This is a guest post by Ashley Owens of post rock act The Glass Pavilion.
Recording the first Glass Pavilion album, When the Blazing Sun is Gone, was a completely new experience for me. I’d sold all my instruments and recording gear after a brain haemorrhage in 2017 affected my ability to play guitar, and was working with just software and a MIDI keyboard for the first time. I think I expected to end up making overtly electronic music by default, but instead I learned to use virtual instruments alongside synths to make a form of ‘guitar music without guitars’ that’s probably best classified as post-rock.
Making my second album, Consolation, was a chance to apply everything I’d learned from that experience, while pushing myself to improve as a composer and keep trying new things as a producer. I think it’s a better, more confident record than my first, and I’m thrilled that Idioteq have invited me to run through it track by track for them.
When I sat down to start work on the album in December 2021, I found myself thinking: supposing somebody has heard the debut, what’s the first thing I want them to hear when they press play on this one?
I’ve always remembered putting on Lift Yr Skinny Fists for the first time, having been a fan of Godspeed’s previous album and EP, and that very uplifting, opening section of Storm seeming to say “welcome back!” I wanted a bit of that effect, but also something that would make people’s ears prick up rather than just feeling comfortably familiar. So you have things like the more synth-led melody, then the restless, jazzy drums as the mood gets more ominous, and towards the end that wall of distorted guitar.
I hope the track captures a sense of keeping your head above water, finding beauty in the world rather than getting dragged down by dark thoughts. ‘Mirrors’ is supposed to suggest a closed-in, hall-of-mirrors effect, but also the brightness of light bouncing off reflective surfaces – that’s as close as I could come to translating the track’s mood (moods?) into a title.
This one actually started out with a piano-based offcut from my last writing session for WTBSIG, although even the chord progression wasn’t finished at that point – it was really just a rhythmic pattern and a delay effect, combined to create this slightly floaty, suspended-in-time atmosphere. ‘Breathe’ seemed to fit with that sense of looking for a place of stillness.
The chord progression for this one is recycled from a song I wrote and discarded years ago (before I switched to making instrumental music). I actually started out by programming a strummed guitar pattern, but then tried feeding that into a software synth – rather than a virtual guitar – just to see what would happen. And lo and behold, this odd, mechanical, slightly carnivalesque music started coming out of my headphones. It took a bit of tinkering with tempo etc. to get to the finished track, and maybe it’s a bit of an odd one out on the album, but I think it works.
This is kind of an archetypal Glass Pavilion track I guess, albeit with the acoustic guitar giving it a more folky flavour. Everything is built around that melancholy, arpeggiated guitar progression, with synths used to add a warm, shoegaze-y, feedback-y hum and a bit of extra harmonic movement. ‘September’ was one of the easier titles to come up with, because I hear it as having a definite late-summer, last-rays-of-sun mood.
The middle section of this one, with the synth melody over the acoustic guitar, is one of the first things I wrote for the album, and I knew it would make the heart of a really good track – it has this sort of ‘lost in space’ or ‘alone in the woods’ quality that I really like. But my first attempt at ‘bookending’ it just didn’t quite work.
Eventually I just binned what I had and started again by dotting notes on to the piano roll in my DAW software to create the intro that’s there now. That developed organically into a verse/chorus section that seemed to flow in and out of the middle section really effectively, giving a sense (to me at least) of losing your way and then finding it again.
This one starts out as a slightly eerie, psychedelic waltz before gaining momentum with a gear shift to 6/8 time halfway through. I suppose it’s ‘about’ finding a reserve of the strength you sometimes need just to keep moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other (literally, if you watch the music video for this track).
I think it’s no accident that tracks like this one have a sense of urgency that wasn’t really there on the first album. That was written during this weird two-year interlude where, because of the pandemic, my post-haemorrhage medical treatment had ground to a halt; this one was written at a time when I was back working my way up the waiting list for further brain surgery. So I was working under that shadow, determined to finish a second album before that happened.
This is noisier and dronier than I usually get, but it captures a mood. I associate it with some almost hallucinatory experiences I had while stuck in my hospital bed in the high-dependency unit straight after my haemorrhage, drifting in and out of sleep with all this noise and activity around me. Weirdly vivid visual experiences when I closed my eyes, strange sensations like my bed was zooming around the ward while I listened in on conversations… whether it was just sleep deprivation or due to brain swelling or whatever I don’t know, but it was a strange couple of days!
This track is what became of the original ‘bookend’ chord progression from the earlier version of Lost. It didn’t sound much like this originally, but I’m glad I was able to make it work in another context because it’s a nice progression and I love the woozy, backwards strings. It felt like a good way to end the album – to me it seems to say “rest now”.
Consolation by The Glass Pavilion is out now on all major streaming services and Bandcamp.