Drawing in Pen

by Nature's Neighbor

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    Drawing in Pen CD comes with a 4 panel wallet with original artwork by Cheer Zhao.

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released March 8, 2017


written, performed & recorded by Nature's Neighbor

mixed by Seth Engel & Mike Walker

** except for Bursting which was mixed by Terrill Mast **


Mike Walker - zhong ruan, baby sitar, mandolin, melodica, synths, sampler, percussion, piano, guitars, bass, lyrics & vocals

Terrill Mast - taal tarang tabla, melodica, piano, percussion, synths, sampler, bells, lyrics & vocals

Cheer Zhao - lyrics & vocals

Seth Engel - percussion & sampler


album art by Cheer Zhao

mastered by Seth Engel


After recording Pidji with Seth at the Owlrey and Minbal studios I really wanted to make a laptop album again. I wanted to go away from the live band sound that was so prominent on Pidji and go for something a little more abstract for the next one.

Upon returning from China, Cheer and I moved up to Lakeview and for the first time in 5 years I was living in the north side of Chicago. I set up a small recording station in our studio apartment with one USB condenser mic, acoustic guitar, a MIDI keyboard and a laptop. It was overly simple but I enjoyed the freedom of being able to record on my own again uninhibited by studio schedules.

After Brandon returned from a trip to Hong Kong he moved into an apartment in Edgewater and I would often visit him there as he worked on mixing his album “Ennui Heart.” He taught me a new technique that proved to be they key to unlocking the direction this album would eventually take.

Brandon showed me how to assign any sampled sound to a keyboard plug in that would allow me to change the pitch and speed depending on what key I touched on the MIDI controller. A few days later I went out to Irving Park with my Zoom and recorded a bunch of raw samples of logs, leaves, stones, insects and metal objects. After recording these sounds I returned home and made a rhythm track out of the samples using the technique Brandon had shown me. I wrote all of track nine track in 3 hours that day and decided that all the songs on the album should be written using this same approach. I would gather strange and raw samples from my immediate environment and then use them to create the core of each new track. The end result is an album full of strange and warped sounds but also mundane ever-day sounds.

After a few more songs had started to develop I found myself getting stuck. This was usually the point where I would go over to Terrill's apartment and he would help to further form the tracks. But because he was no longer living in Chicago I did not know what to do until I realized that Terrill and I could still write songs together long distance via email. I sent him a few tracks and luckily he loved them and started adding his own layering to them which greatly enriched the sound of this album. I was glad that we were still able to write together even though we couldn’t pass at the laptop back and forth like before. After he left Chicago it became painfully clear to me just how important of a collaborator he is to me personally. I found myself obsessively listening to his 2012 album "Flash Fiction" while making this album. Song number eight is dedicated to him.

Cheer was interested in collaborating with me on this album as well, finding the home recording approach much more comfortable for her. She was reading a book about ancient Chinese mythology and contributed some wonderful lyrics in Mandarin that described some of these mythological characters and their adventures. Her vocal performances on this album are particularly strong.

The end result is an album with a far smaller cast of collaborators that is shorter in length but equally as vibrant in its instrumentation and overall effect as Lifa and Pidji. More importantly, I proved to myself that I could make a really good album on my own with just a laptop and a few instruments.


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Nature's Neighbor Chicago, Illinois

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Track Name: ワイヤード
i'd like to draw a picture
please Don't mess up the mixture
i'm going full chameleon
whats that up on the ceiling?

i'd like to know

now who the fuck was that dude?
man, life is such a crapshoot
i'm wearing full regalia
what did they try to sell ya?

i'd like to know

what are you looking for?
where is your destiny?
i want to see the world, take me with you
i can't get out
if there's a way
i'd like to know

i'm stuck inside the wired
looking for Lain, i'm tired
i saw her last Tuesday
she flew off like a blue jay
Track Name: Proxy 1
day 72
i can't tell you how many times we've been through
the same conversation
please lay off the juice
breaks your concentration 6 more times than 2
i can't take it

3 miles underground
lies a military base we haven't found
constantly we're searching
ray cats glowing green
what i wouldn't give to see a flowing stream
i can make it

understand you're mine
you're the only human being left to find
there aint no one else around this place for miles
you can run but it may take you quite a while
to escape me

day 1005
i'm the only of my unit to survive
had to bury all my brothers in the san
far from home out in a foreign godless land
please forgive me

i'm in endless night
been so long it seems i've lost all track of time
only way to see my path is by the moon
have a feeling that my journeys ending soon
end transmission
Track Name: 路




Track Name: Djinn
another one
i'm back again with another one
up in the sky there's another son
seems like you're blind so i brought it up
get out of town when the thunder comes
the rain and flood come to smother ya
leave you with wounds to recover from
out in the mud with the blood and guts

there's no hesitation when the guillotine comes down
pray for preservation
but we choose to revel in the flashing lights and sounds
savor the sensation

another one
something is coming and i wonder what
ca't you hear the screams come from under us
can't shake the feeling that somethings up
ghost on the ceiling like what the fuck
gnashing its teeth on some bubblegum
burning the plebs at the country club
now is the time you should up and run
get up and run

there's no hesitation when the guillotine comes down
pray for preservation
but we choose to revel in the flashing lights and sounds
savor the sensation
Track Name: Bursting
Track Name: 山海经
赏美景 乐无穷

神北行 无雨下
神北行 无雨下




Track Name: Mr. Tophat
bulldozer, God's soldiers
be kamikaze pilots
be drifting dead sprits
with eyes of violet

there's no air
just dead staring empty spaces
i really don't care to go see those places

to tell the truth
i never saw them
no one knows them
when they're gone

when I was so young
i was haunted by a creature
but as i grew older it lost its features

to tell the truth
i never saw him
no one knows him
he is gone
Track Name: Song for Terrill Mast
Opens up his notebook
upon a mountain top in mid spring
105 melodies in his head
but he's thinking now of one thing

Panama sky on his mind
but he knows now that he must go
somewhere in time where the shorelines high
and cosmic melodies flow


held up in a basement
or in a parking lot in Pilsen
another day is but another song sometimes
and he's written About A Million

in a world so fast
will they just look past?
will they all remember us?

but for Terrill Mast
i know its a fact
they will hear the cry of the Mediamonster

i will go
Track Name: Not What You Might See
see the world just like a movie
then turn off the tv
and you'll find how time
makes you re-align

step back
watch the others moving
and they seem dead
but they never tell me why
why won't they tell me?

its true that i
once knew you well
but now you're only
what they breath
and me..
well i'm not what you might see

wonder why we would want this soul destroyed
is the world out toy now?
can we understand that its in our hands?

something bigger than the voice inside me calls
takes me by the hand a shows me why
why they won't tell me

they want it all
but i'm the only one thats here right now
so i breath
and be
but i'm not where you might see