Massachusetts-based artist (by way of Ohio, by way of New York) Feral, real name Caleb Halter, has released his debut album The End. After releasing a few EPs over the past several years, this album gives the most complete picture of his competing views on dance music that can both be expansive, ready to take over a large dancefloor, and claustrophobic, like being stuck in a phone booth with machines twinkling around you. The End captures that with a 13-track LP, which he wanted to flow seamlessly, not just from one track to the next, but from ideas and sounds that bleed into one and another.
It is an album that is broken up by different tracks, but sometimes when you look up and tune back in for what appears to a new song, it may be a quarter of the way into the next track before you realize it has changed. With its fluidity, it goes through movements, starting with a more energetic opening sequence, before settling into a softer valley in the middle. The LP then ends with glitchier, booming tracks as it comes to its eventual conclusion.
We wanted to learn more about this album and how it all came together, so we had Halter join us for a Director’s Cut feature. He breaks down the ideas, inspirations and concepts behind The End. Pick up your copy of The End here or on Bandcamp via UNO and read his words as you listen.
1. The Ecstacy
For this record I wanted to make something that flowed seamlessly as if it were a mix, where each track is from as wide of a sonic spectrum as I could reach. To help these all gel I wanted to put them all through the same aesthetic filter, so to speak. I thought of it like looking at an array of video feeds from a singular God’s eye view. Some scenes are crystal clear, others are just brief flutters of an image.
By mixing different styles into one genre-hopping super-set made me think of the music they used to play at these firework shows during my childhood, so the title of the first track is a wink to that:
2. Checker Plate
This piece came together really quickly, and is simply an exercise in pulling a single riff in as many directions as I can, and then letting it snap back together just before it breaks. I really love how the lead feels almost like a corporate jingle or tutorial video. Maybe it’s a video about how to make unpopular music.
3. Cherry Bomb
One of the goals I set for myself was to try to let every song go anywhere it wants to go without getting in the way too much. I think that notion comes through in the sequencing of this one, which feels sort of like gasses becoming liquids, becoming solids and then dissolving back down.
For a long time I only wanted to make songs to be featured in cool DJ mixes, and now here I am with a dual-tempoed four-on-the-floor number with an unquantized intro, so it’s safe to say I’ve given up on that. The synth part at 01:45 kind of sounds like scatting, right?
4. Dust Bowl
After my last EP I felt like I needed to keep a little momentum going, so I originally planned to put out a bunch of singles really quickly. The more I worked on them, the more time dragged on and eventually I realized that making something quickly wasn’t really yielding anything that good, so this song is the sound of my creative process letting out a deep sigh.
Albums are nice because you have some extra time and don’t have to do so much work making every song a Swiss Army knife of ideas, which is something I’m guilty of. Sometimes it can just be a spork.
Whereas “Checker Plate” came together in about a day, this one took three and a half years. To return to the God’s eye metaphor, this scene is a pitch-black world illuminated by acidic neon lights. I wish I could remember how I made that flute sound at 1:16.
6. In Flames
For this part of the record we float toward the Wild West. I listened to The Joshua Tree a lot growing up so I could see this being a subconscious ode to The Edge.
7. God’s Country
During this phase of writing I was just doing long riffs every day as an exercise. This one feels a lot like a spaghetti western, there’s even a The Good, The Bad and The Ugly moment in the intro. To further lean into this idea I asked my friend Lance Martin, who lives in Nashville, to add some layers of lap and pedal steel, which turned out really beautifully. Thanks Lance.
This one started as a little outro to another thing but ended up stealing the show. It sounds like a great song to do donuts to.
Did I mention it’s a record about flickering? I made this one during the mastering session with Gabe. Lots of very iconic, totally uncleared samples in here.
10. This Bird In Flight
I also have a sensitive side.
11. No Other
I’m in love with these pads, so warm and nostalgic. “This Bird In Flight” was a valley and now we begin our ascent to the final peak. With every hit of the kick drum I wanted to make it feel like fireworks going off, a huge flash that changes color and then shoots trails of sparks in every direction.
This is my best attempt at traditional song structuring. Do you like 8 bars of an intro? Do you like a chorus and bridge? I’m trying people. My brother said this sounds like a soundtrack to Spring Break.
13. Rope Drop
For a long time all I listened to was Spinnin’ Records because I wanted to learn how to make things sound really expensive, which is sort of how those intro stabs came about. I can’t play the piano so if it sounds like I’m lingering a little too long it’s because I was really happy to have found some chords that worked. As an album I wanted it to flow not just song to song, but end over end so we’re closing with something that feels like the sun rising, a new beginning, park’s open for the day.
Thank you for listening.