For the spring album, I shifted from electronic sounds to more acoustic ones, while still retaining a few pads and synths as they were just too useful expressively. It had to be a reaction against the cold sadness of HIBERNATE, emotionally and aesthetically. So instead of chimes and bells and icy synths, I've put in lots of plucked, strummed, and bowed instruments, wooden percussion sounds, and more emphasis on the string section.
Burst Through The Snow
This is simply a rounding-off track to finish up the April Blizzard and allow it to melt. There are little snippets of the electronics from the end of winter, which slowly disappear and make way for harps, strings, and celestes.
The Busking Blackbird
This one I very nearly didn't include as I couldn't quite justify how cheerful it was, but considering the rest of the album had several upbeat, positive moments, it eventually felt right to put it in.
The singing bird on the track is electronically sequenced, as close as I could get to a particularly fine song I once heard from a blackbird that appeared daily outside my window several years ago. I tried to record it from my laptop but managed to lose the file, but I never forgot how its tune went:
When I composed Hibernator, I ended it with a spontaneous new melody, which felt incredibly sad and desperate. I felt that it still had potential, so I picked it up again to bring it to a positive conclusion, and it became Awakener.
The "Woods" theme again, this time much more upbeat and hopeful. I gave this one a big oriental makeover and turned the woods into a zen garden. The choice was inspired by a comment a friend made about Drizzle Woods sounding rather Chinese in itself, the wonderful timbral colours that exist in traditional Chinese and Japanese music, and also a great fondness on my part for East Asian paraphernalia.
Grottos In The Green
The rest of the album was inspired in large part by childhood nostalgia. For this one, I had in mind woodland walks leading past open parks, old fountains, pebbly rivers, and forest clearings.
Stratford Park Latin
Stratford Park can be found in Stroud (UK), not far from where I now live, and I walked round it many times as a child and loved the strange, winding journey it took me on every time I went, from paths through redwoods, around a lake, into dark woods, past a stream, and back up onto a big grassy field. That route inspired the structure of "Latin", which should match that journey fairly closely.
Remember The Colours
"Colours" was meant to be the opening track straight after Burst Through the Snow, as a gentle reflection of how the beautiful colours of spring flowers and trees are finally all coming back. After thinking about it, it felt more appropriate to go straight in with a joyful track like the Blackbird, and leave the solemn reflective track for later. This version was actually the second attempt at unifying the ideas - the first attempt didn't hold together quite as well.
Cross The Hill To Reach The Village
Another walking/hiking track, inspired by various memories of walks out of and back into town to gather my thoughts.
The Once-Enchanted Forest
The centrepiece of the album, that almost didn't even make the cut. This is an ode of sorts to a woods that lay in the grounds of my school which I attended up to my pre-teens. It was the place to which every kid in the school would retreat in between classes to play games and build dens out of old branches (I christened mine the "Evergreen Hideout"). All of my thinking, reflecting, and introspecting as a kid happened while wandering alone in those woods, in between getting to play a game or two with whoever I could persuade.
I'd originally meant this as a standalone single, but it was just begging to be on an album about spring called "Arboretum" - it just made too much sense not to include it. I also resisted the temptation to shorten it to make it fit, and allowed myself the luxury of including the full 8-minutes of it as it was originally meant to be.
The Meadows Beyond
A palette-cleanser and epilogue to the Forest, to allow the listener to get their breath back a little bit.
I felt that the album needed a chilled piece as an answer to the fairly emotionally intense main body of the album - a relaxing evening after the busy morning and afternoon of the rest of "ARBORETUM". The amount of space there turned out to be on "Dusk" meant I could also include little preparatory nods to the beginning of the summer album, which will reveal themselves on the first track of "SUN DANCES".