Meditating Out Loud 6
Cover photo: Davide Varriale – A Temporary Loss of Information cover art
"Meditating Out Loud" presents some of the best new ambient and downtempo tracks we've handpicked for you. We are coming back with the sixth installment of the series.
The Howard Hughes Suite – Transcendental Medication (Radio Edit)

The Howard Hughes Suite is a one-man-project. The man behind it lives with his wife, Deb, deep in the heart of Wiltshire in the Southwest of England and makes magical ambient music using only his pedal steel guitar. His new album High and Lonesome comes out on February 18th on Slow Music Movement. The single from the album is a short edit of an epic 20-minute-long jam with the title that speaks for itself – Transcedental Meditation. We talked to The Howard Hughes Suite mastermind Richie about the creative process behind the album, its influences and his musical roots.
— What was the creative process behind your latest album like?

The genesis and evolution of all the tracks on the album followed a similar process. I recorded the pedal steel in Pro Tools to a fixed tempo. The reason being a fixed tempo meant that I was able to cut sections and licks or phrases for editing and know that any audio manipulations in additional software with these edits would remain in sync when reimported.

Next, I would export these parts (sometimes a single note or two, other times whole phrases or bars) to my iPad where I would load them in to either Samplr or Borderlands. I think both apps use some form of granular synthesis, and the sonic transformations that can be achieved are truly stunning! And because these apps are creating sounds from one's own playing, with your personal inflections and phrasing on the instrument, it will always make sounds wholly unique to you.

On other occasions I would use the raw pedal steel takes, and once I'd put them through Samplr or Borderlands (occasionally both), these recordings might then be reversed, slowed down or both. Another technique was to send slowed down/reversed steel takes to the apps.

Once I was happy with the Samplr/Borderland takes, I would send them back to my Mac and into Pro Tools and build the songs from these different sections (which I might then put through FX chains and/or automated sends to different FX).

— Writing meditative and introspective music probably requires a certain state of mind. Was it like this with you?

As hinted at in the album's liner notes, these tracks were all created in a relatively short space of time. From starting to compose and record the tracks, to the finished album (mixed and ready for mastering) was maybe two weeks in total.

Insomnia played a big part, and much of the writing and recording took place during the 'graveyard shift'. There was a lot of sonic experimentation and there is a dream-like quality to the sound worlds contained within the album. Much of that is informed by the exhaustion I was experiencing at the time. You might say these tracks almost wrote themselves. I let the atmospheres and ambient textures I created guide the album's direction; leaving my head out of it and let my heart rule the situation.

— What were some of your inspirations?

Luke Schneider's 'Altar of Harmony' album was definitely an inspiration. Not so much in the sonic world that 'High & Lonesome' inhabits, but more in its execution, i.e., the self-induced limitation of using a single instrument to create all the sounds. Limitations are often viewed as a negative, but by not allowing access to a seemingly infinite number of options, the resulting limited palette can be freeing.

From a production perspective Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno have also been a major influence on much of my work. Having said that, I am always trying to plant a flag in new sonic territories; I'm not sure if I've succeeded yet, but it's good to have something to aspire to, and to set the bar high.

— How did you get into making music?

Though I would not say my childhood was overly musical in terms of 'a house full of music', my dad did have an excellent record collection and hi-fi equipment and had a love of a variety of instruments that he taught himself. This is undoubtedly where my musicality comes from. An interest that whilst not initially indulged was bubbling away for any chance to have a go myself.

In my teens I received a guitar for Christmas and it's fair to say that from that point on I was away and running. I now had the ability to not only learn classic standards but also to start writing and creating my own music.

This led to a long history of playing live and many years as a session musician, whilst I continued to make music for myself in my own time.

Latterly I began recording under the name The Howard Hughes Suite. Partly a family in-joke that acknowledged my somewhat reclusive nature, but also a way to put a distance between my character and an artistic state free of any baggage of familiarity of personality. A mask if you like.
Also check out two excellent tracks from THHS's labelmates Ben McElroy and Iu Takahashi.
Davide Varriale – Purification

Davide Varriale is a music producer, audio engineer and sound designer from Naples, Italy. He started making music in 2014 as a guitarist and in 2018 I bumped into the world of music production and fell in love with electronic music, particularly the ambient and experimental sides. In 2020 he graduated from the University of Bedfordshire with a degree in music production.

"Purification" is a standout track from his new album "A Temporary Loss of Information". It is a complex and slowly evolving ambient soundscape that evokes the feeling of being baptised or otherwise transformed through both pain and enlightenment.

Davide Varriale
"A Temporary Loss of Information" was born as a collection of songs composed in the period between 2019 and 2021. For the most part, they are one-take improvisations which I later edited and arranged. The album features both compositions for piano, strings and electronics, as well as pieces of pure ambient electronics.

If I had to indicate a basic concept for the album, I would say that it is truly a sort of personal research. These are all songs that I composed and created just for me. Initially, I had no intention of releasing the tracks at all!

To create the songs I used different sound sources. On the hardware side, there are a Korg Minilogue and a Korg Vola Keys processed through different guitar pedals.
On the digital side, in addition to some custom instruments programmed in Max 8 and Chuck, most of the sampling and sound design work was done within Ableton Live 11. The sampled instruments come from Spitfire Audio and Native instruments sample libraries.
Listen to Temporary from the same album.
Egopusher – Imitation

Egopusher are electronica band from Zurich. Their approach of mixing acoustic instruments with electronics hasn't failed them since 2013. Their upcoming record for Quiet Love Records was created during lockdown: "When the world stood still in 2020, we used the big void to record an ambient album. We had been wanting to do this for a long time but never found the right moment. Now it was there! So we gathered all our gear and holed up in our studio for a week".

The album's standout track Imitation is a "magical improvisation" woven from warm synths, earth-shattering bass and a violin that sounds like a confession in a lonely room.

Imitation is a complete improvisation that feels like a composed piece of music and was created on the first day of our recording session, after several months of not making music together. It came out as this magical take, that reflects our musical connection and is the core reason why Egopusher was formed initially. A love ode to our band, and an ode to melancholy, hope and calm.

The track was recorded exclusively with analogue equipment. The main pad is a Juno 60 sent through Strymon effect pedals. In the background you can hear the noise of an old Korg organ. The counterpart melody next to the violin is our long time companion Arturia Microbrute synth and for the deep bass sounds we used an old Moog Taurus. To capture the ambience in the room, we recorded a room microphone on all the ambient recordings and mixed it discreetly into some of the tracks. This gives Imitation a certain intimacy.
If you loved Imitation, check out the tracks from their labelmates Diskret (a remix by Alessandro from Egopusher) and Jaand.