Recording, Mixing and Competitions

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Fancy photo of me in the studio recording the EP

Been quite busy this week with my music production. I had a friend come down to Plymouth to stay with me and finish up his EP he started with me earlier this year. Couple of issues along the way due to technical issues and issues regarding booking studio spaces at my Uni….but hey ho we got what we needed done at least.

Mixing the EP is coming along nicely. For the main track on the EP called “Tail Light City” been struggling to get a nice snappy warm snare sound for quite a while. Glad to say I think I finally got achieved that sound. It was not coming through due to a “pong” sound that was being produced when the snare skin resonated. Bit of EQ and that pong was a thing of the past. Also, been getting quite creative with my being a producer side of things for the EP. Trying different effects and techniques to get a better sound out of the song rather than straight mixing and tweaking. Will give details on the progress of the EP as time goes on.

I’ve also found this week I’ve been playing the piano a lot more than usual. Really enjoying playing some tunes I used to love to play a few years ago. I’m considering putting a few pieces together and getting a small EP of my own done with just covers on it.

Screenshot of my Mix

Screenshot of my Mix

Finally this week I’ve been working on a mix for a competition on Indaba Music. I heard about this competition because I noticed one of my lecturers had been listening to a few submissions’ on his facebook. It’s really quite fun being able to take a multi track and just straight mix. No client or assignment deadline hanging over your head, just artistic mixing to the best of my ability. It’s a shame I don’t have any fancy plug-ins yet, I had to mix everything with just the stock plug-ins of Pro Tools 11. Don’t get me wrong, the plug-ins are great on Pro Tools, but they are more tools and they lack a lot of character. On the other hand, I find you have to make use of the tools to create your OWN character rather than relying on the character of a plug-in by, for example, Waves. But at the end of the day, you don’t win with brownie points, you win by having the best overall sound. Chances are I won’t win, but I wanted to try and I’m hoping to get some constructive feedback from it. Please have a listen and, if you wish, vote for me. Please note, I do accept sympathy votes.

Link to Indaba Music Mixing Competition Submission – http://indaba.us/ent8

Hammock

Been over a week since I last blogged, been dealing with Uni work at the moment. Should be getting back on track now. This is going to be another Discovery of Music blog post, this time about one of my all time favourite ambient/post-rock bands. Hammock.

Album: Raising Your Voice…Trying To Stop An Echo

Such a weird album cover, it’s like the jacket is a rock in a weird way :s

It was a tricky choice choosing my favourite album. I was torn between two albums, and funnily enough my favourite songs are from both albums as well, so I was torn between the two for them also. But I think I made the right choice when I decided to go with “Raising Your Voice…Trying To Stop An Echo”. The album is a very ambient based album, more ambient than their other albums, but it has that post-rock flare in it. The lead guitars with tons of reverb is such an effective tool for this kind of music. One of the main things I love about this album is its use of panning. The way I prefer to mix music is to not have it so that the band or artist is in front of you and you’re listening to them. Instead, I like the listener to feel like they are PART of the music. Hammock do just that. It’s so easy to close your eyes and lose yourself in this album. The panning helps so much with that, having the stereo field very wide and having guitars and synths flying all around you. Best examples of the more obvious panning is in songs like “When the Sky Pours Down Like A Fountain” and “God Sends Us A Signal”.

Another comment about Hammock is their name choices of songs. They are such metaphorical genius’. Titles like “Startle The Heavens”, “When The Sky Pours Down Like A Fountain”, “Sparkle and Fade”, “Chorus of Trees”, such creative names and they sum up the songs SO well. My favourite song on this album is easily “I Can Almost See You”, I have to mention this as although it isn’t my all time favourite it, is a favourite. It uses such a typical chord structure to hook you in but with this it builds up so well. And when the piano comes in..man I lose it a bit..such a beautiful melody. The vocals smooth in so nicely, and again with that panning, they do it so well with the overdubs. DEFINITLEY worth a listen, and it’s great to put on in the background when doing work or playing a game.

