WhiteRoom began as Alex Dray's personal recording project in his lonely basement studio in Notre Dame de Grace, Montreal. Having spent his childhood in London, England and his teens in Montreal, Alex was exposed to a wide range of different musical styles and influences.
After falling in love with Brit Rock bands like Blur, Radiohead and Supergrass, Alex became actively involved in Montreal's Punk scene, performing at the Van's Warp Tour in 2000 as the kid drummer for Naked and Happy, then signed to Montreal indie champions Stomp Records.
But drumming was not the only thing in store for Alex. The Ninjatune catalogue of artists had a profound impact on his creative approach and the young songwriter started learning the new production techniques made possible by ever more powerful (and affordable) home computers.
Alex sought out long-term collaborator and singer-songwriter Eddy Silva to be the voice of the project. When they were not writing songs together, Eddy and Alex sifted through collections of old movies and records, collecting meaningful samples and reliving bygone eras.
The first Whiteroom LP took four years of perseverance to complete and was recorded entirely on a Pentium III PC. It tells the story of countless computer crashes; thousands of hours of square-pushing; beautiful moments of late night inspiration as well as the unique input of sixteen talented Montreal guest musicians. The finished product is an intricate work of poetic lyrics and acoustic songwriting, seamlessly integrated with electronic sequencing and sampling.
The duo launched their LP in October 2006. On the night of the CD release party, Alex celebrated the completion of the seemingly endless project by falling out of a tree and breaking both his wrists. WhiteRoom, literally crippled by the incident, disbanded while Alex picked up the pieces and relearned how to use his hands.
With Alex fully recovered, he and Eddy were joined by bassist Matt Wiviott, guitarist Pascal Shefteshy and drummer Adam Miller, and WhiteRoom went live. The band has since been winning over audiences in Montreal and beyond, taking their show on the road through Canada and the US. They are currently in pre-production for their second album, scheduled for release in 2008 and are firming up plans for touring in North America and Western Europe.
Alex Dray: piano/synths/programming
Adam Miller: drums
Eddy Silva: vocals/ rhythm guitar
Matt Wiviott: bass/percussion
Pascal Shefteshy: lead guitar
Self-titled debut LP can be streamed from www.whiteroom.ca and jamendo.com (1500 downloads and counting - ya baby!)
In addition - new advance material from the upcoming album can be heard at whiteroom.ca/music or myspace.com/officialwhiteroom
Addicted to Gold - Acoustic Version
All Pieces Broken
Capsule Records -WhiteRoom Review
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This is truly one of the most complex and textured albums of the year. Ranging from folk to rock to ...This is truly one of the most complex and textured albums of the year. Ranging from folk to rock to latin to jazz, the album is a kaleidoscope of musical influences changing in such rapid succession as to be constantly challenging the listener to relate to a concept before pulling the rug out from under them. While definitely not "easy listening", WhiteRoom is engaging, thought provoking, and at times achingly beautiful... if not a bit too frenetic.
Written and produced by the Montreal based duo Alex Dray and Eddy Silva Frade, the album boasts a long list of accomplished guest performers playing a variety of instruments such as trumpet, cello and tuba. The unique talent of these performances and the richness of the orchestration adds to the overall texture of the album, giving it a much more complex and ornate feeling then most mainstream music today.
While dense, the album remains accessible on many levels and is particularly evident on some of the more catchy numbers like Ordinary Day and Barcelona. The vocals are the highlight of the album, mixing sweet melodies with Beatles-esque harmonies that float lightly on top of all the madness. At first listen WhiteRoom is an overwhelming auditory experience, but subsequent listens reveal an elegant and sophisticated album unlike any you have heard.
Decoy Mag - 10 Bands You Should Know
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There are purists out there who think that music is dying. There have been these same naysayers for ...There are purists out there who think that music is dying. There have been these same naysayers for a number of years, citing a lack of creativity and a bulk of weird and different for the sake of weird and different. WhiteRoom is about to blot out these same people by shoving their self-titled album down their throats. WhiteRoom's music is a collage of everything great about Brit rock from 1964 to 1977, then 1994 to the present, skipping the embarrassing fads of the 1980s and cutting back and forth between the juicy bits, from Radiohead squalls to upbeat Beatles ditties. It should make anyone a fan of music again. If you like the Cooper Temple Clause, you should love WhiteRoom. More eclectic and less likely to get lost within their own song. Highly recommended.
