Thursday, October 30, 2008

More Polish Audio Drama

Here's some newly-restored thirty-year-old Polish radio drama, freshly baked here at the all "quality" Shamrock tape should be. This show is called "Rzeznia", which I believe translates as "Slaughterhouse".

This was about 2 hours of audio, spread out on five reels. I hear lots of excellent acting, even though I can't understand what is being said (bummer!).

I'm not sure whether it's a very HEAVY human drama, or a horror show...maybe it's just better not knowing. Check out the audio snippet below:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Paddy Leitsch Shills For MOONROOM

Check it out! The Paddyman has posted a neat little vid on YouTube featuring the Moonroom Recording Studio. We've done quite a bit of work here...he was even good enough to continue to work with me while it was being built! This pretty much shows the general attitude here: relaxed and fun. Gotta love that giant prehistoric iPod - how many songs on THAT hard disk?

And of course I meant "spiels" for Moonroom, not "shills"!


Friday, July 4, 2008

Some Great Recordings

Here are some GREAT recordings - good for use as reference recordings (depending on the type of music you care to reference). These are notable for being innovative, for being prime examples of great production and engineering. Some are genre bending, others create their own genres. Not a definitive list or anything like that, just some stuff that I pulled out of the cd rack - of course, there are records and tapes that I have that are not represented here. These are some of my favorites: incredible studio work, impressive arrangements, music that makes the brain work! These "set the bar" for me:

Alan Parsons Project - 1976 - Tales Of Mystery And Imagination
HEADPHONES. A superb "electronic"-sounding album, done before electronic instruments were common. Great mix of rock and orchestra, all under a common theme (Edgar Allan Poe). Also check out his albums "Pyramid", "Eve", "Turn Of A Friendly Card", and "Eye In The Sky".

Les Baxter - 1959 - African Jazz
Even though the "jazz" on here is as "African" as the cover model is, this is one fantastic album! This exotica gem showcases Baxter's terrific arrangements, odd instrumentation, and presents a sort of "Hollywood" version of percussive Africa.

Beach Boys - 1966 - Pet Sounds
Brian Wilson's masterpiece. How can an entire album be so good? Heartbreakingly beautiful. "God Only Knows" is Paul McCartney's favorite song of all time. And the stereo version (1996) only doubles the beauty of the original mono version.

The Beatles - 1966 - Revolver
"Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream" with this one. Top-notch writing. A wonderful mind trip. And no two songs sound alike. Also try "Rubber Soul", "Sgt Pepper", and "Abbey Road".

Adrian Belew - 1996 - Op Zop Too Wah
From King Crimson and David Bowie and Talking Heads and The Bears comes Adrian Belew. Whimsical and dark wordplay, beautiful melodies...this drummer won "Best guitarist of the year" for several years in a row - plus the guy recorded and played and sang the entire album himself!

Clockhammer - 1992 - Klinefelter
You never heard of them. From Nashville, this HEAVY rock group incorporated jazz and some wonderful lurching time signatures. Victims of the "Only Two Albums" curse.

Donald Fagen - 1982 - The Nightfly
HEADPHONES. The voice of Steely Dan. This album is a recording BENCHMARK. Absolutely impeccable recording work by Roger Nichols. Also try "Kamakiriad".

Stan Getz - 1965 - Mickey One OST
The follow-up to "Focus", this soundtrack album was also a Stan Getz/Eddie Sauter pairing. Eclectic tenor sax solos intertwined with thrilling small orchestra arrangements, this music jumps genres from track to track effortlessly.

Flaming Lips - 1997 - Zaireeka
A 4-cd set designed to be played on 4 different cd players at the same time. Wonderful conceptual audio art. Get this and have a Zaireeka party with friends. Simply beyond cool.

Flaming Lips - 1999 - The Soft Bulletin
HEADPHONES. Their "Sgt Pepper's", this album is full of lush fake orchestration, mind-blowing lyrics, possibly the best album of the '90's. Also try "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" and "At War With The Mystics".

Flat Earth Society - 2006 - Psycho Scout
You never heard of them. Oddness is king with these virtuosos. Rock with a full brass section, lots of dark humor...Zappa music from Belgium.

