2016 Wasn’t So Bad: Debrief & Fav Albums

Hey friends,

In obvious news, 2016 has finally come to a close. I feel like the media Buzzfeed would have you think it was a shitty year, but I’ve heard a lot of people say it was an amazing year for them. I was no exception. My 2016 was full of great experiences, personal growth and refining myself.

When 2016 started:

  • I was awaiting surgery to repair a hernia I had suffered

  • severly allergic to all nuts

  • I lived in a dive of an apartment by myself

Now all of those things have changed:

  • I underwent successful surgery in March

  • I can now eat pistachios, pecans and cashews

  • I moved into a sweet new apartment in nice part of town

And on top of those highlight accomplishments, I bought my very first car; saw Radiohead (and more) at Osheaga in Montreal; expanded my knowledge of music and writing, met quality people and friends. The only thing missing from 2016 was me finishing some music and releasing it. When evaluating my year, that’s the only negative point I gave myself. But all is not lost: I started some really exciting projects with other musicians – and did release Montreal, a song from the forthcoming unnamed 2017 album. The rest of the year was spent grinding out new ideas, practicing old ones and trying to define the sound and feelings of my next album. I’m getting there and mark my words, it’ll be released sometime in 2017. It is number one on my list of things to do. It’s about half written and I’ve almost figured out the flow and the feelings of it. You’re going to love it.

I thought I might also give a countdown of my top 16 albums of 2016 to finish this blog. I’ve attached a link to each album on the list for you to check out for yourself.

16. The Great Detachment – Wintersleep

15. Cloak – Jordan Rakei

14. low kii savage – kiiara

13. Junk – M83
Along with seeing Radiohead at Osheaga, I saw M83, an amazing French group. They had so much energy and an unreal array of ear candy. It really inspired me in my own productions and I’ve listened to this album so many times since seeing them. It’s truly a work of art.

12. Conscious – Broods

11. Skin – Flume

10. Once The Lights Are On – CHINAH
I really love CHINAH. This EP is actually chalked full of cool sounds, great arrangements and catchy vocals. Youtube only had this song, but I highly recommend checking out the full EP.

9. Cleopatra – The Lumineers
Another fantastic band I witnessed at Osheaga. I liked this album before I went but there was something about seeing them live that made me appreciate them much more profoundly.

8. Woman – Justice
This album has so much going for it. Catchy vocals, sweet retro synths, flashy electric guitars, fancy arrangements. What’s not to love?

7. Congrats – Holy Fuck
These guys were my first ever bar show. I was 18 in Montreal and saw them at Club Soda for the JazzFest. It was incredible then and it was even cooler seeing them this past Fall for HPX. It’s so cool to see an electronic band NOT have a laptop on stage. Every sound you heard is created right in front of your eyes and that’s a really powerful thing.

6. Full Circle – Haelos
A lovely band. Well composed, well executed, but unfortunately couldn’t see them at Osheaga because Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing at the same time 🙁 Maybe another time. Until then, I’m left with endlessly consuming this KEXP Youtube video.

5. Phase – Jack Garratt
Jack Garratt is easily my favourite discovery in 2016. I heard his song Worry a few months before he was the first performer I saw at Osheaga where I turned full out fanboy. He combines real instrumentation with electronic sounds and does it so well. It’s a huge inspiration for me to draw from. He has so much energy on stage even though it’s just him. I can’t say enough good things about this guy.

4. W:/2016ALBUM/ – Deadmau5
There’s not much about this guy that I haven’t already said on this ol’ soapbox. I love this album, even though it’s not my favourite of his works. This is his song Cat Thruster which has a super groovy vibe with really great sounding (artificial) bass guitar. It sounds like it could be the track used for the series finale of Stranger Things.

3. Starboy – The Weeknd
I’ve been internally talking about the Weeknd overtaking Kanye as my favourite hip hop artist for the last year or so. I loved the last Weeknd album so much and Starboy is even better. Almost every track from this album has a heart beside it in my iTunes. I really do think it’s incredible. There’s not many albums where even the interlude track is awesome (see: Stargirl feat. Lana Del Ray). The whole album is sexy and groovy and fun and authentic – AND features Daft Punk on the two best tracks. I linked his short film called MANIA he used to promote this album, which reminded me so much of Kanye’s film Runaway he used to promote My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasies. Kanye had full ownership over my hip hop heart but now the Weeknd is an equal partner.

