“Aquarium” EP: Track by Track

Aquarium EP by Michael Barrett Dixon

This EP’s concept was originally based on an abandoned album project I started in 1995. I had recorded 4 tracks using my trusty Korg 01/W workstation as the primary instrument. But life got busy and the project was shelved. I discovered the Korg floppy disk with the data for the project early this year, and liked the overall idea, but needed to rethink the tracks. I salvaged the title track, Aquarium, from the original project and re-recorded it with today’s technology. This updated track does contain a few sounds I recorded on the Korg (yep, I still own it). It’s a tad ironic that I wrote/recorded these uplifting tracks during one of the most challenging and depressing times in my life. Earlier this year, I learned my day job had been eliminated and for the first time since college (a 25 year stretch), I would be facing unemployment.¬†Yet, each track, while starting with uncertainty, builds into a yearning for acceptance with optimism flowing. The making of this EP has been, no doubt, therapeutic, giving me something to enjoy while going through the difficult and oft rejection-riddled process of a job search.

The EP is a hybrid of new age, electronic, and orchestral soundtrack elements which creates a soundscape inspired by my memories of a freshwater aquarium and the life therein. Each track builds from a quiet place, and each has a climatic “chill bump moment”. This album released worldwide on Friday, July 12, 2019 on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, AmazonMP3, Google Play, Tidal, and many others. Scroll to the bottom of this page to stream the album via Spotify. All music written, performed and produced by Michael Barrett Dixon.

  1. Newcomer
    Picture this: a large freshwater aquarium in a house, teaming with varieties of fish species. A new fish is in a plastic bag, floating on the surface, as its water temperature acclimates to the aquarium. Finally, the new fish is released into the aquarium. All fish scatter and hide. The fish, lonely, anxiously swims around learning the surroundings. Other fish finally reveal themselves, and by the end, the new fish becomes part of the community.
  2. Aquarium
    Aquarium, the title track of the EP, was originally recorded back in 1995 but the project was abandoned. Fast-forward to 2019, I rediscovered this and other recordings from the project and chose to re-record this one and create four new tracks to go with it. This track was the inspiration for the others.
  3. Schools of Neons
    There are several things that influenced this track. Of course, the Neon Tetra freshwater fish is a schooling fish and was a favorite of mine. It’s one of the more colorful freshwater fish available, with neon read and blue striping. The other influence was the music of Vangelis’ Blade Runner soundtrack, of which a few musical elements find their way into this track early on before it builds to the climax. Blade Runner also has a lot of neon signage throughout the movie.
  4. Bottom Feeder
    The Bristlenose Pleco freshwater catfish, pictured at the bottom of the album cover, was a favorite of mine. While these fish can be seen sucking the algae off the aquarium glass walls, they prefer to be bottom feeders, hiding away in darker areas of the tank. They were slow but graceful and even grand, thanks to their large intricately patterned fins. This piece starts off in the dark, but grows to a huge climax to musically illustrate the grand nature of this creature of the bottom.
  5. Community
    A community aquarium is one where all species are carefully chosen to ensure they all get along. This is what I always owned. This concluding track mixes musical elements from the 4 previous tracks and contains its own unique elements as it grows slowly into the biggest climax of all five tracks, celebrating the diversity of the community.