Bernard Herrmann - 1958 - The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad OST
This is a stereo bootleg of the complete score (only a re-recording of the score has been legitimately issued). Bennie was notoriously tough on his orchestras, and AM I GLAD HE WAS! All of the original Herrmann-directed orchestral recordings are spectacular, and put the re-recordings TO SHAME. There is passion and fury here that just doesn't come through on the later recordings. Good luck finding this one. Also try "Mysterious Island", "Sisters", "North By Northwest", "Journey To The Center Of The Earth", and "Taxi Driver".

Jellyfish - 1993 - Spilt Milk
HEADPHONES. Doesn't get better than this. Killer production, great songs. Beach Boys meet Queen meet Schoolhouse Rock. Whimsical pop, dark grown-up subjects wrapped in uber-catchy music. Victims of the "Only Two Albums" curse.

Michael Kamen - 1988 - The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen OST
HEADPHONES. Severely strange blackly comic full orchestra, to match the style and feel of the Terry Gilliam film. I especially love "The Torturer's Apprentice" piece, which is a song that the Sultan plays on his turture instrument. Each key he presses causes a different sort of pain in a different slave, and the entire song is a chorus of painful "ooh's", "yow's", and "ouches". Brilliant! Good luck finding this one.

King Crimson - 1993 - The Concise King Crimson
A career retrospective of this unbelievable band. Music that makes musicians go "Whoa!". Also try "In The Court Of The Crimson King", "Red", "Discipline", "Beat", "Three Of A Perfect Pair"

King's X - 1992 - King's X
A heavy metal/heavy rock band originally associated with Christian rock (but don't hold that against them), with lush Beatles-y vocals in their powerful pop songs. LOTS of music out of just three guys. They ought to be much more popular than they are. Also try "Gretchen Goes To Nebraska", "Faith Hope Love", "Mr Bulbous".

Pink Floyd -1973 - Dark Side Of the Moon
HEADPHONES. Goes without saying, top notch. Alan Parsons engineered this masterwork. On sixteen tracks (NOT twenty-four!). THE album on ALL the lists.

Shiina Ringo - 2007 - Japanese Manners
You never heard of her. Amazing, unusual, incredible vocalist with supremely strange arrangements. Her cunning wordplay works across the several languages she sings in. This album is very soundtrack-y, not as gimmick-y as her earlier work. Impressive. Also try "Lawsuit Winning Strip", "Lime, Semen, Chestnut Blossoms". Good luck finding them.

Raymond Scott - 1992 - Reckless Nights And Turkish Twilights
This is the guy who originally composed the music that you heard on those Bugs Bunny cartoons. Quirky pseudo-jazz from this musician who would not read or write music. He engineered his own recordings in his own recording studio: his music from the 1930's has the fidelity of the 1950's! Invented the electronium (automatic composing machine), the clavivox (keyboard theremin), and was the grandfather of electronica.

Steely Dan - 2000 - Two Against Nature
HEADPHONES. Simply gorgeous. Becker and Fagen and Nichols continue the spectacular sparkling Steely Dan stuff, after a twenty year break. Still more ugly underbelly lyrics attached to lush, sweet music. William Burroughs must have been proud that the pedantic pair pulled their band's name from his novel "Naked Lunch"... Also try "Katy Lied", "Gaucho", "Aja", "Royal Scam".

The Three Suns - 1961 - Fever And Smoke
"Quirky" doesn't quite sum this up. Maybe "goofy". Anyway, these fellows are phenomenal musicians with wicked chops playing the most unusual arrangements you've ever heard. Nothing but FUN! Innovative exotica well worth searching out.

The Tories - 2001 - Upside Of Down
HEADPHONES. I'm a sucker for well-done power-pop. This is just that. Every song here is a hit song. There is NO FILLER on this album. Victims of the "Only Two Albums" curse.

Trenchmouth - 1991 - Construction Of New Action
You never heard of them. Chicago punk band that KICKED my ear's ASS in the early '90's (thanks so much)! This cd is full of great unusual sounds, and the disc ends with some SPEAKER-DESTROYING sonics (no kidding - careful!). Watch for their drummer, Fred Armisen, on Saturday Night Live.

Vinyl Kings - 2002 - Time Machine
HEADPHONES. You never heard of them. Soulful pastiche of the Beatles/ Beach Boys/ Marvin Gaye. Eminently singable. You must go to CdBaby and buy it now. Victims of the "Only Two Albums" curse. Also try "A Little Trip".

Brian Wilson - 2004 - SMiLE
After following the dozens of iffy bootlegs of the great 1967 "lost album" by the Beach Boys, it was SUCH A JOY that this was finally released. How wonderful, too, that they didn't update or "improve" it, they simply re-recorded it, note-for-note, plus a few new bridges. Perfect.