2. The Life of Pablo – Kanye West
Kanye’s The Life of Pablo just narrowly beat Starboy this year. I went back and forth on their rankings a few times but overall, TLOP is better. Kanye just has a certain property about him. His diversity, production and ability to consistently jump over the status quo are what make him so amazing. I do feel like he’s peaked, but he had such a head start on the competition, he still is on top for now. Also, this album is almost exclusively what I jam at the gym.

1. A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead
And here we have my number one favourite album from 2016. I’m sure you could’ve guessed this. Radiohead is a very special group to me and this album furthered that policy. Seeing them live in the Summer was an experience I will never forget. It’s seemingly impossible to accurately describe how it made me feel. It was pure euphoria mixed with tears of joy. This album is so emotional and honest and narrative and luscious. There isn’t anything I don’t like about it – okay, fine, maybe the title. Anyway, every cut from this album is perfect in it’s own way. It was great to see them close on a revamped version of an old Radiohead classic in True Love Waits. But I think my highlight of the album though is Present Tense of which I’ve linked a version.

A Moon Shaped Pool, 2016

 

I’m going to miss 2016 (and Harambe), but here’s to making 2017 as great and memorable as possible.

Talk soon,
Ryan

Fall 2016 Update

Hey guys,

Woah do I ever suck at these blogs lately. But the silver lining is that I’ve done a lot of growing since you heard from me last – both musically, mentally and physically. I’m going to keep this blog post short today but I wanted to get you up to speed on a few things.

  1. I’m on a highly productive writing streak right now *knocks on wood*. I’ve fully settled into the new studio setup in my stylish new condo and I spend a lot of time in the studio working on refining old songs, creating new ones, watching technique videos and reading about music.

    StudioShot1

    The current configuration – guitars, synths, microphones and iMac

  2. Last week my friend Zach invited me to return on his podcast Business of Awareness where we discussed a lot of where I’m at musically, and mentally. He’s always a great chat and I strongly recommend you take an hour and listen to our podcast and if it tickles your fancy, check out more of his work.  On said podcast, I debuted my newest song Montreal as the intro.
  3. You can listen to Montreal in full right now on my Soundcloud. I started writing this song back in August with most of the lyrics being writing on the drive back from Montreal to Halifax, after Osheaga. I hope you like it. It’s the first real teaser from the upcoming 2017 album. Which by the way, I was going to call The Narrows, but I’ve since decided not to use that title. I’ve narrowed it down to three names now, but you’ll have to wait and see 😉
  4. I want to try to have one more song, even if it’s a collaboration out by the end of the year. I felt like I didn’t do much this year in terms of releasing new music, so I’m trying to redeem myself in the closing months of 2016.

As always, here’s what I’ve been listening to lately:

  • The Life of Pablo, Kanye West
  • Currents, Tame Impala
  • Once The Lights Are On, CHINAH
  • Patchwork, Matt Lange
  • Skin, Flume
  • Phase, Jack Garratt
  • Congrats, Holy Fuck

And honourable mention to Take to Heels by Sofie Letitre which was released today and is so far really great.

New Demos, Collaborations Garole

Hey friends,

It’s been a while since I’ve written to you. This one will be short and sweet, but a post nonetheless. I recently had my hernia surgery (finally) and I’m on the recovery road now. I’ll have some sweet scars and no lifting or physical activity for 4 more weeks but I’ll survive. I hope you’ve all been well through 3 months into the new year, too. Let me get you up to date in all things Poly Gecko.

I’m toying with the idea of making my forthcoming EP, The Narrows into a full-length album instead. There are about 14 songs right now that could fit on it; a good chunk of them being ongoing collaborative projects with friends. If this were the case, it would obviously push it farther into the future, but I’ve got the material now – it’s just a matter of finishing it.

