Erick Mertz Author – “Koko”

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erick mertz author, portland, oregon, supernatural mysteryIn every possible way, Koko mesmerizes all five senses. If Erick Mertz Author had an unofficial soundtrack for this dreary final winter chapter it may be this album.

What I like about Koko is how many distinct places the sixteen tracks (which are relatively short for ambient) travel in a short amount of time. Some evoke images of nature. Others feel cold and technological. The sound travels from space station to rain forest in the flutter of a heartbeat.

I can get lost in this album. The tracks bleed in and out like rain streaking down a water color painting. Over the year that I’ve had Jobanshi as regular background music for writing, I’ve never had the same experience twice. Jobanshi has crafted something like a recurring dream. Each listen may be relatively similar to the last, but it reveals something different at the same time.

Bedlam Tapes is among the best sources of music for writing on the internet. No surprise this album is featured on Bandcamp in their massive trove of music. The album is labeled electronic and experimental, which makes sense, but there are also some nonsense terms like “ghost tech” and “field recordings”.

Whatever the genre, Koko builds into a trance like state, the perfect waking dream for your writing time. You can download the album by Jobanshi here on Bandcamp.

Want to know maybe the best part? It’s free.

Are you a supernatural fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you had an opportunity to listen to Koko by Jobanshi?

erick mertz author, portland orego, supernatural mysteryLeave a comment below or suggest a writing album & I’ll cover it in my next “Music For Writers” column.

Meanwhile, check out my book page for the latest Oregon supernatural mystery Erick Mertz Author is working on.

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Best Of 2018 – Music For Writers

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Usually by mid-December my email and social media feeds are filled up with a lot of “Best of 2018” lists. Not wanting to leave my readers out, I thought I would offer another one.

If you are a writer like me though this list may actually be of some use to you. I have taken a moment to compile a list of my favorite albums to write by of 2018. Anyone who has read my blog before knows I write supernatural mystery, so naturally, I like my musical accompaniment dark and minimal.

Just as a caveat… these are not necessarily the best new albums of 2018. Only a few were released this year (one comes out January 2019). These are my favorite personal discoveries in minimal ambient, dark ambient and classical of 2018.

Enough with the handwringing… here it the list.

A-Sun Amissa, Ceremony In The Stillness

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersFar and away, I listened to this album more than any other in 2018. I still use Apple iTunes for music on my laptop, so I come away with a pretty accurate read on how influential an album was on my creative process. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’ve listened to it over a hundred times, which probably represents like half of my writing days.

One reason this four track album has been so deeply influential on me is that A-Sun Amissa achieves a gloomy mood through an effortlessly minimal blend of key boards and guitars. There are a few stirring peaks on the track list and there are also a few moments where the sound simply leaves you alone. On Ceremony In The Stillness there is depth and woe and a few times glimmers of the surface. Best writing album of the year.

Do yourself a favor and download Ceremony In Stillness here on A-Sun Amissa’s Bandcamp page.

Tsunxmi, Digital Paradise

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersEven now, I can feel the swirling, seasick atmospheres on this record. They’ve settled down in the very depths of my coffee filled belly.

I’ve struggled to capture the feeling here, but I’ll do my best. This recording feels as though it was culled from a box of warped records discovered at the bottom of a lilac colored cosmic ocean.

Yeah, Digital Paradise comes together in bizarre ways. It is definitely an album for crafting other worlds. This is the kind of suggestive album that a writer can put on as a vehicle to get lost in their creative process.

You can download Tsunxmi’s Digital Paradise for free here at their Bandcamp page.

Spurv, Myra

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersPost-metal may seem like an odd fit as an accompaniment for writing, but hear me out. There were precious few heavy music releases of 2018 that were this murky and triumphantly emotional while grinding as hard as it did. Leave it to the Norwegians, am I right? The guys from Spurv crafted a record in Myra that is satisfying on one hand as a heavy metal release and on the other as a work of damp atmosphere.

Usually, I break up my writing music into two camps. There is music I use for writing and there is music I use for thinking about writing (which in my process is two separate times). This album falls comfortably into the latter. I wouldn’t drill down into the line with this on, but the doom laden atmosphere on this is a wonderful porthole for exploring the hell you want to put your characters through.

You can download Myra from Spurv’s Bandcamp page.