Spotify Link: Hammock – Raising Your Voice…Trying to Stop an Echo

Song: Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life

Departure Songs: The album this song is featured on

“Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life ” is a more post-rock/ambient song, and the album it’s on is definitely a more post-rock album. This song is quite commonly on the top of my ambient playlists and song queues. I’m a sucker for songs that build up so well to the drums in a progressive manner….and no dubstep is NOT an example of that even though it can be easily compared, but that’s a blog for another time.  I’m also a sucker for songs with big string orchestra sounds, and with the way the song closes with the expression on the violins and violas, I again so easily lose myself to this music. I love how open the song is to interpretation as well. Emma and I had a discussion about what the meaning could be about this song. I liked Emma’s interpretation of how people are so keen to live forever, but is that really living? Surely it would be better to live 100 years and be happy with just those years than keep on living life over and over again? But that’s a VERY big question. But back to the song, I feel that that is what this song is trying to say with the lyrics, which are quite hard to understand so I’ll post the lyrics at the end of this blog, and overall progression of the song. The way the song moves with the slow build up to the drums, guitars, synths and vocals, and then slowly finishing with the sweet slow strings at the end. It seems that this song could be an interpretation of life itself. Or what life has the potential to be…..I’m digging in too deep here, but that’s what I find good ambient music like Hammock can do. It leaves you to interpret what YOU want the song to be, with no obvious hooks or lyrics to try and persuade you a meaning. The meaning is more open.

So with that in mind I hope you go away with a new way of thinking about ambient music. What I would love is that if anyone makes it all the way to the end of this blog….or reads it at all… you go away and listen “Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life” and then comment on what YOU think the meaning could be. Did this song touch your soul like it has mine and have an interpreted meaning of the song, or do you think “ambient music is boring, why does this guy keep going on about it, why can’t he talk more about Bon Jovi?”. Anyway, I look forward to hearing your comments.

Lyrics

“It takes so long for you to realise,
ten thousand years won’t save your life.”

Spotify Link: Hammock – Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life

Dark Captain Light Captain

As my blog is meant to be about logging my “Music Discovery’s” I thought today maybe I should start logging that. For a few days I have been listening to this band called ‘Dark Captain Light Captain’ so I thought I’d share their work with you guys.

Album Cover

Album – Miracle Kicker

Their best album is an easy choice as they only have one album and three EPs. This album really is great though. The style of ‘Dark Captain Light Captain’ is atmospheric acoustic, and there music fits very firmly in that category. The acoustic guitar is played brilliantly and is recorded in a very nice stereo field. The vocals are recorded using a technique called Double Tracking which is when you record the vocal line,  then you record another take of the vocal line and layer it on top of the other vocal line to get this double tracking effect, famously used by the Beatles. What I like about the way their vocals are is that they sound so similar to Sigur Rós. Anyway, away from the techy side of things, the music is phenomenal. The overall sound is so atmospheric and relaxing but I do also find myself bobbing my head a long to their tunes, they are in fact quite catchy. The instrument choice is so good aswell. They use mainly acoustic guitar, bass and drums but in some of the songs I do catch some organs, electric guitar and even the odd synth….it really is such a great sound.

Song – Jealous Enemies

This is the first song I heard by them and is the first song on the their album…and it is easily my favourite. I love the minimalistic style this is composed in and the vocals really do give a great atmospheric effect. What I said earlier about their music being catchy…I was mainly referring to this song. I findd myself tapping along and humming the tune even when it’s not being played. The drums sound great also, not sure what it is. Either the drum playing is just really groovy or they used a really nice compressor on the snare or maybe both.

Anyway, not an awful lot I can say about these guys, only thing I can say is that I suggest you go off and listen to their stuff. It’s so good, and I really hope they release some more stuff as this album came out 5 years ago. Safe to say they are due for a new album.

Spotify Link to album – Dark Captain Light Captain – Miracle Kicker

American Dollar

This will be my first post about an artist that I would categorize under my ‘Ambient’ artists. The main reason I am posting about American Dollar today is because I am currently listening to them. However, it is also quite relevant as these guys started my passion with the Ambient genre when I came across them whilst artist surfing on Spotify.