Aside from that, I’m actually the busiest I’ve ever been these last few weeks with collaboration. I’ve met with two separate friends a few times and we’ve worked on a few songs. Both projects are very different. One is headed in the electronic / RnB / lyrical  direction while the other is headed in a throwback house music direction. I’m really excited for both because although both electronic, they’re a slight departure from the Poly Gecko stuff. However, these collaborations share a few common threads: both will assume new names apart from Poly Gecko or their name, both will have an EP out as soon as the material shapes up and both will give me a better opportunity to play live. Poly Gecko will play live someday but it’s a hard transition. I have to finish up this next series of songs and then go to the drawing board and figure out how to take these songs to a stage.

I’ll leave you with a little teaser of something new I cooked up a few days ago. The working title is Neotics. I was listening to a lot of deadmau5 and Daft Punk and then this happened:

 

What have I been listening to? I thought you’d never ask.

  1. The Inheritors by Holden
  2. In Rolling Waves by The Naked and Famous
  3. Where You Go I Go Too by Lindstorm
  4. Believe In Your Dreams by TWRP
  5. Wonder Where We Land by SBTRKT

Keep it chill. Talk soon.

 

Ryan

 

 

Leap Year Update

February is about ninety minutes from being concluded and I have to say, what a weird month it was. I accomplished so much, yet so little; met nobody, but met someone; it was winter, but hot. Tomorrow is March and March will bring the feeling of moving forward in a lot of ways: I’m going to eat almonds for the very first time in a controlled allergy challenge test; I’m going to get a routine surgery finally taken care of; I’ll turn twenty four.

Poly Gecko is forward-moving, but from your perception, maybe slowly. I promise that whenever you don’t hear from me, it’s a good sign… I’m always up to something fun. I’ve started a new collaboration project I hope will turn into something spectacular with my friend DJ, who, yes, he is a DJ. I’ll also be focusing on two other collaboration tunes with two femme fatales. I’ve been patiently waiting to collaborate with either of them and now the wheels are rolling on both of these tunes at the time. Exciting!

I’ll also be producing a friend’s project this spring of which I’m quite excited. He’s been a close friend and a closer ally of my musical venture and he’s asked me to produce his debut release and I’m thrilled he trusts me with something as important as his new music, which is so well-crafted.

If you haven’t already, download and listen to the Take My Hand Remix I did, originally by Joel Freck feat. Cameron Hawes.

 

Love you all lots. I’ll be better at blogging coming soon. I might even start a little recorded blog / podcast / whatever soon too.

Looking forward to March, and every day inside of it.

Ryan

Take My Hand Remix

A few months ago, a great friend of mine left for Vancouver. His name is Cameron Hawes. I really do miss him everyday, and I know that sometime in the future we shall be reunited. Anyways, yadda yadda bromance yadda. Before Cameron left, he did a couple of features with a good friend of both of ours: Joel Freck. Joel is a fantastic producer and an even better gentleman. Joel laid down some fresh dance beats and Cameron did his vocal thing on top of them. Joel did a great job crafting these songs into masterpieces. After hearing some mixes from Joel, it occurred to me that I would love to remix one of them – specifically Take My Hand. So I got permission from both Joel and Cameron and went ahead. I’ve attempted some remixes before but I usually get about half way through and lose focus and work on something else, but I really wanted to see this one through and do it to the best of my ability.

Here's the map!

Here’s the map from a few months ago

I spent a lot of time with this track, more time than I would’ve liked. I just knew it had so much potential to be a super great track and I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I hit that full potential. I’ve “finished” this song 3 times now, and now the version you’ll hear now is from October 2015. I made some updates since then but they didn’t stick. I always go back to the quote “art is never finished, only abandoned” by Leonardo da Vinci, and I think that applies heavily to this remix. I’m not totally satisfied with this mix, with this arrangement, but it is the absolute best I can do right now. And with so much time put into it, and with other songs I want to focus on, it’s time to release it and move on to the next thing. I still really like the tune, and I’m proud that I stuck with it as far as I did and tried so many different things with it.

Listen & Download to TAKE MY HAND [POLY GECKO REMIX] by JOEL FRECK feat. CAMERON HAWES:

 

Take care,

Ryan

2015 Year End

Today is my favourite day of the year: Boxing Day. One of the only days of the year where I have absolutely no commitments. It’s nice to just have one full day of absolutely whatever I want. Not to mention, it’s one day after Chrimbus and I have a bunch of cool stuff to mess around with.

