Appearing music;
post-rock, jazz, electronic, minimalism, ambient...
appearing together and in different combinations.

Pterous Lands

Appearing Records begins it's journey with a series of single pieces and a full length album by composer Dren McDonald. Each piece is an instrumental with layers and layers of guitars (acoustic, electric, baritone, 12 string, e-bowed, fretless bass etc), simulating a guitar orchestra.McDonald created this suite of pieces as a tribute to several people he was close to who had all passed away within the same narrow window of time. With the loss of these people all happening over a short span of time, the creation of something new in the name of their memory was cathartic and a way for McDonald to spend time with his memories of them as he composed and recorded each piece.McDonald used over 35 different instruments for this recording which he played himself. Using a variety of unorthodox microphone techniques, several different types of amplifiers and different combinations of microphones, this recording represents an attempt to create a new 'orchestral guitar' sound.PTEROUS is out now from Appearing Records, and represents a truly unique listening experience.*Pterous is available now at the following platforms:
Bandcamp | AppleMusic | Spotify | Amazon Music | Tidal

A Mescaform Hill Music Story

A Mescaform Hill Music Story is a new approach to a soundtrack recording, just released by Appearing Records.Rather than release a series of short cues for this VR animation, where the tracks might be jumbled out of sequence and played out of context with playlists in random. So this is a 17 minute long, single piece of audio with all of the cues and sounds from the VR animation. The score features a live string quintet, African vocalists, fretless banjo, and modular synthesis.A Mescaform Hill Music Story is available now at the following platforms:
AppleMusic | Spotify | Amazon Music | Tidal

a suite of singles

PT - Dren McDonald (5th single)

J - Dren McDonald (1st single)

D. Part 1 - Dren McDonald (2nd single)

H - Dren McDonald (3rd single)

D, Pt. 2 - Dren McDonald (4th single)

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There are 6 pieces that make up the Pterous album, but there are literally hundreds and hundreds of layers of guitars that weave together to create the textures within the tapestry of each piece. Composer and producer Dren McDonald’s Pterous instrumental album released on Friday April 21, 2023 on Appearing Records on all digital platforms in stereo and Dolby Atmos/Spatial formats.
“This recording began with some sketches of guitar based instrumentals that arose from asking the question ‘What if I tried to make something like Electric Counterpoint (Steve Reich)?’ And I noodled around with some of these guitar pattern ideas for a while and created the compositions in rough shapes with very rough sounds. I was doing this in between mixing and producing the tracks from the polyheDren record (Psychic).” (which included collaborations between Dren and folks like Nels Cline (Wilco), The Residents, Josh Freese (NIN, Sting) and more).“There was one song on that album that I was working on (Lonely Lullaby with Iva Bittová) which had a nylon string guitar part, but it didn’t feel thick enough. So I recorded the same part again (like doubling a vocal part). That didn’t seem thick enough. So I recorded that guitar part about 20 times. And then another 20 times. And then added some harmony to it. Then it finally started to sound like the sound that I had been hearing inside of my head.”“I was reminded of the score from The Grand Budapest Hotel where (film composer) Desplat uses a mandolin orchestra for some of the cues…it’s both quirky and completely glorious. So I decided to take that idea even further with my original guitar noodling sketches, and create my own guitar orchestra for these pieces.”The recording required a process that McDonald refers to as “completely inefficient” as he used over 35 different instruments to create the sound on this record, and recorded them from at least 3 different distances for every recorded take. At least 5 different steel string acoustic guitars were used (recording a part, changing to a different steel string, recording it again…rinse, repeat…). At least seven different electric guitars were employed in these pieces as well. Nylon string guitars, 12 string guitars, baritone guitars, ukuleles, tenor ukuleles, and fretless bass were all used to help create this sound. The recording was all done from his home studio (and sometimes in his dining room), with one musician playing all of the instruments; McDonald. Even the fretless bass got several layers upon fretless bass layers at times.The process also required a lot of audio engineering and mixing experimentation to create a cohesive sound from so many different instruments. This is all in an effort to recreate the sound of dozens and dozens of guitar players all playing these pieces in one big room. In addition to composing, engineering and producing the record, McDonald also mixed the record in both stereo and in Dolby Atmos (Dolby Atmos/Spatial mixes available to stream on AppleMusic and Tidal).Each song is a memory for someone who McDonald had recently lost, as several folks close to him had passed away within a short window of time. “These losses weren’t spread out at all,” says McDonald. “You might expect that there will be time to grieve and process the loss of someone significant in your life, but sometimes you don’t get that time when you want it. Writing these pieces, recording them, and playing the parts over and over in order to get a good performance for the recording put me in a very focused flow state. To remain in that state, while also thinking about each person during that time of the recording…there was something about that process that seemed to help me reconcile my loss.”The artwork for the album (and all of the pre-release singles) was created by artist, Christine MacTernan, who McDonald had worked with before on games such as Ravenwood Fair and Charmcraft Hollow. Both of those projects were games designed by John Romero (Doom, Quake). The visual concept of an unidentified shape that morphs, fades and matures came forward through their discussions about the art and the themes within the album. The artwork represents an energy that evolves.
The resulting instrumental album (the first release under his name that isn’t a video game soundtrack) is a meditative, emotional, and minimalist-inspired experiment. Track listing as follows:
1. J.
2. D Pt 1
3. H
4. D Pt 2
5. PT
6. J2
Dren spent the 90s running a label (Vaccination Records Co.) while playing in a few SF Bay Area bands on that label, and eventually wound up writing music for film, theme parks and many video games including Counter-strike Global Offensive (Valve), Ghost Recon Commander (Ubisoft) and Cooking Dash (GLU Mobile/EA), Gunman Taco Truck (Romero Games) and the award winning indie game, Gathering Sky (Pontoco). In addition to his game soundtracks, he also released The String Arcade (2014), a collection of video game music arranged for string quartet. His music can also be heard in the ubiquitous SuperZoom Instagram feature, the VR animated story Mescaform Hill: The Missing Five (Oculus) and many other VR and AR interactive experiences.
Images, album covers, photos link hereListen to Pterous stream here