Composer and producer Dren McDonald’s Pterous features six tracks, but there are literally hundreds and hundreds of layers of guitars that weave together to create the textures within the tapestry of each piece. McDonald, who is known for composing music for video games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Gunman Taco Truck as well as for his collaborative polyheDren project, says, “This recording began with some sketches of guitar based instrumentals that arose from asking the question ‘What if I tried to make something like Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint?’’ And I noodled around with some of these guitar pattern ideas for a while and created the compositions in rough shapes with very rough sounds. I was doing this in between mixing and producing the tracks from the polyheDren record Psychic. On [one song], there was a nylon string guitar part on there, but it didn’t feel thick enough. So I recorded the same part again… about 20 times. And then another 20 times. And then added some harmony to it. Then it finally started to sound like the sound that I had been hearing inside of my head. I was reminded of the score from The Grand Budapest Hotel where Alexandre Desplat uses a mandolin orchestra for some of the cues… it’s both quirky and completely glorious. So I decided to take that idea even further with my original guitar noodling sketches, and create my own guitar orchestra for these pieces.”
The recording required a process that McDonald refers to as “completely inefficient” as he used over 35 different instruments and recorded them from at least 3 different distances for every take. He used multiple steel string acoustic guitars, nylon string guitars, 12-string guitars, baritone guitars, ukuleles, tenor ukuleles, and fretless basses, recording everything himself in his home studio and then engineering them to approximate the sound of dozens and dozens of guitar players all playing these pieces in one big room. Each song is a memory for someone who McDonald had recently lost, as several folks close to him had passed away within a short window of time. “These losses weren’t spread out at all,” says McDonald. “You might expect that there will be time to grieve and process the loss of someone significant in your life, but sometimes you don’t get that time when you want it. Writing these pieces, recording them, and playing the parts over and over in order to get a good performance for the recording put me in a very focused flow state. To remain in that state, while also thinking about each person during that time of the recording… there was something about that process that seemed to help me reconcile my loss.” The resulting instrumental album is a meditative, emotional, and minimalist-inspired experiment.
Recommended Tracks: Track 6, “J2,” Track 2, “D, Pt. 1,” Track 5, “PT”
Goes For Adds 4/25
Label: Appearing Records