BSWC - WhiteRoom- Paillons
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I found WhiteRoom, an indie band from Montreal, just a few days ago while doing my rounds. WhiteRoom...I found WhiteRoom, an indie band from Montreal, just a few days ago while doing my rounds. WhiteRoom was officially born in September of 2006 - a good month I might add, as it was also the birth month of a Western Massachusetts Local Currency, BerkShares. The band arose from the creative brains of Alex Dray and Eddy Silva who took their collective years and diverse music interests and turned them into the sonic adventure that you are about to experience.
The track from their self titled album that I chose for today's post is Papillons, I assume after the papillon, a dog marked by its butterfly like ears. This track has all of the energy of a thousand butterflies tempered by mellow vocals and kept steady with skilled instrumentation. The music is tough to nail to a specific genre, the influences being all over the road. 90s pop / break beat / Beatles / Eastern ethnic / ambient piano. Speaking of butterflies, sounds like Joe Frank buried in the background murmuring about white butterflies too beautiful to imagine.
The description "a firm foundation of Introspective Indie Rock while drifting fluidly between latin jazz, urban beats, haunting trip-hop and romantic cinema sound-scapes" hits the mark pretty well. I bet WhiteRoom is great live.
EM Magazine - WhiteRoom: Melding Acoustic and Synthetic Soundscapes Into NeoRomantic Pop
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WhiteRoom at its essence is the duo of friends Alex Dray and Eddy Silva who came together in hi... WhiteRoom at its essence is the duo of friends Alex Dray and Eddy Silva who came together in high school. Stylistically, they drifted in and out of groups in the Montreal, Canada music scene, experimenting with musical amalgams. Fast-forward five years, and the pair “gave up natural light and hunkered down in a claustrophobic basement bunker,” says Dray. “To call it a studio at the time is delusional, since it was essentially a bare room with a computer running Cubase, a sound card and two pairs of $20 headphones.” They invited in musicians—and sourced a variety of unusual outlets and samples—to flesh out their vision. The result? A sound they call ‘NeoRomantic Pop’.
Alex confesses that as ‘children of the digital domain’, almost the entire record was recorded on a Dell PIII computer with an Event Gina 16-bit sound card running Cubase 5. “We disagree fundamentally with audiophiles who swear that tape-based systems, tube compressors or vinyl recordings have a ‘soul’ that is lacking in digital set-ups. Of course, we have some beautiful pieces of analog gear: a Roland Juno 60, a Roland JX-3P and Korg MS-20 are prized possessions. We used the Roland Space Echo RE-201 lavishly and with great affection. For sampling we used an Akai S6000, which its own particular D/A A/D coloration and warmth.”
All the instruments, from the conventional to the exotic, were tracked using stereo techniques using a pair of cardioid Shure SM-81s in combination with an AKG 414 BULS—in a room with little acoustic treatment and low ceilings. “We had to close mic everything to reduce the effect of flutter tones, flanging and phasing and just about every other nasty room noise that you can imagine,” he remembers. Vocals were captured almost exclusively with a $200 second-hand M-Audio Luna mic, which sounded amazing.
While the writing phase usually began before recording, once the song hit the production phase, it went in unforeseen directions. Working with samples to enhance their music—whether from sources such as vintage vinyl or ones they create themselves. “On the song ‘Ender’, Shen Qi was invited to improvise on Er-Hu (a two-stringed Chinese ‘violin’). We were left with about an hour of material from which we created a 1-minute solo. The solo itself contains over 100 different samples from the original improvisation, edited together to make a fluid musical line.”
Live drums were pretty much the last thing that was recorded. They upgraded to the 8-input/20-bit Layla card, borrowed some mics including a D112, a few more 81s and some SM57s. “Almost every song was recorded/produced initially to sequenced drums. Although it made performance difficult, and a lot of time adjustments was made after tracking was finished (although no Beat Detective, thank you very much), there are many instances when we chose to double layer the original sequencing with live drums over the top. The intermingling of live drums with synth drums had a huge impact on the style of drumming as we sought to make the two fluidly intermingle.”
Vogue Mag - The Many Voices Of Montreal
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The cosmopolitan influence, and the local sound inspire the many voices of Montreal. A polyphonic so...The cosmopolitan influence, and the local sound inspire the many voices of Montreal. A polyphonic sound created by its festivals.
