really like Berlin, but I get a different perception of the city everytime I go. You can tell it carries a certain weight of history, and not a light one. This time, it was a happy visit – I was feeling good, the company was excellent; the weather too.

Julie and I took the opportunity of being there together to film the launching video of our new Kickstarter campaign, that will enable us to produce vinyls and CDs (as well as covering mastering and additional production costs) of our upcoming release, Daughter of Ocean. It was pretty hilarious (some wild scenes didn’t make the final cut… but I’m confident you will get to see them soon). Apparently the video worked out very well, because we have already reached our goal! The plot came to us the very same morning of the filming, during breakfast (poached eggs and avocado sandwiches made the trick, not to mention the strong black coffee). If you haven’t contributed yet, please take a minute to do so. It’s important that we exceed our goal. In Julie’s words, “the more we raise, the more we have in our budget to put together a little tour next year to promote this glorious release… and of course house concert contributions will *greatly* increase this likelihood—chip in with friends for a guaranteed-to-be-hilarious Italian invasion! #nobodyexpectstheechotestinquisition“. We can’t wait to share this new music with you.

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On stage at the Berlin Congress Center. Violinist Nora Germain joined us on two songs.

Our hotel was right in Alexanderplatz. I woke up very early the last day, as I had to take a train to Amsterdam from Berlin Hauptbahnhof (it was my choice – I really wanted to travel by train and avoid the stress of flying, for once). The scene was quite mesmerizing – it was still dark, at around 5am; the view from my window comprising the television tower and a desolated, huge square. A few people walking by at a fast pace, made me wonder if they were getting back from a late night out, or about to go to work? While someone else passed by on a lonely bicycle. It was all very surreal, empty and slow.

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The view from my hotel room in Berlin

With this last image of Berlin in mind, I got to Breda late in the afternoon to meet up with Mexican guitarist and composer Julia Zenteno Argüello. She was gracious enough to invite me to be a special guest for the recording of her first full lenght album, called The Golden Atom. This reminded me of the TROOT session a bit, though my participation was planned in advance this time, ha! Once again, a big and varied ensemble: ten musicians, the majority of them coming from Mexico (the core of Julia’s band, which is known by the name of S O L S). Also, the extraordinary American guitarist Henry Peter Koen was there (ever heard of Mylets?), and my buddy Alessandro Inolti made a brief appearance for three days, to record additional drums and percussion overdubs (I was very happy to see him – hadn’t met each other in a while, and I missed him in Berlin). The band made me feel at home right from the start, and I got along well with everyone. The session itself was very interesting. I fell in love with the demos that Julia sent me a couple of months before, and I listened to them a lot (if I was to describe the music, I’d say it sounds like the meeting point between Rachel’s and Penguin Cafe Orchestra) – but really had no time to work on my parts before entering the studio. So I approached the pieces with a very innocent state of mind, and improvised a lot. Each take was different for me: I enjoyed the process immensely. I was guided by what the guys were looking for, and producer Felipe Souza was also there to give us directions. Being one of the two bass players in the ensemble (Javi Reyes was on fretless bass), I felt that my mission was to work around the traditional bass parts, as Javi was already doing a wonderful job with them, and expand the sound palette with textures or solos. I worked on the pedal board a lot. The studio (Sandlane Recording Facilities in Rijen) provided some nice additions to what I had brought with me. As soon as I saw a Red Panda’s Particle pedal lying around, I implemented it to my rig. I ended up featuring it on all of the songs. Also, engineers Joost and Jos made sure everything was working properly and helped all of us a lot, raising the bar of our musicianship to get the best performances possible on the final recording. There was a bit of pressure, because we all recorded together at the same time in the same room. You can do overdubs later and fix minor things, but you have to be there in the moment and give your best, so that you don’t ruin anyone else’s work on a track (you can’t escape the room microphones!). Sometimes my improvs were a bit unpredictable. For example, I used the Mantic Flex on one of my solos, combined with a delay, and I accidentally turned the volume knob of the Flex way up, more than I was expecting. It went a bit out of control, so I quickly turned the volume pedal down, but the delay was on, and the sound of death still found its way through the air (high pitch, distorted; imagine something like a Moog synth on steroids) and took me a while to realise what was going on. But it was a happy accident as I think the solo made it on the final take.

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Mylets, Julia, Gabi
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Walking around Breda

It was a week of intense work, with two additional days of rehearsals, but we all enjoyed a day off in Amsterdam, a city I had only visited briefly before. An interesting place, for sure. I wanted to get away from all the touristy stuff, and I had heard that the Joordan neighbourhood is a bit more authentic than some of the other parts of town. It surely was nice. Me, Julia and Javi enjoyed a Belgian beer and a piece of apple cake in a local pub, where everyone seemed to be Dutch, which is a good thing. One man was reading a newspaper and another one was playing crosswords. It felt like we were transported to another time – a distant past, or some dystopian future, maybe.

All in all, I had such a good time that it felt bittersweet to go back home this time. But I guess more music and traveling will come, and I look forward to that moment.

One more thing that I need to bring to your attention: I have recently put out a music video for Frantic, one of the songs of my latest solo album, Small Music From Broken Windows. It was directed by my young friends Nicholas Pennesi and Giorgia Pellecchia, with additional footage shot in Dallas, Texas, with the one and only Dutch Rall. Please consider watching it, and sharing it with your friends. I’m very happy with the result. And please, if you like it, support my endeavours and buy a copy of the album on bandcamp. It is very important.

Cheeeerio, and more soon, as usual.

 

 

 

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