2020 Vision

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There are 3 types of track on this album: some pieces in a jazz/rock style, each featuring one or more of my small but varied collection of guitars; some pieces played with self-made Apple Logic EXS24 instruments sampled from another collection - my collection of instruments and musical novelties; and some soundscape pieces created from my own field recordings.

The album was created in the late summer and autumn of 2020, a period during which there were severe restrictions, both legal and of personal choice, on leaving one's house and meeting other people, due to a worldwide pandemic of the infectious respiratory disease Covid-19.

Although the album is not about this, it meant I had quite a lot more time on my own at home than I had had in recent years to concentrate on producing this, my first 'Regular' album since Flotsam 4 four years ago in 2016 - which itself came four years after its predecessor, Holiday on Devil's Island, in 2012. There have been plenty of 'Soundscape' and other albums in the GENRE series since then - including, for example, The Sutton Project, which occupied my time earlier in 2020 - but no conventional music; so, although the circumstances of its creation have been very unwelcome, I hope you enjoy listening to the outcome, 20:20 Vision.


1 Theme From Box City. In the 1970s - long before the invention of the internet and the mobile phone - there was a brief craze amongst UK lorry drivers for CB (Citizen's Band) short wave radio, modelled on the similar craze amongst truck drivers in the U.S., whereby they could communicate with one another in a secret code, using phrases such as 'That's a big 10-4, Good Buddy' ('I agree with you, my friend') and so on. It also involved - much as one might nowadays have an online identity or user name - giving oneself a suitable 'handle' (nickname) by which one might be known to others in the CB community. Places, too, would also be given nicknames, a number of which have since become well known to the general public - 'The Big Apple' for New York, 'Motor City' for Detroit, etc. When I wrote the original tune this piece is based on (an early demo of which can be heard on the From Aardvark to Zebra/Goodbye Finisterre 10th Anniversary Special [FORS02, 2013]), I imagined that the village I came from might be known as 'Box City', since it contained at that time a cardboard box factory, which was a major employer in the area. The guitars used are, in order, a 2020 Squier Bass VI; 1963 Vox Dominator; 2013 Gibson Frank Zappa 'Roxy' SG.

2 & 3 Opening Time was a track on my second album Goodbye Finisterre (FORT02, 2003). This version has a very similar sound to that version, but a little fuller arrangement, and a guitar solo section. The original Opening Time was preceded by a version performed on tuned percussion, so I've included an 'Intro' track here featuring tuned percussion, other percussion and wind instruments from my collection. The guitar used is a 2020 unbranded Stratocaster-style instrument with scalloped frets.

4 Promenade is the first of three short soundscape recordings from two visits in recent years to the Norfolk seaside town of Hunstanton, a favourite holiday destination for people in this area. The central section of this piece, recorded in the amusement arcade in what used to be the entrance to the pier, is manipulated by the application Sapling by Sineqube.

5 Standing Stones is a piece containing a mixture of short written sections and longer guitar improvisations. The guitars used are a 2020 Bryce Fretless modified with a Sustainiac Stealth pickup, and a mid-2000's H&S-branded Fender-style 12 and 6 string double neck.

6 Sonnerie de Sainte-Geneviève du Mont de Paris ('The Bells of Saint Genevieve') is a piece by French composer Marin Marais (1656-1728). It has obvious similarities with The Bells of Osney by the much earlier composer William Byrd (c.1543-1623) which I recorded as part of The Bells on my album The Birds and the Bees (FORT06, 2005). Ever since then I'd wanted to do an arrangement of Saint Genevieve, regarding both of these 'Bells' pieces as proto-minimalist, with their simple 3-note grounds; and I thought this was an ideal opportunity, beginning with the 'wind quintet' format, anthologised on Practical Classics (FORG 16, 2010) and bringing in the new 'amateur' home-sampled instruments. This is the short version of the piece; the complete version will appear on the forthcoming release, Baroque (FORG35, 2021).

7 Shops & Seafront is the second of three soundscape recordings from Hunstanton, Norfolk. The original recordings here are just edited together without further treatment. All the Hunstanton recordings were made on a Marantz PMD660, using either conventional electret microphones and preamp by Ian Brady or a pair of Roland WPM-10 WearPro earbud microphones, which I adapted myself for use with a self-built preamp.

8 Sunflower is a lovely tune by the trumpet and flugelhorn player Freddie Hubbard. An unfinished version of this track appeared on my previous album Flotsam 4 (FORT18, 2016); this is the now finished version. The point of the arrangement is to feature the pitch and harmony effects on the guitar, which are created live, not by overdubs. The pitch effects are achieved with a Digitech Whammy, and the harmony effects in the melody with a Line 6 M5, both controlled via MIDI using a Behringer FCB1010. The 3 part harmony in the solo uses a stereo Boss PS-6 Harmonist. The guitar used is the 2013 Gibson Frank Zappa 'Roxy' SG.

9 Beach is the third of three soundscape recordings from Hunstanton, Norfolk. The original recordings in this track are again just edited together without further treatment. All three tracks are based on the same field recordings used for the piece entitled Hunstanton on the recently released album Ambient XIV (FORG34, 2020), and from a forthcoming album, Hunstanton 2, due for release in 2021.

10 Lydia is so-called because it's based on the Lydian mode - yet another case of a working title becoming a finished title. The guitar used is the Stratocaster-style with scalloped frets.


And why 20:20 Vision? First of all, of course, because the album was made in 2020; secondly because I had a vision during the year of a series of albums I should make, of which this is the first; and thirdly because it's now exactly 20 years since I produced the demos that were the original vision for my first two albums, From Aarvark to Zebra (FORT01, 2002) and Goodbye Finisterre (FORT02, 2003).

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