In Montreal, the crisis of the record industry does not seem to exist. It is sufficient to take a walk around the famous Plateau Mont Royal area to witness the numerous music stores that promote the highly creative local talent.
In recent months, much has been written about such local bands that have gone on to be famous such as: Arcade Fire, Feist, Rufus Wainright, and The Dears.
A new trend is taking place in which the city has already created a following. As demonstrated by Pop Montreal’s attractive advertisement. Pop Montreal is an alternative music festival whose objectives, among others is to fight the monoculture of big corporations, let alone, the will to put in evidence the cultural liveliness of the city.
The group White Room is part of this trend. They were formed five years ago, thanks to the friendship between Alex Dray and Eddy Silva. Their music can be described as romantic neo-pop with a poetic folk sound. It is a pot-pouri that combines the latest influences, as evidenced in their first self-titled CD (FreeWorld Records). According to band member Alex,” Our goal is to travel the world absorbing diverse musical styles, and to incorporate it into our music.”
Montreal is a cosmopolitan place where bilingualism gives life to the parallel Francophone and Anglophone scenes of rock, electronic, folk, and hip hop music. One of the groups that best embody this trend is local band Patrick Watson, who released their second cd last October entitled “Close to Paradise” (Secret City Records). This release proved to be very successful.
In spite of the name, this group consists of four members. According to the band leader, “For two years, we searched for a name which expresses the cohesion of our band. Unable to find one, we decided to name it after me.”
From a music point of view, these artists not yet into their thirties, declared their love for music by Pink Floyd. A band from which they have drawn inspiration, and derived a musical lightness that confers a hypnotic aura to their music. The same lightness as the music of Martha Wainright, sister of Rufus Wainright, who is working on an album due to be released next autumn. This would be a follow-up to her successful first album. Nora Jones declared Martha, “the artist most listened to this year”.
Raised in a family of musicians, Martha grew up listening to music.
The electronic panorama includes “So this is Goodbye” (Domino). This is the second album by The Junior Boys, and a single will be released in March. This band divides their time above all else between Ottawa and La Belle Province. With talented groups like these, we are left wondering what is the secret to Montreal.
It is worth turning our attention to White Room, who seem destined to become popular on the international scene.
According to Alex Dray, “In many cities, a single style of music dominates, and hundreds of bands do nothing but try to imitate this single style. There are few original pieces. Here instead, you can stay awake for three days in a row to absorb the diverse influences in the music of Montreal. There is a present feeling in our music. And those that know this city can perceive the voice.
Jamendo Case Study-How to get your album to 10.000 ears
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How to get your album to 10.000 ears in 2 months on Jamendo… Tuesday, April 24th, 2007 A quick u...How to get your album to 10.000 ears in 2 months on Jamendo…
Tuesday, April 24th, 2007
A quick usecase of our new BuzzTeam feature!
WhiteRoom (a Canadian pop band) released their eponymous album on Jamendo on February 09th of this year. It initially received a few good reviews and begun making its way in the Jamendo community.
Then a few days ago, Mike Linksvayer discovered the album (it would be interesting to know how) and liked it. Mike happens to be the CTO of Creative Commons and the primary contributor to their highly popular weblog. He included a player widget of the WhiteRoom album on a post about Rythmbox+Jamendo.
A few days later: the album was listened to more than 10.000 times, it received more reviews and was added to the finest playlists on Jamendo. Mike is now of course the most active member of the WhiteRoom BuzzTeam with more than 1700 referrals!
This is the most outstanding example of BuzzTeam use to date but there are many, many others. Even if your blog isn’t as popular as the Creative Commons one, the artists welcome every single effort to help them spread their music, so let’s share your favourite albums!
Frantik Mag - WhiteRoom Interview
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1. Who the heck is the White Room and how did you get your start? Our introduction to computer ...
1. Who the heck is the White Room and how did you get your start?
Our introduction to computer based production was came very early. Alex was working briefly on a project with a friend of his at the time, Justin West (now owner of Secret City records in Montreal) who showed him a brief prophetic glimpse into the future of basement production.
