Love the juxtaposition of jittery synths (fleeting and surprising ideas and perceptions) with smooth & jazz-tinged bass & ambience (continuous inner peace and centering, steady creative drive). The crumbling but cyclical rhythms in "Scars" and cold crystalline synths in "Ice" portray beauty that could be difficult to embrace at first, soothing within chaos and messiness.
Favorite track: It's Our Scars That Unite Us.
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In MP3 format, you get the following albums:
My Solo Albums:
1 :: And Nothing But The Bass: Live At The Troubadour (2000) 2 :: Not Dancing For Chicken (2002) 3 :: Grace And Gratitude (2004) 4 :: Behind Every Word (2006) 5 :: Ten Years On: Live In London (2010) 6 :: 11 Reasons Why 3 Is Greater Than Everything (2011) 7 :: Believe In Peace (2012) 8 :: What The Mind Thinks, The Heart Transmits (2014) 9 :: A Crack Where The Light Gets In (2015) 10 :: The Way Home (2015) 11 :: The Surrender Of Time (2016) 12 :: Towards A Better Question (2017) 13 :: PS, You Are Brilliant (2017)
Steve and Lobelia Albums:
14 :: Live In Nebraska (2008) 15 :: Live So Far (2010)
16 :: Conversations (Steve Lawson and Jez Carr) 2002 17 :: For The Love Of Open Spaces (Steve Lawson and Theo Travis) 2003 18 :: Numbers (Lawson/Dodds/Wood) 2008 19 :: Slow Food (Steve Lawson and Trip Wamsley) 2010 20 :: Infrablab (Trip Wamsley and Steve Lawson) 2010 21 :: Hidden Windows(Steve Lawson and Neil Alexander) 2012 22 :: Invenzioni (Steve Lawson and Mike Outram 2012 23 :: Nothing Can Prepare (Steve Lawson and Andy Williamson) 2012 24 :: The FingerPainting Sessions Vol 1 (Steve Lawson and Daniel Berkman) 2013 25 :: The FingerPainting Sessions Vol 2 (Steve Lawson and Daniel Berkman) 2013 26 :: Diversion (Steve Lawson and Jon Thorne) 2014 27 :: Marinate (Steve Lawson and Julie Slick) 2014 38 :: Ley Lines (Phi Yaan-Zek, Steve Lawson, Andy Edwards) 2015 29 :: Language Is A Music (Steve Lawson & Michael Manring) 2016 30 :: Ley Lines II (Phi Yaan-Zek, Steve Lawson, Andy Edwards) 2017 31 :: Over Time (Steve Lawson & Andy Edwards) 2017 32 :: Intersect (Steve Lawson & Pete Fraser) 2017
:: Steve Live in Belgium (45 minutes - MP4)
:: "Rock And Roll Is Dead" = Steve's novel.
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Some things change, some things stay the same. Every since I started playing solo, I've been exploring what I can do with just basses and processing, live in real time. No (or minimal) edits, no overdubs...
10 solo albums later, and the influence of a few of my recent collaborators sees me adding new sounds to the mix. The key element is the addition of the Quneo - a controller made by Keith McMillen (who also make the Softstep foot controller I've been using for the last few years). The Quneo allows me to play drums and synth sounds alongside the bass - the grid layout (like a drum-machine) means that synth and keyboard parts can end up being pretty unusual (hear The Ice Cracks...) but the sensitivity means that the drum parts can be fantastically subtle (the intro to It's Our Scars That Unite Us). I'm fascinated by the way that percussive sounds fit into my stumbling, rolling rhythmic world - I've avoided metronomic timing for my entire solo career, as it tends to make loop based stuff really stilted and uninteresting, so doing that with drums, particularly given the influence on my sense of rhythm of J Dilla and particularly the way his influence was channeled on D'Angelo's Voodoo... It's made for a record that is, I think, the best solo thing I've ever released.
I recorded over three hours of material for this album - across the space of about 6 weeks - as I was starting out (right up until I first got the Quneo) I was posting some of the new work for my Bandcamp subscribers... that quickly became a subscriber-only album, called Closing In. Which I'm really proud of.
Then, once I'd recorded the rest of the material, I handed it over to my friend Sue Edwards to choose and sequence the album. I'd made my own shortlist of 8 tracks that I thought should be on the album, I had a title for the album, but I gave her free rein to pick whatever she felt made for the best album. As it is, there was only a 2 track crossover between her list and mine. She came up with a beautifully coherent, mellow, thematically consistent album - that's what you're listening to here.
The 'Triptych' of Theoria, Poeisis and Praxis are named for Aristotle's understanding of three basic activities of humanity - thinking, production and action... We imagine things, we makes things, we act... we cycle through those, combine them in different ways (acting on our ideas in order to make things, allowing our actions to coalesce into new notions of what it is to be human...) Guided by curiosity and exploration, my music journey is all about all three - dreaming up new reasons, motivations and ideas, acting on those and exploring their usefulness through action, and making things - my ongoing recorded output is a story-telling project of its own, a metastory of what it is to be a musician navigating the world through sound, asking better questions... Improvisation has been my musical model of choice because it allows for the greatest level of abstraction from the desire to second guess what music SHOULD be. Music just IS, but we get to listen back and learn its lessons...
