Introduction

The record company that releases my music, whilst steeped in history and home to a lot of my favourite records, spunks a lot of money on lavish felt-lined gilded box-sets made by nimble-fingered faerie folk who live in the woods. This means that artistes such as Minotaur Shock who will only ever sell a limited amount of records (because discerning listeners like yourselves are few and far between), do not command the same kind of influence over the Powers That Be and their kingdom of jewel-case goblins.

Consequently, this release, the third album proper I have created as Minotaur Shock, is no longer an album in the physical sense, it is content. Not content as in satisfied, but content as in digital bits and binary bobs. Now, you may think that I am less than enthusiastic about this, but you'd be mistaken. After initially being a bit miffed (I'm being honest; we're all friends here), I started to think about the nature of an album, and how the way people listen and use it is changing.

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11August Introduction

Now, let’s be frank; you and I both know that, if you were so inclined, you could probably use the internet to download Amateur Dramatics absolutely for free in less time than it took me to write the opening couple of paragraphs of this document. I am not suggesting for a minute that you would, I am just acknowledging the fact that the average Minotaur Shock fan is a person who is aware, savvy and generally knows what’s what. So, I thought to myself, how do I try and dissuade curious people from such an easy option?

The answer I came up with was pretty straightforward: be totally honest and upfront. Something else that is peculiar to the strange times we live in is that the boundaries between consumers of ‘entertainment’ and its producers are diminishing all the time. Last night was the final of The Apprentice, although I didn’t watch it as ambitious people upset me. As I type, some people are taking part in some kind of sadistic electro-torture ‘task’ on Big Brother. I just watched Come Dine With Me. Most current affairs programmes have little scrolling things where people text their opinions for the world to see. I tuned into the Top 40 the other day and was amazed to hear how much airtime was given to people phoning in with their predictions as to what would be in the top 3.

Anyway, I digress. Basically, it boils down to this. I don’t make enough money out of music for it to be a career; I have a day job. I have a little family and a big mortgage, hence it’s difficult for me to tour for too long. I couldn’t afford to pay a band even if I wanted to. This isn’t a sob story mind, its just a subtle way of guilting you into paying for the music. I just invented a verb right there. If you don’t pay for the music, then 4AD will lose interest, I will get dropped, scrabble around for a while, probably toy with the idea of releasing an online album myself, procrastinate and eventually there is the distinct possibility that you will not hear from me again. No one wants that. Well, no one that’s bothered reading this much.

So, instead of doing a Radiohead and asking you to pay what you think the music is worth, I have decided to try and explain what I feel the music is worth, and explain my reasoning. Of course, in an ideal world I would charge you £20.00 per track, but I’m a realist. I have been honest with both you and myself. It should all be quite self-explanatory.

Before I leave you to ponder the descriptions and pricing matrices of the various tracks, I just wanted to add a few more points that if I start writing about properly I’ll get carried away:

  • The fact that the album is designed to be downloaded track-by-track means that there is no concrete running order. Do what you will. Find what works for you. If you just buy one track, I hope it pops up regularly when you set your machine to shuffle.
  • There is, as you can see, a lot of text that accompanies this album. I like that fact; I guess – no, I hope – that some of you will buy the tracks and then read this as you listen. I miss that about music these days; if you purchase a download then there’s not much to go on other than the music. I remember Jarvis deliberately didn’t print the lyrics in the booklet for Different Class as he wanted you to listen rather than read (well, I think it was that album, it was back in the 90s). Sod that, I was happy to listen to Spiritualised’s Laser Guided Melodies, for example, whilst reading and marvelling at the exotic instruments that J Spaceman used. You can concentrate on the album’s intricacies later; now you can have the overview.
  • There is a concept behind Amateur Dramatics, I think with mostly instrumental music there always should be. However, I’m not going tell you what it is.
  • Despite point no.2 above, I’m worried that all this writing detracts from and belittles the music. I just wanted to add that this is a very serious album, for me, and that hopefully it will stand up on its own legs once these documents have served their purpose.
  • If you have a non-technical problem with any of the music, you can’t send it back or have a refund. Not to me anyway.