Black To Comm, Seven Horses For Seven Kings

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersFor my next favorite record we head to Deutschland for the dark mastery of Black To Comm. Anyone familiar with the music site Bandcamp will attest to the fathomless depth of content contained on the site. It’s also worth noting how many artists with massive backlists are out there churning out outstanding albums.

Black To Comm is one of the many projects of audio artist Marc Richter. This album is an experimental blend of horror inspired electroaccoustic and psychedelic tinged electronics in a funhouse atmosphere. The tracks on this album really get under your skin and push the creative needle. There is also a subtle element of magic on Seven Horses that I’m at loss to put a finger on, even more than thirty listens in.

Black To Comm releases Seven Horses in January of 2019. You can pre-order it here on Bandcamp.

Monplaisir, Loops

erick mertz, best of 2018, music for writersAs noted above, Bandcamp houses an endless supply of fantastic music. Monplaisir’s album Loops was an exciting early year discovery that managed to hold up through the last turn of the calendar to 2019.

Call it “vaporwave” or call it “ambient” either way the results from repeated listens of this album are out and out dreamy. As a writing companion album, Loops gives you freedom to tune everything else in your surroundings out. Got a kid? Not anymore.

Often when I put music on while writing it’s to block out noise… other times it’s to isolate one noise in particular. We lose sight that the proper auditory conditions are often subjective. This record offers an almost perfect balance. I can put it on and tune out everything but this and my story. The songs here are really a tightrope I traverse between ideas and content.

You can download Monplaisir’s album Loops for free on Bandcamp.

Oly Rafle, Notes From Another Sea

The last record on my list comes from the under-appreciated world of contemporary classical music. There are few records I have listened to in the last year that can match the beauty on Notes From Another Sea… make that the last decade. What Oly Rafle does while seated at the piano is quite simply a sublime divination of tranquility.

Often it feels like you’re in a room by the sea with him as he plays.

In college I had a roommate who felt that the aesthetic quality of the music he listened to while studying had a direct influence on his retention of information. I don’t believe that. I think great ideas can come from anywhere (as this list reflects, I am fond of introducing a lot of darkness to my process). If my roommate was right though, and he had this album, he would have ended up a Rhodes Scholar.

You can find Oly Rafle’s record, Notes From Another Sea on his website. 

Are you a fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while you’re writing? Have you given any of the albums on this “Best of 2018” list a listen? supernatural fiction, erick mertz, portland, oregon, best of 2018

What do you think?

Leave me a comment below or suggest a writing album that I can cover in my next “Music For Writers” column.

Meanwhile, check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.

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Erick Mertz Author – Black To Comm – “Seven Horses For Seven Kings”

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dark ambient, erick mertz, music for writersThis album is dark ambient. It’s as dark as night.

But if you allow the collection of sour electroacoustic sounds on Black To Comm’s newest record, Seven Horses For Seven Kings to have their way with your imagination, they spin a beautiful tapestry as well.

Black to Comm is a mysterious electronic outfit that comes out of Hamburg, Germany. Over the last decade or so the group has produced a long string of dark ambient recordings, making bleak atmospheres and cinematic sonic experimentation their signature.

Seven Horses For Seven Kings is layered with distorted and harrowing electroacoustic sounds. The experimental aspects come across as rich and complex. They stand out front and are deeply satisfying. The thirteen tracks wash together into a glowering labyrinthine mix. There are a few sonic swells on the record that may prove distracting to the creative process. It may be an album best listened to at lower volumes, but the resulting backdrop fills up a writing session with bits of cosmic ponder as well as terror. A lot of dark ambient postures around a high concept and Black To Comm delivers that. This recording is sticky and has a cinematic scope.

I would recommend this album to anyone who writes fiction. I think this would be especially appealing for those working in the horror or supernatural thriller genres. There are a host of scary emotions throughout and the visuals are difficult to set aside. The run time clocks in at just over an hour, making Seven Horses For Seven Kings ideal for exploring a haunting sequence or breaking out a kill scene.

You can get the digital version of Seven Horses For Seven Kings here from Thrill Jockey. Also, check out Black To Comm’s Bandcamp page here for their extensive back catalog.

Are you a supernatural fiction author with a favorite writing album? Have you given this Black To Comm album a listen?

supernatural fiction, erick mertz, portland, oregon

Leave me a comment below, or better yet, suggest an album for writing and I’ll cover it in my another installment of my “Music For Writers” column.

