Sunday, June 21, 2020

Coasting, an album in progress

Hey all,

I've been keen for a while now to share some work in progress: an album I started on during the spring/summer last year titled coasting. The two songs I'm sharing now are for the most part finished. Compositionally, I might change one or two things before release, and mixing wise they still have a ways to go, but they're in a pretty good state now.

I wanted to share these tunes to write a little bit about the process that went into writing and recording them. My normal songwriting workflow is highly DAW based: I will generally write single sections of a song and piece them together in a non-linear fashion. Often times I will have a verse of a song fully written and recorded before I start another. On the other hand, this album is being written on my 16 track, which has gotten me to focus on writing fully fleshed out songs before I even consider recording.

I realise for most, this second workflow is probably commonplace, but my roots of electronic music production have ingrained this non-linear way of working into me. I find this has good and bad sides. Its much easier to create harsh shifts in atmosphere when the writing processes of each section is so disconnected from each other, however this can also be a curse when you want to make a single cohesive song.

Either way, I'm not going to be giving up my usual workflow, but I will be using this newer workflow more now. It gets me in a different headspace, and I find that I associate this style of writing with a much more active workflow (as opposed to a passive songwriting workflow, I might get into this more in another post)

And here are the tunes...

The sun

XVI TOWERS

(I apologise about the media player for these two tunes. I was having trouble embedding the audio into the site. I'm currently looking at solutions, and I'll update these links once I've found something)

I found getting the tone of the instruments right at the recording stage to be fairly important with these compositions. As it would be with most music I presume, but I found it applied more to this than some of my other work. Additionally, working on tape added yet another layer to this. When working in the DAW your able to customize your sound to nearly infinite extents (amp sims, synths) whereas here, its best to get the tone right to begin with (and honestly this mentality should apply to working in a DAW as well, but I just find that you always have a bit of extra leeway in digital). Again, thinking ahead is key, as on both these tracks I found mixing the huge fuckoff distortion to be quite a challenge.

For future projects using a similar sonic environment, I'll be putting a lot more thought into the way the instruments can fit together in the composition/recording stage. Shaping more on the way in to save more time down the track. I covered something similar in my Visual songwriting pt 1 post. And while that mainly revolved around the songwriting side of things, I find that a forward-thinking mentality is also very handy when planning out your sonic pallet.

As to exactly what I did for these two tunes, I'll briefly go over it here but I plan on writing a bit of a deeper and more extensive distortion post at some point. For the sun I was just playing my les paul style electric guitar through my pedal board and straight onto tape. While I wasn't recording through an actual amp (I was just using a behringer tube amp pedal), I did have the pedal board routed in parallel to a little practice amp I have, which resulted in some gnarly feedback. Additionally, before this Behringer amp sim I had my guitar routed through a Guyatone Distortion/Chorus pedal then into a DS1, a combo  I've used over the past year for amazing results. The guyatone pedal is largely uncontrolled and messy, with not much high end. Then the DS1 afterwards pulls everything together and brightens up the sound really nicely. A similar setup was used for Towers, except I used my acoustic guitar instead of electric. The sound of this already really bright guitar going through harsh and rude processing results in some overblown and highly aggressive distortion, which was perfect for this tune. Aside from the mentioned pedals, I often use a really short slapback delay, a short room or spring reverb, and some other more creative effects. (one of my favorites being a phaser between the guyatone and ds1) I cant remember the specifics of what I did for these two tunes at this point, but it would be the result of messing around and experimenting with various effects and signal chains, and eventually ending up with a sound which I felt complimented the emotion and vibe of the tune.

On the other hand, the post processing on these guitar tones is a whole other story. I'll probably get into with this distortion post I'm planning. Its amazing how you can really accentuate the tone and feeling of the distortion which really cutting it away to make it more mixable.

Anyway, hope some of my ramblings could be of use to somebody, and I hope yall liked the tunes. I am on track to have this album fully recorded and ready for mixing within two or so months so I'll update whenever necessary.

Peace & love,

lou

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