Most notably, I received a Komplete Kontrol S61 from my parents. Though, I partially paid for it, and then acted really surprised when I opened it Friday. I believe Kontrol is close to the final piece of the puzzle to make my creation studio complete. Of course I’ll always want different toys and gadgets, but with this I can write much faster and intuitively.

In other news, I submitted an offer on a home I’ve been admiring for months and it was accepted. Of course, there needs to be a home inspection and a bunch more conditions before it’s actually mine but, if all goes well, and I’m guessing it will, it shall be mine. I’ve been saving up for years to buy a home and I’m ecstatic it’s finally come true. So the next project for the studio shall be acoustically treating the room for the most accurate listening experience possible. I know a decent amount about acoustic treatment but actually doing it will teach me much more.

Since we talked last, I finished my 12-week course at Berklee Online. It went by so quickly but I learned quite a bit – more than I expected to. I finally kinda know how to compose. For everything before this course, I could stumble my way through a song but now I have a much better understanding of song construction and form. Feel free to check out my final project, which I’m quite proud of. It’s called Hills. You can also download it too if you wish.

But anyway, I find once late December comes, I end up reflecting on the year – as cheesy as that is. I’m pretty happy with myself in 2015. I accomplished a lot that I set out to do. Mainly releasing PGEP and completing a term at Berklee Online. I also ended up buying a house at the tail end of the year, too! 2016 is already set up to be pretty dope year. I’ll be playing live as Poly Gecko for the first time; moving into a new home; releasing hopefully two more EPs (one solo, one collaboration); continuing to learn how to swim; continuing vocal lessons. There’s some other crazy exciting news but I’m too superstitious to post it 😉 But, yes. Exciting times ahead. I think the band will get together for the first time in the next few weeks and start jamming and piecing together a live Poly Gecko set. If you’re reading this and have experience with Apple MainStage 3, drop me a line. We need to talk.

So to end my final blog for 2015, I thought I do a quick countdown for my favourite music of the year. Only four of these artists I knew before 2015 – the rest are all newcomers to my life. Here’s the list of my top 12 favourite albums released in 2015:

12. Noontide – Humans

11. Transition Roads – Ominar

10. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence + The Machine

9. 2nite EP – TWRP

8. Play With Me! Collection – Matador

7. Taking Flight EP – Ryan Hemsworth & Lucas

6. Caracal – Disclosure

5. Siren EP – ATTLAS

4. Ep5 – Nerve

3. Do Androids Dream – Andrew Bayer

2. Scene EP – ATTLAS

1. Another Eternity – Purity Ring

No album was as exciting to me as Another Eternity was, and still is. And seeing Purity Ring live in October only solidified my love for their music. It’s just such a sweet blend of innocent vocals and aggressive bass and I love it.

Anywho, that does it for me this year. I hope you had a splendid holiday and I hope you all have a sweet New Year. If you’re looking for a sweet party on NYE, come to Marquee / Seahorse for 90s Night / Tupperware Remix Party. I’ll be there, drinking Horsepower.

Stay true,

Ryan

 

Mid-November Update

Hey friends,

Winter is coming. But so is sweater season, an excuse to grow my beard and reasons to stay indoors and write music. Admittedly, I have been delinquent with updating this blog of late. I’ve been stupidly busy between work and school. But I only have one more month of school until I’m done… where did the time go?

Musically lately, I’ve been refining my process, thanks to the course I’m taking at Berklee Online. My instructor Loudon Sterns is showing me the way to enlightened electronic music crafting. I’m just a young padawan still, but soon I may become a Jedi Knight.  The last project I did for school was a Trance song I call COCO.

 

This week is just a light automation project before diving into House for three weeks and finishing on French House / Electro, which I’m really excited for.

My drummer Andrew and I went over some Poly Gecko songs both released and unreleased last week and it’s slowly coming together. It’ll still be a few months before we’re able to play live, but I’m beyond words for how excited I am to be moving in that direction finally. Andrew is such a talented dude and it’s gonna be super fun sharing a stage with him.

