Track by Track is a segment where we interview artists to dig a little deeper and take us inside the tracks of their latest releases. We just caught up with No Glitter, the solo recording project of multi-instrumentalist Billy Martin, to unravel the emotions and experimental art rock bliss of his latest self-titled album.
When Rochester multi-instrumentalist Billy Martin isn't busy recording music with his power trio The Ginger Faye Bakers, he's recording under the moniker No Glitter. Following 2020's adventurous EP House Music, Martin returns with a new self-titled album that ventures between far out synths and warped space-age psych rock. Recorded at "Crayon Box Sound," aka Martin's home studio, the new release is a continuation of the experiments he endeavored on the previous EP, serving as another trip down the rabbit hole of exploration.
"Some songs came together quickly, others moved at a glacial pace, reflective of how 2020 felt," Martin said via email. "I used drum machines for basic beats when writing, adding and subtracting synths, and aiming for a variety of tones and sounds, especially the drums. After nearly finishing 15 songs, I made playlists to see what sequences worked. I settled on 7 songs or around 25 minutes of music that flows, highlights my directions and doesn’t stay for too long. I guess it's rock music I hear in my head, influenced by a large record collection."
The sprawling opener "What Day Is It" unlocks another dimension to get lost in with its layered guitars, hypnotic synths and steady rhythms. The playful "Bronto Boogie" is drenched in buzzing new wave synths and artsy rhythmic pulses. The menacing "Improvement Movement" is an electronic shuffle with its swirling analog synths and menacing stomp that veers into the netherworlds. The single "Record Store" is a blistering rhythmic assault with its crushing and hellacious stoner rock swagger. The heady closer "Heldor" is a fully cooked synth epic that features a mesmerizing motorik hum and a barrage of mind-warping keyboard riffs—it's Martin's most fearless leap into the unknown yet.
To dig a little deeper, Martin has peeled back the curtain, allowing us into his headspace and discussing each track from the new album thoroughly.
"What Day Is It"
Billy Martin: "This is the first song I wrote and recorded during the early days of lockdown. Having the feeling that local music stores would close and the impact it would have, I went out and bought some new gear the weekend before the world stopped. I really wanted to hear how this stuff sounded recorded and had a simple riff that felt very classic rock to me, so I went for it. The words are on the nose but described how I felt: cautious, paranoid, annoyed, missing my people. Ian Egling added keys remotely from his own studio after the song was finished. I listened to his performance like nine months later and loved it so much."
"The joy in watching my young daughters grow. Musically it was built around the drum pattern, with a simple rock 'n' roll riff to match. The Moog and vocal melody came later. Ian Fait's mixing work on this presents the song as intended: thick, bouncy and tight. His mix gave a new dimension to the song."
"This song was originally written for Sudsy, a project Mike Turzanski and I formed in February 2020 with Sam Hirsh, Alex Northrup and Ian Fait. We played one show with the song in the set before the lockdown. After almost a full year of not hearing it, I pulled up the demo, changed a few lyrics and synth lines and re-recorded it pretty much the exact way we performed it. I hope we play again one day."
"Color Every Room"
"Here is a love song where Ian Egling's keys performance make everything. Musically I was using late-era Beatles as a road map. Ian gave it a Billy Preston flavor, especially the outro. It's fantastic. Listen to Vacation Daze or Sports or any of the other projects he's been a part of...I tried a lot of new ideas during recording: muffled drums, finger picked Stratocaster, a rudimentary Paul McCartney bassline, big vocals in the choruses, etc."
"This song was written for and about my friend Cory Card, who sadly passed away in March 2020 after a battle with cancer. We originally met in the early 2000s when I worked at a record store in Syracuse. We had not seen each other for many years until we reconnected in 2016. We bonded instantly, two dudes of the same age growing up in similar small towns equidistant from Syracuse, raised on similar music. We often saw each other at Needle Drop, Record Archive, Bop Shop, etc. and would buy records based on each other's recommendations. We spent a good amount of time together during the last year of his life. I miss him a lot and am thankful we were part of each other's lives. Musically it's a fast rocker inspired by Eddy Current Suppression Ring's 'Medieval Wall' and Queens of the Stone Age's 'Monsters in the Parasol.'"
"I am happy with the space between the notes and how the music breathes on this song. My dad and I had conversations about not-so-good old men who passed away. It's fucking weird writing this when my dad unexpectedly passed not too long after. He heard the final mix of this song (and record) before he died and was really liked it. I loved when he dug what I was doing. The style of this one was right in his wheelhouse: bluesy stoner rock and Pink Floyd."
"This song is the outlier on the album, and either had to go first or last. It was written around a simple 16-note keyboard sequence to build an entire song from. I restored a 1981 Yamaha drum set at that time and wanted to record them as they had a dumpy tom sound I liked. There is a bit of influence from a band called Heldon in there, hence the title, who I found out about from the podcast The Album Years, which was one of my favorite discoveries in 2020. It was funny when King Gizzard put out Butterly 3000 a couple months back following a similar concept with sequences, they do it so much better!"
No Glitter is out now. Purchase the new album digitally here.