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Sign up for my email list for a free copy of my novella, The Lies & Truth Of Doctor Desmond Brice. It is the first book in The Strange Air series of supernatural fiction.

emertzErick Mertz Author – Black To Comm – “Seven Horses For Seven Kings”
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Erick Mertz Author – David Lynch “The Air Is On Fire”

erick mertz, david lynch, the air is on fire, the mask of tomorrowWhen I rank David Lynch’s albums, The Air Is On Fire comes in at the very top of my list. The soundtrack accompaniment to an exhibition of Lynch’s paintings and photographs, this is an eerily slow building sparse ambient record. There are swells. A few industrial accents rise out of the dark clouds.

Otherwise it’s a haunting.

The album as offered by Sacred Bones Records is split into two songs, “Side A” (21:48) and “Side B” (19:58). There are a couple of short snippets at the very end that don’t really add much to the overall listening experience. The dark tones churn beautifully with very few jumps or punches to take you even momentarily out of a good creative head space. During the 40-minutes duration, Lynch explores a labyrinth of American darkness that has served as his perpetual muse: subterranean ambience, a distant lumbering menace, alive with a quasi-nostalgic mysticism that rises out of a rust belt nightmare. It’s all train yards, factories and construction zones on The Air Is On Fire.

Writing an urban fantasy or horror story? The Air Is On Fire sets a perfect mood. It’s ideal for an hour long, Absinthe fueled writing sprint, or late night note scribbling session. When I’m trying to get into a dark place, this album serves as fuel in how it spins a pitch black shadow even during mid-day.

This record is very highly recommended on many fronts, most of which I would say stem from the thread of vulnerability that laces the whole creepy work together.

Are you a supernatural fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you given any of these David Lynch albums a listen?

supernatural fiction, erick mertz, portland, oregon

What do you think?

Leave a comment below or suggest a writing album & I’ll cover it in my next “Music For Writers” column. Meanwhile, check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.

emertzErick Mertz Author – David Lynch “The Air Is On Fire”
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Erick Mertz Author – David Lynch “The Big Dream”

Weird fiction seemerick mertz, david lynch, weird fiction, music for writerss all the rage. But as a soundtrack? That may be a more difficult order.

An album from 2013 The Big Dream is a twelve song collection of David Lynch songs that conform to something like normal structures. Lynch provides vocals on many of the tracks and his delivery feels like it comes from another world (imagine his role as the deaf FBI agent, Gordon Cole on Twin Peaks) a quality that he shows off right away on the opening track. His warbling falsetto and queer pronunciation offer the album a sense of interstellar narration.

Lynch isn’t just pushing strange fiction on his listeners. Actually he writes memorable songs as well. He pulls on the old heartstrings on the ballad “Cold Wind Blowin'” which feels as though it could have been written during the Twin Peaks sessions. Its melancholic hold and descending chords blow winter across the writing desk. One can close their eyes and picture the slow dance after the carnival tent goes down. An air of menace should be expected on any David Lynch album. On The Big Dream that quality comes forth in his cover of the Bob Dylan classic, “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” a story about a broke, backwards character whose choices are limited to bad, worse and much worse.

Lynch refers to this as his “modern blues” album. While The Big Dream isn’t something I can listen to while hard at work, I’ve enjoyed it during weird fiction brainstorm sessions. In those moments, a spin through “Star Dream Girl” are enough to fuel my imagination on the scene.

Are you a supernatural fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you given either of these David Lynch albums a listen?

supernatural fiction, erick mertz, portland, oregon

What do you think?

Leave a comment below or suggest a writing album & I’ll cover it in my next “Music For Writers” column. Meanwhile, check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.

emertzErick Mertz Author – David Lynch “The Big Dream”
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Erick Mertz Author – A-Sun Amissa

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erick mertz, supernatural, fiction author, portland, oregonAlthough I would not necessarily classify A-Sun Amissa as “doom” their sound makes for a pretty bleak listen. This is the season autumn, right? When September and October roll around, it’s the perfect time to indulge in some cool supernatural fiction.

These two albums may be just right for you.

A couple of weeks back, I reviewed the latest A-Sun Amissa record Ceremony In The Stillness for New Noise Magazine. Spinning off of that, I was inspired to check out The Gatherer an earlier album release by the project. A mercurial bunch, A-Sun Amissa is a London based musical collective, fronted by Richard Knox and already their short career has been one marked by eclectic and emotionally stirring ambience.

