Did it work?

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After much delay, I finally finished my second “real” album. At this point, I honestly can’t say exactly how long I was working on it; other than however long it was, it feels longer. The Bandcamp page for Double Super Double says it was released in late September last year, and it’s now late April, with the new album nearing a week since release… so I suppose six, nearly seven months? I thought I’d be done in maybe half that time, and it feels closer to a year.

This would be an opportune moment to spam some free download codes, except for the minor detail that it’s priced pay-what-you-want going all the way down to zero. I love it every time someone chooses to part with some of their hard-earned cash in exchange for something I made, but don’t feel obliged to if you’re hard up, on the fence, or frankly any other reason. It’s here.

What the hell is it about?

I’ve been on a bit of a mental health rollercoaster over the past couple of years, and not shy about (over)sharing. But to be fair, so has quite a large portion of the world’s population, for a variety of reasons; and every time it seems like things might be getting back to normal, something else happens. I wanted to try and do something a bit more “serious” and in-depth, partly just to see if I could, and partly because I desperately needed an outlet for some of the crap. This is what resulted. I’m going to write a little bit about each track - but going to try to keep the emphasis on “little”.

It Says

Depression and social anxiety are things I’ve struggled with on & off for as long as I can remember, though I didn’t always recognise them as such. Social anxiety in particular is a strange one: I think it started as a kind of defence mechanism; I was/still am this weird, awkward misfit, who doesn’t always know how to act around people or in certain situations. Sometimes the end result gets embarrassing, and sometimes people are all too eager not to let you forget it, and over time that becomes a complex. So you stop engaging, to protect yourself; but sometimes it goes too far and you can’t even engage with the ones you love.

Sixpence to Bury the Dead

My pandemic song, because every indie musician has written a pandemic song at some point in the last few years. Modern medicine has moved on a bit since the days of leeches, cupping, carrying medicinal nosegays, and burying things at crossroads; but for some reason a portion of the population seems determined to go back to that. Life is becoming cheap again.

I didn’t know what this song was about at first; I just woke up one morning with the phrase “sixpence to bury the dead” in my head and couldn’t shake it, had it suggested to me that those words needed to be in charge of writing the song, opened a book on superstitions, and the rest just kind of happened.

Liquid Knowledge.

Think critically. Challenge everything you read. But don’t fall into the trap of challenging things for the sake of challenging them, or presupposing that just because something is coming “from the mainstream”, it must automatically be wrong: be open to the idea that, after a bit of research, you might find the consensus view on something is the consensus for good reason. Trust, but verify.


I don’t want to talk too much about this one, other than to say it’s part autobiographical, part fictional. I am the child, and the dad; one of the victims, and one of the monsters.

Please Hold

There’s a lot of talk about “the algorithm” going around on social media. “The algorithm” has all sorts of magical powers attributed to it. It picks and chooses who succeeds, and who fails; who gets their fifteen minutes of fame, and who continues pottering along in obscurity.

Spoiler alert: “the algorithm” doesn’t exist, and if it did, you wouldn’t understand it. (Neither would I.) It’s one part huge, inscrutable machine-learning models; one part unexpected interactions between agglomerations of tiny bits of logic whose purpose may have made sense at one time.

But if we keep insisting on training machines to act like humans, why wouldn’t they also develop human flaws, and human feelings? Yes, this topic has been explored many times in both fiction and serious research; this little interlude is my take.

Fell in Love with a JPEG

ICQ. AIM. MSN. mIRC. Yahoo Messenger. GeoCities. Waiting minutes for pictures to download over dial-up modems; desparately trying to stay connected to your new friends around the world at a time when your parents could at any second shout at you that they need to use the phone.

The internet has always been weird, but growing up with it in the 90s was especially weird. You could be anybody. But so could your new friends, the term “catfishing” just hadn’t been coined yet.

Oh, and the bit about nearly getting expelled? True story.

Pick of the Pod

Probably the least meaningful of the bunch, but ironically, maybe also my favourite. I’m not going to lie, it started purely because I was tooling around on Twitter one day and somehow arrived at the point, “what if Everybody’s Free, but about peas?”

Maybe it’s some kind of weird homage to product placement and sponsor segments. How we’ve gone full circle from ten-minute-plus “informational featurettes” in cinemas that were really just very-thinly-disguised advertisements, to being drip-fed a constant diet of false enthusiasm for VPNs, online learning services, and water bottles on YouTube.

Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to break out the Mellotron sample pack and have some fun.

Serotonin Syndrome

Having been on anti-depressants for a while now, there are a few things about them it’s worth knowing that nobody tells you up front: nobody really knows how they work, they have some really weird side-effects (including more depression), doctors will just go down a list until they find the one that seems to disagree with you the least, and when you finally get there, it might not be so beneficial any more once you’ve been on it a year or more.

I still don’t know what serotonin syndrome really is, and whether or not I have it, or have had it. But I do know that the night before my wedding, I was experiencing such vivid bangs & flashes in my head that at one point I actually got up and checked all the plugs in the room, convinced a phone charger had exploded or something. It freaked my roommate out a bit.

If you ever reach a point with medication where you feel, “this sucks, but I guess it’s just how I am now,” don’t feel obliged to stay there. It’s not you, it’s time to change things up.

But why?

Well, I’m no philosopher, but “ataraxy” is a slightly more archaic form of the word “ataraxia”; a state of equanimity reached by freedom from ongoing distress and worry. I particularly like the Pyrrhonist definition, which if I understand it correctly, can be paraphrased as:

Things are neither inherently good nor bad, they just are. Some things you can control, some things you cannot. Some things can be directly observed, or otherwise verified to be true; some things cannot. By suspending judgment on anything not self-evidently good or bad, electing not to pursue dogma, and letting go of worrying about the unavoidable, you can attain a state of ataraxia, itself necessary for happiness.

Has it worked? Maybe. I have felt better this past week, but I don’t think that’s because I have somehow “manifested” a better state of mind through this project. I think most of it is simply because I was working on this for much longer than I thought I would be, a lot of the delay being because I couldn’t work due to the very conditions it’s about, and it’s finally released.

What’s next?

Well, I kind of want to promote it more, because I think it’s not total shit, and because some of the people who have picked it up so far have said some ridiculously nice things about it. But I don’t really know what to do with comments like that - I’m not good at self-promotion, and not comfortable accepting praise. I’ll do… something?

What I do know is I need a bit of a break from solo work, or at least any kind of in-depth solo work. This has all been very pretentious and high-brow, and I can only sustain that for so long, because I’m also still a silly little weirdo, and always will be.

I’m going to take some time to unwind, play with my new toys, build the toys I’ve bought and not yet assembled, maybe collab with some fine folks, and see where it goes. I might pop up on Twitch in the process - I think I’d kind of like to be a bit like the Bob Ross of DIY synths, with a keyboard & soldering iron instead of a paintbrush.

I’ll get Ataraxy up on streaming services some time soon, too.