James and I are nearly done with Immigrant Song. It’s all recorded now, I just need to put on my mixing hat and make it sound pretty for you guys. You’ll hear it before the end of the year. Speaking of 2016, I decided to stop drinking until such time. Once and a while I need to prove to myself that I don’t need liquor to have a good time. I’m about three weeks without it now and I feel much more productive and energetic, but maybe that’s just placebo. Either way, I’ll revisit my friend Whiskey in the new year. Until then, not a drop shall enter me.

Things I’m hooked on right now:

  1. Play With Me! Collection by Matador. I can’t even remember who told me about Matador, but I’m glad they did because he’s dope. Continuous mixes are growing on me – Andrew Bayer did it so well on their latest release – and Matador is no exception. All the songs off this album are great but the 53:00 continuous mix is where it’s at. The songs are even better when running into each other. My favourite cut off the album has to be Bsunday. It’s kinda repetitive, but #DatBass
  2. Evergreen by Broods. I live and breathe Lorde and when I discovered this act, also from New Zealand and produced by Joel Little, I had to check them out. I listened to their EP, titled Broods EP for a long time before scoring this full-length album and it’s so good front-to-back. Right off the bat you’re hit with Mother & Father, and forever attached with Bridges and L.A.F. It’s a super fun album with really great textures and dynamics.
  3. Good For You by Selena Gomez. I don’t even care what you say, this song is catchy.  As much as I might like to, I can’t stop jamming this tune. It kinda reminds me of Royals how it;s mostly that same groove the whole way and it doesn’t have some big explosive chorus, it’s just chill and sexy and I love it.

 

Stay friendly,

Ryan

Mid-October Update

Hey friends,

I hope you’ve been well. Let me brief you on what’s up with myself.

I’m now three weeks into my course at Berklee Online and I’m learning tons of great information. I had to design a kick drum from scratch using Native Instrument’s Massive and that was hard, but a really cool experiment. Then I went ahead and designed an organ sound for something to do. I’m familiarizing myself with all the control in Massive. It’s a super deep program so it’ll take a while before I fully harness it’s ability. If you’d like to download my kick drum I made, click here. You will require Massive to open that file.  Aside from designed kick drums, I’m also learning lots about sampling. I never really got into (external) sampling because I had such an extensive library of samples already but it’s pretty neat what you can do with recycled audio. It’s probably not a practice I’ll have a lot of use for in Poly Gecko but it’s a great lesson to learn nonetheless.

Aside from that, I’m working on a few new tunes. The FrostAtomsArcade @ Midnight and Escapable. Atoms is going to be the coolest song I have so far I think. I’ve started to figure out exactly how to marry organic instruments and inorganic sounds. I want to share it so bad, but I want to make it presentable first and there’s much more work to be done. My friend and graphic designer James and nearly done our remodelling of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. And it is almost nothing like the original. We dropped the tempo, but most notably dropped that driving bass line. We’ll be done recording parts by this Monday and then the mixing process shall start. Expect to see it in November sometime.

Also expect to finally see my remix of Joel Freck’s Take My Hand finished. Finally. Finally. Finally. I keep going back on it and making minor adjustments, but at some point it’s going to be released and it should be now. When I asked a friend if it sounded done, he quoted Leonardo Di Vinci by saying, “art is never finished; only abandoned”. And that’s exactly what I needed to hear.

What am I listening to currently? Well…

  1. Do Androids Dream by Andrew Bayer // This EP is just so deep, rich and well-produced. I must have listened to Tomorrow Boys roughly 100 times this last few weeks and I’m not remotely tired of it. I think this would be considered Trance music and if it is, it’s without doubt the very best Trance I’ve heard.
  2. In Rolling Waves by The Naked and Famous // Much like their previous album, Passive Me Aggressive You, this album is so dynamic. It can go from single piano notes, to a tsunami of guitars and drums. Often times when a mix is intentionally overdriven I have a hard time liking it, but this group and Sleigh Bells are the only two groups I’ve heard pull it off. Kudos to the engineers.
  3. Caracal by Disclosure // These two are rapidly becoming one of my favourite groups.  Their combination of pop and techno and fat basses is #winning. Also, any group that features Lorde on a track gets an automatic A+ in my books. Their new stage setup is so cool, too. They each have a giant oval of a desk with synths, drums, guitars, software, etc and they actually play electronic music live instead of pressing play and walking away like a lot of other acts. Check out their performance at iTunes Festival from September because it’s the greatest.