Oh, and because you can’t really put ‘Thank You’s in the ID tags of MP3s, I feel duty bound to express gratitude to the following people who helped me since the last album in some way or other:

Emily Wakefield, James Underwood, Annalynne Williams and my brother Will; Alun, Kev, Owain and all at SuperMamaAnkstovision; Warwick; Graeme; Dom; Matthew Jack; Duke; Ben Tundra; Mr Hopkinson; Timmy Lee; Tom Wilson; Mark & Chiz; Mark, Dick & Ben; Tom Rogers; Ed, Rich, Jane, Simon & the web folks at 4AD; Ash & Mel; Yo La Tengo; Ruth Wakefield; Mark James; Danny Babel; Todd, Florence & Joanne. Special retrospective thanks to Chris Sharp.

This site’s original page layout by Graeme Swinton, design and build by 4AD’s web team.

All compositions written, arranged, recorded and produced by David Edwards except “This Plane Is Going To Fall” which was also written by Annalynne Williams. Masterfully mastered by Geoff Pesche at Abbey Road. Pictures by Warwick Johnson-Cadwell.

Hope you enjoy the content.

49 comments

Trivia: This track features teeny little snippets of one of my favourite songs ever, the only samples of a commercially-released record on this album (not counting "Jason Forrest", which uses recontextualised separates from a track I was asked to remix).

Technical difficulty rating 7out of
10

Bird interference (i); individual sample re-tuning (ii); drum programming

  • All that scrabbling at the start that turns into a plucky little melody? That's my little old Grandmother's little old piano. She very kindly gave it to me a few weeks before I started making this album. It's a nice little thing, a mini-upright – a pianette, if you will. I used to like playing it when I was littler. So anyway, I got it home and took it apart so I could pluck its guts. I decided to sample each note and turn it into a virtual music machine so that I could play it late at night when everyone was in bed. Seems easy enough, right? Not when you factor in two cockatiels. Sampling the innards of that piano seemed to take decades, because every time the notes resonated at a certain frequency it seemed to trigger a mad squawking frenzy, so I'd have to record them again.
  • See above; at the time, I couldn't afford to get the piano tuned so had to do it digitally sticking the output of the sampler into a guitar tuner and tweaking it. Shame, because I love piano tuners and their profession unreservedly.

Computer crash rating 6out of
10

This track will no longer play on my computer - it freezes after 19 seconds.

Musical difficulty rating 5out of
10

The end bit was a bit tricky. I overestimated the range of a clarinet.

Extra musicians rating 5out of
10

Violin (i); Clarinet & Flute (ii)

  • James played violin on this track. It was recorded in my house. I need to pay James petrol money at the very least. I fed him soup though.
  • Emily played clarinet and flute. This was recorded in my house too. Again, it would be nice to reward Emily for her time and patience. I cannot write music, so both Emily and James had to transcribe the notes using just their ears and minds. It's amazing to me, the ability to read and write music. Like it's a language; like French.

Live instruments played by me rating 6out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Electric Bass (i); Drum kit; Assorted percussion and bells; Pianette; Mini-steel pan; electric guitar

  • Thanks to Will for letting me borrow his bass guitar

Fun/replay rating 10out of
20

There's quite a lot going on here, I'd imagine it could bear a few listens before revealing all it had to reveal. Not much in the way of 'fun', but it grooves in it's own spiky way. Would I dance to it, if I didn't know what it was? I'd probably try, but give up and try to look cool whilst exiting the dancefloor.

Special consideration 11out of
20

I like the very last note. This is an album opener, it sets the scene. Additional note from James: "I personally think that Zookeeper should be a bit more expensive as, despite my huge ever-pulsating brain, the maths of the track caused my head to hurt". I'd better factor in the cost of getting the pianette moved from Cheddar to Bristol in the first place.