So without further ado, my favourite album by American Dollar

Album – Atlas

Atlas Album Cover

I think this is actually the first album I came across of theirs, though I’m not a hundred percent sure on that. What I love about this album is it’s ever changing themes. The first song could be related to an almost hip hop sound. The electric drums and the lopping of the piano riff. Great opener to an album as it jumps you right in. The second song is probably my second favourite song by American Dollar, The opening of the sequenced E piano synth, and then the elctronic drums and strings fade in with a drone building the song up…then bam! In come the acoustic drums and lead guitar. Fantastic post rock stuff! Man I do love this music…anyway, this whole album is full of this excitement throughout, I could talk about each track like this but I think it would be paragraph after paragraph of me just explaining the exciting parts. But this is why I love this album, great chilled listen, great ambient work and yet manages to get my blood pumping.

Spotify Link – The American Dollar – Atlas

Song – Starscapes

Ambient One Album includes Starscapes

This was a tricky decision as I love so many of their tracks. So why I chose this song? It sums up American Dollar’s sound. It doesn’t have the drums which I love about American Dollar but as an ambient song, it is their best.

What makes this song so great is that it sounds like it could have been mixed live. They could have easily just had loops on each channel fader and then faded in each section one at a time, adding effects as they went. The stereo field is amazing aswell, I find myself sometimes closing my eyes and losing myself in all these great sounds coming in around me from all angles. One other thing I really do admire about this song, is the organ sounds they used (could have possibly been an FM synth, but it has an organ timbre so I’ll assume it’s an organ), it is a very bold choice to have such an upfront sound like that in a very chilled song, yet it works so well. These big sounds are what I love about American Dollar, they know when to bring in big sounds like that without compromising the overall feel of the track.

Spotify Link – The American Dollar – Starscapes – Ambient

And so that brings me to the end of this blog post. I’m gunna sit here and carry on listening to American Dollar, I suggest you go and listen to them now…and just sit back, relax and let this music flow all around you…as that is what this music is intended for. And of course, I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy it.

Owl City

Owl City is one of my primary inspirations to compose music. His style of composition and how he got into composing music is very similar to what I compose and am interested in. His composition style he stated once came about from composing instrumental pieces and then adding lyrics later. He loves music technology and now owns a private studio which is something I would love to do. Away from Adam, let’s talk about his best music.

Took this picture when I saw Owl City live

Took this picture when I saw Owl City live

Album – Maybe I’m Dreaming

It was actually a tricky decision to pick the best album but I have a very good reason for choosing Maybe I’m Dreaming which is his first. Owl City’s style has changed so much over the years that it made it hard to pin point what his best is. Maybe I’m Dreaming highlights Owl City, I think, at his best time. When it was just about writing good music for fun. It comes through in the album. Songs like ‘Sky Diver’ really show that instrumental music composing style he loves, same with ‘This is the Future’. Other songs like Technicolor Phase and Air Traffic really show where his style of mixing and lyrical style shines through, with his sweep panning and delayed vocals. I can listen to this album from start to finish without skipping and as I said earlier, it really does show Owl City at his best.

Spotify Link to album – Owl City – Maybe I’m Dreaming

Song – If My Heart Was House

This has to be his best song. It would be too cliché to say ‘Fireflies‘ and I don’t think that is his best song to be honest anyway. This comes from the Deluxe Ocean Eyes Album which I can’t believe isn’t available to purchase in the UK. The extra bonus songs are brilliant, Hello Seattle Remix is on my favourite EDM pieces to listen to. But away from the album and back to the song. The lyrical style sums up his random metaphorical writing style which I really enjoy. The whole whimsical writing style is what seperates Adam from other pop artists. Whereas mainstream pop is just music to give a catchy hook, his writing style is meant to have a crazy metaphorical meaning, and I love my metaphors.  The musical side is also brilliant, I love the drum sequencing throughout the whole piece and I wish I came up with the drum pattern myself. The synths flow so well together and throughout the chorus, the bass synth pounds out the speakers which gives me chills. The piano which comes in right after first chorus is truly beautiful.

