The Greater Game: Part 4

Posted in Recording Sessions with tags , , , on July 27, 2015 by dazzlesoundproductions

Mix and master time!  The mix was quite involved as sounds had to be layered in order thusly:

Dialogue – edited to timeline removing fluffs, adjusting pauses, cutting breaths, coughs, cardiac arrests etc.

Bed sounds – the ambience of each scene whether indoors or outside or a combination of both.

Foley/acute sounds – sounds of war, sport, various other activities.  These often have to align with the dialogue.

Everything else – credits, impromptu songs.

Panning decisions, reverb decisions, compression, soundstaging all done on the segmented play.

Once this sonic quilt had been stitched, each individual scene had to be cross-faded so as to provided an uninterrupted soundscape.  The 39 minute master was initially parallel compressed but the decision was made that as this had been done with some elements already and that it rendered the background noises too intrusive, it was dropped.  Instead the whole play was merely gently eq’d and gain adjusted to achieve the desired result.  Some people think it’s all over, it will be on 25 September, or rather just beginning.

Wyatting – guerilla musical education or irritating snobbery: YOU DECIDE!!!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 15, 2015 by dazzlesoundproductions

Once upon a time jukeboxes were analogue, holding a defined number of 7″ singles.  if you were feeling brave, obtuse or maudlin you could select the b-side of a hit to play to an accidental audience, but not many did.  Then arrived the CD version, expanding the choice to hundreds of tracks but still keeping safety barriers in place, mainly being stocked with Greatest Hits compilations.  Then at last! the internet connected version where you could search online databases for millions of tunes.  Thus was born the brief craze of Wyatting.

The term comes from Robert’s Dondestan album, a notoriously good choice if you were to find it on a jukebox.  The aim is to pick the most excruciating avant-garde or atonal/repetitive track you can think of on internet connected pub jukebox.  Rules vary but clearing the establishment or prompting the staff to kill the music is considered a victory.  Note that it isn’t enough to simply irritate the punters trying to enjoy their drinks, otherwise Crazy Frog 20 times in a row would actually count.  You must shake their very belief in music and it’s normalised structure.  Neither it is considered sporting to punch up some ripe example of gansta-rap or death metal, as this conforms too closely to conventions of genre.  No, it must be nothing less than a deconstruction of commercial acceptability.

I say brief craze because internet wired jukeboxes did not enjoy wide take-up by the hostelries of our land, running costs and the hazards of giving tipsy musicologists too much choice means they are an exotic rarity today.  But if you do find one, try sticking these on and watch the bonds of civilisation snap.

If they're not putting me on 16 times in a row, it's "are you that Matt Berry?" bah!

If they’re not putting me on 16 times in a row, it’s “are you that Matt Berry?” bah!

A Wyatters Hit parade

Jesus & Mary Chain – any of their first three singles.  Shrieking feedback to test the tweeters in any speaker.

Lou Reed – Metal Machine Music.  Any jukebox that offers an extended barrage of white and pink noise to you is asking for an aural ASBO.

Swans – Raping a Slave.  Only 6.22?  It just seemed to fly by.

Pink Floyd – Scream Thy Last Scream.  Laughing Gnome without the laughs.

Pere Ubu – 30 Seconds Over Tokyo.  Does this sound like fun to you?

Neu – Super 16.  Makes even hardened proggers sup up and flee.

Brian Eno – Thursday Afternoon.  A classic exercise in minimalism; except for the terrifying attenuation.

Flux of Pink Indians – Tapioca Sunrise.  I got this mixed up with a Monkees song once with hilarious consequences.

Merzbow – Requiem.  Don’t be fooled by the cheery title, this is an aural assault course likened to being conscious during a kidney transplant.

