Faith In Failure (2023)

1. Bancroft Way (5:07)
2. You Will (4:11)
3. Designer Fabrics (5:12)
4. Disappearing Firelight (3:44)
5. It’s All Opening Up (7:31)

6. Biscuit Tin (5:04}
7. Faith in Failure (4:52)
8. Hated (3:38)
9. Not For You, Anyway (4:30)
10. Charging Confusion (5:10)

23 August 2022
Most of the last month have been spent traveling. A break from the studio is always good. I returned to the studio with fresh ears and new ideas.

One of the stops along the way was a visit with Scott Sutherland. I hadn’t seen Scott for over two years. This was a quiet gathering at his house, south of Seattle. Ideas were discussed and the previous albums assessed. Scott has a curious idea brewing which we will turn to shortly. He had a good suggestion for a drummer for this next session.

Prior to the West Coast trip, there was a drive to Missoula. This gave me a chance to review the next mixes in the final running order. Disappearing Firelight was the only mix that was rejected. It was a simple matter to spin it again when we got back home. With this done, I once again took a stroll through the folder of songs that have been shelved for one reason or another. The 2011 track Break In The Weather seemed a lot farther along than I had thought. I pulled it up to work on. In the end it got some new lyrics for the bridge and second verse and new vocals. Piano, synth and guitar was also added. I spent a couple of days dialing in the mix. This one has now moved up to the A list for the next album.

Another surprise was Ghosts, though I don’t know it will be called that in the end. I didn’t recognize the complete makeover this one had got.

Next I decided to return to the two songs of Colter’s which were abandoned. I’ve worked on Scatter Gun in the past, but I’m still not happy with the results. The drum track is fantastic. The problem was with the original idea. Too many chords and two bridge sections that don’t add to the song. This one will take some thought, which I don’t have time for right now.

The other one of Colter’s was titled Going Back To Cali. It’s a pleasant set of chord changes, but they don’t amount to a song. Again, it’s a great drum track Ric did. You can hear him trying to make something happen. I deconstructed the song, charting the chords and arrangement. I decided to extend the introduction and add a solo section. I wrote all new chord changes to go over that. I just did a framework to see what I had: guitar, bass and organ. I’ll return to this shortly.

At the moment I’m trying to get If Not For You, Anyway up to speed. I wasn’t happy with the lyrics or vocals. A second try at the lyrics failed also. The third draft seems to have solved the problem. I will be working on the final mix this week. I found I had done the guitar solo, so that is checked off.

At the moment it appears Jim Dickson won’t be able to get to our songs until late in the year. This will push back the release until March. I’ll use the time to return to writing new material

25 July 2022
Bancroft Way appears to be mixed and in the can.

The cover are for Faith In Failure is now nearly complete. Only the disc face remains to be tackled.

Work on the album is currently paused while waiting for overdubs from Jim Dickson, Bobby Sutliff and Matt Piucci. If the current schedule holds, the record should be completed by September.

The new songs were written and recorded in 2021 and 2022 with one exception. The instrumental It’s All Opening Up dates back to the end of 2020. Material for two more albums were recorded over the same period. The abundance of material meant others were recorded during the Sandbox sessions and put aside once the tracks for those albums were decided. Two songs penciled in for Faith In Failure were dropped from the list once the final running order was decided. There are two more albums to follow over the next year or so. The third album in this series will included some stray tracks never released on CD.

21 July 2022
I’ve taken time off from the studio the last couple of weeks for some well earned vacation time.

Upon returning, I did a final mix of Charging Confusion. This turned out to be a much more complex song than I had realized. It’s one of the “big” songs and has been given the closing song position the track list.

Next up was Designer Fabrics. This is another of the heavier songs. After some work, I realized it needed one of the A-list bass players to do the job. Joe Hughes was the obvious choice. I could hear an upfront part, almost a lead bass line. He was up for it, though it took a while to fit in his schedule. When I checked back, I suggested maybe Kris could sing a bit on it too. This reminded her she had Bancroft Way on her desk. I was assured they would clear of the next weekend to tackle these two. Joe agreed to play bass on Bancroft as well. My efforts fell way short of the goal. These two are pros and had the work done as promised. I’d given Kris free reign to add to the lyrics on Bancroft. After working in it here, I thought the bridge was where she needed to look. The results were a nice surprise. Both songs have been lifted up to the next level.

I’d asked Matt Piucci about doing some guitar. He told me to get back to him in July. It was Designer Fabrics that he would get. When I followed up with him, he said to send the track and he’d get to it soon.

