2 December 2008

Infidel-ity?

Just why the studio is called Infidel, I don’t know, but Duncan Lowe obviously does a good job, so what’s in a name?

Over the weekend, my commercial jazz cum disco/pop band, Stolen Moments cum Crisp cum Kitsch in Synch, went into Infidel Studios at Queanbeyan to record a demo CD. It was a solid day’s work, especially for Duncan who engineered, mixed and finally mastered. We managed 9 tracks with a few extra layers for harmonies, Hammonds, percussion and the like, although it took us a few extra hours to finish all the mixing and mastering. We’d gone into the studio hoping to record 6 tracks and put down two takes on each. In the end, we added three throwaways with a single take, and they were good enough given we were nicely warmed up by that stage. As for the twin takes, we generally found take 2 was the better one, given a reorientation to the tune from the first take. We found that first take often moved slightly in speed, then would settle to a tempo, and this would be the right tempo that defined the second take. It was surprising how just a few clicks on the metronome made so much difference to the feel.

Everyone was in good form on the Saturday. We played the takes with headphones and well isolated instruments. My bass amp was in a separate room and miked with a speaker (a speaker is really only a mic in reverse). I’d read about the technique, and Duncan says he likes it for the high-end roll-off on bass. It certainly ended up sounding good. Nicky was singing in the master suite for the guide track, and James ended up isolated in the kitchen, but we could all hear each other well enough given individual headphone mixes. I found it was not at all difficult to work through headphones, given decent settings for headphone levels. I finished my part early, so could then relax. We selected takes, did a few minor digital fixes. Then a few hours to record the vocals and layer harmonies, percussion and extra keyboards. Duncan had used a few tube pre-amps and compressors during the tracking, especially for vocals, and had been riding the sliders. But his ear and gear came particularly into play with the mix, where he was busily EQ-ing and patching in various outboard toys: more pre-amps, compressors, delays and a deft touch of reverb. He finished mixing final tracks on Monday night, then a little mastering and we had a decent 30minutes of demo.

Infidel seems to record plenty of local rock and indie-folk acts (of which there’s a strong local scene), but he’s also done some jazz and funk styles (Casual Projects recorded a CD there). Our session was just one-day to record a demo CD, but he does longer projects, albums and the like, and will often work with other studios, especially for the mystical mastering stage for CDs due for release. He’s obviously proud of his analogue gear and 2” multi-track tape recorder, although his digital work seems bloody good to my ears. He can also record on location. He did a great job, worked hard and our band was excited with the results as they appeared. It’s been a great experience, hard work but fun, and we get something a little more permanent out of it. And it sounds bloody good.

Stolen Moments comprises Nicky King (vocals), James Hoogstad (tenor sax), Peter Kirkup (keyboards), Mick Schow (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass). We recorded at Infidel Studios, Queanbeyan, with Duncan Lowe producing.

BTW, this is CJBlog post no. 300. Still going pretty strongly and heading towards 500. Wish me luck.

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