Youtube Link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dixKa4emCw

Thomas Newman

Was listening to some Thomas Newman today so I decided that this would be the day I talk about Thomas Newman.

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If you haven’t heard of him, he is a film score composer and has done such films as Finding Nemo, American Beauty, Wall-E, Skyfall and others. He is my favourite composer. Almost all of his compositions I can recognise from his distinct composing style. I find that he is so good that a few films I went and saw specifically because he composed the music for and some of the time I didn’t even enjoy the film, I just listened to the music. 

Soundtrack – A Series of Unfortunate Events

Obviously the film itself isn’t fantastic, I do actually really enjoy this film, I love the filming style and come on, Jim Carey is epic. But the main reason I love it is because of the soundtrack. It is by far my favourite Thomas Newman soundtrack because I can listen to it from start to finish. Such songs as ‘Chez Olaf’ create such a fantastic perspective on the Count Olaf character, and the Baudelaire Twins is equally as brilliant creating their characters together. ‘Lovely Spring’ is such a fun song also, a song I commonly sang with my friends back when this film first came out. But the song that really gets me is ‘The Letter that Never Came’ a truly beautiful song, fantastic melody, great arrangement and the almost brings a tear to my eye. Fantastic soundtrack.

Link to soundtrack via Spotify – http://open.spotify.com/album/3APjdBSpcHFNPYwQwlUZlb

Song – Nemo Egg

Bit of an obvious one but it really is his best song. The duration is only 1:16 but it goes to show, a great song doesn’t have to be long to be great. The melody on the piano and the build up of ambiance in the background with strings creates a perfect theme for Finding Nemo. When I first purchased this song, I would sometimes loop it for when I was going to sleep as it was almost like a lullaby to me. Music that touches your soul in some way becomes very personal to you, whether it’s because of lyrics, or because the way the music flows together makes you feel something special. Nemo Egg is one of mine. And I thank Thomas Newman for composing such a beautiful piece of music. Even if it is only 1:16 in length.  

Link to ‘Nemo Egg’ – http://open.spotify.com/track/0VEf913GDXMlb196o6VOCV

Bon Jovi

 

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I thought I’d start out my blog with my all time favourite band. Bon Jovi. I’ve been listening to Bon Jovi since I was 13 and was the first band I ever went crazy about. Bon Jovi has meant many things to me, their music has inspired me in many ways as a performer, composer and overall musician. In fact, the majority of learning of the guitar was from watching live videos of Richie Sambora playing Bon Jovi concerts. 

Album: These Days

My favourite album has to be These Days. The reason I recommend this album above all the others is because it isn’t expressed as being the best album because it has the most hits, in fact not many of their hits came from this album. I enjoy this album the most because of it’s writing style, lyrical content and overall production sound. The mix on each song is amazingly well balanced and effects added work perfectly to compliment the songs. A few notable songs are: 
Hey God, This Ain’t a Love Song, Hard Letting You Go, and My Guitar Lies Bleeding in My Arms. These are the songs that best high light the overall sound of the album and I hope you agree that these songs sound fantastic.

Spotify Link to album – http://t.co/pGO7WUnaOM

Song: Dry County

My all time favourite song by Bon Jovi (and possibly all time) is Dry County from the Keep the Faith album. This is the longest song by Bon Jovi being the length of 9:52. This song is a very personal song to me it is a song about inspiration and escapism. The overall mix might not be fantastic so generally the reason I love this song so much is the lyrical content and musical composition. When I heard this song live in 2011 at Hard Rock Calling Festival, I swear I nearly cried. I shouldn’t leave out that Dry County also has probably one of the greatest guitar solos of all time by Richie. 

Link to full length song on Spotify – http://t.co/ZJeUWfWpfZ
Link to shorter single version on Youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ja1aHnj7Wk