Posts categorized "Music"

Treetops (2018) Documentary Film

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Treetops is a spiritual documentary about one summer in the life of a man (yours truly) who has placed all his faith in love. Is love all you need? What is really holding us back from perfect freedom and happiness? Abscondo (Mark Manney) teaches how to live in peace, abundance and safety despite an increasingly chaotic world. The decentralized, consciousness revolution is a shift from fear to love.

 

Watch the film on Amazon Prime (coming soon).

Additional Video On Demand channels coming soon. Check this page for updates.

 


Humans have just one superpower—the power to create.

“If we closely observe the activities of nature, we will find that there is only one process going on. And that process is one of continuous creation, of procreation, of creating new and different self-forms.” -Osho

We are life, and of course the same is true of us. We were given these minds and bodies for one purpose: the purpose of creating.

Let’s start with the sex drive. The need for sex is nothing other than the most basic urge to create. To resist sexual desire is to resist life. Why not accept and embrace it fully? How can we rise to the higher forms of creation if we cannot even embrace the most basic?

Moving beyond this most basic power, we have a superpower—creative powers far exceeding any known life form. We have hands to make things, minds to imagine what does not yet exist, and language powerful enough to make concepts felt and understood. We can write, speak, make music, develop technology, paint, draw, invent systems, entertain, inform…we are perfectly designed life forms and there’s almost nothing we can’t do.

So what do we do with this superpower? Here’s the thing: the mind is always creating and teaching. We have no choice. Even when you are completely uninspired; perhaps watching television, gossiping, or arguing—you are still creating. You may be creating negative stories in your mind, problems, or issues—but you are creating! Anything done in the egoic state is, of course, a miscreation. To remain in the ego is to fall beneath your calling and potential while creating misery for yourself and others.

To know spirit is to let your powers inspire you just as they inspire us all. You are extraordinary. Embrace your power to create and know what it is for. We continue tomorrow and each day after that.

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New Abscondo album

The new Abscondo solo album Forbidden Curiosities is available on Apple Music, streaming for free on Jamendo, and coming to all other digital music sources shortly. The response to the album has been quite positive so far.  I'm glad.

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Last June, at around the same time as my band Abscondo finally released our album (which all of us in the band absolutely love and I would recommend that anybody listen to), I quietly made the decision to put the band on hold. It is difficult to explain why I came to that decision because I absolutely loved what Filip, Martin, Tibor and I created.

If I were to try to explain why I made the decision to put the band on hold, it really came down to a couple of things: 1) We were playing English-language, alternative music in a small country where you really have to be a lot more commercial and mainstream to find an audience, 2) the financial burden of touring, recording, and keeping the whole thing running started to not make much sense to me, and 3) my creativity was suffering because I was spending most of my energy booking shows, dealing with logistics, and thinking about PR. Basically, it stopped being fun, it stopped being about art and music and more about image and ambition. I had a lot of fun with that band and we created something pretty great, but after 3 years it didn't feel good to me anymore and I had to follow my intuition.

In the months that followed, something beautiful happened. I started writing songs again. I started feeling that creative inspiration again. I re-discovered what it feels like to make music without ego, without ambition, without trying to be cool.

In December of last year, I put together whatever equipment I had and created a makeshift home studio in my flat. I wasn't confident that I had the skills to record, mix, and master an album entirely by myself...but I was having fun and wanted to try. Back when I was recording as band, I found the process too technical. It was all about perfection, editing everything until it was all in-time, tuning the vocals, making it sound radio-friendly...and my gut feeling is that this kind of process kills music. Most of the alternative and indie music these days is starting to sound the same as commercial music because everyone is striving to make something technically flawless. But I don't think music should be flawless. The music I love sort of just flows...it is natural...it captures the reality of a human being being human. So that's what I wanted to make -- something that sounds like how it really sounds when I play in a room by myself.

One of the things I did differently is that I recorded the vocal and acoustic guitar during the same take through two mics. Every day, as I would practice, I would record each song. I used a click-track for some songs, other songs are not even in perfect tempo. I did this for a month or two because I wanted to get really good at performing these songs. When I felt that I was playing these songs as well as I was ever going to play them, I then went back and selected the best take from all of the rehearsals. This live performance became the starting point for each song.

