Posts Tagged Music News
Listen to this: Maybe Not
Some of you may remember the Song-A-Week project I had going for a while.Â Writing and demoing a new song (almost) every week was a great experiment and left me with like…Â 60? some odd songs to pick through in various states of completion – mostly really rough, but some a lot more fleshed out.Â No more digging around for another song to fill out an album for me, that’s for sure.
Unfortunately, it also left me overwhelmed trying to polish some of these really rough scraps to perfection.Â I did work here and there on the songs, but there were so many, and I had more good ideas than good plans.Â I moved away from all the drummers I knew.Â In short, the songs sat around for a while.
It’s axiomatic that not making music is less fun that making music, so I eventually decided not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and to put a song “out there” again.
Here’s a version of the song “Maybe Not” from week 23.Â You may remember the original demo – it’s not as bad as I thought it might be.Â Before I left Nashville, I got Seth Rouch and Ian McDermott to play drums and bass respectively on it, which is why they sound great.Â Take a listen:
Maybe Not by Conrad is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
(That means you can copy the song and do whatever you want to it for noncommercial use.)
Sure the mix was done in just a couple hours and there’s a few edits I still might like to make.Â And yes, it’s probably quieter than a lot of your other music.Â I just don’t feel like squashing the heck out of my songs anymore.Â If it’s too quiet, turn it up.
It felt good to work on my own music again, but it reminded me that I really enjoy working on someone else’s music much more (as long as I believe in the music/person enough).Â I think that will have to be next on my list…Â Need to find some triangle musicians (and about twenty more hours a week of free time).
Fat Head II Ribbon Mic Clips
I got myself some ribbon mics the other day.Â Here’s a few clips of the first time I used them for any actual recording.
I played my junky old Sorento guitar through my Fender Prosonic on the dirty channel with a heavy dose of amp reverb, and stuck an sm57 about a foot away through one of the Octopre preamps, and used the Fat Head II on the other side of the room, pointing at the amp, and ran that through my Seventh Circle Audio A12 preamp.Â So we have a close/room mix.Â For the record, there is a slight EQ on the fathead tracks, mostly just a rumble (read: Heating Noise) reducer:
I forgot this was on them until I bounced out most of the tracks, so tuff luck- there’s EQ on them.
First up is a section where I’m playing a crappy guitar solo.Â I have no chops.Â I have clips of the 57 alone, FH alone, mixed, and then in the context of the song.Â Remember the placement is VERY different on the mics.
Fat Head Solo Guitar
57 + FH Solo Guitar
In Context 57 + FH Guitar Solo
Then I’ve got the same thing for a crunchy section.
SM57 Crunch Guitar
FHII Crunch Guitar
57 + FH Crunch
In Context 57 + FH Crunch Guitar
I really like the mic.Â I’m gonna try to build some portable cheap acoustic panels out of rigid fiberglass insulation to improve the room sound somewhat…Â I am also planning on swapping out the stock transformers for some luhndals.Â They sell them this way on their website, but I can order them and do the mod myself for less money.Â And I’m going to mess around with my Little Labs IBP plugin for my UA card to see if that makes the mics play any nicer together, but even as is- with minimal fuss, I think the combination of 57 + ribbon adds a nice beefiness to the texture.
I also cut some demo vocals with the thing, and they sound pretty neat too.Â If I determine the clips are suitable (read: minimally embarrassing), I’ll have some clips of that as well.
My First Piece of Behringer Gear.
I just got two Behringer BCF2000 Control Surfaces (because they were ridiculously cheap) and they are pretty nice so far. Check em out, ready to mix:
I scored these two as scratch and dent deals on MusiciansFriend.com for $161 each (including shipping, no tax).Â I was worried that they wouldn’t play nicely with ProTools, but it turns out that they do a great job working with the software.Â Expect a forthcoming full review, but for now, I’ll just say that I really, REALLY like faders.
Also, I was not able to find anywhere on the internet that could confirm if you could use multiple units at the same time with Pro Tools.Â Well, I’m here to tell you that you can.Â I probably could have hooked up a THIRD one of these if I wanted to.Â You just set up each one in the Setup->Peripherals menu in Pro Tools (use the baby HUI emulation) and they work like a charm.Â Shifting through the banks works as expected and everything.Â Spiffy.Â This should make my mixes better.