After the project with Justin disintegrated, he lent Alex his copy of Cubase 5 and Fruity loops, a few SM58 microphones and a 2 channel 16 bit Event Gina sound card. Some of the tracks that made it to the album (like ‘At Odds’) were sketched almost right away and sat around collecting digital dust for a long time. That was over 9 years ago!
WhiteRoom itself had a very organic birth. Eddy, Alex and Paco have been playing together in one form or another in several different groups since early high school. We drifted from a young alternative rock band through reggae/hip-hop and ended up in an experimental improvisational jazz/electronica ensemble. At this point we were already playing with Matt Wiviott (who plays upright bass on the LP). After this group went its temporarily separate ways, Alex and Eddy gave up natural light and hunkered down in a claustrophobic basemen bunker. To call it a studio at the time is delusional, since it was essentially a bare room with a computer running Cubase, a sound card and two pairs of $20 headphones. However – over the years –we very, very gradually added components and upgrades.
In the summer of 2002 – Alex went to Mexico and had his heart split in two by a beautiful French Canadian – upon his return Eddy and Alex cut school for two weeks and recorded ‘Puppeteering’ – WhiteRoom was officially born.
2. How would you describe the music to someone who hasn’t heard the music?
After careful musicological study, we have identified our genre as NeoRomantic Pop. That is to say – we like the notion that there is a larger scale concept that we’re trying to tap into while writing: emotional, intellectual, thought-provoking or whatever. But musically, we try and let our instincts guide us. I.e. if its sounds good, it is good. Regardless of the complexity of our harmonies, the intricacy of our creative process or how advanced the theory.
For that reason- we find it very difficult to stay within one style, or one framework. Ender and Papillons feature extensive sampling, processing and programming. But something like Ordinary Day is of a very simple acoustic style – almost like a folk song.
We were definitely all children of the 90s Alternative Rock Golden age: Radiohead, Smashing Pumkpins, Blur, Portishead. But the more different music we listened to, the more we began to hear our heroes' influences as well. For instance, Radiohead draws a lot of their energy from the Beatles, while a lot of their harmonies go back to the Classical Romantic composers...so we spent a lot of time listening to those composers-Lizt, Schuman Chopin and so on. But of course by this time we had started absorbing so many genres: Hip-Hop, Columbian Latin-Jazz, UK break-beats; the beginning of jazz and be-bop in Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, to name just a few. You can hear all these influences in our music.
We also try to draw musical ideas from not only the actual music we listen to, but also films we've watched, places we've been, lovers we've lost, random thoughts at 4am after way too much coffee and cigarettes. In the end music is about story-telling. If you have no story to tell, your music may be pretty or catchy, but it will be also be hollow and empty. We went around telling everyone that we sounded like Radiohead for a while, since they have been such a huge influence on us – but many people found the comparison simplistic. At the end of the day, we enjoy saying people can expect NeoRomantic Pop and letting them (and the music) decide what that means.
3. Talk about the creation of the new CD from a writing/compiling standpoint… do you write fully realized compositions or is the creation process experimental and spontaneous…?
Production is always a pretty absorbing process. On some songs, the timbre/sound of the recording ends up becoming as important as the melodies and rhythms used. For instance ‘Ender’ was originally written as an alternative rock song (you can get a glimpse of the original form at the very beginning of the LP). Although the harmony and lyrics remain the same– the song is almost unrecognizable in its current Acid Jazz/Trip Hop form –undergoing a huge metamorphosis during production. The parts of many songs were recorded and recorded several times as we adapted the playing, mastered new techniques or just got technically better as musicians. Its amazing what sounds great at 2AM for instance after a few glasses of wine, but sounds terrible in the raw light of the next morning.
We both sit down to conventional instruments (i.e. piano, guitar) to begin the writing process – but once that song hits the recording/production phase– it goes in directions that we often would never have thought of.
Suddenly, you aren’t expressly limited by your technique on an instrument, or even by the timbre of that instrument itself. One challenge we faced after production was adapting the record to a live set. We found that at first, we couldn’t perform many of the piano and guitar parts very well – let alone recreate the extensive use of synths and samples. Having been able to achieve some of our performance goals in a studio setting, we were able strive towards not only better musicianship – but also we also opened the door to develop our ability to do live sampling, processing and synth work. We were forced to start building our own Kotakt and Max/MSP patches to recreate some of the more electronic aspects for the album.