XTC - 1989 - Oranges And Lemons
XTC has always been "quirky pop". Ugly and catchy all in the same breath. Another band that should have been much more popular than they were. With a bit of a nod to psychedelia and a winkwinknudgenudge of humor...beautiful. Also try "Skylarking", "Mummer", "Big Express", "Nonsuch".

XTC - 1999 - Apple Venus
HEADPHONES. After holding out for some seven years (due to a bad recording contract that Virgin refused to renegotiate), XTC comes back, BETTER THAN EVER. This album and it's follow-up "Wasp Star" each had an album's-worth of demos. XTC fans had four albums to listen to almost all at once.

Yes - 1983 - 90125
HEADPHONES. No apologies - I adore this album. Great tunes, something like SIX hit songs. Wonderful production by Trevor (Buggles) Horn. Just get over the sound of the eighties (which this album helped CREATE), and enjoy the sound of the great music. Also try "Drama".

Frank Zappa - 1975 - One Size Fits All
HEADPHONES. Engineered by Kerry McNab. Astounding musicianship, mind-blowing compositions. Progressive rock that ROCKS. This album voted most popular by Zappa fans. There is so much going on, so much to listen to, so much conceptual continuity...thirty years, and I'm still trying to digest it all. Audio utopia.

Frank Zappa - 1984 - Them Or Us
HEADPHONES. Engineered by Mark Pinske and Bob Stone. Full and crisp, this album takes you from '50's doowop to backwards masking to frighteningly good guitar shreds to comedy to the Allman Brothers "Whippin' Post" (Zappa's version beats the original, without a doubt). Also features some "xenochrony", dropping a guitar solo into a song from a completely different one: different keys, different tempos, but it works (!).

And a note about my comment "You never heard of them." - Maybe you did. Then you are much cooler than those others who didn't.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Baking" Reel-To-Reel Tapes

Recently, I accepted a job to transfer some 30-year-old reels - Polish radio dramas, stored and never heard since their original broadcast. It is important, of course, to preserve this type of obscure stuff.

Opening the package, I first noticed the brand of tape: "Shamrock". This rang a bell for some reason, so I did a quick search for some information on Shamrock tape. Evidently, this is about the very worst tape that one could record on, being super-susceptible to what is called "sticky-shed syndrome". They weren't trying to confuse customers that this was Scotch brand recording tape, were they?

In the late 1970's, most tape manufacturers changed the binders in their tape formulations (the binder being the glue that holds the rust on the plastic tape) due to health concerns. Unknown to them, this hygroscopic compound would, over the course of years, pull moisture directly out of the air, and get somewhat gooey, allowing the recorded layer to separate from the plastic tape. This is not only bad for the recorded media, but also for the equipment that it gets played back on.

So after a bit more research, I purchased a wonderful device which would remove the water, and render the tapes playable. It is compact, and holds the exact temperature needed for "baking". It can also make banana chips - it's a food dehydrator! This is one of those times that the DIY mentality has given us the absolute perfect solution to our problem.

The tapes played back perfectly, with great fidelity. The only problem was that they were all in Polish, which is all Greek to me! It seemed to me that since I could hear the actors moving around the recording space, interacting with each other, yet heard no pages turning, this show was memorized and blocked out the way a stage play would be. Very impressive - it lent a sense of realism to the entire production! I hope to get a bit of a translation soon.

HERE is a little snippet, some of the opening. The couple seems to be doing some pillow talk...not really discussing the barking dogs that introduce the scene. Well, that's what I hear, anyway. Let's hope it's not too off-color!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"The Linkup" STINKS

Once upon a time there was an online filesharing/backup company called Streamload. It was good - offered quality service at a good price, even offered freebie filesharing.

Then the company changed into MediaMax. It was not as good - service was nowhere near as good as it was, MANY important files "backed up on secure servers" were lost, never to be seen or heard again, very poor customer service, but we paying customers still had hopes that it might return to it's former quality.

Now the company has changed into "The Linkup". It is just plain NO GOOD. Service is essentially NONEXISTANT. ALL the remaining files from MediaMax have been lost, absolutely nothing is accessable. No links to files work: the audio that you may try listening to on this blog is GONE, although I have PAID for a service that guarantees the files to be there.

While I am trying to get my money refunded from these thieves, I will also try to find another (quality) backup company to store my files, so that they can once again be shared with my blog visitors.

