One thing is for sure, I’m very consistent in the inconsistent manner in which I post on this blog, and for those that do read it, I apologise and promise that new things are coming.
I have spent some time on videos which I will be posting soon and have a few reviews and some more music to upload. I’m working on some secret things too, which require a little planning, but I hope will come to fruition around November time.
Late last year I moved away from running a facility and have been enjoying the freedom of working freelance ever since. I still get to work in other studios from time to time but usually I mix my own projects from home and record wherever I am asked. Mostly, I work with independent artists and spend a lot of time in their practice rooms and homes.
Such was the nature of my work on the most recent project by French artist Angéline Morand, ‘Back to Pike Place’, which is officially released today (Sept 18th).
This is her second EP and was written, arranged and recorded between March and May 2015 in London, with mixing and mastering completed in early August.
The vocals and acoustic guitars were tracked between our flats in London, with a day here and there at Tileyard Studios in Kings Cross in late July, mainly for drums and the odd vocal overdub later on. Although the drums for ‘Black Butterflies’ were tracked in the living room of guitarist Stas in Fulham.
Ange used a Zoom iQ5 for field recordings in London and Havana and for the beginning of the song ‘While I Was Away’ (or WIWA, as it is colloquially known), which has her singing the pre-chorus on a rainy Sunday on her balcony in south London.
The songs existed prior to recording as multiple demos and we spent time on arrangements and individual sounds before moving on to the final recordings. Even at the demo stage we wanted to keep the arrangements minimal and ‘swapped out’ a lot of traditional percussion for sounds we recorded using ‘found objects’.
We did use cajon, agogo, shakers and bongos but we slapped tables, acoustic guitars, there was some walnut shells involved (check the chorus on Ghost Dance), mouth clicks…we even slapped ourselves (although thankfully not each other!).
In a lot of the demos we found sounds we liked using sample percussion packs but made the decision to record the real instruments for the EP early on, even if they were just going to be triggered in the sampler. Black Butterflies was the first song we recorded and in the bridge there is a heavy percussion track that lacked feel when arranged with samples. This helped us to make the decision and so began the painstaking task of recording individual hits on instruments. Mostly with a C214 and a U87 clone.
We used the SE Tube Mic for vocals to start with but halfway through tracking, and with timing against us, it became possessed and died. It turned out to be the power supply but I was happy to let Ange believe there was a ghost in the microphone. So, we had to find something else quickly. I had bought an SE Magneto for £39 at the beginning of the year and lent it to Angéline who subsequently fell in love with it (anyone who hasn’t used one, give it a go, you’ll be surprised). To this day I haven’t mentioned to her that her performances immediately got better, which I put down to how much she enjoyed the sound of her voice with the mic. Its great when the cheapest mic you own does the best job. It just goes to show that matching a mic to a singer is very important. It doesn’t sound as warm as the tube mic but it has a very smooth top end, not harsh at all, and most importantly sounded good with Angélines voice.
Ange liked it so much that it now belongs to her. It may have been the cheapest mic I ever bought but the depreciation for me was 100% (somewhere around the £39 mark I would say).
Most of the vocals, bass guitars and drums were recorded through the ISA 110 pre amp but we also used a Duet and an ID22. My favourite vocal on the EP in terms of sound and overall feel was tracked through my MBOX 2, which was rescued from a skip and repaired in 2012, but that is a story for another day.
The EP was tracked and mixed in Reaper, apart from ‘WIWA…’ which was tracked/mixed in Logic 9 and I used Harrison Mixbus V3 for tape saturation pre-mastering.
Reaper is hands down my favourite DAW, and v5 has just been released and has some amazing new features (including VCA faders) and is a steal at $60. If you enjoy the feel of mixing on a console then Harrison Mixbus v3 intro price is $79 and the sound is incredible. You can demo Reaper, unfortunately not HMB, and for half the price of Logic (and a fraction of the price of Pro Tools) you can own both.
I will leave you to listen to the EP and thanks to everyone who supported this project and those who pledged money on Kickstarter.
For news, gigs and reviews visit angeline-music.com.
(You get the digital booklet if you buy on Bandcamp)
More to come soon!