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Pixeltruppen / Blog

Miss You

I (Javolenus) had the chords & melody for this song hanging around for ages. I kept strumming it on the guitar and humming the melody. But I couldn't think of any lyrics. Some time later I found myself saying "Goodbye" -- in one way or another -- to various people. Suddenly the lyrics for "Miss You" appeared and I finished the song "in my head" while out walking. The song features 6- and 12-string guitars, synths and a cool vocal by Anis. Karsten also produced the track.

Spartakos

I read a report on the BBC website about modern slavery. According to United Nations estimates, some 30 million souls are currently caught in the slave trade. Human trafficking, forced prostitution, child soldiers, forced and bonded labour are flourishing today as a result of poverty, discrimination and social exclusion. The BBC report made the point that slavery is more widespread now than at any time in human history, including the days of Ancient Rome. The reference to Rome reminded me that in AD 73 a slave-revolt took place, led by Spartacus. Kubrick made a movie in 1960, which includes the famous scene where survivors of the slave army are promised mercy by the Romans on condition they identify the leader Spartacus. But when Kirk Douglas (as Spartacus) tries to shout his name, all his men stand up and shout "I am Spartacus!"

The historical "Spartacus" was a Greek soldier called "Spartakos", captured and enslaved as a gladiator. He escaped with his friend Crixus and set up camp on Mount Vesuvius. Thousands of slaves soon flocked to the camp and the Romans had to fight long and hard to put down this slave rebellion. It occurred to me that if there are 30 million slaves in the world today -- that would be an unstoppable army! All they need is another Spartakos. Hmm, with these thoughts in mind, I composed the song-lyric in my head while walking through the busy streets of Eboracum.

We wanted to make a dance song with a retro "eighties" feel. Karsten analysed and studied some of the sounds from that era -- for example, Depeche Mode (who had recorded some of their stuff at Hansa Studios Berlin -- just "down the road" from Karsten). Karsten created a totally electronic backing track. He also created a special custom-made Moog patch for the lead vocals. Anis then added the chorus vocals and backing vocals. Job done!

Exclusive Download

I (Javolenus) had been listening to a Medieval Gothic song called "Très Gentil Cuer" ("Most Noble Heart") by French composer Solage (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solage). I picked up the guitar and started fumbling around for the melody. It was the middle of the night, and as I played, I stared out of my window at the floodlit Gothic cathedral that dominates the York skyline. The guitar was plugged into my PC and I left the DAW recording. Later I sent the unedited guitar audio to Karsten, who incorporated parts of it into an original instrumental "Fantasie". The track was shelved, however, as we turned our attention to other projects. But I kept returning to Karsten's amazing soundscape. I even wrote some lyrics (containing references to Gothic art, architecture, literature & cinema) which, in the event, we did not use. But Karsten took the Gothic "vibe" contained in these lyrics and added sound fx and ethereal vocals (achieved via a custom-made Moog patch) to the "Solage" track. At this point we decided the track was complete. We offer it now as a free download to those fans who have “a taste for the Gothic"!

Vocalize

I (Javolenus) had been experimenting with a few bars of Renaissance music ("Amarilli Mia Bella" by Caccini) -- I thought it might make a nice intro for a song. But I only had one word for the lyrics: "Vocalize". Hmm, maybe not a great start! Well, I gave what I had to OPK ("Oberpixelkommando") and Leutnant "Anis" suggested we work on the idea as a band. Karsten made a lot of experiments (initially keeping the Caccini intro but later dropping it) and created a new backing track. I noticed that Karsten had created a cool chord sequence that immediately suggested a melody. The lyrics then fell into place. Karsten's chords also suggested a unique tuning for the guitar (AGEGAE) and so I used this for some acoustic arpeggios and lazy impro. The new lyrics fleshed out the "Vocalize" concept. The main idea is this: no matter if times are good or bad ("When you hit your lows and highs") it is always good to express yourself ("Vocalize"). Anis took the lead vocal and really helped inject the song with emotion and character. Karsten then suggested a phone conversation with ambient street noises for the "outro". Job done!