Update: The Audio Vector Oscilloscope in the mastering suite did something strange and beautiful during this track (see above), it's worth 2p of anyone's money.

Total: 50p

Trivia: I decided to give this track a 4/4 disco-dance beat at the very last minute, and wondered why I didn't do that in the first place.

Technical difficulty rating 5out of
10

This one was pretty straightforward once I had sorted out the melodies.

Computer crash rating 7out of
10

This track will no longer play on my computer.

Musical difficulty rating 8out of
10

I'm not what you'd call a 'schooled' composer. This piece took a lot of trial and error, and although the melody is of course brutally handsome and terminally pretty, I don't think the notes are meant to go together. There is harmony, counterpoint and counter-counterpoint and stuff like that I think. Either way, I took ages trying to find the right notes and I want you to appreciate that effort. The fact that it sounds slightly wrong is totally intentional.

Extra musicians rating 8out of
10

Alto saxophone, flute & clarinet (i); Violin (ii)

  • Come on, Emily makes this track with her pipes. As the melodies were all originally played using dodgy MIDI sounds, she had to do a lot of mystical writing on her lined paper to get it to sound right. This was recorded at Emily's old house in Brislington, and I think we upset her housemate by making too much noise. I had to edit out the sound of stomping footsteps and the volume on the telly being angrily turned up.
  • James played the stabby one-note violin that crops up. It's worth a point or two, but (and no disrespect to James) I could have played it if I wasn't scared of breaking the violin. I'm sure James won't mind, besides he contributed far more to other tracks. Still, I thought you should know.

Live instruments played by me rating 2out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Drum kit

Well, I think the drums are created from single hits that formed part of some live recording I did. So it's not really live is it? I might have overdubbed the hi-hat at the end, to be honest I can't remember. Those claps are me though. Not the drum machine ones, the other ones.

Fun/replay rating 16out of
20

In it's own way, this is a ridiculous riot. You know it. Would I dance to it? Hell yes. And when those chiming synths come in at 2m20s, I'd go nuts.

Special consideration 8out of
20

Sounds a bit like it was recorded in a school. Again, I like the very last note.

Total: 54p

Trivia: The lyrics and vocal melody were written for a different track on the album.

Technical difficulty rating 8out of
10

I did a lot to the vocals in order to make a comfy warm mattress of human sound on which to lay a duvet of lazy disco.

Computer crash rating 9out of
10

If I never have to open the original file again, I will be happy. You try dealing with all these tracks with 512mb of RAM.

Musical difficulty rating 6out of
10

In terms of structure and melody, this was pretty straightforward. It's all about layers, this kind of thing, isn't it? I gave myself a few points for the bassline/violin combo, because I can.

Extra musicians rating 9out of
10

Vocals (i); Violin (ii)

  • Anna-Lynne Williams has a lovely voice. She recorded the vocals over in Seattle and I stitched them together in Bristol. Not much more to add. The words are hers, the music is mine. Thanks Anna-Lynne. In terms of payment, we kind of did a swap – I remixed her band Trespassers William. Track it down if you want the whole story.
  • James recorded the violin in my house again. Although the main melody was mine, the little echoing thing under it was all his. If I could read, write and speak music, I could describe it better. It's good though. And the 'solo' was all his except I went and smeared some digital over it. Thanks James.

Live instruments played by me rating 3out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Drum kit; percussion; chime bars

Again, the drums are made of chopped up bits and bobs recorded here and there.

Fun/replay rating 16out of
20

I like this, it's kind of an uncharacteristic Minotaur Shock track, maybe that's why I like it. And it's got singing on which makes it all the more palatable I guess. I would dance to this. In a flouncy way.