Come party with me at Purity Ring at HPX next Saturday,

Ryan

The Last 12 Months

The humidity is dropping, the leaves changing colour and football is back. September is upon us. Even though I’ve been out of school for years now, I still think of September as a new chapter of sorts, and a fitting time to look at the last twelve months while  simultaneously look ahead at the next twelve months.

Here's me a few days after the surgery when I was able to walk a little bit

Here I am about a week after the surgery when I was about to have the tube taken out and finally get to go home. 

Exactly one year ago today, I was in the hospital with my second pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and awaiting surgery. I had to be put to sleep for the first time and that was a little scary. Although once the IV was in, I was a happy groggy camper. Using video cameras in me, the surgeon basically stitched and stapled my right lung shut with titanium. I have three scars now from that day. One for the video camera they interred into me; one for the instruments; one for the chest tube I’d become quite familiar with in 2012 and would spend another week with after this surgery.

September 21, 2014 was quite probably my weakest point. And it’s quite uplifting to have moved on from that experience and be where I am now. I’m writing a lot of music, I’m learning lots about music and music theory, I’m collaborating with a lot of great musicians and about to start online classes at Berklee to learn even more about writing and producing. When I look back twelve months and look at all the little baby steps I’ve taken since then as an artist in that time, I’m elated. I’ve released my long-awaited debut EP, PGEP; completed two different collaborations with my friend Karver; worked really hard on a TWRP remix; but honestly more importantly, as I discussed a few weeks ago, I’ve truly developed a love for writing.

I can’t wait to see where I am in another twelve months. I know I’ll at least have another EP out and will have played a few live shows. I’ve plenty more exciting plans than that but you’ll have to be patient and see.

thanks as always,

Ryan

Mid-September Update

Hi friends,

How are you? Good? Good. I feel like we haven’t talked in a while, even though we did less than two weeks ago. Let me update you with the current affairs in GeckoLand.

Tupper Ware Remix Party picked the winner for their remix contest for The Hit (featuring Ninja Sex Party). It was a Polish gentleman by the name of Phortify, and it’s dope as heck. A previous me would’ve been jealous and sad but the current me is rockin’ out so hard to this. When they announced that Phority won I was actually so happy. I went to work with a spring in my step. I just truly enjoyed the process and am so thankful they released their stems for me and many others to play around with. TWRP just released their new EP, Believe In Your Dreams. I just purchased from BandCamp and can’t wait to listen to it.

Download my version of their remix here: 

I’ve been practising a lot with the talk box lately and damn, it’s hard. I can get all the vowels down alright but sounds like B, H, P and V are actually so tricky. In due time… I’ve met with Poly Gecko’s live drummer now a few times and now the live keys / guitar player once. We’re going through PGEP and another unreleased song and deciding what parts we should each do and which parts Ableton can do. Obviously the more we can do live, the better – but we can’t do everything live.

I’m also really exciting to be going back to school in September. I’m going to Berklee School of Music. But no, not in Boston… I’M GOING TO THE INTERWEBS. I’m going to be taking Producing & Composing Electronic Music online for 12 weeks starting next Monday. Having gone to school for Recording Arts, some of this may not be new knowledge but there sure will be plenty of songwriting tools I will pick up. I’m really excited to learn more about this genre and put things I’m learning into action in current songs and upcoming ones.

Finally, the mid-month tradition of the music I’m listening to! Emiliana Torrini has been in heavy rotation lately with her album, Tookah. I’m truly a sucker for female vocals and she is no exception. My drummer Andrew has got me really deep into London Grammar and their album If You Wait. This is some very ethereal stuff that lets loose from time to time and oh man it feels good. Check out their live performance from Montreal to see what they’re all about. And finally, Wolfgang Gartner. I always meant to check out Wolfgang Gartner ever since he collaborated with Deadmau5 on Animal Rights and then again on Channel 42 and I’m DEVASTATED I put it off for so long. His 2012 album Back Story is absolutely so money. Almost every tune from the album is unreal. I can totally see why him and Deadmau5 got together – they have a lot of the same sort of ear candy and I love it deeply.

 

Stay dope,

Ryan