Exclusive Download

We wanted to thank our fans for support and to give something in return. And so we are offering the "Eboracum" track as an exclusive download. The track is an early collaboration between myself (Javolenus) and Karsten. As such, I suppose it can be described as "Pixeltruppen-lite" as there is no Wired Ant or Anis. But we hope you like it! It is based around a guitar impro I recorded at dawn after a sleepless night. I was looking out of the window as the city gradually woke up. "Eboracum" is the original Roman name of my hometown. I had originally called the track "Sleepless in Eboracum". Karsten then remixed it and added beats, synths, piano etc. The track is currently covered by a Creative Commons license (attribution+non-commercial). Thanks again to all supporters!

Ariadne (Give Me A Call)

We had the idea to do a "holiday romance" song. And so our song-hero flies to sunny Greece and there falls in love with the mysterious Ariadne. Our song catches up with him on the return flight, still dreaming of sun, sea, sand and ... Ariadne. We also incorporated a line from Sappho: "Love is a cunning weaver of fantasies and fables".

Thomas Campion, Bladerunner & The Hemera Assignment

Thomas Campion (1567--1620) was an English songwriter, musician and composer of the Renaissance era. He first studied law, and then spent some time as a soldier, before qualifying as a physician. But songwriting was his claim to fame and he published several books of “Ayres”. He died in 1620, in London, probably from the plague, as he was involved in treating plague victims at that time. Later generations ignored or forgot Campion’s music (the powerful church leaders of England’s seventeenth-century Puritan movement found Campion’s songs too sexy!) and sadly his work sank into obscurity.

I came across Campion in a collection of English lute songs, bought from my local music shop here in Eboracum. I liked what I saw and began experimenting on guitar. True, the words are a bit old-fashioned, but they tackle timeless human issues like love, jealousy, passion, obsession etc. And the melodies are strong.

There is one particular Campion song called “Follow Thy Fair Sun”, which is about a guy hopelessly in love with a beautiful woman, and following her around like a shadow. Her beauty, popularity and self-absorption shines far too bright for her even to notice this forlorn admirer. And so he lives in shadow, following his “fair sun”, and hoping one day to be noticed.

Well, I liked this little dynamic. I had it in the back of my mind when I was reading an online article about Vangelis and the equipment he used to create the “Bladerunner” movie music. I immediately recognised that Karsten has similar vintage equipment in his home studio. An idea occurred: maybe we could make a Cyberpunk version of the Campion song? Maybe Campion’s lovesick Renaissance “shadow” could be transformed into a futuristic Cyborg “shadow”?

We discussed the idea at Pixeltruppen HQ and began experimenting. We decided to attempt something special -- we would create a “sonic” movie trailer for our own fictitious Cyberpunk movie, including dialogue and Foley effects. And we would reference both Campion and Vangelis in the musical score and instrumentation. The result is our track “The Hemera Assignment”.

Semiotics

The lyric for this song is based on the idea that everything is "significant" -- the kind of shoes you wear, or car you drive, or coffee you drink -- everything carries a subliminal message. For example, a car is a practical machine -- it transports people from A to B. And yet a car can also be a status symbol or sex symbol. Even the choice of colour can "say something" about the owner. And so people express themselves through coded messages attached to everyday objects. The vocals were recorded by Anis and Javolenus and processed by Karsten, who also created the melodic motif. The instrumentation and overall arrangement are also the work of Karsten, who used the following equipment: ARP 2500 ARP 2600 ARP Odyssey Moog System 55 Minimoog Roland TR-909 Roland CR-78 Roland D-10 Sennheiser Vocoder VSM201 Cubase VST 32

Love Is Not Blind

This song is inspired by, and based on, a Renaissance song-fragment by Michael Cavendish (1525--1628). "Love is not blind, but I am so blindfolded by desire that guides my will along the path of woe ..."

Très Gentil Cœur

This track was inspired by a 14th-century chant by Medieval French composer Solage. With this song we welcome and introduce the vocalist "Anis".

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