A Scattering had the working title of Sleight of Hand for about twelve years. It’s been hanging around on various hard drives for at least that long.
Structurally, it’s something like ABCA. The A sections are in E, but with heavy emphasis on A, making it feel a bit modal until we finally get to the E at the end of the chord sequence. First time round we get the main theme on bass, then basss and clean guitars, then the loud rocky version. It’s in 5/4 and to me feels quite open and anthemic. It’s the instrumental version of a big loud singalong chorus, as far as I’m concerned.
Arranging it the way I did also meant I had a nice arpeggio bass solo for Alun to play right at the start of the album, which seemed like a sensible place to start. I had a good player on board for the project, so why not highlight what he can do early on?
The B section is in A minor, kinda, and has some stupid time signature changes. Like really stupid, I think there’re 7/8s and 15/16s and all sorts of silly things. Did I set out to write something like that? No, it’s pretty rare that as a composer you decide to use a funny time signature. It’s just that the guitar melody worked out that way.
It’s pretty simple – the theme played out three times, once with the guitar playing the twisty melody, once with a synth sound, once again with the guitar, with a twisty ascending unison to finish of and bring us to a big loud Ab power chord.
The B and C sections began life in the same abandoned heavy metal project that led to my song ‘Steamlife’ from Ironbark. I was just getting into prog-metal at the time, so decided to try and write some. I don’t think I got as far as completing a single song for that project, but I did end up with a bunch of ideas that have found their way in to various projects.
The C section begins with a synth section that includes some gestural work using an almost percussive synth sound we heard previously in the intro and in the B section. The weird sounds here were made by messing around with samples of the B section synth sound.
And then, after some clean guitar arpeggios we move into the main part of the section, a brooding, melancholic passage that’s sort of in E, ascending and finally culminating in a tritone on F-sharp, giving us a nice moment of tension and dissonance, which resolves as we return to the bass solo from the A section.
And that leads into the A section again, nice and loud – the ‘singalong’ tuneful bit, this time with an extra counter melody from one of the guitars. The previous sections were twisty, tense and changeable – this final section is tuneful and straight. All right, it’s in 5/4, but that’s near enough to 4/4 as to be pretty much the same.
It’s an instrumental piece. So what is it about? This piece is a journey there and back again. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of disparate, scattered parts, it’s light, then dark, then light again. It’s also very autobiographical in the sense that it brings together some of my oldest musical ideas and my most recent collaborations.
More importantly, it just makes me feel happy every time I hear it.