But it meant that I could put together a 2nd album of music that I adored too. A more eclectic exploration of where the muse had taken me of late. That album is The Way Home, also available here on Bandcamp.
released September 14, 2015
recording, mixing, artwork, photography, composition all instruments (live) - Steve Lawson, at Lawsound Studio.
co-production, track selection, sequencing and general fabulousness - Sue Edwards ( www.sueedwardsmanagement.com )
The 'Triptych' of Theoria, Poeisis and Praxis are named for Aristotle's understanding of three basic activities of humanity - thinking, production and action... We imagine things, we makes things, we act... we cycle through those, combine them in different ways (acting on our ideas in order to make things, allowing our actions to coalesce into new notions of what it is to be human...)
Guided by curiosity and exploration, my music journey is all about all three - dreaming up new reasons, motivations and ideas, acting on those and exploring their usefulness through action, and making things - my ongoing recorded output is a story-telling project of its own, a metastory of what it is to be a musician navigating the world through sound, asking better questions...
Improvisation has been my musical model of choice because it allows for the greatest level of abstraction from the desire to second guess what music SHOULD be. Music just IS, but we get to listen back and learn its lessons...
Aristotle saw Theoria as the highest of human aspirations - theorising and thinking, above the base distractions of money and power, away from the clumsiness of actions, of ‘things’. The life of the mind, a clear mental space to dream and think and plan BIG.
I’m not sure I could separate out the thinking from the doing, but everything starts with thinking. Without that, or actions are guided by whatever cultural and philosophical flotsam and jetsam are floating past at the time. Without proper time to explore the meaning behind other people’s actions and creative impulses, we never get to apply new principles, new thinking, we just reaction to physical observations, which is very limited in form and concept. I’ve always been fascinated by cross-disciplinary thinking, by process and how principle is drawn from process. The space to explore all of that is the genesis of everything for me. That’s the home-base.
Track Name: It's Our Scars That Unite Us
Brokenness is perhaps the most interesting and motivating state of humanity to me. I’m not interested in people who think like they have it all sown up and behave accordingly. Faith is more interesting that certainty, Doubt more compelling than the cynicism of rejecting things unexperienced out of hand. Screwing things up, discovering our frailty, the finite nature of our powers of observation, the humility that comes through our reliance on others, our ongoing discovery of interconnectedness, the compassion that comes through identifying with the suffering of others... None of these are about being fixed. They’re all about learning through being broken.
I didn’t want this notion to be explored through some something sad and tragic - the hip-hop-meets-60s jazz underpinning to the music is a nod to both of those being musical forms that have taught me, that have been a field of exploring the human condition, not places where I’ve found smug people with all the answers, but ones where I’ve found fellow travellers exploring what it is the be human.
The title itself comes from Canadian singer/songwriter and activist Bruce Cockburn’s autobiography, Rumours Of Glory (an extraordinary book that I wholeheartedly recommend) - here’s the relevant quote:
“But the real voice , that of the spirit, is saying to us: Be quiet, listen, feel. Be kind. Accept differences, even those of Divine belief, for there is no “truth” in these things, only lessons. Learn from the differences. Feed your neighbour. Take your anger out on an untilled field. Liberally apply compassion, especially to yourself, for if we’re not compassionate about our own foibles and screwups, then we can’t authentically be compassionate toward others. We’re all in the same foundering boat. It’s our scars that unite us.”
Track Name: Poiesis (triptych ii)
One of the thing that most draws me to Aristotle’s division of human activity is that he separates action and production - the things we do in order to make things are different from the things we do that are themselves The Thing. As musicians, we have a number of different processes and motivations at any one time, and we have different end points in mind when we’re learning. The history of pop music has been focused on making things. Post the industrial revolution, manufacturing became the key industrial process, and the music industry was about scaling up the manufacturing of recordings and the equipment to play those recordings to a global industrial scale. So learning to play was about learning to produce. Getting good at production. The actions were geared towards making fixed things. Recordings, songs that could be performed in ways that made audiences feel safe in their knowledge of the song, reproduced from the gold standard of the recording...
My own journey used the fixed nature of recordings as a different kind of motivation, and it’s left me in an interesting place in the exploration of how the music economy might move forward. I never wanted to learn things note for note and play them night after night. That would be an OK job to have, as opposed to working in an office, but it’s not my creative path. For that, I wanted to create a continual stream of new music *that was good enough to be recorded and released*. I’ve used the elevation of the ‘fixed product’ as a quality benchmark for improvised work. Everything on these recordings is an improvisation - the process was way more Praxis-oriented than Poeisis... I wasn’t crafting a thing to a spec, I didn’t have an idea, specifically conceived, that was being realised. I was indulging the act of creation, living in the music-making moment... (I know this sounds like insane bullshit to some of you, but go with it, it’ll genuinely help you explore your own musical path and maybe understand the limitations of our obsession with ‘songs’ a little better ;) ) The quality threshold, however, was entirely derived from the last 70 years of us collectively pursuing an understanding of ‘quality’.
