Sunday, May 22, 2011

Composer Spotlight on OverCoat

'Composer Spotlight' is a new supplement to My Compo Life focusing on specific composers and their background in creative competitions. It will usually feature a recent release by the composer as well as some history behind that release's creation. The normal My Compo Life entry will continue to be published weekly.

I had the chance to chat with Scott Porter, who goes by the artist name OverCoat, about his recent release Gardens EP. He certainly has made a name for himself in the arrangement community since he started making music in 2001; his remixes of Cave Story and Seiken Densetsu 3 appear on OverClocked ReMix, and he contributed to the Tales of Symphonia tribute album Summoning of Spirits. His new EP consists mostly of original material he composed as early as 2008.

Conceptually the EP is considered an extension of OverCoat’s 2007 album Garden Art, and carries the same botany-themed naming system. Regarding the garden numbering, he said: "I imagine back then I felt like each track was like its own little garden, with its own personality and style." The effect of isolated environments is evident in the first two tracks of the Gardens EP -- the "Fifteenth" and "Sixteenth" gardens, respectively. Track 1 offers a minimal groove and arpeggio while track 2 displays an ambient soundscape driven by percussion. OverCoat mentioned that a "big break" occurred between producing those two songs, and he picked up where he left off in March 2011. The rest of the EP was composed "on and off" within a 2-month span.

A number of tracks in the release originated as entries made by OverCoat for compos. He spoke about his background in the competitions community. "I've been entering one hour compos since at least 2003, even hosting a lot of my own for #soundtempest and #mod_shrine on IRC. I must have at least several hundred compotunes by now." He stated that he gained interest in compos through IRC, "since really that's where the whole idea came about way back in the 90s. I was in #vgmix and virt used to host these compos called 'kwakfests' which were all general MIDI. My first one was in 2003 sometime. After 2004 I started getting into trackers and doing compos in #mod_shrine using MODPlug, and samplepacks."

OverCoat revealed that the Gardens EP was spurred by a particular compo theme. "My first JHCompo that I did I believe the theme was 'The Secret Garden' so I was like, hey … let's make a sixteenth [garden] … and then week after week the themes just kept matching up with that album's style in my head, so I kept going until I had about 6 tracks." Once the musical content for the EP was put together, OverCoat commissioned the cover art illustrated by Min 'Keiiii' Kwon.

Aside from the original compositions, the EP includes a cover version of the Yellow Magic Orchestra song "Epilogue" under the name "The Twentieth Garden". OverCoat expressed that "YMO is probably my favourite band ever, and I figured it was about time I paid homage to them. I was trying to learn to play some of their songs and 'Epilogue' was fun to play. So I covered that. I also felt like I needed to release a song utilizing Vocaloid, and while it's not the most creative use of the tech, I killed two birds with one stone there." The synthesized vocal leads a conservative rendition that de-emphasizes the industrialized rhythm of the original "Epilogue". The wordless singing eventually overlaps and builds to a crescendo, signaling the end of the album.

Gardens EP is OverCoat’s first commercial release, and he hopes that people from the community will support his creative endeavors. "I know, it's hard to pay for something when you've been getting it free for so long, but I gotta start somewhere."

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