Travis Orbin – Projects

Travis Orbin’s first solo EP is out now! Travis was assisted by guitarist Adam Edgemont of Dyed in Grey in realizing this mind-bending take on modern instrumental progressive metal. Pick up a copy at Bandcamp or give it a stream:

Travis has posted a big tracking video for all but the first song, so check that out:

ItsTeeth Lyrics

Temporary Thought Exchange

A head self-severed from a body
Floats up to the clouds like a helium balloon

Gazing down upon the earth dissolves boundaries between once separate designs
Identity release

Never touching the ground wire

Find another mind up here
The heads join at the base
Two spheres form infinity
Distinct beliefs unite

Orgasmic mental mingling
Then floating comfortably
A temporary thought exchange
Eternal moments leave

It burns as the bond between the heads is broken by the wind
They are blown in opposite directions, separated

Drifting back down as they deflate
Having touched the ground wire, the head rejoins the body.

Trey Gunn Score Book: Crowdfunding

For the past few months, I’ve been working with Trey Gunn (King Crimson) on a score book of his music. You may have seen the transcription I did of KC’s ‘The ConstruKction of Light’ – Trey found that transcription, and was so impressed that he hired me to do a full book. We’ve launched a crowd funding campaign to print physical copies of it, since printing is expensive. If you can help us out in any way, either by contributing or sharing this, we will be extremely grateful! The more we raise, the more we can put in the book. This should be interesting to any musician who wants to learn some cool rhythmic ideas, so even if you’re not a tapping player, this will still have something to offer.

Check it out:


I will be appearing as a vocalist on the new Fountainhead EP, ‘Reverse Engineering’. Fountainhead is the alter-ego of guitar player/composer/producer Tom Geldschläger. Here’s his official announcement:

I´m very happy to anounce that one of my favorite “new” artists, Gabriel Riccio of The Gabriel Construct will appear as guest-vocalist on the upcoming Fountainhead-EP, called “Reverse Engineering”. Gabriel is an amazingly talented multi-instrumentalist, composer and singer and being the huge TGC-Fan that I am, I´m proud to have his unique skills and personality on the new record.

Currently operating from his studio in Berlin, Germany, Tom has appeared on countless records as a guitar player, arranger, producer, mixing-engineer and sometimes keyboard player. He’s recorded and toured with artists like Ray Riendeau, Marco Minnemann, Jimmy Pitts, Xell, Hannes Grossmann, The Living, etc. and has been featured in various magazines around the globe, most recently “gitar plus” and “gitarre & bass”.

‘Reverse Engineering’ will also feature bassist Ray Riendeau (Halford, James Labrie), keyboardist Matthias Preisinger (Von Eden), drummer and percussionist Yatziv Caspi (Orphaned Land, Django Lassi), among others.

While you’re waiting for the EP to come out, you can listen to a rough instrumental mix of one of the songs I’ll be singing on:

Or check out a snippet of my vocals from a different song:

Or check out a video from Fountainhead’s first EP, ‘Fear is the Enemy':

A solo saxophone piece

Here’s a new video of a piece I wrote for solo saxophone in 2009.

‘Winding through Angles’ for solo alto saxophone was composed in the spring semester 2009 under the tutelage of Gerald Levinson. It is based on the ‘five note’ exercises – at any given point, the piece is centered around a group of five chromatic pitch classes contained in a major third. It modulates between different groups of five notes until all twelve pitch classes are used in the work. The first movement is a slow build, while the second movement is an exercise in frustration, simultaneously angry and mocking itself. I chose the saxophone because it is an instrument capable of great expression, largely underused in the classical world.