Special consideration 15out of
20

My favourite noise on this is where the synth sounds a bit like a chattery bird that goes all staccato and then sort of gives up. It happens at about 4m08s. It might be my favourite few seconds on the album actually. I don't remember doing it.

This is the only track on the album with singing on it. Now I know some of the cost of that has been factored into the "Extra musicians rating", but if we accept that tracks with singing on are easier to identify with, and have a distinct advantage over instrumental tracks in that they are less open to interpretation, I feel justified in assigning a relatively high score. More of the work has been done for you, the listener, see?

Total: 66p

Trivia: This was originally called Totterdown, and had live drums. It didn't sound quite right.

Technical difficulty rating 8out of
10

I had trouble keeping up with whatever was going on in this one. Mixing the live instruments in was a doozer.

Computer crash rating 8out of
10

As you can imagine, this is, as I.T. people are prone to saying, a 'system hog'.

Musical difficulty rating 9out of
10

There are a lot of things happening at once, and my job was to try and make them not jarring. I tried to imagine I was scoring for a string quartet, and this is what happened.

Extra musicians rating 8out of
10

Alto saxophone (i); Violin (ii)

  • Thanks once again to Emily. Recorded at her house I think.
  • The violins are all James, all multi-tracked up, like.

Live instruments played by me rating 5out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Mallet percussion; bells; mini steel pan; drum kit

Some slightly tricky bits going on here.

Fun/replay rating 12out of
20

Although this is one of my babies, and only I can appreciate the intense concentration, love and patience that went into it's conception and birth, I can sort of see how it could perhaps be seen as a little, well, irritating. I'd dance to it though. And I'd play it again.

Special consideration 7out of
20

Doesn't it sound posh at 3m01s? It's also quite fast.

Total: 57p

Trivia: This was written before I met the man from whence it got it's name, but he speaks a lot of sense about the artistic temperament so gets props. I have only spoken to him once, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks Jason. The track uses elements of a track called "Passchendaele" by GoodBooks. I was commissioned to do a remix (which is available), but used the horns on this track too. Thanks GoodBooks and Ollie.

Technical difficulty rating 6out of
10

This was just fun. A few bits of programming trickery were used, but it was all so enjoyable that I, being conscientious, won't pass that cost onto you, the potential consumer.

Computer crash rating 6out of
10

Again, the sheer pleasure of making something that rocked my little suburban studio negates any crashes and freezes (of which there were a few).

Musical difficulty rating 6out of
10

This was a beast that bore itself. If that's not a recognised saying or proverb then it should be. Not entirely sure what it means though.

Extra musicians rating 5out of
10

Horns (i); Various snippets from GoodBooks track (ii)

  • Some unknown session player.
  • Some keyboard sounds and one of the guitar tracks

Live instruments played by me rating 5out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Electric guitar; Mallet percussion; bells

A little sprinkle here and there.

Fun/replay rating 18out of
20

Turn it up loud. Go on.

Special consideration 8out of
20

I should thank my good friend Matthew for his help on this. Executive Producer is pushing it though.

Total: 54p

Trivia: This originally had drums. Thank goodness it doesn't anymore.

Technical difficulty rating 4out of
10

Nothing too taxing here.

Computer crash rating 3out of
10

My computer could handle this one pretty much ok.

Musical difficulty rating 5out of
10

It's deliberately simple.

Extra musicians rating 5out of
10

Violin

  • A multi-tracked James takes centre stage.

Live instruments played by me rating 10out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Guitar, keyboards

See, this is where I have a bit of a quandary. The synths and keyboards on this track were played live and weren't sequenced. I am worried that I played them deliberately sloppy to make this obvious. I was trying to convey a kind of lazy calm, see. Now, should I charge you, the potential consumer, more for this wanton act of deliberate sabotage? Had they been sequenced, would that have made things tidier? Because this question is central to the enjoyment of this track, and the fact that everything else about it is relatively cheap, you are paying full whack for making me even consider it. How dare you? Curse you, peer-to-peer sharing, for forcing me to justify my meagre fee.

