Charlotte OC

Altar Flowers

Ten Mouth Electron

MiSTOA POLTSA

Bombay Bicycle Club

ILL

Holly Johnson

John Foxx

East India Youth

Lana Del Rey

The Heartbreaks

Erasure

Saint Etienne

The Lone Taxidermist

The Yossarians

English Heretic

Goldblade

NYPC

Ex-Easter Island Head

DENA

Locean

Mountain Song

The Happy Soul

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Recording Ten Mouth Electron for ‘Minor Characters’

TME_ParrSt

Just undertook the first day’s recording work on the Minor Characters project at Parr Street Studios in Liverpool. Myself and the band dragged our sorry selves out of bed at an hour on Sunday morning only priests should suffer. Fittingly, a truly unholy noise was made.

The Quietus & Arts Council UK ‘Minor Characters’ project

Over June and July, I’m going to be producing some of this, at Parr Street Studios in Liverpool.

http://thequietus.com/articles/15270-liverpool-international-music-festival-minor-characters

The acts involved have all been asked to come up with a song or piece of music inspired by a minor character from fiction. I’m going to be recording and mixing about half of it, and doing a bit of organising and helping out with the rest.

Have been doing pre-prod for a while, and demos and snippets heard so far are very exciting. Can’t say too much right now, but here’s a photo of me and John Doran doing some highly industrious work with The Lone Taxidermist. As you can see, he’s made a large pot of tea and had his head converted into a Theremin; there’s no doubting that level of commitment.

LoneTaxidermistPreProd

Recording LVLS – the making of ‘R.I.P. Joey Fritz’

Just out this week, another EP I worked on for Manchester Band LVLS, ‘R.I.P. Joey Fritz’:

 

This project was a shining example of the value of pre-production. Firstly, due to already knowing the band, I’d been able to follow the development of the songs through being sent home demos, seeing a couple of gigs and getting along to a rehearsal. This kind of thing is always highly beneficial. Not so I can interfere in any way, but so I can wrap my head around what a band’s intentions are, and work out how best to deliver a good result for them.

I’d also not been quite happy with the drum sound I’d got in their rehearsal room last time we recorded. This time around, I’d had a chance to re-think how to approach it. The principal difference was simply using better, less trebly overhead mics. I also made a little cloud of acoustic shielding above the overhead mics out of a bunch of SE Instrument Reflexion Filters and a load of gaffer tape. Didn’t look especially pretty, but made a hell of a difference, by mostly taking sound bouncing off the ceiling out of the equation.

The other thing I really wanted to improve on was controlling spill from the other instruments. All working in one room without isolation can be tricky, so I gave everyone headphones, stuck the bass amp out in the corridor and turned down the guitar amps to near inaudibility. These were then cranked up again in the headphones, so the band could perform as a unit. This is no way to get good guitar tones, but we knew they were only scratch tracks, so no problem. The goal at this stage was just to get good drum and bass takes.

The day went in two halves; first getting strong takes down, then later replacing all the guitar parts individually with the most optimal set-up for each.

The exception to this was Blood Dance, for which we only recorded drums. The rest of that was put together in my home, with vocals, a guitar part, and a bunch of synth parts the band had already put together.

Also done at my home were all the vocals for the other tracks. For vocal tracking, I like to have people somewhere comfortable where they don’t have to watch the clock too much. Which happened to be ideal for this project, as we ended up trying out a lot of different things with the vocal arrangements; it wasn’t simply a case of banging down parts that everyone already knew.

To me, the vocal arrangement stuff is one of the most striking things about LVLS. It’s very rarely straight harmony stuff; more often there are interlocking and call-and-response parts. It’s incredibly clever stuff that manages to sound effortless, which I really love. So I made sure to allow time to try out different things. The second part of ‘Joey Fritz…’ where Emily takes the lead vocal arose from these sessions, based around an idea she had of making the song like a conversation between two people. That wasn’t part of the original plan, but it’s a magical moment in the finished track. You should always allow enough space and time for some magic to occur.

After getting everything down, we went through a fairly protracted mix process. Not in terms of hours spent tweaking, but in terms of taking time to think things over carefully and work out a  considered plan. Again, this is enormously valuable. The only real way to assess a mix is to live with it for a while, so you can start listening like a regular listener, and stop agonising about half a dB on the hi-hat or whatever.