The Greater Game: Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 29, 2015 by dazzlesoundproductions

Some Foley was required for our play:

Foley

As you can see, not all work no play, some of the props were drinkable.  There were also football kicks, footsteps and suchlike – I used the Tascam DR-40 for this, there are many portable digital recorders available out there but I found this had the best feature set for me, up to four tracks record and overdub and the internal condenser mics are excellent, really crisp and clear.  For the outside work I used a possum sock over the mics to cut wind noise, though best option is to watch the forecast and try to get recordings in between summer gales.  Sounds duly ‘flown in’ this now leaves the final mix and edit – more on that later.

The Greater Game: Part 2

Posted in Recording Sessions with tags , , , , on April 30, 2015 by dazzlesoundproductions

Onto recording dialogue for our radio play.  The studio we are using has a good size damped rehearsal room and this is where we decided to set up.  Less pleasingly, it is next door to a curry house with a large extractor fan and on a busy roundabout (though traffice had declined by the time we were rolling in the evening).  In these situations it’s all about maximising signal to noise.  We started in this position;

DSCN2575

The fan is outside on the right and the motorway is beyond the back wall.  The right mic was getting a bit of ambient noise although the other was relatively quiet.  So we moved to this configuration;

P1010404

This largely eliminated noise as the nulls are now presenting their ‘deaf’ side to the sources.  Keeping the talent close to the mics helped build up proximity which means the recording level could be kept down and noise was further filtered by me in post-prod.  The dialogue tracks are 90:10 signal to noise which means ambient noise will be almost entirely masked by the soundscapes we are planning to build around them.  The only remaining problems were mopeds with silencers removed (angry wasps) and actors moving off-axis (usually to read scripts).  To be on the safe sides 3 takes were laid down of each scene to give options at mixdown.  Next up, Foley.

The Greater Game: Part 1

Posted in Recording Sessions with tags , , , on March 29, 2015 by dazzlesoundproductions

I’m working on a radio play set during the Great War called the Greater Game.  Written by author Ed Harris, it tells the story of young footballers who fought at Loos in France in 1915.  This a battle largely forgotten today but it saw poison gas used for the first time and nearly resulted in a breakthrough for the British on the western front.  Many young lads were killed in the offensive and the play brings that episode to life.  Here’s some of the cast at read-through.

P1010396

The production is divided into four parts; dialogue/foley/soundscapes/edit.  We are concentrating on the spoken word first and when complete a rough cut will be assembled, ready for the remaining sounds to be layered in.  Next up are studio sessions which I’ll cover in part two.

We’re losing you…the fade fades out

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 2, 2015 by dazzlesoundproductions

The fade out is disappearing fast from pop music.  Once upon a time gradually attenuating your finished track and leaving the listener with the impression someone had stolen the microphone and was making their getaway was a very standard production trick, but times have changed.  Prior to tape the fade was the special-ist of special effects, try moving a heavy gramophone away from ensemble singers in a confined space, it ain’t easy.  The big F’s popularity grew from about 1959 for both ballads and rockers leaving as they did a sense of possibility or wistful retreat.  From 1964 they started to become ubiquitous – 50% of Beatles singles feature one – and remained so until the 1990s when the surging popularity of dance music (which hates a fade) led to a gradient reduction of gain to zero.  Why? The ease with which digital tracks can be skipped, the tyranny of radio mandating 3.30-3.45 as the perfect length for a top 40 rap/r’n’b track, the fact that clubs require beat-driven songs that can be easily cut and shut by DJs.  All of these and the reality that fades suggest a sense of bittersweet irresolution; and we can’t have that in the 21st century.

Fades can conceal or reveal all kinds of information about a record was made.  These are some which display real creativity and make an interesting hook of necessity.

Elvis Costello – Oliver’s Army

What happened here?  After three minutes of pop perfection Elvis seems in a mighty hurry to get out of earshot.  Incidentally Armed Forces is fade-tastic, every track drifts away.  Except for Busy Bodies which with a nice touch of irony fades in!

Monkees – Pleasant Valley Sunday

Turning up the reverb until the tail throttles the music in sheets of white noise subsequently became a cliche.  Here it was a first and still sounds outre.

