iPhone Songs with Peter Wyeth

Photo by David Wilson Clarke

Once we enter our twenties and commit to full-time “adult” lives, many of us adapt to a busy static that distracts us from life’s simple pleasures like reading, biking, or enjoying nature in general. This tends to happen more in city environments when people are surrounded with pavement and metal, pavement and metal. But somewhere at some point, one yearns need to slow down and open up to the world around oneself. This can happen on a weekend, on an evening walk home from a bar, on a vacation, or while listening to Peter Wyeth.

Wyeth is a solo musician from Leicester, England. He’s released an EP and few singles since 2008. His most recent work, an EP titled Humming New Time (Olynka Records) weaves sounds of the outdoors in and out between rising and falling guitar picking. Olynka Records’ founder, Tom Morris, says of Wyeth:

We both used to live in Leicester. I’ve always been a big fan of his since bumping into him on and off at shows. In the past five or six years, my band (Her Name is Calla), has asked him to open for us at our Leicester tour dates. He’s settled with a partner and kids now, so he doesn’t like to tour or anything–he just does music. I’d been thinking about setting up a little label for a while, and when I heard that he had recorded a new EP, I just asked to put it out and he agreed.

Humming New Time is a five-track EP that humbly captures the minds of listeners, if only for a minute, and takes them to another place: Wyeth’s world of sound. Ironically, Wyeth recorded the EP on his iPhone and a handheld recorder, combining the simplicity of the outdoors and the complexity of cell phone technology in one. Much of Wyeth’s previous work also experiments with sound, but not quite as freely as Humming New Time.

The first track, “Pathways,” is a growing instrumental song that introduces Wyeth’s basic braiding technique between samples of outdoor sounds and guitar layering. “Most of the bird noises are accidental–they’re just part of the recordings themselves. ‘Pathways’ was recorded outside, so all of the sounds you hear were what was happening around me at the time,” says Wyeth. “You can hear cars and other things in there too. That song was really a reaction to what was going on around me at that exact time –I listened and responded, I recorded eight tracks (that’s the maximum I can do on my phone!) and that was it.”

Track two, “Sing To Me,” adds vocals that blend with the rest of the song, as if Wyeth were actually part of the environmental effects. Track three then separates man vs. wild when Wyeth introduces words for the first time, repeating the line, “Oh, the day slows.” But even when words are finally added, the sounds still all blend together, reminiscent of Sigur Rós’ vocal blending technique. Wyeth says regarding his mixing methods: “It’s a reflection of the way I like to work and live really, and also how the ideas for this record came about,” he explains. “They were all developments of improvisations that came out of the song ‘Spring’ from the first EP. I just found that each bit suggested something else and so it would just flow.”

Introducing the noise of children playing together outside during track four, “Poppy’s Afternoon,” Wyeth changes the sound, but not the mood of the music. The general feel remains light and positive with background “oohs,” that slowly fade out and lead into the last song, “Home Soon,” which turns into the busiest song on the EP. During “Home Soon,” Wyeth adds musical color through experimenting with the “Electro Harmonix Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai” and “Boss” looping pedals.

“I’m not big on effects, I just liked to record what’s happening and play back along to it and these pedals let me do that,” says Wyeth. “I recorded four takes of me playing and then recorded the sound of all four recordings playing out in a room. I felt the chance dialog between the recordings weaving between one another created this really interesting soundscape.”

All tracks on Humming New Time add up to around 20 minutes–one-sixth of the original two hours of recording Wyeth had before cutting everything down on “an old work computer,” as he describes on his bandcamp website.

Good news for fans of Wyeth’s: According to Olynka Records, Wyeth plans to release another EP this year.



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