My apologies for the technical difficulties.


Friday, April 4, 2008

The Newest Oldest Recording

This beautiful archaic device is a PHONAUTOGRAPH. Invented in 1857 by Frenchman Leon Scott deMartinville, a printer and writer, it was created to show how sound waves looked: possibly as as an "oral shorthand". The idea being that one could LOOK at the squiggly lines and tell what had been said (!).

The original design (1857) used a barrel-shaped wood-and-plaster horn (the auricle) and scratched the sound waves into a lampblacked glass cylinder. A later design (1859) changed the horn to a more tapered metal horn, and transferred the scratches to a blackened piece of paper wrapped around a cylinder. Notice how there is even decorative scrollwork shown on the original diagram of the machine!

SO - my point being, they've just discovered phonautograms from 1860 that are able to be "played" and are recognizable - predating the other "earliest" recordings (from 1888)! There are a few other, older phonautograms, but they only sound like squawks and warbles...nothing recognizable.

Here is a phonautogram, showing the white scratch in the lampblack (soot) on paper. The sort of sad thing about the phonautograph is that is was NOT for reproducing sound, just for creating a representation of sound on paper. The phonautograms that were recently discovered had to be digitally scanned and "played" in a virtual environment. Leon Scott died in 1879, penniless and for the most part, forgotten. At least Thomas Edison knew that people would want to HEAR their recordings of sounds, and not just LOOK at them! What the heck would people ever use a GRAPHICAL REPRESENTATION of sound for, anyway?!?

Listen to the earliest known recorded sound that we can recognize HERE.

"Au clair de la lune, Pierrot répondit" - it has an otherworldly, sort of ethereal quality to it...and what more would one expect from sound salvaged from SMOKE?!? Time travel, indeed...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Another Sample

And here's another quick sample: this is a track by Paddy Leitsch titled "Untitled Number Two". This was recorded live in a small club this past February. Paddy is the only person playing on stage, the rest of the band is just his own backing tracks playing through the PA. Tentatively calling this "GUITARAOKE", he plans on doing some gigs with this same lineup in the future.

I know that the crowd was certainly interested in what was going on - they kept looking around for the rest of the musicians, surprised to see just one guy onstage, shredding on his lit-up guitar! They hadn't seen anything like this before! Groovy.

This was simply recorded with Lamont (my binaural dummy head), and a bit of reinforcement from the original recorded tracks. Try it with headphones on - you'll get the feeling that you're sitting in the front row, with people all around you. Small club, no way to get away from the patrons...

Go check out Paddy's latest album HERE.

Check out his site HERE. (Yes, "Guitar Dragon Dojo" is him.)

Check him out live, when he plays near you!

Some Audio

Here's an audio example of some of my recent work. This is a Chicago group calling themselves "Her Majesty's Secret Service", doing their renditions of some of the best James Bond soundtrack music. They play the stuff live, IN COSTUME. Too cool.

We did the entire five-song demo in two recording sessions - the first session was drums, bass, guitar and keyboard, laid down live. The second session was overdubs of the four-piece brass ensemble and vocals. A bit of post-production tweaking and preliminary mixing by me, then a few hours of final mixdown with the producer, and voila! (be sure to say the "V", yer an idiot if you say "wallah") - finished demo: ready to play for club owners and get hired and make some money!

I have to admit that calling this "work" makes me feel a little guilty. I really enjoyed the sessions, and working with every one of the musicians involved. What fun! If the recording sounds good, it's mostly their fault. I just hit the "record" button.

Click below for the track.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Qlist (Mic List)

Before I post some audio examples (soon!), I thought I might show a quick list of the microphones I'm currently using (LDC is Large Diaphragm Condenser, and SDC is Small Diaphragm Condenser, of course):