It’s a fascinating internal dialogue, a really curious and mysterious process to explore, because I can often FEEL the music that works better than I could put concrete labels on the things that work... Or even get some kind of handle on what it means to ‘work’.
Producing things as an end in itself may one day disappear from our musical world. What would that mean to you? For us? I love thinking about this shit ;)
Track Name: The Ice Cracks But Holds Firm
This is one where the title came before I gave much thought as to why. The name appeared pretty much immediately. Some of it is just there in the sound. The ice cracking, the sparkles, but the frailty, the sense that things might fall apart but ultimately will be OK? That’s just my melancholic optimism rearing its head again.
The world is in many ways in a perilous state - shit’s breaking down all over the place, climate change threatens everything, and the insane despots questioning the obvious reality of it are no longer dictators, instead they’re business leaders, protecting an ever growing pile of useless cash, playing a fucked-up game of ‘who can get the biggest numbers in their column in the excel spreadsheet of global finance’.
But humans can sometimes be amazing. We’ve caused all this nonsense, but we can sometimes surprise ourselves. To quote Bruce Cockburn again, “Never had a lot of faith in human beings, but sometimes we manage to shine”. The ice is definitely cracking, but maybe we can help it hold firm, maybe we can reverse the destruction. So many things are up in the air, so many things that could fall either way into catastrophe or away from the brink. I’m fascinated by all the options, by the optimism of the Bernie Sanders camp in the US and the Corbyn-surge in the UK, but also by the exploration of global collapse that people like the Dark Mountain project are undertaking, but those in Greece who recognise that it's already a failed state and are exploring living off-grid.
Our first priority right now is to the poor, to those who can’t help themselves. Let’s get that shit right, let’s get them off the ice, and then work out what to do next.
On a technical level, this was the first piece I recorded with the Quneo midi controller - I received it after I’d started recording these new albums - you can hear where things were heading before it came along on the subscriber-only album, Closing In. This was the last track on that album, included here as well because it is definitely part of the story of this album too...
Track Name: Praxis (triptych iii)
There are so many ways in which Praxis resonates with me as a concept - in this triptych, it’s the Aristotlean notion of ‘action’ as the third part of the activity of humanity (along with Thinking and Making) - doing things! I like putting things into practice, I like demonstrating the sum total of my thinking and theorising by actually getting out and making it happen. Not so much as an action towards ‘making stuff’ (read the Poeisis essay for more on this) but just as the culmination of a particular set of thoughts. Make plans, do things, make more plans, taking into consideration the things that you did before... This is where the more contemporary usage of Praxis becomes SO inspiring - it being “the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realised.” - the sum total of all thinking, in action.
For about 15 years I’ve described my philosophical position as one of ‘pragmatic assurance’ - behaving as though what I currently think is right, while being perpetually open to the distinct likelihood that I’ve got it wrong - the reason for this is that to live in perpetual doubt is to inhibit our ability to get on with things. Whatever your motivation, not doing something means it doesn’t get done. That much is obvious. So we do what we think needs doing, while actively resisting the human pull towards hubris and unnecessary certainty.
Likewise, we need to be open to the mystery, while still actually getting shit done. Exploring the wonder of what it is to be human is awesome, but at a certain point, we need to actually get involved, both in the stuff of living, and the dirty work of looking after those who’ve been abandoned by the system. Creativity, at it’s best, is a way of exploring the nature of what it is to be human in ways that will inspire us, move us, challenge us and entertain us, that will celebrate the joy of being alive while also somewhere along the line prodding that nagging inside that we need to get connected to those around us.
“With great power comes great responsibility” said Uncle Ben. The world of music-making is one that make it so easy to become disconnected, to disappear into a narcissistic fug where no-one tells us that we’re being self-absorbed assholes and we’re not actually helping anyone or anything. Praxis is the mechanism by which ideas about who we are, about what it means to be creative, about what role music can play in the theatre of humanity are expressed and explored, music is made, and its reason and utility is challenged and refined. Ever onwards, ever upwards. Rinse, repeat. :)
Track Name: This Is My Truth...Tell Me Yours
This is one of my favourite quotes EVER, and when I first encountered it, realised that it was pretty much my entire model for interaction with anyone. An exchange of truth that acknowledges the finite nature of perspective.
Contrary to the thinking of most 90s indie kids, it was coined by the Manic Street Preachers - it was quoted by them, but it originates with the great Labour politician Nye Bevan. He was also the founder of the NHS. An extraordinary man.
If we’re friends on Facebook, you’ll know that I’m pretty forthright in throwing out ideas, opinions and perspectives. I love wrestling with ideas, exploring new ways of thinking and looking. My patience runs out with people who try to rationalise their own selfishness, but for the most part, a mutual exploration of the nature of truth, and the perspectives that inform our understanding of it, is pretty much my favourite thing. It’s part of the Theoria, and it is tested in Praxis. This - the sum total of my musical output - is the part of my truth that doesn’t fit in words. These words are an attempt to put it in a context.