the origin of no1uno2
After the release of their self-titled EP, no1uno (pronounced “no one you know”) began writing music collectively. The music and lyrics from their first EP was inspired mostly by Marc A. Gallo aka gallospole. Members, James Sempsey (iii) and Daniel H. McKay (mazlin wratch), contributed musically but the focus was centered on Gallo’s work.
Since iii had his own catalogue of music, the group began producing his songs and, in addition, developing new material serendipitously. For instance, a member would introduce a musical idea and then the others would record tracks to build the song. down and the virgin’s blessing reflect this exact arrangement.
“…no limitation at all”
The band members began to work independently and naturally created works of their own. Notably, saw and soon were composed, recorded and mixed solely by gallospole and down – the dance was mixed and arranged by iii and mazlin wratch.
In addition, Sempsey aka iii states, “We were exploring new areas with the music at the time, like creating more complex vocal harmonies and playing around with time signatures.” the virgin’s blessing clearly demonstrates this approach and has proven to be one of their most ambitious works.
McKay recalls, “We had this relatively speaking, pretty advanced recording studio in a building outside of Gallo’s house…to create anything…when you have no limitation at all, then you’re sort of free to go wherever you want.”
from no1uno2 to the special remastered ep edition
Like most releases, there are always specific selections which stand out to define the work. With this edition, these five tracks reflect the cinematic and timeless sound of no1uno.
They encapsulate deeply personal issues about love, the loss of innocence and addiction. Notably, soon, down and the virgin’s blessing reveal them in stark detail. And, saw and what did she really do?, sonically conveys this same state of mind.
Also, a common theme in these selections is their linear nature. Defying conventions in songwriting and composition, no1uno perhaps unintentionally created a world of sonic surprises and random musical performances that keeps the listener engaged and filled with anticipation.
Listen to this EP in the following order: saw, down – the dance, soon, the virgin’s blessing and what did she really do? As you’re listening, you’ll notice it’s a series of soundtracks, where you’re fully immersed. This is exactly how no1uno2 is meant to be heard and enjoyed!
what lies behind the music
saw is a cavernous soundscape, augmented by Gallo’s electric guitar using delays and feedback. It was a beautiful spring afternoon when this work was created. Since the studio had no windows, Gallo left the doors open so sunlight could shine in.
Starting with a drone-like pad on an Ensoniq VFX-SD keyboard, he layered a melody line. To add greater depth, Gallo patched his electric guitar through his distortion box and volume pedal. He didn’t use an amplifier though. Instead, the guitar was fed through the studio monitors which created this cool feedback loop between the pick-up and the speakers. It can be heard particularly at the end.
Gallo recalls, “It was fun playing with the guitar as if it was a theremin to change the timbre of the feedback.”
down – the dance
down was originally conceived by Sempsey. As he recalls, “…I wrote the basis for down. Marc and Dan added their talents. Most of the music we had worked on (previously) had been initiated by Marc, with Dan and I embellishing on his central premises. But in this case, the core of the song was mine, so it influenced Dan and Marc to work on other aspects of the music in ways that diverged from our usual routine.”
Arrangement was McKay’s primary focus on down. In a podcast with Charles Kershenblatt featuring no1uno he states, “That was one of the key things I did…I’m very interested in the arrangements and the building…the building of energy and what parts will stand out.”
There are two versions, down – the story and down – the dance. The latter was largely arranged and mixed by Sempsey and McKay. It’s a trance mix in some respects and has been described as a “dark moody atmosphere” with a “beautifully eerie vibe.”
Gallo wrote the lyrics for both versions. It draws on his experiences with close family members afflicted by addiction and co-dependent relationships that perpetuate the illness. Sempsey’s family has been impacted by this disease as well. In short, down conveys emotionally the magnitude of addiction.
It was a snowy morning. Simply beautiful how the snow fell to the ground. Elated, Gallo walked into the studio. Here, after several years of failed attempts, he had an epiphany on how to arrange this song, soon. A song which expressed the helplessness in saving a close family member from addiction.