Fun/replay rating 4out of
20

It's pleasant, tuneful and short. Unlike life, which is also nasty and brutish rather than pleasant and tuneful. It is short though, apparently.

Special consideration 2out of
20

I'm adding 2 points because I can. These songs are cheap. They are worth so much more, and will enrich your life considerably.

Total: 33p

Trivia: I just googled "my burr" and was astounded that there is a blog called that. I hate the internet. The title was meant to refer to my gentle, sexy West Country accent. Not some guy's blog.

Technical difficulty rating 9out of
10

This track is going to score highly on all of these. It was hard work. But rewarding, like stonemasonry, I imagine.

Computer crash rating 9out of
10

My computer did not like this at all. I kept thinking I should buy more RAM but then I figured that sometimes in life we need constraints.

Musical difficulty rating 9out of
10

I wanted to create melodies that snaked in and out like dancing cobras, creating patterns with their swaying scaled bodies as their eyes transfixed like sparkling emeralds. This kind of thing does not come easy to me.

Extra musicians rating 9out of
10

Violin (i); Alto Saxophone (ii)

  • James does a great job here, given that I asked him to play a load of different parts that didn't really make much sense on their own. Upon hearing my tacky MIDI violins replaced with James' haunting live strings, I was overcome with excitement and remarked "Wow, that reminds me of The Sinking of The Titanic!" James looked rather dismayed – he thought I was being literal rather than referring to Gavin Bryars' masterpiece. Oh, how we laughed! I nearly spilt my cup of tea and dropped my digestive.
  • Emily replaced the fake sax with the real deal. Another sterling job. This record would really have been rubbish without Emily and James, wouldn't it? Emily even played a sax solo on this track, which I chopped up – I thought it was buried in the mix, but I can hear it pretty clearly on my laptop speakers, which is odd. Haven't noticed it anywhere else.

Live instruments played by me rating 5out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Drums; chime bars Most of the drums on this bad boy are the product of an intensive digital scissors session, cutting up some phat breaks I laid down back in the day yo.

Fun/replay rating 18out of
20

Come on, think of the dancing cobras! This track is the gift that keeps giving. You can listen to it loads and still not come to appreciate its mystical otherworldly quality.

Special consideration 16out of
20

3m52s. Those 4 notes just about sums it all up for me. Like, I mean, Everything.

Total: 75p

Trivia: The track that this was created from was a quaint little Bacharach-inspired tune what I wrote. I had fun scrunching it all up.

Technical difficulty rating 9out of
10

This is all about the digital manipulation of pre-fabricated sound, isn't it?

Computer crash rating 8out of
10

Taxing on the old processor chip. Never mind, old fella, you'll have a happy life in the loft now I've got a laptop.

Musical difficulty rating 4out of
10

This isn't music is it?

Extra musicians rating 0out of
10

I am absolutely delighted to be able to award that score. Not good financially, but it's nice to finally say "all my own work".

Live instruments played by me rating 3out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Drums

There's a bit of drumming in there; you have to squint, but it's there.

Fun/replay rating 16out of
20

This one makes me lurch like a wounded lurcher. Another one that works up loud and in a busy club. I have actually played this out, so I know what I'm talking about. Someone even asked me what it was. Well, I say club, what I mean is pub. But it was one of those trendy pubs in London, and Lightspeed Champion gave me props for playing Beefheart.

Special consideration 15out of
20

This is as oppressive as Minotaur Shock gets. For that you should pay. Some days, this is the best track on the album, but if you wish to purchase one track to get a feel for Amateur Dramatics as a whole, don't pick this one. Pick track number 9. My friend Phil swears you can judge any album by how good track number 9 is. He's usually right, go on, test it. I hope BATS is not track 9 or I've just made a terrible error.

Total: 55p

Trivia: This song creeps me out.