Buzzcocks – ESP

A track lasting 4.47 with a fade that starts at roughly 3.05.  The band power on while the volume drops excruciatingly slowly.  I love it.  See also Roxy Music’s Jealous Guy.

ELO – 10538 Overture

The rest of the band go home and leave the strings to it.  Double bubble MU rates for the last 30 seconds.

Elton John – Song For Guy

Well before the end Elton starts scat singing and absent-mindedly hitting the piano chords harder and harder while holes open up in the track until it falls apart like a moth-eaten jumper.

Raspberries – Overnight Sensation

A power pop song about transient fame that features an epic false fade.  First it goes all AM radio at 2.59 before bursting back to life at 3.15.  Then at 4.08 it’s all over, until a massive j-turn on the drums at 4.18, massed harmonies, power chords the lot.

Billy Swan – I Can Help

He wraps his easy country pop tune up to an appreciative crowd in the studio, but they ain’t letting him go.  No less than two codas to whoops and cheers.

Love – 7 And 7 Is

Utter garageband rave up until God smites the players of the Devil’s music down!  When the smoke clears the next band booked at the studio is warming up with a lame blues jam.

Beatles – Paperback Writer

Someone starts assembling a bedside cabinet during the brief fade.  See also Clash’s I Fought The Law.

Teenage Fanclub – The King

Nothing but endings – AND IT FADES OUT!!!!!

I’m Looking Through You – Music on Bones

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 19, 2015 by dazzlesoundproductions

In the USSR in the mid-sixties the Beatles music began to filter through behind the iron curtain, where there was an insatiable demand for it among Soviet youth.  The Khrushchev era had loosened up the culturally repressive communist empire a little but the importation and sale of western pop music was strictly forbidden so enterprising bootleggers had to find a way to spread the fab gospel from the limited supply of original vinyl smuggled in via ports, military bases and embassies.  The answer was x-rays.  In Russian hospitals x-ray plates were made of soft vinyl.  The record recording booths found on the street could be used to cut a copy of the groove from an official vinyl record onto the discarded picture of Uncle Ivan’s busted head or ribs.  The quality was absolutely appalling, thin and shrill with no bass of course as the vinyl groove was too shallow.  And that was if the stylus of your cheap East German record player could even stay the course.  Even so, for a few roubles you got to hear your idols’ subversive music and practice amateur oncology.

The trade was risky – the KGB prowled looking for market stalls selling illegally imported Beatles vinyl and most purchases were arranged over the phone.  Stasi goons also posed (largely unsuccessfully) as fans wanting to buy but a few questions about the pop scene out west usually alerted the seller to a sting.  Counterfeits with no music only propaganda speech were also flooded onto the market to try and disrupt the underground market.

Bones records were a stepping stone to a much better form of counterfeiting; tape.  Magnetic tape was a common commodity in the USSR because the KGB needed miles of it to bug and record enemies of the state.  Reel to reel recorders were manufactured in large quantities inside Russia and making a tape copy of Sgt Pepper or the Velvet Underground was a simpler process.  That could then be copied several times providing better quality reproduction all round.  Cassette tape was even better and when it came on the scene in the 1970’s, the Soviets largely gave up the fight against western music and even sanctioned a few official rock releases via the state record label Melodiya.  Even so, periodic crackdowns on popular music and musicians continued right up until the Gorbachev era.  Leslie Woodhead’s book “How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin” reveals how the fierce love of the Beatles above all other groups was a key factor in demolishing the Soviet Union; an entire generation grew up believing if being ideologically wrong sounded this good you could keep your totalitarian state.

While we are on the subject of covert music from behind the iron curtain mention should be made of Polish postcard flexis.  These first appeared in Poland in the late 1960’s when tracks by Procol Harum, the Doors and Pink Floyd started to appear pressed on small diameter clear flexi vinyl and pasted to a double sided colour postcard.  The Polish communist state was not as violently down on western music and these artifacts seemed to have flirted with official status, certainly thousands were churned out up to the fall of the wall and beyond, Frank Zappa was a particular favourite.