After that, I used a little midi keyboard and added some piano, some synth, and some string sounds. On two tracks, I used a professionally-recorded piano part that was done many years ago. For one song, I hired a drummer. Aside from this, you don't hear drums anywhere else in the album and you don't hear anybody playing anything except for me. The sounds you hear were created by me without any looping. All of the mixing, all of the effects, and even the mastering was done by me...so what you hear in the end is exactly what I, the songwriter, heard in my head when I first wrote the songs.

I love this album. It is finished and will be released very soon (as soon as I figure out the cover art). I will probably release it via Creative Commons because it didn't really cost me anything to make it and I want to share it freely.


Falling in Love with New Music in 5 Steps

Do you know anybody who is completely stuck on one particular musical genre? Getting tired of listening to their same stale music from that other era? Have sympathy, because it can be a chore to embrace new music and most people don't even know how to do it. I'll try to offer a little help.

If you care about good music, you've probably had some help along the way. Maybe you had that cool, "indie" friend in high school. Or maybe it was a cousin, a sibling, or a crush.

My first musical influencer was my best friend at age 16. My friend Tucker led me away from the likes of MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. It was a long, hot Wisconsin summer and I spent so many days at his lake house. Tucker's enthusiasm for U2's Achtung Baby infected me and changed me. We'd turn his stereo up so loud that we could swim to the floating dock on the lake, lay in the sun, and still hear every guitar riff and brilliant lyric through the open, rattling windows of his upstairs bedroom. I hope his neighbors shared the same enthusiasm for his music as I did.

Tuck and I would then would move on to Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend album, R.E.M., Jane's Addiction, and so many others. It isn't that any of his stuff was all that obscure (it wasn't), but what is important is that he pulled me into a genre I would have never otherwise ventured into. His enthusiasm was contagious and I guess it changed my life.

Unfortunately, friends can lose contact and (worse yet) they can change. Without the internal desire or willingness to seek out and embrace new music, even the best of us can find ourselves wandering in a musical wasteland. But a life without a healthy amount of great music, (including new music that sounds fresh) is the life of someone who is slipping toward old age and death. New music keeps us young inside.

I'm a massive music fan and I'm proud to say that I kept myself moving forward on a continually satisfying and stimulating musical journey. I'm not gonna tell you what to listen to (although you seriously should check out this super-obscure band called Abscondo), but I will tell you about 5 steps that will help anyone move past a stale music collection.

1) Find at least one source you trust to stay updated on a wide variety of new music. It could be a magazine like NME, Q Magazine, Rolling Stone, Spin, or Pitchfork. Go to the bookstore and check out a few mags. See which ones seem to fit your preferred genre. Ideally, there will be at least a few references to bands you actually do know. Otherwise, check out KEXP, NPR All Songs Considered Podcast, or a local indie publication or website (like Seattle's The Stranger, for example) for reviews of bands that are coming to your area.

2) Make plans to get out and seeing shows! Find out who's touring near you, read reviews, commit to going to a show as often as you can (even a few times per year helps). If there is a band touring in your area, don't buy the tickets just yet, but first go to step 3. Better yet, just buy tickets to to a summer music festival then go to step 3.

3) Before you go to said concert or festival, check out the band online and listen to a few songs. If you like the songs at all, or can imagine the possibility of liking them, just buy the album. But don't expect to fall in love with their music right away!

4) Before you see the show, listen to the album at least 5 times (regardless of what you think after the first spin). You don't even need to listen to the whole album...at least listen to the first 5 songs at least 5 times (even as background music while you're working). This is the natural process of allowing the sounds to penetrate your consciousness. It takes a bit of time! After 5, 6, 7 spins, you will know whether this is something you are falling in love with or not. If not, you will naturally gravitate toward some of the other bands you're considering. But if you kind of dig it, commit to going to the show.

5) Convince a friend to come along with you to the show. Shared musical experiences add to the magic! Oh, and then when the day comes...you should actually go to the show! Maybe it's been a long day at work or perhaps you have to get up early tomorrow morning. Who cares? The energy and inspiration you will get from the music over the long-term is more important than any minor short-term discomfort.