A while back @chasemacri said to me that he had the perfect title for my upcoming album: Cosmonautical. He was right of course, except for the fact he later pointed out that The Transmissionary Six had already used that name. Oops. So we got talking about album titles and @katiegiesbrecht and @katenetzler suggested some good ones, some of which I threw out. I threw them out partially on the basis that they didn’t line up with the aesthetic i was going for. This is completely subjective of course and I was actually comparing the titles to the music in my head, which I was comparing to a collection of images I had begun to assemble for album art.
So I’m no graphic artist, I’m no visual artist. None of that. It’s not my bag, I don’t know how to *make* something like that. That’s not to say I’m not affected by it quite a bit though. I really get inspired by great images. And I have to translate that feeling into music then. So I thought I’d share some of the images so you can see what I’m shooting for.
Mmmkay, first up: your standard Sci-Fi rag fare.
And a dose of retrofuture, courtesy of the legendary Syd Mead.
Throw in some strange, bizarre elements and you have something resembling magical realism.
Some ACTUAL realism:
(that picture is a thousand times better for the inclusion of the car in the shot)
Add the requisite gratuitous pulpy women & damsels:
(probably the sexiest thing about synesthesia I’ve ever seen)
And get back to your roots.
(Actually, this one could’ve fallen into the last category, too. Allison Hayes is, um, well-iillustrated, methinks)
There you have it. That’s what I’ve been all about visually lately. Hopefully that gives you an idea of the particular kind of beauty I’m after. If that didn’t work, just listen to Aimee Mann’s Lost In Space and try to remember your childhood.
I don’t own the rights to these image, I think that since i’m using them as a reference for further derivative works and this blog is noncommercial, this should be protected under fair use. If you own the rights to an image here and want me to remove it, I’ll be happy to oblige.
With Appologies to JLB
I think I’ve decided that the name of my next album/ep/compilation will be:
It. Is. Perfect.
Except for one thing: Dreamtigers is the name of a Jorge Luis Borges short story and was (briefly) the title of the book “El Hacedor” (The Maker) after the original publisher thought the original title was too theological. I’m not clear on copyright law as it affects titles of 48-year old works being used by completely unknown artist of a different medium out of respect and admiration. I don’t think there will be a problem, but I like to give people their due. My last album had a Cash cover on it, and I paid the royalties on that, fair and square, for instance.
I had this epiphany last night. After seeing the two Katies play a few songs at the French Quarter and eating one of their shrimp baskets, I went home and tried to go to sleep. After an hour, I gave up and grabbed my Borges and headed for the living room. It wasn’t long before I realized that (unsurprisingly) everything that I had been thinking about and writing about had already been thought and written – and here it was. The story ‘Dreamtigers’ does not measure even a full page. But it was long enough to sencapsulate the last few years of my life.
That’s why it’s the new title, and that is why Borges was a genius.
I also had an intense desire to learn Spanish at that moment. For those of you who may not know much of Borges, he was an Argentinian author who wrote in what is known as “Magic Realism” or “Irreality.” One publisher notes that The Maker aka Dreamtigers “explores the mysterious territory that lies between the dreams of the creative artist and the ‘real’ world.” A lot of his work deals with the truth or concreteness of the imagined and ephemeral, and his storytelling weaves quotations, historical narrative, fiction, the gods, and the impossible together in such a way that each is completely inseparable from the other… heck, unless you are as obscenely well-read as Borges must have himself been, its not just inseparable, sometimes its indistinguishable. The point is, Borges has really affected my songwriting after “The Shortest Distance…” and you should read him.
In other news – comments are working – all the comments you left lately have not been lost and are posted now. I just had to approve them – DOH!
Album Title Brainstorm
Album Title Brainstorm:
Boom Times (song would need re-writing to use this name)
I don’t know if comments are back up or not yet. Sorry, k-dog is working as hard as he can on them.
Why It’s So Hard To Write About Radiohead
Radiohead’s newest album “In Rainbows” has been “out” (if you can call it that, considering that there has been NO promotion other than word-of-mouth for the record, and it’s not actually sold in any stores) for a little under three days now, and the reviews are piling in. Being the huge fan that I am, I of course have to read all of them. I’ve been doing this for years now, and I’ve noticed a trend: Radiohead are an impossible band to write about.
