How I Wrote ‘Ingenious Devices’

<a href="http://tomslatter.bandcamp.com/track/ingenious-devices">Ingenious Devices by Tom Slatter</a>

Ingenious Devices was almost entirely improvised. I was coming to the end of Spinning the Compass, and realised the pacing of the album didn’t quite work – I needed another upbeat song near the beginning. So I sat down one day with a guitar and started to improvise:

Ingenious Devices draft 1

The improv began as a little vamp on an Aminor chord and the title ‘Ingenious Devices’. As you can hear, it’s very very rough. All I’m doing in the recording is playing around with the chords, trying out A minor, C minor, F major, getting a feel for the mood of the song. I’m also using la and ooh sounds, and nonsense half words to try and find melodic ideas.

Ingenious Devices draft 2

This, the end of my little improv jam is a little more refined – I’ve got a verse riff and a descending melody, the F chord, A minor vamp and title have worked themselves into a potential chorus.

This turned itself into the finished verse and chorus. The middle section is actually the verse and chorus from another song I wrote years ago but never used.

Interesting fact – the middle section contains a melody played on a stylophone.

The section before the final chorus has lots of loops, both instrumental and vocal that build on one another. The basic idea here is that the 9 beat bar is broken up in different ways – there are loops based on 3s and 2s cutting across the bar like cogs of different sizes fitting together in interesting ways until it becomes so complex it has to break – which it does by returning to the chorus.

Lyrics:

I’ve seen them, with cracking skin,
Greying hair, yellow teeth
And haunted eyes.

I’ll not be one of them
I’ll fill my lungs with oil and steam
And never die

Ingenious devices
keep me alive in perpetual motion these
Ingenious devices
filled the steam from a thousand pistons

Ingenious Devices Turn

My heart beats by pendulum
I’ve filled grave with cogs and wheels
so there’s no room.

And my lovers have passed me by,
I’ve seen towers pierce the sky
with crystal eyes

Ingenious devices
keep me alive in perpetual motion these
Ingenious devices
filled the steam from a thousand pistons

Ingenious devices turn

My daughters died,
My sons all met their fate
Wouldn’t join me
Couldn’t see till far too late.
The clockwork beating
of my polished heart
Reassures me that I haven’t gone too far

Ingenious devices keep me from the grave
Piston as the master, tendon as the slave

Tick tock tick tick this heart beats
Tick tick tock tock this heart beats

Ingenious devices
keep me alive in perpetual motion these
Ingenious devices
filled the steam from a thousand pistons

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