There were some parts I’d added to Designer I had some doubts about. When the track was returned with the new bass and vocals,I stripped off some guitars I’d added. First off, I redid my vocals to better match Kris. I came up with a repeating piano figure for the intro. I decided it would work on this section every time it came up. I also added some droning mellotron, inspired by Brian Jones’ work on We Love You.

Bancroft Way is the follow up to the song Telegraph Avenue on Sandbox Shadows. It still needed a guitar part over the end. I decided to redo the whole power chord part and take it through the solo. That was fairly easy. I may revisit it one more time to see if an idea I have will work on the chorus. I just now went through the song and did some repairs to the two lead vocal tracks. It now works better with Kris’ harmonies. Once I sort of the guitar, it’ll be ready for mixing.

There is now the final ten song running order. It may change once all the mixes are reviewed. The final three songs needing bass overdubs will be sent down to Jim Dickson as soon as he’s back in Sydney. One of those still needs a guitar solo. This is to be determined.

Meanwhile the new album has been getting reviews and radio play. That was the goal of that release. Keep our name active while work continues on this new record.

28 June 2022
Three weeks later, four songs are now mixed. The fifth song is being prepared for mixing. Charging Confusion had seem some guitar work added, but upon review I decided to try again. As an experiment, I returned to the set up I used for the Seattle Terrastock: The Dano 12-string, Memphis Roto Phase and the Marshall amp. The results were what I was looking for and helped change the texture of the song. A new piano part was also added. While searching around, I found a patch that combined piano and strings. I tweaked the sounds some to suit my ears. This second overdub thickened the sounds and gave the song a much darker feel.

One of the guitar parts I scrapped was the middle section solo. There was also the matter of the end solo. I decided it would be guitar on the end section and fuzzy organ for the middle. The guitar solo took some work to find the correct sound. I first tried the SG Standard, then the Jazzmaster. Neither gave me the sound I needed. These tests were good practice, looking for the final lines. In the end it was the Les Paul and Marshall that did the business. I kept the signal chain simple, just adding MXR Distortion+ for a little drive.

For the organ solo, I set up the Farfisa with distortion. I was looking for that Soft Machine fuzz organ sound. This came together quickly. It was mostly a matter of dialing in the sound. I did a second track for the left hand bass notes.

Now for some vocal repairs and a mix.

5 June 2022
The current plan now is to work through twelve of the new songs, of which ten will appear on the next album. I like having some choices. I’ve reviewed the works in progress and made some notes. A few of the songs are considered complete, and even mixed. My review suggested I start mixing with fresh ears. four or five songs will be passed on to Jim Dickson and Joe Hughes for bass overdubs. Bobby, Scott and I consider ourselves to be capable bass players and our work has been used on most all our albums. Some songs require the experts. Jim and Joe are both fantastic players, with different styles. Jim won’t be able to do his work until August. This gives me plenty of time to do all the other repairs needed. I hope to get Kris to sing on a track or two as well.

It’s important for me to keep some notes so I know where I need to direct my attention.

The new album songs are very much in the Brain style. Some of the textures heard on Chiêm Bao Thấy Bậu are being incorporated into the new songs. This is just a natural progression. After fourteen albums, no one should expect us to keep repeating ourselves. We never have. That said, you should expect a couple of classic Brain jangles on the new one.

The process of finishing the songs and then determining which ten will make the best album is the exciting part of the effort. Nothing is set in stone until it’s mastered.

29 May 2022
Currently, time is being divided between the work on a new release, the next album and now a new video for the new album.

I returned to Bancroft Way last week. The track was still in basic form. The vocals were the first concern. Work was done to get final vocals. That also required finalizing the lyrics. The chorus had never felt finished. A piano part over the chorus informed the new lyrics and vocal delivery. In an effort to move the song forward, organ, mellotron, guitar and a synth part have been added. At this point all thirteen songs under consideration for the next album are pretty far along. I feel confident enough to put them aside while I tend to other business. A few bass parts will be assigned to Jim Dickson and Joe Hughes now. Kris will get the revamped version of Bancroft for vocal overdubs. The current state of things makes the October deadline seem well within reach.

I’m already thinking about the cover design. Discussions with the pressing plant have dashed the original idea. The quote from the printer came in far too high to make it possible. A second idea is being drafted.

A video for I Would Not should be completed early next week. Kris did some footage for the idea I had. A foundation for the idea has been assembled and finish work will be applied in the next two days.

Meanwhile the new record has gotten some radio play and the first reviews have appeared. A detailed review was published this week on the Terrastock site. You can read it here.