Don't expect to be blown away every time. At the concert, you will be left standing too long waiting for the band to come out, maybe even yawning. Even during the performance, you may end up checking your watch a few times and wondering how many songs are left in the set! But, in the end, (at least some of the time) you will have fallen in love with a new band...in so doing you will have found one of the secrets to eternal youth and lasting coolness.

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You made a list of all your heroes

And you thought about what they went through...

Yeah, you thought about what they went through...

It's much darker, much harder than anything that happened to you

- Belle & Sebastian from the new song "Allie"

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This is Tibor Dragon on bass

Today is Tibor's name day and it feels like a great time to send some positive thoughts and appreciation his way. Since Tibi doesn't drink, I guess there's no opportunity to toast and the best I can do is write something here! :-)

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I've been in this band for more than 2 years with the same group of guys. Over this period of time, we've gotten to know each other not just as musicians but also on a very personal level. Probably the determining factor of whether or not a band stays together is whether the members end up growing either closer in time or further apart. Lately it seems like we are coming together and moving forward as one unit...not just as 4 guys who want different things for different reasons.

It is clear to anybody who has ever heard the classically-trained Tibor on guitar or bass, that he is distinguished in his style and technical abilities. Tibor was the last member who joined our band, but as early as our first rehearsal he was already able to play all of the songs. I have to work hard to memorize songs, but Tibor simply turns, looks you in the eyes, and performs the song perfectly on his first take. I guess his training allows him to not only anticipate what's coming, but to quickly adjust if (for a split second) he goes only slightly off course.

But it's not just that Tibor quickly plays the song "correctly". He adds something smooth and almost "jazzy"...something that really works well I might add...even to songs that fall far outside that genre. His bass interprets my songs perfectly. It is, truly, a wonderful experience for me to stand next to Tibor in rehearsal and on stage.

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In his other life, Tibor is a Chemical Engineer who specializes in Quality Control. One of the ways he helps the band is that he brings his gentle, but firm approach to quality control to our project. Each time one of us gets too far off into our own fantasy world, or if we bring something less than great to our performance, Tibor gently asks a question or shares an opinion that gets us back on track. He holds us accountable to a higher standard. 

What defines Tibor most is his disciplined and principaled approach to everything he does. He knows exactly who he is, what he wants in life, and then methodically goes out to get it. I've never met anyone more loyal to the people around him and to the causes in which he believes. If you have Tibor's word, you have something you can trust without any doubt. 

I'd like to congratulate Tibor on his name day but also on the purchase of his new flat. It will be a lot of fun now all 4 members of Abscondo live in the same neighborhood.

Tibor, you're the greatest guy, a kind person, an amazing musician, and a really good friend. I look forward to creating music with you hopefully for years to come.

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This is Martin Lechman on drums

One of the things I enjoy most about being in the band Abscondo is that I get to hang out with some really great musicians who also happen to be good friends and great people.  

One particular guy who I'm a huge fan of is Martin Lechman. Martin is our drummer, but he's also the very talented frontman of a great Slovak band called KVETY V PODPAŽÍ.

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When describing Martin's strengths, it is a bit difficult to know where to begin. On a personal level, his positive attitude and good charm never fail. The challenges we face as a band can sometimes feel overwhelming, but I can't remember a single time when Martin failed to greet each of us with a big smile and a warm handshake. Remarkably, the smile and optimistic approach never seems to fade as long as the evening lasts or the practice goes on.  

One of the things I find most admirable about Martin is his loyalty and dedication not just to Abscondo but to good music, itself. He only makes music he believes in and loves. With his talent, it would perhaps be easy to "sell-out" and play any gig that comes along, but Martin remains true to his excellent taste and unique artistic vision.   

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It requires an enormous amount of hard work and sacrifice not only to maintain technical skills on drums and guitar, but also to move forward on the creative side of things even as you face the constant pressure of trying to earn a living. Martin makes it look easy, but I know that what he does is far from easy.

All of this said, it isn't his willingness to work hard and sacrifice that impresses me most. I admire Martin because of his musical and personal greatness (not even to mention the original ideas he so effortlessly seems to express on drums). I can't imagine what Abscondo would sound like without him, but that isn't my point. I quite simply look forward to the possibility of playing with, watching, listening to, and hanging out with this remarkable guy for years to come.  He's top-notch and it makes me very proud each time I share a stage with him.

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