new release: heavyweight trouble


I am very pleased to announce that my new record “heavyweight trouble” is out now on Bandcamp. You can buy it today, or wait until Bandcamp Friday tomorrow, when Bandcamp skips taking their cut and 100% of the proceeds will go to the causes discussed below. It’ll hit the streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and others over the next few weeks.

Today I’d like to share the liner notes I wrote for this release.

The word “trouble” can have a negative connotation –  being in trouble, causing trouble, being troubled. I have certainly been troubled living through the past four years of American politics. Being troubled has a relationship to being conscious of your surroundings and environment and sensing what’s wrong.

The word “trouble” also has a relationship to stirring up or uncovering, however.  The traditional Black spiritual “Wade in the Water” talks of how God is going to “trouble the waters” – to stir them up, and make them ready.  The late Senator John Lewis talked about getting into “good trouble, necessary trouble” – taking a stand for your convictions and what’s right.

As one way to let good trouble guide me, all proceeds from this album will go to fund the efforts of several organizations whose mission is to empower and bring about a shift in equitable access to electronic music.

AFRORACK™: A Chicago-based audio arts organization with a goal of helping the community develop and thrive through technology resources.

We are committed to providing children and young adults of color access to modular synthesizers and sound design.

Underground Music Academy: a Detroit based hub, which aims to build the future leaders of independent electronic music.

North Coast Modular Collective: working to increase the skill, knowledge, and accessibility of electronic music artistry through the development of music, instruments, and community.

DIY Custom Pedalboard from Reclaimed Wood

maker, music

Check out my latest project video, in which I built a custom pedalboard for my guitar rig using reclaimed wood. The main body is made from two reclaimed bed rails, which appear to be maple. The shelves are from several pieces of reclaimed plywood. I tried making a bowtie (aka butterfly or Dutchman key) for the first time, and also used David Picciuto’s splined miter jig for the first time as well.

Linen Ray launches new website

music, photography

I am extremely pleased to announce that Linen Ray has launched their new website at Linen Ray is the musical duo of Rebekah and Gabriel Craft. Both members of the husband and wife team have a rich individual history with music, and their musical distinctness comes through in their collaboration.


I was able to help Gabriel and Rebekah in recording and engineering some of the music on the site, including contributing electric guitar and programming. I also shot their promotional and behind-the-scenes photographs. Please take a look!

2013 in review – a personal reflection

music, personal

In the past, I’ve often compiled lists of favorite records,or of books I’ve read (here’s books from 2011, for example) , but this year I’ve curated a mixed bag of experiences, physical things, apps, and art in various media that made an impact on me.

1. iPad music apps – Keezy, Tabletop, and Borderlands Granular.

While I haven’t jumped into iOS music-making with both feet, I definitely got some inspiration and fun from a few iOS music apps in particular.

Keezy is an incredibly fun, simple live-sampling app; press a colorful pad to record from the mic, then press the same pad to play it back. You get 8 pads, and it’s a blast.

Tabletop is definitely more serious, and is an app I’m considering investing a little more into. It’s a flexible, modular electronic music environment; connect together a few devices and start making sounds.

Finally, Borderlands Granular is the most experimental of the three, giving you a unique visual approach to granular synthesis-based sound manipulation. It requires some patience and careful sample loading, but it’s utterly unique.

2. Jimmy DiResta’s videos

Jimmy DiResta is a master craftsman and artist. His video work is simply stunning, showing careful documentation of his projects in wood, metal, fibers, and various other media.

Here’s a link to his full archive on the Make Magazine site:

3. Guitar pedalboard

I posted about this earlier this year on chromedecay; my guitar pedalboard has been a source of new inspiration in the music studio. It’s even grown a little since the video was made, adding a volume pedal and overdrive.

4. New photography experiences

You can see the full 2013 photography wrap-up in another post; suffice it to say, this was a very productive year in terms of new photography experiences for me. Lots of portraiture work and live event photography, including some great music work.