11 May 2022
The last few weeks have been a blur. The arrival of the new album coincided with the departure of Ric Parnell. Ric entered the hospital on April 21st. The initial reports indicated that these were his last days. Luckily he was able to go home for hospice care were he died early Sunday morning on May 1st. Ric’s frail health was always looming in the background. While his passing is a shock, it wasn’t a total surprise. Ric did two sessions for the Brain this year, in January and again in February. Listening to those five songs gives no hint that his days were short. Knives, one of Scott’s songs on Chiêm bao thấy bậu is from the January session. The two songs of mine done in February and as good as anything Ric ever did for us. Inventive and powerful. He will be missed.

Donovan’s Brain will continue work on the material we’d accumulated for the next three albums. When new songs appear, there will be some audition drum sessions. It’s not a matter that needs to be resolved just now. The album currently under construction will be out in January 2023. The final track listing is still in flux. A final decision will be made in September. There are actually 13 songs in play at the moment.

Over the last few days, Not For Me, Anyway, Biscuit Tin amd Ghosts have gotten some new parts. Lyrics have been finalized and final vocals recorded. Time now is split between promoting the new release and racing forward with the next ones. Jim Dickson has confirmed he’ll be on board to add some bass. That will be in August after he returns from holiday.

4 April 2022

The song formerly known as Ghosts is one of two old songs that had been shelved. I suspect they both date from the Turned Up Later Era. A few weeks ago I reviewed all the cast offs in search of usable drums. Not Coming Back and Ghosts got moved up to the active file for overhaul. The remake of Ghosts has come out well enough that it is now on the A list for the next album. The chord changes were altered and simplified. The arrangement was also altered, extending the parts. A new set of lyrics were written. After doing some work, I decided that the song needed one more verse after the bridge. That edit has now been done. The transformation has been pretty dramatic.

Meanwhile, Will You has been sent off to Bobby Sutliff for a string arrangement. This is the final piece to that puzzle. It could be the central song on the new album.

In the background, work on the release of Chiêm bao thấy bậu is moving forward. A lot of elements need to be in place for release day. At the same time, I’m already thinking about the cover format for the next album…

27 March 2022

Work on a new album continues at a steady pace. Most of the ten new songs are pretty far along. The work now is focused on getting solid vocals on all the tracks and adding to the arrangements. Only Bancroft Way is in what is called the framework stage. Kris has suggest she might be able to add to this. She’s currently back in the States, so she’s not able to do any work at the moment. Two or three songs will be offered to Jim Dickson for bass overdubs. A review of the songs in the next few weeks will be an opportunity to make some important decisions about assigning parts. A quick look shows this album is nearly half finished.

Like most things Donovan’s Brain does, there is a good chance things will change before the album is completed.

15 March 2022
The distraction of putting together the soundtrack album is now just a dull roar in the background. Time to move on.

Linear progress is not a term well known in the world of Donovan’s Brain. It’s not been uncommon for The Brain to have worked on two albums at the same time. Tiny Crustacean Light Show and The Great Leap Forward were the product on one three year recording period. Turned Up Later and Heirloom Varieties were also created over one continuous five year session. The period between 2016 and 2022 gets even more convoluted. Those six years produced material for seven new albums, and a three disc box set. Burnt Trees In The Snow, Sandbox Dispatches and Two Suns Two Shadows grew out of work on the follow up to Heirloom Varieties. The assembled albums were not arbitrary collections, but each was well thought out.

As Sandbox Shadows was being finalized, new material was being written and recorded. There were several leftover songs as well. These thirty songs were organized into three folders, three potential albums. The one labeled “Soundtrack” was meant to be the third album to be released. That quickly changed in December 2021, when it moved to the front of the line. One new song was added to that collection in February. Another song appears in two different versions on the album. While all this was going on, several older songs were given a new life. What this means, is despite releasing a new album in the Spring of 2022, there are three more albums in the works. Make no mistake, these are songs which are fully formed and existing as basic recordings or completed tracks.

That is where it stands today. A new album of Brain songs has been under construction since last Fall. Now it is time to focus on these ten songs. Three, possibly four are now competed and have received a final mix. Work will continue on the others with the goal of seeing it released by January 2023. This diary page will follow the work on the album currently titled Faith In Failure. Most likely new songs will appear over the next few months. Work on the other sixteen songs will occur as time abd attention allows.

Today’s task was a second round of piano overdubs on Will You. This is the newest song on the track list, having been written and recorded in early February. The oldest song on the new album dates back to 1992 or so. It was recorded three times in rapid succession. This version is the third attempt. Along the way the words and melody have been revised several times. There may be a couple of elements of the original track on this version. I had enough faith in it that I asked Tom Stevens to add a bass part. When I reviewed the work a couple of days ago, I felt like the mix wasn’t quite there yet. Otherwise, it’s considered done and assured a place on the next release.

No rest for the wicked.