What I’ve enjoyed about writing with A-Sun Amissa on in the background is the textured woe that permeates both records. Bleak distorted guitars. Supernatural synthesizer tones. Ominous percussion. Voices dropped in more for mood. Everything rises and falls in a gradual progression.

Each album runs for about 45-minutes, which really gives a writer an opportunity to write through a scene. Although they’re distinct, you really could line both records up and go for a 90-minute sprint. However you choose to listen, there is no shortage of evocative and autumnal moments on these records.

Both A-Sun Amissa records are available on Gizeh Records’ Bancamp Page.

Are you a supernatural fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you given either of these A-Sun Amissa albums a listen?

supernatural fiction, erick mertz, portland, oregon

What do you think?

Leave a comment below or suggest a writing album & I’ll cover it in my next “Music For Writers” column. Meanwhile, check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.

emertzErick Mertz Author – A-Sun Amissa
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Erick Mertz Author – Tim Hecker

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This morning I finally came up for air after completing a new draft of The Mask Of Tomorrow my latest supernatural fiction novel. My frequent lifeline and salvation through this process (aside from an occasional bourbon shot) has been the arrival of Konoyo the latest album by Tim Hecker.

Anyone who has read this column knows I often write under the influence of Tim Hecker’s albums. In the past I have written about Dropped Pianos and Ravedeath 1972 but of his whole catalog, Konoyo may be my favorite record yet.

Immediately striking to me is that the tracks do not reflect Hecker’s typical minimalistic or deconstructed influences. They are linked, but more by theme. There is a fair bit of noise and chaos involved and that calamity was a welcome element at this stage in my process.

Hecker has said that Konoyo is influenced by “gagaku” a form of ceremonial Japanese classical music associated with the ancient imperial court. The album opens with faint siren-like wails on “This Life”. The track gradually mellows into a network of buzzes and string ambience that almost feels like a radio signal tuning in and out. Great swells fill the mix before the end bleeds into “In Death Valley” which reverberates like a long lost transmission from a far different source. This element too disintegrates into a lonesome series of low range synth pulses. There is no real convergence or climax track on Konoyo but if anything “Keyed Out” feels like an emotional catharsis. That song blends strikingly shrill quasi-industrial string sections with whirring mechanized ambience in an oddly delicate fusion.

Hecker often chooses evocative locations to record. On Ravedeath 1972 he recorded in Frikirkjan Church in Reykjavik, Iceland. On Konoyo Hecker chose to record in a temple on the outskirts of Tokyo. While the suggestive location is not obvious, there is a subliminal allure there. It’s like writing supernatural fiction in a graveyard. On “A Sodium Codec Haze” a series of terrestrial chimes sparkle in behind a whirl of spectral noise and, for a few fleeting moments, it really does feel like a holy place.

Tim Hecker’s Konoyo is available for download on his Bandcamp page for only $9.00.

~

Are you a supernatural fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you given this album by Tim Hecker a listen?

supernatural fiction, erick mertz, portland, oregon

What do you think?

Leave a comment below or suggest a writing album & I’ll cover it in my next “Music For Writers” column. Meanwhile, check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.

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Erick Mertz Author – Fabersan

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erick mertz oregon mystery authorFabersan is a rather obscure London based musician with five hefty full-length records to his credit. Recently, I was fortunate to stumble across his Bandcamp page while digging around on a few “best of ambient” blogs and its provided a touch of shadow for my latest Oregon mystery.

While Fabersan’s science and philosophy informed ambient recordings are brimming over with depth and beauty, the production on his tracks tend to be voice heavy. For example, many of the songs on his Selected Ambients 2017 feature vocal samples, usually of the high concept/dystopian science fiction variety. Often vocals distract my writing process, so I shied away from writing with his other work (though it is of a very high quality).

Sunday Afternoon is among Fabersan’s more recent recordings and is fortunately is light on the vocals. Only one track samples a voice. On this ambitious hour long LP, Fabersan leans on his flair for dramatic songwriting, fusing a beguiling piano and synthesizer. Without vocals the album features more minimal sound. There are traces of psychedelic rock. Although this LP is said to be influenced by the cosmology of Alfred North Whitehead (link provided if you care) the songs do not aspire to instruct about that mindset.

I’ve been through the album a few times already and the flow is transformative.

The best thing about Fabersan’s album? You can find it, as well as the others, free on his Bandcamp page. Kick him a few bucks. It’s worthwhile.

