Monthly Archives: June 2014

Recording Progress

For the past fortnight or so I have been recording my multi-movement work for guitar orchestra (technically, a guitar octet with bass guitar). This will be released commercially at some point in September. It is a pretty big undertaking – the entire work runs at around 30 minutes, so I suppose you could call this an album’s worth of material. Except albums don’t usually involve hundreds of different time signatures. Unless you are in a math rock band.

The first movement is completely tracked, and I am currently working through movement II. It is quite a challenging project, because it is rhythmically very complex, and recording demands that the result be absolutely precise, and so there have been plenty of punch-ins and small edits to make everything extremely tight. It is also being recorded using slightly unconventional equipment.

I am using a Thermionic Culture Rooster preamp in conjunction with a Mojave Audio MA200 mic – so an all-valve signal path. Generally, people opt for more neutral preamps when recording classical guitar, but when I A/B’ed the Rooster against my Orpheus preamps, I immediately gravitated towards the larger-than-life, valve sound, and it appears to have paid off so far: everything sounds punchy, clear and slightly ’rounded’, like analogue tape, which is always a good thing in my book.

I have yet to decide on what formats in which I’m going to offer the finished product – the audiophile in me would like to supply people with a 24 bit, 96kHz version, as well as the standard 44.1, Mp3 VBR and all the rest of it, but that will probably come after the initial release. It will initially be download only and is going to be priced slightly cheaper than an album, and there will be probably be nice artwork and things too.

More to come later.


This weeks’ listening

Some things I have been listening to this week.


Thomas Ades – Violin Concerto

This might be my favourite work of Ades at the moment – lovely shimmering textures, flecked with dissonance with great rhythmic innovation. The first movement in particular is stunning.


Sun Kil Moon – Benji

90% of the music to which I listen is instrumental, and of the vocal-led music I listen to, I generally don’t listen to singer songwriter stuff, but this record has absolutely knocked me out. Completely autobiographical, it ‘reads’  like a novel, and doesn’t hold anything back, occasionally to the point of being cringe-inducing in the sense of not fully believing Mark Kozelek’s willingness to be so honest. Worth your time.


Fennesz – Becs

This is a record that is almost entirely concerned with evolving textures, from ‘pleasant’ soundscapes to pure noise, and everything in between, and for a sound design nerd, is very exciting stuff.


Hans Abrahamsen – Schnee

A huge work for chamber orchestra, about snow, and everything that the word connotes. Generally, I’m not a New Simplicity person, but I was incredibly sorry to miss this at the recent new music festival in Dublin.


Ben Frost – Aurora

I recently saw Ben Frost’s Aurora live show at the Button Factory in Dublin, and was blinded and deafened. I have been to many, many shows and am well into triple digits at this point, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most intense shows I have ever been to. His live electronic rig was flanked by two live drummers, which lent the entire affair a brutal, anarchic, almost punk-rock sensibility. Have you ever had a strobe lights flash at you almost continuously for 90 full minutes? I have. It’s really quite something.


Bartok – Piano Concerto No.2

I think this is my favourite of Bartok’s Piano Concerti. I particularly love the second movement – something about the quintal harmonies scares the life out of me (starting at 9:35).


Swans – To Be Kind

What can I saw about Swans’ new record? Even at 60, Michael Gira has more anger and energy than men a third of his age. Occasionally, as is often the case with Swans, the material can be overly long (to my ears anyway), but there are still many moments of brilliance, such as this number – as danceable as it is terrifying.