2 Apex 140 Miniature Cardiod Condenser Mics
1 Apex 215 Dual-Ribbon Mic
1 Astatic 930VP Variable-Pattern Boundary Mic
2 AT4040 LDC Mics
2 AT803 Miniature Omni Condenser Mics
2 AT803b Miniature Omni Condenser Mics
1 AT875R Short Shotgun Condenser Mic
2 ATM63HE Dynamic Mics
2 ATM25 Dynamic Mics
1 AT Pro-1 Dynamic Mic
2 AT Pro 8HEx Headset Hypercardioid Dynamic Mic
3 AT ST90 Mark II Dynamic Mics
3 CAD E300-2 Multi-Pattern LDC Mics
2 CAD equitek e70 SDC Mics (omni & cardioid capsules)
4 CAD M179 Multi-Pattern LDC Mics
1 CAD M9 Tube/Valve Mic
1 CAD Trion 6000 Multi-Pattern LDC Mic
1 Heil PR 40 Extra-Large Diaphragm Dynamic Mic
1 "Lamont" Binaural Dummy Head
2 Naiant MSH-1c Miniature Condenser Mics
4 Realistic PZM Pressure Zone Mics (Modified)
2 Shinybox 23 Ribbon Mics (Modified)
2 Shure SM57 Dynamic Mics
1 Shure BG-4 SDC Mic
1 Superlux S502 ORTF Stereo SDC Pair
1 Superlux WB-383 Miniature Condenser Clip-on Mic
1 DiMarzio Clip-In Acoustic Guitar Pickup

Plus a few mighty elderly clunkers that barely deserve to be classified as microphones, but I do occasionally use them for their unique..."clunkiness".

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Maestro

Speaks about why music stinks these days...

I refuse to wear brown lipstick (if you're confused, you just don't get it!).

On the Monkees show.

Some Equipment...And A SECRET!

Here's a list of some equipment used at "the Moonroom":

2 VF-160 Digital Multitracks, Linked For 32 tracks
2 VF-160 EX Digital Multitracks
Behringer ADA8000 Mic Pre / ADAT
2 Rane DC-24 Compressor / Limiter / Noise Gates
2 Rane VP-12 Voice Processors
Antares ATR-1a Auto-Tune Intonation Processor
Peavey 213 FX Equalizer
Fostex D-8 Pro DAT Recorder
Pioneer PDR-509 CD Recorder
Sony MD Recorder
Sony Portable MD Recorder
Zoom H4 Flash Stereo / 4 Track Recorder
Fostex R-8 8 Track Reel To Reel Recorder
Fostex 12 X 8 X 2 Mixer
Soundcraft 8 X 2 Mixer
Boss SE-50 Stereo Effects Unit
Alesis Microverb II Reverb
Kenwood Turntable
2 Akai 1/4" Reel To Reel Recorders

That's just a start. Sure, some of that equipment seems old - it is! Been doing this since 1988. Hold on to your old stuff long enough, and it becomes VINTAGE.

Now for the SECRET. Make sure that you don't tell anyone...

It doesn't really matter what equipment you have, what really matters is that you know how to use it well. Seriously. No kidding. Ask anyone who's been recording for at least ten years. "Equipment" is much further down on the list than the guys selling the magazines would have you believe. Important, just further down the list than skill, familiarity, and experience.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

3-D Sound? 3-D Microphones!

Here is a picture of "Lamont", my dummy head, used for recording binaural stereo. Binaural recording is a process used for ultra-realistic stereo. A pair of high quality omnidirectional microphones are mounted on either side of the lifesize resin head, picking up sounds exactly the way a real head would. This allows for some startling effects: a whisper right next to the ear, a flute solo that travels around the listener, people speaking in a room...all with incredible depth and vivid tangibility.

Then there's this oddity - an obscure Crapitol/EMY album from 1963 called "With The Dummies". Might this be where Frank Zappa copped the line in Camarillo Brillo: "She said her stereo was four-way"? One of the tracks on this album, "Eight Ears To Hear You" was later cribbed as "Eight Arms To Hold You" by both The Beatles and Veruca Salt. This album remains unheard by all but a select few, since it was recorded in the highly experimental octophonic format. Rumors of an 8-track release are unfounded - so far, the few 8-tracks that have turned up have proven to be fakes. Also rumored to have influenced Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips (see their album "Zaireeka", a 4-cd set designed to be listened to on 4 different cd players simultaneously!).

NOW BACK TO THE REAL WORLD...Here is a groovy picture of an assortment of microphones used here in the Moonroom. Since I was originally posting about binaural recording and 3-D sound, here is a 3-D photograph! Click on the picture to get the big version, cross your eyes until you get a third version in the middle of the original two, focus on it, and there you have it - microphones in three dimensions! Wow! And how many 7 foot square moon posters have you seen, let alone in 3-d?!?

Why name him Lamont? Click the funky-looking bar below to find out...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Test - 1, 2, 3, 4 - test, test!

This is just a test. If this were a real emergency, you would have been instructed where to listen for more information. This is only a test. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!