5. Raspberry Pi, Arduino, MaKeyMaKey, and other microcontroller-related stuff.

I wrote some about this in my 2013 year-end teaching reflections, but it really has been inspiring working with the new breed of cheap, flexible microcontrollers. I have a feeling I’ll be working on  some augmented guitar work pieces in 2014, inspired by this MaKey MaKey video:

6. Good NBA Writing

As an NBA nerd, I am truly spoiled for good basketball writing. In particular, Zach Lowe and Kirk Goldsberry from Grantland consistently bring their talent for statistics, strategy and the business of basketball.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fake Lawrence Frank daily reports; super funny if you’re into the sometimes ludicrous machinations of professional basketball (guilty).

7. Lone Bellow on SerialBox Presents

The work that Ryan Booth has done on the SerialBox Presents series of live performance videos on Vimeo is super inspirational. I love his team’s approach to cinematography, their musical choices, and the performances they get from the visiting artists. They are truly using the new medium of inexpensive, flexible HDDSLR equipment to change the way artists can represent themselves and their work.

SerialBox Presents: THE LONE BELLOW [bonus song] from SerialBox Presents on Vimeo.

The Lone Bellow episode was my favorite of this year’s work. 

8. The Great Outdoors & the Upper Peninsula

We had some wonderful experiences this summer visiting the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I went to Michigan Technological University for my bachelor’s degree, and it had been 14 years since I’d been back. Getting a chance to explore and revisiting some old favorites, seeing old friends again, and showing my family around was truly special to me. I even got to do a little photography and audio field recording, some of which may filter its way into new work in 2014.

Below are a few favorite photos from that trip:





9. Cross-Country

My eldest son joined the cross-country team this year as a freshman, and it took me back to my own days of running. I really enjoyed photographing him and his team, and getting to know them. They are a great group of kids, and I’m glad to be able to participate again, even if it is as a spectator.

10. My Family

My family has been such a blessing to me over this past year. I can’t wait to spend another year with them!


2012 year in review – music


This was an interesting year for me, musically.

Tracking guitar

Bill Van Loo album update – May 2012

I started a new album project in the first 5 months of the year with high hopes of having it done in 12 months (see album updates for January, February, March, April, and May), then I had to put it on hold due to graduate studies and teaching work (see “teaching” year in review for details). I hope to return to this material in early 2013.

Linen Ray

Linen Ray (Ypsilanti, MI) – Band Promo Photo

I also worked on recording and engineering with Linen Ray, a musical project by my good friends Gabriel and Rebekah Craft. I’ve been playing electric and lap steel guitar, and helping them get overdubs recorded.

working on Company 7 material

working on Company 7 material

We finally finishing up the Company 7 recording, concluding with some sweet Rhodes and organ overdubs by Ben King. Next up for that project is getting our tracks mixed down and released. Exciting stuff!

Dan Lukas "Tether" remix

Dan Lukas “Tether” remix

I’ve been working (slowly!) on a remix for Dan Lukas‘s “tether” project. Hopefully will be finishing this up soon!


guitar rig at Bethesda

guitar rig at Bethesda

I continue to play guitar at Bethesda, slowly adding more loops and textures to the mix along as I enjoy the opportunity to worship and serve.

new solo album: monthly updates


As I mentioned in my last blog post about my music, I’ve been working on a new solo album during 2012. Here are links to my last few updates, which I’m hosting on my label site, chromedecay.

January 2012 album update

February 2012 album update

March 2012 album update

Most of my previous work as a solo artist has been doing strictly instrumental electronic music. The biggest departures from that were the two ambient guitar records I produced (“6 strings for a winter’s day“, and “the ghost of an idea“), and even those use lots of electronic production.

As you may be able to gather from my talk of “songs”, and from all the guitar you see me playing in these videos, this new record will be a departure, or perhaps an evolution, from my electronic music. There will still be electronic production and sounds, and a big focus on the textures that are a defining part of my previous work. However, I’m really excited to work on some songs for this record.