In the future, we’d like to explore being able to perform everything solidly before hitting the recording phase, and then seeing what next level of ideas we can reach for in the studio. We see the process as symbiotic – some things you have to develop as a performer and take into the studio (including composition) and some things you have to take from the studio to the stage.
3a. What were your sources for samples like on “Ender” for instance? Are you a vinyl collector or did you use pre-recorded sample libraries as your source? I’m really interested in the creation process. The songs are very sonically interesting.
Ahhhh…sampling…. No comment.
No, just kidding. Alex has about 1000 vinyls – mostly appropriated from his parents – and back in the day Eddy got seriously into scratching and turntablism.
We used to cruise second-hand music stores and garage sales looking for old jazz recordings, folk music from different countries and basically as much weird stuff as we could find: nursery rhymes – books on vinyl – obscure children’s theater. For instance, there is a sample in “Simple Mood” from a Nigerian a capella versions of Bach’s Mass in B minor!
Although we are guilty of pilfering from one or two sample libraries, we try and stay away from them as much as possible – we like the idea that a sample should be a snapshot of a much greater picture – that it should have both an original history as well as a new musical meaning. Although it is probably difficult for a general listener to appreciate, when we listen to our album, each sample represents and invokes an entire other idea; a whole other dream; in some cases a much greater and worthy piece of art.
That being said, if we heard a sample we liked from a library or we would never dismiss it for some arbitrary set of standards. Our view is, if it resonates with you and its what you’re looking for, why keep looking?
The notion that some company compiles a list of prepackaged sounds is not something we disagree with. Sometimes an artist just wants to find that particular sound – and if they find it on Sound Ideas in 5 minutes as opposed to wandering the streets of their city with a mindisic recorder and a desperate expression, so be it.
We spent a lot of time looking for samples – and what we may call a necessary part of the creative process –others would call a colossal waste of time ☺ We find the whole debate a little like the one of branded and unbranded clothes. If you make a point of wearing clothes with no logo, you can’t escape making a statement as fashion-conscious as wearing Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts. Why not pick your clothes because you like how they look?
In some songs – especially the very intro of the album – we had very clear ideas of samples we were looking for and set out to find already recorded and/or existing instances in the ‘real world’ – the cricket samples were done as a field recording using minidisc and a small stereo sony electret condenser while Alex was wandering lost and confused through the deserts of Utah.
We spent literally hundreds of hours watching old commercials, movies and other random broadcasts looking for inspiration and pre-conceived ideas. It was a messy affair. By the end of the process – we had an entire Cubase project just dedicated to sample snippets that we had found. It was several gigs, and 99% of it was never used.
One of the highlights of the process was discovering archive.org. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is dream website for the electronic musician: an extensive library of audio and video going back to the beginning of last century: 60s commercials and propaganda utopia! We must have downloaded about ½ their films.
However – over the process of creating this album, we gradually developed a much broader sense of the word ‘sampling’.
For instance on Ender – Shen Qi was invited to improvise on Er-Hu (a two-stringed Chinese ‘violin’, heard predominantly at the beginning of the song). We were left with about an hour of material from which we created a 1 minute solo. The solo itself contains over 100 different samples from the original improvisation, edited together to make a fluid musical line. We realize that this is not sampling in the normal use of the term. From Shen-Qis playing, we extracted our own melodies – twisting and turning her music until it became partly our own reinvention.
The more engrossed in the project we became, the more we realized that sampling is more a definition of how we create music in general. We are bombarded by musical sounds on an almost endless basis from the moment we’re born. If you pack all that together and launch it at our senses, you get an incomprehensible mass of unintelligible information. The primary function of the brain is to filter out what is important from what is meaningless: to pay attention to (or sample) a tiny fraction of the message – then rearrange it to form personal, unique ideas.
With that in mind, we see picking or discovering a particular sample as no different from choosing a particular note to play in a scored out melody for a traditional instrument. Our musical sensibilities and preferences are reorganized versions of the masses of information we have grown up absorbing and discarding while discovering patterns within.
Back to Ender - you can hear a young girl accompanying eddy as he sings the first chorus. This sample needed no editing, processing or pitch correction at all, and the moment of clarity when we realized how beautifully her singing lined up with the main vocals was an incredible feeling of connecting to this abstract figure from an old forgotten Chinese film. After the fact – we had a friend translate her lyrics – as it turns our, she is singing about the same thing as Eddy.