Most no1uno works were very orchestrated and, at times, dense. But this time Gallo chose a minimalist approach. He wanted to scale it down using open space as an integral part of the tempo and mood. For such a scaled down production, this song ironically had numerous performers, though mostly vocalists.
Imagine a dark cathedral where the victim is lying on the altar while his exorcism is performed. Meet the participants, from the exorcist to the Gregorian choir, as they all perform the ceremony in concert. The sound design and music defines the scene. It’s a movie led by the soundtrack.
the virgin’s blessing
the virgin’s blessing began as an a cappella, sung by Gallo. A very sweet yet melancholic melody with lyrics conveying a loss of innocence. Soon after, Sempsey added beautiful harmonies for embellishment.
At first, no1uno thought it was done as a vocal performance only. But, shortly thereafter, They had other ideas. And rather dark ones at that. Namely, the virgin’s blessing transformed from a melancholic male choir yearning for intimacy to a dark, maniacal love obsession fueled by heavy metal, McKay-inspired guitars and a chorus of demented Gregorian monks, sung by Gallo and Sempsey.
Clearly, this song was their most ambitious and intricate vocal performance. Sempsey adds, “A song titled the virgin’s blessing ought to, at least in my mind, sound like church music. So, we created a delicate harmony that matched that thought. However, coming from a Catholic background myself, I also thought that church music should sound ominous, like a Gregorian chant.” With a studio that only had 11 tracks, it was quite challenging to execute a full choir along with a complete band. But with careful arrangement and help from the Eventide H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer, they were able to achieve their vision.
In addition, Sempsey and Gallo performed live percussion, utilizing kitchen utensils and pots and pans. Concerned that solely programming drums would mechanize the feel, they opted to include these elements to get the right vibe. And to further accentuate the timbre of the percussion, they manipulated their sound with the H3000. Sempsey illustrates the creative process, “I wanted to lower the pitch of the percussion to get a more “rumbling” metallic sound but Marc played with it and liked the more high-pitched sounds. He then looped them into a staccato, machine-gun like effect that is now an integral part of the rhythm track.”
The time invested in creating this work was enormous and, fortunately, the result is very gratifying. Enjoy the journey!
what did she really do?
The didgeridoo, performed by Kyle Cassidy, a well-respected photo-journalist and random musician, created the musical basis for “what did she really do?.” After recording his performance, Gallo fed the didgeridoo track into the Eventide H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer to create an otherworldly, drone-like atmosphere.
To complement this track, Gallo then looped his take and manually manipulated the speed of the 2-track reel to reel. As it was being fed into the H3000, he recorded various deep, random drones which he subsequently overdubbed with the original track.
According to Gallo, “The low tones of the didgeridoo were increasingly intense as you slow down the speed of the 2-track. Literally, the whole studio building rattled.”
As a stark juxtaposition to this ambience, Gallo sequenced a mechanized rhythm section with keyboards and samples derived from other works to build a dramatic contrast. It ultimately fades back into the otherworldly, drone-like atmosphere with just the looped didgeridoo fed into the H3000. A moment of Zen in a world of chaos.
once it began, we knew the end was near
Collective inspiration is a tremendous driving force in creating new music when the members are focused on the same goal. But the source of this inspiration can be more costly to one member than others.
Gallo reflects on this cost, “The lyrical content carried too much weight for me to bear emotionally. I just couldn’t imagine writing about sad and painful experiences continuously. It reached a tipping point where I had to move on.”
But arguably most band members drift apart naturally over time whether it’s due to boredom, conflict or other pursuits. And this can affect the way they work creatively.
Sempsey observes, “It seems odd in retrospect that as aspects of our work became more intimate and integrated, the band seemed to be disintegrating at the same time.”
Also, the productions were painstakingly long and operationally inefficient. The enormous consumption of time meticulously crafting the music simply was unsustainable. In many ways, their musical vision far exceeded the capabilities of the studio AND their patience.
Finally, the creative and personal conflicts most certainly didn’t help matters. No need at this point to go into great detail, but they simply didn’t get along as time went by. Predictably, this had a deleterious affect on the survivability of no1uno.