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Are you a writer with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you given any of these Fabresan albums a listen? What do you think?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts and I’ll cover it in the next Music For Writers column. While you’re at it, check out my book page to see the latest Oregon mystery working on.

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Erick Mertz Author – Two Albums by Komiku

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erick mertz portland oregon mystery author music for writersThe discovery of strange new music is one of my true joys. Often, I can be found on the couch with the iPad in my lap exploring the nether reaches of Bandcamp for free ambient and instrumental music.

Out of a recent search, I discovered Komiku. And only a few tracks in, I knew that Komiku required a feature in a Music For Writers column.

The mysterious entity known as Komiku creates music that reminds me of something very important. The finest music for writers has room to meander. It conveys that buoyant sense of adventure the writer tries to create for their reader.

Looking at a couple of their full length albums (it’s time for adventure and Tale on the Late) Komiku fuses a refreshingly juvenile video game sensibility with more traditionally structured ambient music. Each of these albums comes across like a distinct cinematic/arcade inspired score with tracks elevating on new screens or obstacles which the game’s particular hero must overcome on his or her way through the adventure.

erick mertz portland oregon mystery author music for writersBoth albums are relatively similar in the light almost plucky atmosphere that they create. The production is largely amateur though and the tones lack a certain depth and roundness. While the sounds are lively and innovative, they won’t really fill up your speakers in a robust way.

Warning: I wouldn’t turn the volume up too loud.

Regardless of production, Komiku’s meandering feel-good journey offers welcome background music for writers. Distinguishing the two albums from each other, “it’s time for adventure” is more of a guitar-based/mystical exercise, while “Tale of the Late” leans toward a more electronic and may be construed as banking on a more gimmicky or novelty sound.

Komiku’s music is available through a royalty free Bandcamp provider Monsplair: Loyalty Freak Music. Specifically, I’ve provided links to their albums it’s time for adventure and Tale on the Late.

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Are you a writer with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you given any of these Komiku albums a listen? What do you think?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts and I’ll cover it in the next Music For Writers column. While you’re at it, check out my book page to see what I’m working on.

mertz erick fiction supernatural mystery author portland oregon

emertzErick Mertz Author – Two Albums by Komiku
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Erick Mertz Author – Oneohtrix Point Never

Ambient artist Daniel Lopatin was unknown to me. At least he was until Pitchfork magazine listed his collection Riftsas one of the greatest ambient albums of all time.

Now he has become a bona fide staple for the craft of supernatural mystery.

Weighing in at a robust thirty-three tracks, highlighted by exciting, sweeping synths and clever loops, Lopatin’s early work as Oneohtrix Point Never verifies him as a pioneering influence in techno-ambient. The “voice” on this collection isn’t a replicant of nature. It isn’t human. It isn’t space. Nor is it cinema. Instead, these are the busy voices of data transfers. These are machines interconnected. There is a dark and synergistic web of automation yearning not to to succumb and conform.

The three disc, deluxe version of Rifts collects a trio of LPs for the first time (these albums exist separately, but are hard to find and very expensive). Disc One, “Betrayed In The Octagon” is the earliest work. “Zones Without People” is the second, brilliant middle album in the chronology. The last was “Russian Mind” which was the last before Oneohtrix Point Never broke commercially.

The 2012 reissue totals more than three hours. At the same time as it is weighty though, it reveals a coherent arc. A writer setting adrift on this vast trove of music will likely find it too long to negotiate. Bite sized, five to ten song chunks of thematically continuous ambience are easy to carve out though.

I have cordoned off 35-40 minutes segments of Zones (the more new age and psychedelic influenced album) that I like to use while writing supernatural mystery (“Format & Journey North” is a great launch) the same as on Russian Mind which is more spacious (“Time Decanted” and “Memory Vague” bookend a spectacular sequence).

I got my CD copy at the Multnomah County library, and it’s likely available at yours for check out.

If you have trouble locating a copy to check out though, it’s available for purchase at Lopatin’s site and can be streamed in pieces at YouTube as well as Bandcamp.

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Are you a writer with a favorite album to listen to while writing? Have you given Oneohtrix Point Never albums a listen? What do you think?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts and I’ll cover it in the next Music For Writers column. While you’re at it, check out my book page to see the latest supernatural mystery I’m working on.

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emertzErick Mertz Author – Oneohtrix Point Never
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