First of all, let’s acknowledge what we’re dealing with as a starting point… People writing about music is famously said to be like dancing about politics. It is a mismatch of mediums, which is probably why the writing has been reduced to “i like this, it is good” rather than actually cutting deep into any of it. Many of the rock world’s writers are no the Bard, either, and this just adds to the problem. Heck, many of the rock world’s writers get simple musical stuff (like what time signature a song is in, for example) just plain wrong. We are indeed looking through a glass dimly.
That applies to all music reviews, and yet writing about Radiohead seems harder. There are a number of reasons for this…
First of all, every single review (even from music magazines) that I have so far read about the album spent OVER HALF the review talking about the cool little trick radiohead played with the “pay what you think it is worth” business model. This is neet, and if there was ever any doubt that radiohead are a socially conscious band that cares deeply about the music, there isn’t anymore, after they stuck their money where their mouth is. Incidentally, they aren’t going broke off this. I heard a report this morning that they’ve had 1.2 million downloads already. For a reference, consider that John Mayer’s strong effort CONTINUUM has not sold that many yet. Consider that Mayer’s album has been out many, many times the 3-day length that In Rainbows has been out. Radiohead reports that over 2/3 of the downloaders have paid an average of $10 for the record. With the massively-reduced overhead they are enjoying by being free of a label, it is not hard to do the math and see that they will not need to he clipping coupons any time soon.
And there I go, starting my “review” off with economics talk. I had to address it, but it IS hard to resist the urge to ramble.
Radiohead’s music, even for a die-hard fan like myself, is not easily grasped at first. I’ve listened to the album probably about ten times now, and I’m still getting used to it and finding things that I love. On first listen, its not typically gonna give you the same kind of immediate “pretty song” feelings that a lot of bands do, which is precisely why 1997’s ok computer is still a freaking great album. They age well.
But that’s also a problem for rock critics. Especially with EVERYONE on the planet having to wait to the same day to hear the songs, reviewers had to stay up late and get in a scant few listens before firing off their reviews to their editors. For a band that makes such beautiful, foreign music, this certainly doesn’t make the critics job any easier.
Of course the obvious point here is that Radiohead makes “Wierd” music. The easies trend to spot while reading a conglomeration of reviews is that the same track that magazine X thinks is an absolute low-point, website Y thinks is the very best on the track. Or of the whole band. Half the rock world thinks radiohead’s music is ALWAYS brash, depressing – the other half thinks its the most life-affirming music out there. The Guardian review claims that they have had a “consistent album” since OK COMPUTER, but the wide consensus is that KID A is a “concept album,” and a successful one at that – by definition it would need to be consistent. So I hear that “All I Need” drags. Then I hear its one of their best tracks. You can listen to any of these people because, with Radiohead, you are so far outside of the realm of preference that its pointless to mention it.
There are other reasons why its hard to write about radiohead. Thom sorta has “press moodswings.” They are judicious with their communication at times. They only put out an album every few years, it seems. They seem to conform to a non-Russion version of the Holy Fool, speaking in all kinds of nonsense, yet truthful nonsense. Lets just say there are a lot of reasons Radiohead reviews are usually pretty poor reflections of the thing itself.
That said, here’s my brief summation:
WOW – poppy? At least it would be poppy, if it weren’t for all the wierd dronging happening everywhere. But this album has the best use of strings I think I have ever heard. Johnny learned some serious stuff since HTTT. And they are EVERYWHERE! Its glorious. (they claim they are influenced by Berlioz, and since Johnny is actually a Composer-in-Residence, it probably is not a facetious claim). Really, really good feeling songs, more present sounds than usual, and what may really blow you away is the energy in the songs. Wow. Anyway, I love it, and the first time I heard the song “Nude” i thought “Finally – ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ has some competition for the best song of the 20th century.”
And then I realized this is the 21st century, a fact that Thom later confirmed on “Jigsaw Falling Into Place.”
Here are some items on note, regarding free music.
1) Radiohead dropped a new album today (IN RAINBOWS). It is requiring all of my energy to wait until tonight to listen to it. I’m sure it’s phenomenal though. You can go to inrainbows.com and pay whatever price you want to for the digital download, even nothing if you so desire. You could pay a penny if you like, just to give it a listen. I suggest that you check it out, as radiohead is not likely to disappoint if you give them more than one listen.
