I’m learning to play electric bass. I’m playing a 1961 hollow-body Klira, the type known as a “McCartney Bass,” but a different maker; I’ve talked about it before. I’m doing it partly because I wanted to poke around at bass – and it is fun – but mostly I’m doing it right now because I need a bassline on several of these songs, and electronic octave-dropping an octave mandolin isn’t always the right answer.

But it’s another goddamn skill I get to level up before I can finish Dick Tracy Must Die. This is intensely frustrating. I’d built up real studio momentum, and now this new spanner’s been thrown in the works. Sure, I’m still recording other things – “Artefacts” is pretty much finished now, minus some technical clean-up; “Thought You Knew” is not quite there but close – but it’s like an ax got wedged in my brain. It’s divided attention, where the sum is greater than the parts, but you’re going at it the backwards way, from the sum to the parts, a loss rather than a gain.

For a couple of weeks there, I was entirely in make-the-recording mode and out of figure-out-recording mode, and I liked that. I was applying learned skills in a pretty serious way. It’s not that I wasn’t learning, still; I was. But it was different, in the trying-different-things way rather than the learning-basic-things way. That mode is what got Sketchy Characters out the door.

But now I’m back behind that threshold again, and it feels like swimming in molasses. It’s not that I’m not gaining skill at bass; I am. Yesterday, for the first time, I recorded a bassline for “Thought You Knew” that I listened to and thought, “okay, I could edit this into something passable.” It’s not passable as-is – not close – but there are enough proper bits in it that I could probably hack it into something that sounded okay. Today, I recorded a take that was meaningfully better than yesterday’s, tho’ still not in the actually-okay range.

It’s coming, but not quickly enough. Worse, I’m spending so much time on learning electric bass that I’ve been neglecting everything else.

And after Dick Tracy Must Die, I already have two more CDs worth of material. Next comes the instrumental CD Distractions – that one should at least be easy – and the follow-up which doesn’t have a title yet, but does have 10 or 11 songs waiting for it. I write a lot faster than I record, and getting what I hear in my head out so you lot can hear it too is so much work.

I know that eventually I’ll get past this – again – and it’ll still be work but I’ll know what I’m doing, and it’ll be ten times faster, and sound better, and be easier and and and. I look forward to that time a lot. But right now, that feels like it’s two centuries away.