One of the most helpful things I’ve ever read as a creative person was Twyla Tharp’s “The Creative Habit“. In her book, Tharp talks about knowing how you see the world and how that translates in your art. I realized that I tend toward the wide-angle view, taking in textures, ambience, setting, season, and location. The titles of my previous work is a testament to that (“Autumn DSP”, “6 strings for a winter’s day”, “raindays”, etc).

This new work, in the other hand, seeks to build up that backdrop of location and ambience, and put something personal and intimate in front of that. Not everything in the record will likely have lyrics and singing, but some of it will. This is shaping up to be the most personal record I’ve ever made, and I am excited about the possibilities of it.

new album project in the works


I’ve decided to record a new solo album during 2012. More details and an announcement video can be found on my label’s site, chromedecay:

This record will be composed, recorded, and produced during 2012, with monthly updates to be posted. I’m really excited about this project; I intend it to be deeply personal, spiritual, and to be a true reflection of my wide-ranging musical sensibilities.

Favorite music of 2011


As in many years past, I’ve compiled a list of what music really grabbed hold of me this year. 2011 saw me spending much time working on one musical project (company 7) to the exclusion of much else, but this is what I listened to the most.


Gungor: Ghosts upon the earth

An absolutely stunning record from start to finish; it is, by turns, melancholy, hopeful, dense, orchestrated, and deep. See also my notes (below) on their live performance.

Owl City: All Things Bright and Beautiful

A wonderful bit of synth-pop; this was the soundtrack to much of my summer.

Foreign Exchange: Leave it all behind

Thanks to the well-stocked collection of the Ypsilanti District Library and Spotify, I never actually bought this, but still managed to listen to it a ton. Such smooth and soulful stuff, almost perfect modern R&B.

Sara Groves: Invisible Empires

Sara Groves writes amazing songs, and this record is no exception.

Black Dub: Black Dub

A stellar piece of work from Daniel Lanois, Trixie Whitley, and the rest of the players Lanois assembled for this.

United Pursuit Band: Found

This is a more atmospheric, ambient release from United Pursuit (a favorite for several years). Excellent stuff.

Josh Garrels: Love & War & The Sea Inbetween 

I came across this thanks to Josh’s contribution to the Mason Jar Music Presents series of live videos performances and his album being released free on NoiseTrade. Highly recommended. (See also the whole Mason Jar Music Presents and Serialbox Presents series for a take on what the future of music looks like – independent bands, careful and artistic use of the revolutionary new HDDSLR filmmaking gear, and a DIY ethic and aesthetic. Inspiring).

Live Performances

I managed to see some amazing live performances this year, happily by some of the artists who made my favorite records this year as well!

Sara Groves (Muskegon, MI)

Sara Groves writes the songs of my married-with-kids life. She is a remarkable performer who invites you to become part of her family for a time while she’s on stage. My heart was filled with joy at the chance to see her again in the same small venue that my wife and I saw her at in 2005. Truly a special night of music and worship.

Gungor (Royal Oak, MI)

Even though Gungor was technically an opening act for David Crowder*Band (who put on a great show in their own right), Gungor really was what stood out for me from this show. Tremendous musicianship, and a masterful performance.

Vitek (Ypsilanti, MI)

My band, Company 7, had the opportunity to open for Vitek, and we were all blown away by what great performers they are. Amazing musicians.

Black Dub (Detroit, MI)  

This was truly a treat: a chance to see Daniel Lanois at the helm of his own live band in a small setting (Magic Stick in Detroit). Heart and soul music.

favorite records of 2010


As in past years (here’s last year’s list), I made a list of my favorite records from 2010. As always, this is an entirely personal list, not an attempt to sum up the best records released in 2010 – this is what made an impact on me.

Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
Black Dub – Black Dub
The Press Delete – EP
Jars of Clay – The Shelter
Various Artists – Passion: Awakening
Will Reagan & United Pursuit Band – In the Night Season
Sara Watkins – Sara Watkins
Burial/Kode9 – BBC Mary Anne Hobbs DJ Mix

Gungor – Beautiful Things
Israel Houghton – Saved by Grace, Love God Love People