We've been sent a lot of CD's, vinyl and tapes since starting Tape Op. Here's a rundown of some of the more interesting ones and their recording origins.
Better Can't Make Your Life Better (Che/Primary)
The Apples (in Stereo) mentioned this as a favorite new record in issue #2 of Tape Op, and rightfully so. It shares the same feel of vintage sixties recordings like the Apples stuff and has great pop hooks. It was recorded at studio .45 in Hartford, Connecticut, by Michael Demming who claims, "We analyzed the harmonic spectrum of records from the fifties and sixties on an oscilloscope and matched the frequencies to achieve a similar sound." I kinda doubt it was so scientific but when the results are this fun to listen to, who cares.
Sheila used to be in Monsoon, a spacey, droney band that showcased her beautiful, Indian voice. She's released a good handful of solo albums, most in a poppier vein, but here she stretches out with six drones with no percussion and shades of ornamental voices and bits of didgeridoo, bagpipes and synths. It all comes out real dreamy. The super clean recording equipment and high-tech synth stuff actually works quite well in creating late-night ear candy and I'm sure the mixing sessions at Peter Gabriel's wonderful Real World Studios didn't hurt the sound any!
Elevator Madness (Emperor Jones)
I'll fib you not, Peter and I are good pals who stay up every night he's in town and drink beer and chat til 4 AM. I'm just putting this plug in to say that any of his 3 solo records are very, very good and examples of using small studios to their best advantage. And the songs are good. We'll get an interview out of the guy someday!
Sage/Another Way (Independent Project Records)
Acquatica (World Domination)
Scenic is the new band of Bruce Licher, who used to be in the huge Savage Republic. Scenic is similar in feel but scaled down to a smaller combo and is purely instrumental. The music is beautiful desertscapes put to sound, a bit of atmospheric reverb, heroic drumming and it evokes imagery in the same way as a movie soundtrack. The recording seems fairly simple and unobtrusive, giving the music room to breathe, and fits near perfect with the mood. Bonus item: Great IPR cardboard and letterpress packaging as usual.
Next time your friends in some "up-and-coming" alt-rock band tell you they have to record in a 24 track studio play this little masterpiece for them. Spoon are a great band but let's talk about John Croslin who recorded this on his 8 track. Yeah, this guy John used to be in The Reivers, a great folkish/rock/pop band from Austin that never really got enough attention. I remember one time he kicked Andy Metcalfe (of Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians) out of the producer's seat during a Reiver's recording session, which must have taken some guts. Anyway, this is an ideal example of using an 8 track setup to the max with super-full, well worked out sounds and an honest "live" feel that most CD's certainly lack these days. Look for other things John's recorded and keep an eye out for Spoon records too.
EAST RIVER PIPE
Pure god-head for the home recordist. Buy all his CD's and read the interview in issue #1 of Tape Op.
The Doctor Came at Dawn (Drag City)
From the man who created the 4 track masterpiece, Julius Casaer, we get The Doctor Came At Dawn, another wonderfully bleak album from Bill Callahan. In contrast to Kicking A Couple Around, the all acoustic EP from earlier this year, Bill employs a bunch of instruments and recorded it himself this time. It is a very atmospheric recording and the clarity of the vocals and instruments only helps to emphasize the spooky mood of the album. -Scott Simmons
A BULLET FOR FIDEL
Cold Before Morning (Scat)
One man, recorded in his mother's basement on a 4 track, doing old-style folkish music. It could be horrible but it's amazing. He can really sing and writes great tunes and uses the 4 track to its best advantage, the cassette murkiness creating perfect settings for his out-of-time songs. A rare treat.
My pals Jonathan and Victor used to be in Camper Van Beethoven, a quite wonderful combo, who recorded their first three, wildly successful, records on 8 track decks, as you should know. But anyway, they've started a record label to release the projects they've been involved in since the CVB days and it's called Magnetic.
Victor Krummenacher's Great Laugh has a CD called Out in the Heat, which is sort of a continuation of his Monks Of Doom writing style and was produced by Bruce Kaphan (who was in American Music Club and produced a few of their releases.) They recorded some of the basic tracks at Lowdown Studios with Greg Freeman (see issue #1 of Tape Op) and did lots of overdubs at home, according to Victor.
Jonathan Segal has been busy. There's two CD's by his prog-rock, folk combo Hieronymus Firebrain, one called Here and the other There. Most of There was recorded at MudHive in New Mexico; see the article in the next issue about them! Mr. Segal also played in a straighter rock trio called Jack and Jill and their album is called Chill and Shrill. Jonathan and Victor also seem to make yearly visits to the MudHive to jam/record with its denizens and release such under the moniker DENT. The last CD was called stimmung and another is on the way and well worth investigating if you like tripped out loose jams and great tunes.
Magnetic, PO Box 460816, San Francisco, CA 94146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
THE "DRUG STORE TRUCK-DRIVING MAN"
Here's a true story from an engineer that was there.
On the condition of anonymity, here's what happened, as best as I remember it...keep in mind, this was the late sixties and I was there so accuracy is optional.
I was a staff engineer at one of the bigger commercial/industrial studios in NYC and had contact with lots of record company folk, producers, musicians, writers, other engineers...some famous, some wannabes. Apparently the Byrds were recording somewhere, and one of my studio rat friends told me about a song he was working on with them about this red neck DJ on the Grand Ole Opry radio station in Nashville. It was just one of those quick little stories that fly through a recording session.
Some years later, I was free-lancing at a company that produced syndicated radio programming for various formats. This day for me it was "The Ralph Emery Show", playing C/W music. Ralph would fly in from Nashville, do a four hour session of voice intros and outros, and then some underpaid assembler/mixer (in this case me) would playback his voice track and roll the tunes. I cued up this track by the Byrds and rolled it after his intro. I cued up his out and waited til the end of the song, just after they say, "This one's for you, Ralph". I rolled his voice track and howled with laughter...I missed my next several cues. I laughed and stomped and caused such a commotion in the little production studio that people came in and wanted to know, "what's the happs". I asked if Ralph, who was long gone back to Nashville until next week, if good ol' Ralph Emery knew the Byrds song about this red neck all night DJ, was about him?