I did make something of a howler on the mix process at one point, in that I mixed the title track as if it was a guitar song with synths, rather than a synth song with guitars, which turned out to be an extremely subtle but profound difference in how the thing feels. But we got there in the end.

I’m very proud of having been involved in this. It’s incredibly diverse, stylistically, but still coherent. There’s an inherent LVLS-ness to everything they do, whether that’s minimal electro or jangling power pop or a moody goth-tinged synth epic. Which is something I felt I had to step up to and match with the mixing.

All in all, I think the final result sounds like the first quarter of a great, great LP. I’m always a bit surprised when it ends after three songs.

NYPC – Things Like You (Oh The Gilt remix)

NYPC

Here’s something from one of my other guises, as part of Oh The Gilt (a remixing project with John Doran, editor of The Quietus).

http://thequietus.com/articles/15179-nypc-things-like-you-oh-the-gilt-remix

I think this one was rattled off (apart from mix and master) in about a day and a half. I always like to work fast, but that was atypically speedy. God knows why, sometimes you just get lucky and the wind is behind you.

New LVLS preview track ‘Blood Dance’

Been working with the mighty LVLS on another EP, for release at the end of the month. Another huge leap forward from a great band. They’ve got a preview stream of the song Blood Dance up here:

Too busy to blog more right now! Another three stone cold killer songs coming soon.

 

The Last Roundup EP on Bandcamp

Recorded with the Box Mobile Studio on a frosty day upstairs at Kraak Gallery, Manchester:

I’m especially proud of this one, as – with no desire to offend the good people at Kraak – the room was pretty shocking, acoustically speaking. Much voodoo was employed in getting nice fat drum sounds. Of course, it always helps when the drummer is as good as this one.

Really impressive bunch of songs from a really great band. Go and look them up:

https://twitter.com/the_lastroundup

There’s also a video to my favourite track, “Widescreen Introduction” here:

Corvids album ‘Itch’ on Bandcamp

All killer, no filler. Turn it up:

Really enjoyed working on this. Nine songs in 29 minutes. Short, sharp, and vicious. I listen to it a lot, which is unusual for things I’ve spent a lot of time working on. Usually takes me a few months after finishing before I can properly enjoy things as a listener.

The whole thing was recorded in a single day, apart from three of the vocals. A couple of the songs are first take, even.

We recorded where the band usually rehearse at Brunswick Mill in Manchester. We had the whole band in the same room as the drums, with headphones on and guitar and bass amps out in the corridor for separation. Worked out amazingly well. Lots of interaction and eye contact for the players, but really good separation of the instruments.

There’s nothing special about the rooms at the Mill, acoustically, and there was a ridiculously loud sludge metal band grinding away in the room opposite, too, but it’s amazing what you can achieve when you point the microphones the right way and spend a bit of time getting your sounds lined up right. And the band were so well-rehearsed and clear about what they were doing, it was almost perversely easy.

 

Charlotte OC – Hangover – Club Clique Remix

CharlotteOCWas a great pleasure to work on this recently, for the lovely people at Stranger Records. Yet another track in the ever-growing treasure chest of Clique remixes. We reckon Charlotte’s going to be a fairly big deal this year.

YouTube and Soundcloud below.

 

 

Great reviews coming in for LVLS’ Teenager LP

LVLS_TeenagerEP

(Click the image to listen)

Really enjoyed working on this, and am gratified that so many people think these songs are as good as I do:

http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2014/01/08/track-of-the-day-lvls-echoes/

http://indieobsessive.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/lvls-loveless-band-review.html

http://alphabetbands.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/review-lvls-teenager-ep/

http://asdustdances13.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/song-of-the-week-lvls-echoes/

http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk/music/alt-indie/review-lvls-teenager/14916/

http://all-noise.co.uk/new-music-roundup-no-21/6916/

I think my favourite review quote so far is “sounds like Glee after years of drug abuse” from Fortitude. Such a precise description of what I love about LVLS; sleaze and realism rubbing shoulders with magic and showbiz.

LVLS ‘Teenager EP’

LVLSgroupshot3

This winter’s labours with the Box Mobile Studio are starting work their way out of the vaults. I especially love this one, the latest release from the strange and wonderful LVLS:

http://lvlsmanchester.bandcamp.com/album/teenager-ep

Look ’em up here:

https://www.facebook.com/LVLSBAND

https://twitter.com/wearelvls

 

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