4. What about from a recording standpoint… it has a great clarity—even just from listening online. Were all instruments recorded live? How are you recording (analog/digital/Pro Tools? Tell me about the process and the gear you used (software, hardware, instruments, microphones).
When all is said and done, we are children of the Digital Domain. We disagree fundamentally with audiophiles who swear that tape based systems, tube compressors or vinyl recordings have a ‘soul’ that is lacking in digital set-ups.
There are terrible pieces of analog gear and beautiful ones. There are well designed and implemented digital algorithms and there are poor ones.
We have some beautiful pieces of analog gear: a Roland Juno 60, a Roland JX-3P and Korg MS-20 are prized possessions. We used the Roland Space Echo RE-201 lavishly and with great affection. For sampling we used an Akai s6000, which its own particular D/A A/D coloration and warmth.
Some of the acoustic instruments we recorded were drums, guitars (electric, acoustic and classical), bass (electric and upright), flute, Violin, cello, trumpet, tuba, clarinet, tenor sax, alto sax, bari sax, erhu, huangdi + dizi (Chinese flutes), Chinese zither, pipa, quena, piano, congas, tabla, samisen, accordion, digeridoo, whirlygig plus a whole range of random percussion.
The majority of these were recorded using stereo techniques using a pair of cardioid SM-81s in combination with and AKG 414 BULS. However, the room we used to record acoustic instruments had just about no acoustic treatment and ceilings of about 7 feet. We had to close mic everything to reduce the effect of flutter tones, flanging and phasing and just about every other nasty room noise that you can imagine.
Almost the entire record was recorded on a PIII with an Event Gina 16bit sound card running Cubase 5. We can’t stress how traumatic running Cubase was at first. Drivers continuously failed, the program featured 1 level of undo and would crash if we clicked on the wrong parts of the screen (and this was a legitimate version of cubase no less). On many occasions, Cubase would crash while processing – corrupting not only the project files, but huge chunks of the original .wavs as well! Hilarious. However, after a very long time – we gradually learned how to tweak windows so that it ran smoothly. We realized that our computer is like another piece of gear or instrument. If its nurtured just so, and left to do its job it will perform beautifully!
When we had finished most of the tracking, we managed to upgrade to the 8 input 20 bit Layla card just in time for drums. For drum miking, we borrowed a D112, a few more 81s and some SM57s from friends. The live drums were pretty much the last thing we recorded which is sort of ass-backwards. Almost every song was recorded/produced initially to sequenced drums. Although it made performance difficult – and a lot of time adjustments made after tracking was finished (although no beat detective, thank you very much), there are many instances when we chose to double layer the original sequencing with live drums over the top. The intermingling of live drums with synth drums had a huge impact on the style of drumming as we sought to make the two fluidly intermingle. In retrospect, we’d like to think that that was our goal for the whole album – to move casually in and out of electronic, synthetic and acoustic instrumentation without ever making statements like ‘this is the electoronica bit!’ and ‘this is the acoustic bit’!
Eddy’s voice was recorded almost exclusively on an M-Audio Luna (which was only $200 second-hand!). ‘Nuff said.
One of our biggest screw-ups was not using a DI on the acoustic guitar (failing to realize that the internal microphone pickup would be calibrated to line level impedance). So our mixing engineer (Reuben Ghose) had to re-amp the acoustic which gives it that particular crunch.
Our ultimate biggest screw-up was using the pre-amps on a Behringer Eurorack. We bought this mixer initially because it was very very cheap – and it looked so shiny and nice! The Behriger does have its own particular sound, as heard on the vocals in simple mood – in general the pre-amps are cheap, thin and noisy.
We did some research and bought a set of RME quadmic Pre-Amps – which then necessitated the re-recording of almost every single instrument that had previously recorded. It was a learning process!
About two years in, a friend of mine gave me his old Athlon 766Mhz which became dedicated to softsynths and softsampling . We outfitted it with a Soundblaster Live PCI sound card with KX family drivers for low latency VST monitoring, installed Cubase and took off! .
We had access to a lot of software coming through school at the time, so we made the progression through a lot of different software, Reason 1.0 became a great favorite, as did Atmosphere – towards the end of the project, we fell in love with the Native Instruments packages (although they barely ran on that PC) – shifting sampling to Kontakt. We began designing new synths/DSPs in Reaktor, PD and then Max/MSP.
