Introducing… Canabrism’s “Why Do You Think”

2014 has already seen the release of one Canabrism album – A New Suit For Susan – but today marks the official release of this year’s RPM Challenge album, albeit quite some time after the February deadline…

Why Do You Think

Canabrism - Why Do You Think (2014) Album Cover

Canabrism’s latest offering could loosely be described as that most elusively pretentious of beasts, a concept album. In this case, the concept was inspired by the fact that 2014 falls precisely one hundred years after 1914, which of course marks the advent of The First World War. With this in mind, I felt it would be an interesting creative exercise to incorporate some audio recordings from 1914 into the mix.

Fortunately, there are quite a few audio recordings available from this period; a particularly rich source of material can be found via Imperial War Museums, where a series of podcasts have been assembled, featuring some excellent interviews with people who took part in or were directly affected by this conflict. (As a nod to the late Douglas Adams, most of the samples used in “Why Do You Think” are from episode 42 of this series.)

In terms of the concept, episode 42 focuses on ‘Prisoners of War’, so this certainly colours the theme. When assembling the album, I tried to compile the various tracks/samples into some sort of chronologically coherent order; although various perspectives are touched upon throughout, there was an intention to have a thread of development from start to finish. For example, at the outset there are some notable glimpses of whimsy, adventure and excitement that don’t reappear – but these are tempered by (and at later points supplanted by) less pleasant undercurrents. The perspective hops around from one scene to another in ways that would not necessarily be connected in a cinematic sense, but which are hopefully more allowable in a musical treatment. Still, there is a broad development from pre-war naivety, through an initial petulant reluctance, to engaging with aspects of the conflict itself as experienced by the participants.

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Because the samples were mostly from the POW perspective, the notional narrative does deal mostly with activity on the fringes of battle, or post-battle experiences. One of the segments early on refers to the Christmas Truce, which I had not been aware of prior to working on this project, but it has become quite a topical issue over the past couple of weeks due to a British supermarket chain using it as the subject of their Christmas advertising campaign. Sebastian Borger wrote an interesting article on this recently, providing a view from the German perspective – personally I agree with many of the points he raises, and I would also be quite wary of the implications of mixing wartime remembrance with modern day commercialism.

The fact that I am using samples from this same event is not lost on me here; though at least I am sure my motivation in using them is not of a commercial nature, as it’s unlikely this album will ever obtain a widespread audience. Notwithstanding that, even if nobody were to hear it, I would not want my work to in any way trivialise, glorify or exploit such a profoundly destructive episode of human history. However, as revealed in many interviews from those involved, there was also a great deal of human positivity uncovered during the conflict that is worth reflecting on, and my intention at least was to put some sort of lens to it in the context of musical exploration.

All About The Timing

It’s been quite a while since two Canabrism albums have appeared in the same calendar year – in fact, the last time this happened was seven years ago, when Hubbard’s Munth (the first RPM Challenge album by Canabrism) and Random were both released in 2007.

The premise of the RPM Challenge is to write, record and produce an album in the month of February, and Hubbard’s Munth was indeed completed within this timeframe and sent off to RPM HQ on the 1st March. Since then, my interpretation of the challenge has become somewhat more flexible – although all tracks on each RPM album were created within the month of February, quite a bit of embellishment, editing and post-production was added in the subsequent months.

As late as it is, the current album – entitled “Why Do You Think” – unfortunately doesn’t even have the dubious honour of being the most tardy Canabrism RPM release. That distinction falls to 2010’s “Little Bobby Tables“, which was completed on 14th December that year…

Download The Album Here – “Why Do You Think” by Canabrism (2014)

As you may have gathered, the album was designed to be listened to in its entirety – if you feel so inclined, you can download it here and do just that:

Canabrism – Why Do You Think (2014)

However, if you don’t have 52 minutes to spare and just want a quick taste of some of the tracks, here are three to tide you over (you can even play all three in the browser simultaneously and use the volume controls to do some impromptu mixing if you so desire):

Track 2: Thickening

Track 4: The Ex Factory

Track 6: Storm In A Teacup

I won’t be releasing this album through third-party mechanisms (such as Spotify or iTunes) until/unless I get clearance for all samples used, so for the moment “Why Do You Think” is purely an artistic artefact, undertaken as a creative experiment; but, as always, feel free to share any feedback you might have…


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