The piece was written for and premiered by Soren Larsen, who later performed all of the saxophone parts on Interior City. It was then performed by his teacher, who created this video. You can hear Soren’s debut performance of the piece here for comparison:

Sheet music for this piece can be purchased here or viewed below:

Art Rock Tendencies

I have been invited to contribute to the blog Art Rock Tendencies, run by Darin Tambascio of progressive sludge metal band National Sunday Law. I am currently writing a series of articles entitled ‘Rock Meets Classical’, which you can read below:

Part 1: Who Cares?
Part 2: Bang on a Can
Part 3: Prog-Rock Classical Covers.
Part 4: Classical Concepts in King Crimson’s ‘Larks Tongues in Aspic’
Appendix: Symmetrical Scales Explained
Part 5: Interior City
Part 6: Analyzing Discipline
Part 7: Pervasive Discipline
Appendix: Motivic Connections in James Bond Title Themes
Part 8: THRAK

I have also posted a review of Meshuggah’s ‘Koloss’.

A Temporary Tooth Exchange

album_coverI contributed guest vocals to ‘Temporary Thought Exchange’, the bonus vocal version of the song ‘AKT’ from ‘Divided’, the new EP by ItsTeeth & Travis Orbin. ItsTeeth is the post rock project of Jacob Belcher, a guitarist who played with Travis in a live incarnation of Of Legends. Jacob gave Travis free reign to come up with whatever he wanted for this EP – he simply sent him the guitar parts and let him run with it. Jacob took the same approach with me, advising only that the lyrics should be ‘weird and abstract’.

Jacob was originally planning to feature a female guest vocalist on this particular track, but she was unavailable, so Travis recommended me for the job. Jacob quite liked what Travis showed him of The Gabriel Construct, so he ended up asking me to do it.

I sat on a dock listening to the instrumental version of the song, staring up at the sky, and I suddenly got this image of a head popping off of a body, floating into the sky like a helium balloon, and looking down at the earth. In the clouds, the head finds another disembodied head, and they attach at the neck, forming a silhouette of an infinity symbol. They have mind-meld sex, are blown apart by the wind, and fall back to earth. This became the lyrical subject matter for the song. I was careful to avoid personal pronouns in the lyrics, since The Gabriel Construct’s lyrics are overloaded with them and I wanted to try something different.

I recorded the vocals out of my then-new home studio – the very first song to receive such a treatment! Jacob said he wanted a vocoder on the track, but I didn’t have one, so I ended up faking one by painstakingly layering harmonies, autotuning them, and locking them into perfect rhythmic unison with elastic audio. I think it came out sounding just exactly like a vocoder, though, so it was worth the extra effort!

At the tail end of the session, Jacob also had me create mellotron pieces to cap the album – the intro on ‘TDB’ and the outro on ‘HLB’.

Check out Travis’s drum tracking video for ‘Temporary Thought Exchange (AKT)’ and ‘HLB':

AKT Full drum set transcription
Tempo = 145 BPM

HLB Full drum set transcription
Tempo = 132 BPM

And his video for ‘TDB’ and ‘CKW’, along with some discussion of the project:

TDB Full drum set transcription
Tempo = 185 BPM

CKW Full drum set transcription
Tempo = 135 BPM (after improv)

Listen to an a capella version of ‘Temporary Thought Exchange':

Buy ‘Divided’ on Bandcamp
ItsTeeth’s Back Catalog on Bandcamp

10. Curing Somatization

View Travis Orbin’s drum tracking video for ‘Curing Somatization':

Read the lyrics to ‘Curing Somatization’.

Gabriel’s Notes: Here we are – the final song from Interior City, and the most intense and relentless song I’ve ever written. I think it is best to let this song speak for itself, so I won’t say too much about it. This was a tough one that put strain on almost everyone involved, thanks to the difficulty of writing a satisfying closer, time constraints, the difficulty of playing the song, technical errors, and the sheer number of layers (200+, 60 of which were vocal tracks). Despite the huge amount of material that ended up in the song, quite a bit was cut along the way. Every song on the album except one is reprised here, though some are much more obvious than others.  I also lifted a rhythm from Messiaen.