Technical difficulty rating 7out of
10

I had to keep some noises in check here. Woo-hah.

Computer crash rating 6out of
10

A few complaints, but nothing a nice reboot couldn't rectify.

Musical difficulty rating 8out of
10

Again, this one was a little bit of a personal challenge. I really enjoyed making this album, you know.

Extra musicians rating 7out of
10

Violin (i); Alto Saxophone (ii)

  • What can I say, James is on it again.
  • And Emily too.

Live instruments played by me rating 5out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Pianette; Bass guitar

Thanks to Will for loaning me the bass again.

Fun/replay rating 12out of
20

Well, it's not exactly fun, but it is quite entertaining in a dark, spidery, languid way. Or maybe that's just me.

Special consideration 4out of
20

Not much to shout about, other than it's probably the most night-timey thing I've ever recorded.

Total: 49p

Trivia: I imagined this to have its own short film based around wildlife footage of a shrew or a vole being swooped upon by birds of prey. My screenplay was quite elaborate and not financially viable, but if anyone wants to make this film, get in touch.

Technical difficulty rating 9out of
10

This one was pretty tricky. A lot of digital scissors about.

Computer crash rating 8out of
10

There's a bit with lots of piano and saxophone tracks towards the end. Whenever my computer got to that bit, all the sound would stop. Made things a bit taxing.

Musical difficulty rating 9out of
10

Do you like the brass? I tried to get some real trumpets on there, but ran out of money and time. Shoulda called Mark Ronson, he's good at all that business innee?

Extra musicians rating 7out of
10

Alto Saxophone; Clarinet; Flute

  • Emily again, playing some of the real instruments on here. Thanks again. There are also quite a few pseudo-instruments too, but hopefully no-one will notice. Although I already let the cat out of the bag. Oops. Well, why don't you just pay your fee, download the song and then maybe next time I can afford Mark Ronson ok? Jeeez. Get off my case. The drums on the Cocteaus' albums aren't real either. Sorry to shatter that one. Santa Claus, however, is very real.

Live instruments played by me rating 6out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Drums; Bass; Pianette

Yep.

Fun/replay rating 16out of
20

Keep coming back to it. Perhaps drive on the motorway and use it as your own private soundtrack. Would I dance to it? Yes I think I would. There's something here for everyone.

Special consideration 16out of
20

I like the bit that starts at 3m32s. That's a good bit that.

Total: 71p

Trivia: This is dedicated to The Man With The Bees, a neighbour of my parents who used to cause untold mayhem when his killer* bees would swarm around our house when I was little. It was terrifying and fascinating at the same time. He's moved now, but still brings mum a jar of honey now and then**. As if that makes up for the terror caused by his pets. Are they pets? dunno.

Technical difficulty rating 9out of
10

The programming on this one slides about like a wet salmon on a waterslide. Not only does the time signature change every now and then, but the 'swing' gets incrementally eradicated at about 1m42s. That's some technical business right there.

Computer crash rating 8out of
10

Too many trumpet samples do not a happy processor chip make.

Musical difficulty rating 9out of
10

Another intricate one, this. Give it a listen. Took a long time.

Extra musicians rating 7out of
10

Clarinet; Flute

  • Thanks again to Emily.

Live instruments played by me rating 8out of
10

nb. although originally played/recorded live, much of this instrumentation has been digitally edited and chopped.

Drums; Electric Guitar; Chime bars; Pianette

Yep.

Fun/replay rating 16out of
20

Another one that should reveal more and more on each listen. Difficult to dance to, but you could try some spiky vogueing to the start bit if you like. And then some half-time steppin' at the end perhaps?

Special consideration 20out of
20

The very end is the other key moment to the entire album. Hence the high price.

* I don't think they were killer bees, just quite angry ones. They would chase you though. Fact.

**Update: according to my mum, the bees all recently died. I have a mixture of pity and relief.

Total: 77p