voices from the desert
Dave Stafford, August 2010: At roughly the same time that the first tracks for Bindlestiff’s first album, “Early” were being created, I began on my own to experiment more directly with looping on my own, as a solo guitarist, and “Voices From The Desert” is, again similarly to “Early”, by Bindlestiff, a compilation of my very first, tentative, experimental/looped solo works.
This sets the stage for a series of solo albums that would emerge more regularly beginning in 1994/1995, but “Voices From The Desert” can be considered to be the prototype, the first attempts at using loops, along with energy bows, as a musical device.
In the early 90s, I was absolutely restricted by the longest “looper” or looping device that I owned, which at that time was only just 4 seconds in length. This meant that most of the material on this first album is comprised of “short” loops, which gives it a completely different character to later works where I had the luxury of first 8 seconds, then 196 seconds, and eventually, 16 minutes of loop time available.
I believe on one track on this album, “The Scattering”, I may have had the loan of
I’m not really sure, looking back through the mists of time to this first solo effort,
just what was used gear-
Then I graduated to my first Digitech rack device, which could do four seconds of
loop – the DSP-
But that was the future, back in the very early 90s, for these first five “loop experiments”, most of the loops were one or two seconds long at the most. So of necessity, this gives the pieces a very busy, choppy kind of feel, it was just impossible to do smooth, long, beautiful loops WITHOUT a long delay device, so – well, you just “made do” with what you had.
All five of these tracks take as their inspiration the novels of Frank Herbert, at
the time, I was re-
TO WALK OUT OF THE SAREER
An unusual lead-
Mysterious, strange, this weird reverse melody on top of that throbbing, alien “thumper” bass part – I really like this little piece.
The short loops set up an amazing rhythmic pattern, which to my mind reminds me mentally of the “thumpers” that the Fremen used, while at the same time, also reminding of the rhythmic noise of first contact heard in the radio telescope lab in the film “Contact” – that thump, thump, thump, ominous, dark, that either meant the approach of giant worms or the existence of far off aliens – recalling, somehow, both.
This little track just seemed like a nice little distraction, a way to ease into
this strange, repetitive, short-
DAR AND TAR
The second track, “Dar and Tar”, referring to two of the Bene Gesserit characters
in the Dune series, is more an attempt to do a Fripp-
However, when it came time to remix it for digital, a few years later (the original Voices From The Desert had first been released on cassette) for the CD release, I felt so dissatisfied with the “lead guitar” playing, that I removed all of it, leaving only this ominous, layered backing track, that slowly grows on your consciousness as you listen. I feel it works far better standalone than it did as a backing – it is just almost, but not quite, ambient.
Now we are moving into the real realm of ambient for the first time, with the 13
minute long opus “Ghola-
Strangeness emanates from it, rather than it being a song or a tune or a track, it’s
really just a strange, subterranean, underworld, hidden, dark, slowed-
This is all energy bow, pretty much every sound on this record is an energy bow, because, despite only having “short” time duration delays and loopers, I really wanted to play LONG pieces with LONG notes, and to be able to create ambience using the brilliant tool that an energy bow is.
And then we come to “The Scattering”, which is one of the longest pieces of music I have ever recorded, and probably THE longest done at “one sitting”.
I remember for this track (which was “side two” on the original cassette) that I set out to very purposefully see just how many loops I could manage to get going at once, and then I was determined to see if I could “solo” to that for the entire 45 minute duration of the tape. I almost made it, it clocks in at 43:25, which is very close indeed to the original intended target time.
It’s a piece that requires a long view, it requires patience, in that there is an enormous amount of repetition, which is sometimes good, sometimes not, but if you stick with it, there are some lovely changes of mood, where for example a long running loop suddenly STOPS, leaving a beautiful silence, which the song then proceeds to carry on over.
The ebow solo on top of this piece is truly remarkable, that I could play, with that
much bending, with those strange, atonal, Indian and other bizarre scales, with bent
harmonics, all that going on, for FORTY-
And – recurring themes. At 11.44, suddenly, I am playing a melodic theme that I hadn’t touched for many minutes. Certain ebow melodies crop up over and over, in perhaps slightly different forms, at different times, during the piece.
The loops are short, tense, with a strange pulsing quality, like a nervous universe of uncertain stars, all pulsing unhappily behind this bizarre energy bow melody. I’ve never HEARD so much bending (the hardest thing to do of ALL with the ebow) in an ebow solo, or so many pushed up/bent harmonic/vibrato sounds in my life.
The melody is very, very strange. The song just becomes more and more hypnotic as it goes along, but the lead guitar retains your attention, keeping the elements, somehow, all tied together.
Then, after what seems an eternity, suddenly, at about the 13:20 mark, one of the loops stops (when I finally had a second, in between ebow solos) and there is this amazing calm. Into which the melody plunges once again, but now, sounding strangely different, the whole character of the atmosphere of the track changing in that one act of me pushing that delay footswitch to “off”.
Also, the ebow solo takes some very unexpected turns, playing some VERY long notes, and just doing the oddest, most unexpected things. Long, long bends, long, long notes, atonal riffs, there is nothing “major scale” or “happy” here, this is a serious journey, as “The Scattering” is, which refers to millions of displaced people in the Dune universe – well, this is the soundtrack to that event – millions of human beings scattered to the farthest reaches of the universe during this cataclysmic musical event. The ebow drives them there, atop the massed, short, pulsing, evolving short loops.
Sometimes, the melody becomes dislocated, frantic, or does strange bends UP – again,
defying the logic of the ebow itself, this is such an unusual usage because of the
sheer quantity of bends and those strange, strange bent harmonics that end in finger-
Moments of pure melody, where the ebow climbs up and down, moving into the desert spaces, working along this amazing 43:25 timeline – the amount of concentration needed to even make it through a take like this was phenomenal.
At about the 19:00 minute mark, some lovely, short bends, added into the loop, give the next section a very sad, eerie feel – slowly changing the nature of the backing, too, by making alterations as I went. Then picking up that impossible solo yet again, and trying to propel it, and myself, through almost 45 minutes of music.
I believe there is only ONE of these, I made no other attempt, because I realised I could not do it “better”, or more probably, I simply could not do it “AGAIN”.
So while it’s not exactly what I would call “easy listening”, it is hardcore ebow
lead guitar on top of an almost frantic, pulsating layer of yet more, still more,
After the intense experience of “The Scattering”, I felt it was best to return to the more palatable world of ambient.
IN THE NO-
The genesis and creation of “In The No-
This was intentional, I wanted something that was ethereal, almost non-
Wanting to capture the feel of being in a strange, quiet, detached “space”, again,
all of the sound in this track is certainly reversed, and possibly some or all of
it is also slowed to half-
While I can’t tell you a lot about how “In The No-
I can imagine that this could be the soundtrack to a dream, a strange sort of mildly
disturbing/while at the same time mildly exciting kind of sci-
The quiet mix, the intentional bringing down of the album’s tempo, it goes from the full on noise of “The Scattering” to whispered clouds of nearly invisible music, cloaked in mysterious waves of ambient sound, gradually wandering off, disappearing almost without you noticing.
Fading into silence, the track gradually dissolves into what becomes the conclusion of the five unique moods that are the tracks that make up “Voices From The Desert”. After 18 years, it still stands up well enough for a first try. I am certainly very proud of the two very ambient tracks, and the rest have survived the test of time well enough.
To attempt a forty-
Please see the entry for “Pay Your Respects” to read what happens next.
notes from the guitarist’s seat:
quiet... peaceful... ambient music. pureambient music.
the ambient music microlabel
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