go/no-go recording blog #2

now that ‘autofocus’ is up on iTunes, i figure this is probably a good time to compare the recording process for that with what we’re doing now.

first of all – we recorded an absolute stack of stuff for ‘autofocus’, giant chunks of which ended up getting cut. there were multiple, wildly different versions of some songs, and we left off (or outright abandoned half-way) at least four tracks. that was kinda the only way it could have been done, though. the album was recorded the way it was written – a bit random and cut-up and berzerk.

‘lost in berlin’ (check the iTunes link) is a good example of that. it started as a riff on a microkorg, and was emailed to steve with some blippy drums. steve repitched and mutilated the riff into an actual song in ableton live, but playing it live like that didn’t work. we shelved the song. i think we had another shot at a vocal somewhere in there. months later, we tried playing it rock-style and it sorta worked. we tracked a new rhythm part, and i dug up the original keyboard parts, added a new recording of steve’s vocals, and mixed the whole thing in reaper.

months. that took months. nearly a year. the song goes for about three minutes.

the same process played out for the other eight songs. i tried to get all “brian eno” on taz at one point and recorded him playing bass for a song he’d never heard before, just kinda shouting instructions at him as we went. that ended up as the main groove in ‘catching up with you‘, which is fun, but was a nightmare to work out a live arrangement for. the version of ‘things’ that ended up on there is completely different to how we play it live, but there are lots of elements in there that were pulled from an early demo of it, just processed until it sounded like it had been stuffed full of tiny robots. every song has some synthetic element to it, and hopefully that comes across as a cool sound. it’s a bit hard to judge everything objectively when you’ve heard everything thousands of times.

the new recording – which is almost certainly just going to be an EP – is coming together a bit differently.

we’ve added some new personnel (steve from great apes + others), and we’ve been rehearsing the hell out of the band. new songs are being written more in the rehearsal room than over the internet, and it’s coming out in the arrangements – we’re concentrating a lot more on just getting the groove right. which is probably why we bashed through all five basic tracks in a day, and some of that stuff was first- or second-takes. the extra percussion is actually adding some space, probably because steve and i are taking more breaks. it’s coming together alright.

we’ve now got all of the drums, all of the bass, and half of the keys and guitar comped and tracked. steve c’s recording his parts at his place, and steve a and i will be tracking percussion and extra keys at some point this month. probably at his place. hopefully his neighbours don’t totally freak out. there’s likely to be a lot of cowbell action. all of the keys and electronic percussion is being tracked live – none of the songs for this session were recorded to a click-track, so i can’t sync up drum machines to anything.

also, i put down this completely stupid solo and it’s awesome.