5. Any special techniques employed in the making of the record? Any good anecdotes or stories of some unconventional techniques employed to create sounds…?
There is an amazing freeware impulse response called SIR which is fairly easy on the processor. We spent some time wandering around with a bag of balloons and a test mic (er…sm-58) taking our own lo-fi impulse responses in the strangest places we could find: building sites, living rooms, dumpsters and so on. For our last mission, we wrapped a balloon around a microphone and tried to measure the impulse response under water in a swimming pool. Needles to say, the balloon leaked and destroyed the microphone. In the process we managed to soak the minidisc player with water as well. Fortunately, it turns out the actual mindisics themselves are water resistant! So all was not lost.
Not only did we get a pretty interesting IR from the pool, we got the bizarre distortion of the microphone frying its brains.
Needless to say, it was a while before we could make field recordings again.
Another interesting thing was trying to make use of DRM inhibited MP3s. If you recall, some of the Big 5 labels started flooding the P2P networks with corrupt MP3s of popular songs – depending on what media playback software you used, the doctored songs would play back as static or just wouldn’t play at all. However, using some older versions of Windows Media Player – the mp3s were garbled and distorted in a decidedly peculiar and interesting way. Examples can be heard on the outro to Enmas Bridge.
We discovered that you can get a similar effect on CD. If you rub a CD hard against a wooden floor until its nice and scratched- most CD players refuse to read the mutilated disc, but some will spit out a stream of unrecognizable but rhythmic music - we then recorded, reprocessed and re-sequenced outputs. We call it f*ing with the signal path ;)
The most interesting thing is generally the drum sequencing. We would take a standard sequenced hip-hop/DnB beat, slice it up in Recycle and assign each slice to a note on a controller keyboard. The trick is then to slow the beat to a playable speed so you can perform the beat fluidly using the keyboard. We would then improvise a long drum solo. You get some of the live feeling back into the meticulous, slow process of drum sequencing this way. We would then speed the beat back up and edit together the interesting patterns. We ran these drums through a series of filter and time based effects until we had a series of new sequenced drum tracks of similar rhythm, but much different timbre. From these we would re-edit a final consolidated set of programmed drums.
6. Mixing/Mastering: how was the album mixed and are you also using Pro Tools for this as well…
At this stage we left the process in the hands of other people. Reuben Ghose, working at Banff Center for the Arts at the time, mixed the album on a ProTools HD system. By this time we ourselves had switched to Protools, but thought we should finish the project on Cubase 5 – just for the shear hell of it.
What was particularly annoying was the process of transporting Cubase project files to Protools without the aid of Cubase SX and OMF exporting. Let me tell you that some of our projects were over 70 tracks – and consolidating and exporting that many tracks is a huge headache! Furthermore we lost all the rough mix settings for each project. Reuben had to recreate our ideas from the general stereo mixes of each songs.
However – we think that process was almost a necessary refreshment/2nd opinion to the music. It gave Reuben liberty to mess with the mixes as he saw fit – and he proved invaluable in finding the clarity and musicality that the album achieves, playing a solid hand at sifting through the layers of effects and instrumentation and finding the important structure underneath.
As for the black arts employed by Phil Dimitro at Lacquer channel in Toronto for mastering, we can only make wild speculative assumptions. we are sure more experienced readers will chuckle knowingly, and I do know on an intellectual level that the process involved particularly warm and gentle multiband EQing, compression etc. But analytically, all we can say is that the record came back from Phil Dimitro just sounding much better. God bless all skilled mastering engineers!
We actually spent some time talking with Phil about the loudness wars which are currently being waged on terrestrial radio. Phil is an old soul, it seems – and he was careful not to be too aggressive. Our record sounds less loud and up front than the average commercial release, it leaves room for a sound which helps create the sense of narrative and space we sought throughout the recording process.
Our sets typically last 45minutes to one hour, although we can supply a much longer set-length if required.
A typical set would be:
1.Play it as it Lies
3. At Odds
4. Ordinary Day
5. Rise Up
6. All Pieces Broken
8. Enma's Bridge
9. Simple Mood
12. Barrio Chino
13. Running on Empty
14. Last Rites
There are no upcoming dates at this time.