2) My last two albums (The Falling Action and The Shortest Distance Between Two Points) are now available in their entirety for free as downloads on my ugly, outdated website. They are still for sale for $5 (plus $1 shipping), but if you just wanna grab the downloads, I encourage you to do that too. This of course means that you are free to burn/rip/give away/upload/share the files with whomever you like, so hopefully I’ll get a little promotion out of this. The idea here being to build buzz for whatever new stuff may follow.
3) I’ve redesigned my homepage, so you can now pop on over and see what’s new in the MattLife. I’ve got summaries of any recent blogs up there, thumbnails of recently-added images to my gallery, and a shortcuts to recent podcasts. Give it a look-see and let me know what you think. I hate php, and this required me to confront that beastly demon in a more in-depth manner.
Another Day, Another Noise Complaint
Last evening I brought all my recording junk over to Seth’s place. His roommate was gone for the week, so we both took that as a sign to go make some loud noises. We set up his drums in the living room and crammed all my recording gear in there with ’em. And I donned my earplugs…
This time we got five songs done. Not bad since we didn’t actually hit record until about 7:00 or 7:30… Oh man but was I tired by the end of the night… It was somewhere around 1 am I think when we quit. Which is late for me these days. When I have to get up for work the next day (and bring bagels, at that).
Here’s what we worked on:
Every Time I Close My Eyes
Pretty standard cool drumming on this one. Seth did a cool part on the instrumental part before the last verse.
Pretty Darrrrrrn Great. Think the drums on ‘Wolf at the Door’ mixed with Ringo Starr, but played by a jazz drummer. something like that.
Brushes – sounds AWESOME.
I think there’s some cross stick in this one, kinda perky happy sounding, which realllly works nicely with the stupid-depressing lyrics.
Human Nature and Love
Probably my favorite drumming of the night… REALLY awesome stuff. I was initially thinking that the stuff on this song would have to be REALLY light – and it sort of is – but the drumming is a little bit like Glenn Kotche’s (Wilco), in that its not about the beat, but more about an ensemble of percussion instruments. I won’t give it all away, but we did some reallly cool stuff on this song.
Last time we did this, I draped a comforter over the kick drum and put the soundeluxe outside the kick, but I didn’t end up liking that sound very much after I took it home. I remembered how I had liked the sound of the old “NS10 speaker as a microphone” trick for kick drums. So I asked if he had any kind of speaker laying around… He pulled out this radioshack guitar amp (!!). It would work, if we would affix the bare wires from my cut-up mic cable (especially for this purpose) and get em to stay. A lot of speakers have clamps, so it isn’t a problem, but not this one. We ended up using some little paper clippy things to mash the contacts together. Gotta love ghetto recording. Can’t tell at all from the sound though. Big, deep, “round” bass drum sound.
Speaking of the bass drum, Seth got all new heads for his kit – and the kick head was this special thingy. It had deadening rings on the front head, with the intended purpose, that you wouldn’t need to put a pillow or anything inside the drum. Well, that didn’t really work out quite like they said, because the back head rang a lot. We ended up putting some padding in there anyway. After we did this, the system really worked great though, because it gave us a lot of flexibility. For songs like ‘Chris’ and ‘Human Nature and Love,’ we could just remove one of those foam rings real quick and suddenly, the drum resonated a lot more. Real nice for controlling that stuff.
- Kick Inside – AKG D112
- Kick Outside – RadioShack Guitar Amplifier
- Snare Top – Modified (transformerless) SM57
- Snare Bottom – RODE NT5
- Hi-hat – SM57 (I tried an nt5, but it was clipping out my preamps, no matter what I did. So I had to sacrifice some quality)
- All 3 Toms – Seth’s cool Shure mini-condenser guys – cant remember the numers now.
- Overheads – Seth’s SM81’s, equidistant from the snare (for phase, nice little trick)
- Room – Soundeluxe u195. Moved it into the adjacent room for a few tunes.
Sound clips posted sooner or later. That brings the list of songs with drums up to:
The Way off the Ground
Is This What You Really Want
Every Time I Close My Eyes
Human Nature and Love
Please continue the discussion of which of the remaining songs need drums, and which of all the songs i’ve demo’d (or others you know i have but haven’t demo’d yet) you would like to see on an album. Thanks!
Chase’s Top Ten
My friend Chase has done his own Top Ten albums list in response to all the hubbub as of late. Here’s got some good picks on there, and better variety than exists on my list.
I MADE #11 ON HIS LIST!!!! Woo Woo Dog Boy!