Since the mix is very dense, I’d like to give you a brief look inside the Pro Tools session for this song and share some of the vocals a cappella so you can get a better idea of what’s happening on the record:

Travis’s Notes: The final and (appropriately) most intense video in the ‘Interior City’ series is “Curing Somatization”. This tune is probably within the top ten hardest I’ve ever tracked, mostly due to time constraints. Gabe didn’t finish the demo until about two weeks before we hit the studio, and between writing parts and rehearsing the rest of the album it was a pretty close shave!

The cymbal setup is the same as “Retreat Underground”, although with my ‘stack’ instead of a splash and a 20″ MDM ride on the right side.

I included a few seconds of “Languishing in Lower Chakras” to try to convey the absolutely devastating segue between both tunes. However, the full effect is best achieved by listening to the entire song, of course.

I also contributed some guest vocals (screaming/yelling), which was a blast. The opening scream is Gabe and myself together in the live room, holding one mic and screaming into it simultaneously. There’s some scattered stuff from 4:30 – 5:17 too.

I’m not gonna bother with notes or highlighting sections – just watch this monstrosity of a piece and enjoy. ‘Interior City’ is one of my favorite sessions ever and I urge you all to purchase the album if you enjoy these session vids. Thank you, Gabe!

Full drum set transcription
Tempo = 90 BPM
Tempo change (1:26) = 100 BPM
Tempo change (5:17 – 5:19) = ‘linear decrease’ to 90 BPM until the drums finish

Being an Arcane Academic

album_coverI have a guest spot on Being’s fantastic upcoming debut album, ‘Anthropocene’, 2 minutes and 20 seconds into the album’s seventh song, ‘Arcane Academic’. It’s a completely unique record that shares a strong affinity with my work – both Anthropocene and Interior City are 72 minute long concept albums about self realization, empowerment, and overcoming societal programming in order to evolve. Both records have multiple recurring themes (including finales in which all of the previous songs return, ending with the first song), a cyclical structure, and a completely individual sound, and both were mixed and mastered by Taylor Larson. I highly recommend that you check it out!

Being’s singer, Cas Haruna, was working as the studio manager at Taylor’s studio, Oceanic Recording, while we were mixing and mastering Interior City. Cas gave guest spots to all of his favorite musicians that recorded in the studio, until there were so many that he was able to claim that Anthropocene had ‘more guest spots than a Nicky Minaj album’. And it’s true – in just the song I guest on, Travis Orbin has a brief guest spot immediately following mine, and Justin Gosnell (Vestascension) contributes a guest solo later in the song!

I believe that my guest spot was the last one recorded for the album. At the tail end of the IC mastering sessions, I came down with the flu. I worked through it, but I ended up getting Taylor sick. As I came in on the first day that Taylor stayed in bed to continue working on my own, I ran into Cas, who greeted me with ‘Come do a guest spot on my album right now!’. I told him that I was too sick and could barely talk (I had completely lost my voice the previous night, but it had somewhat returned that day). He told me to stop making excuses, and that the guest spot needed to sound totally insane so my hoarse voice was perfect. He showed me the 30 seconds of music he wanted me to sing over, and I was instantly taken by it. After explaining what was happening in the story and what the lyrics should be about, he left me alone for a few minutes to come up with a part on the spot. With Cas engineering the session, we tracked it line by line, coming up with lyrics and layers on the spot (every voice you hear in that 30 seconds is me). I ended up doing quite a lot of screaming since it was difficult to sing, but I think the part came out quite well considering how sick I was! I threw in a bit of everything – normal singing, sing-screaming, black metal shrieks, death metal growls, falsetto, harmonies, and doublings. Taylor liked it so much that he made it quite loud in the mix and made Cas rewind it every time they listened to it. Taylor went as far as to say that “It’s the best part you’ve ever come up with – you should sing like that all the time!”

You can listen to three more songs or purchase the album at Bandcamp.
Official Website