Tuesday, September 1, 2015

From Transient to Sojourn

A week ago I released Transient, my latest album, a journey primarily exploring ambient guitar.
With every album I like to take a completely new approach. And so with Transient I learnt how to use guitar effects pedals, I went back to using a hard-drive recorder (for most tracks),  I dabbled in looping, improvisation and minimalism.
A distraction in recording happened in February, when the RPM challenge happened, recording a 35 minute album in 3 weeks (it was meant to be 4, but I lost a week as I had to post the completed cd to the US).   The irony was that after that it still took the the best part of another 6 months to finish the Transient album despite having 75% of the album already done by the time the RPM challenge came about.
So after the last few weeks of mixing and mastering Transient I felt the desire to record again. 
I simply plugged my guitar in and recorded an improvised track straight into my DAW (digital audio workstation).   So I thought, what if my next album was done by recording tracks straight into my DAW and using minimal effects, so instead of using guitar plug-ins or lots of effects pedals, I basically recorded clean and used the effects (not guitar specific) in my DAW to create my textures and soundscapes.
I've been using Ableton Live over the last few years primarily for my synth recordings but had found it limiting for guitar. I bought some guitar plug-ins but never really used them much and preferred the sound I got out of pedals. Now what I've discovered was that actually using effects pedals helped me to better understand effects and a signal chain. A lot of my preferred sounds on Transient and RPM had come from reverb & delay pedals.   So my plans for the next guitar based album will be to have minimal clean guitar sound initially and then use the built-in effects in Live.
My first experiment is a new direction. The plan is to also minimise all the mixing etc. to keep the tracks reasonably raw and true to their original form, also to shorten the time from recording to release to avoid reworking the tracks.  Here's the first track. Enjoy


Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Shortest Day of the Year

Well it's the winter solstice here in the Southern Hemisphere.
I wanted to record a track today and release it as a live recording.
This year has been about learning new things musically. Not only playing and technique, but also recording.
Today for the first time I recorded by live micing up the amp instead of recording directly into a portable recorder or into an audio interface.
I was joking with a musician friend of mine about the time spent mixing songs. I could do a hundred mixes of a song and I may be the only one who notices (or cares) about the differences of the subtleties of the mix. So the basis of this track was to record it, mix it and upload it in one day.
I'm trying to learn new ways of recording and actually enjoying playing the songs and not being attached to a particular version or sound of song.  Experimenting with different sounds, guitars, effects etc. makes way for some "happy accidents".  More about capturing the performance and a mood.
Eventually I would like to also perform some of my work live. I've been experimenting with looping, which is the tool that could make performing my songs live a possibility.
This track also puts me one step closer to finishing the Transient album.  It's really an album about transition. It's been recorded using a variety of tools, including different daws, portable recorders as well as using different software and hardware. A lot of it is experimental by nature. But it also takes me back to those things that excited me about making music. Discovering new sounds, creating something from scratch, creating a mood. 

Here's the unused cover of the track.
You can download the track at


Sunday, February 22, 2015

33 1/3 RPM - the 3 week album

Well today I just finished my new album "33 1/3 RPM" as part of the RPM challenge to record an album from scratch over the month of February.
Nothing like a 40 degree day to keep you locked inside at the mixing desk (I should I say mixing DAW?). 
I had to primarily create a new album from scratch. Not only was the timing a challenge (as I lost a week due to having to mail the cd to the USA a week before the due date), but having to come up with new musical ideas as well as learning how to use new guitar pedals and effects.
Early on I decided to record all the music to a hard drive recorder. This was about being able to plug in and play and experiment,  and not be bogged down by dealing with software.  It also meant my effects were coming from my pedal and guitar, to minimise having to worry about adding effects later. 
Most tracks came together pretty quickly.  The process was to get all the recordings down and then do the mixing as a separate process, instead of record a track, mix it, record the next track etc.
The last week or so has been about putting down the last 2 tracks, cleaning up the tracks (ie getting rid of guitar buzz, humming etc.) and working on the final mixes.  It's been pretty intense.
Nothing like a deadline to get things done. 
One of the problems was cleaning up the tracks, there's only so much you can do with EQ (but you can do a considerable amount).  Having trialled some noise reduction software I found that none of it really worked the way I expected it to (and I'm talking about some reasonably priced gear).  I started to work with some old software I purchased ages ago,  and by using that I was able to get the task done.  It's that thing about learning to use what you've got... and use it more efficiently.
Mind you, not all the software was plain sailing.  The mastering software worked fine, but the files exported as AIFs, which could not be opened in Itunes or some of my other software. Some file converting software I have been using for years let me know today that my "free trial" had  expired. Bad timing, given that I only had a few hours to spare.
So after an attempt to convert the files online (only to find out that they wouldn't open once completed), it was back to my DAW (digital audio workstation) to reload the files and export them as AIFFs.
So finally I was able to burn the disc, print off the cover and post it off. 
It's been a good challenge. Would I do it again?  Sure
The finished album will be released on my bandcamp site by the end of the week.