When you walk into a room that seems like a cool acoustic space, do you clap your hands to hear the decay properties? Do you keep the conversation rolling while part of your brain tunes in to the resonance of the room? Do you find yourself wishing you could record the drums for your next record in the stone entryway at the local school where you stood in line to vote?
With acoustic instruments, the sonic environment around them is like light to the photographer. The instrument is brought into being by the space it's in, and the right space can give an instrument a "glow" or a life that is undeniably engaging, evoking something involuntary inside us, before the analytical aspects of our personalities break it down into constituent elements... until someone on the couch says, "Are you really gonna put that much 'verb on the violin? ...or is that just the room mics?"
If you are using the Bricasti M7, you have that school entryway in your rack-sort of. If you are using the M7, you have that big old plate in your rack. If you are using the M7, you have the space you need to bring those elements to life. Really. I say "sort of" because to find a space so perfect for any given sound is rare, and there are "spaces" in the M7 that literally just sound "perfect" to me, including modal interest that animates the low mids of the strings, or high-end diffusion that makes the snare feel 10 ft wide, even in a dense rock mix. In short, the M7 took the place of my primary reverbs-all of them. From the big old, LARC-equipped Lexicon boxes (224XL, 480L) to the TC Electronic multi-effects units (Reverb 4000, M2000), the Bricasti sort of put them all in the "flavor" category for me. I will still use the Lexicon 224XL for a vocal reverb once in a while, if I am already dedicating the Bricasti to being the "room" that the rest of the instruments are happening in.
I recently mixed the Jolie Holland album The Living and the Dead (on the ANTI-label), which was tracked in lots of different places. I had sounds that were tracked all over the place-in space, time, and technique. Some sounds had ambient mics; some did not. Some sounds were very close and dry and bright; some were distant and dull. The combining of all of these tracks into something that sounded like a unified song and a unified album of songs was my job. I was the principal mix engineer for this record, so I just had to make it sound great-no excuses. I had just gotten the Bricasti M7 about two weeks before starting this record, and I hadn't messed around with it too much. On the very first mix I put up, I had the M7 patched up early on in the process, like I almost always do with a primary reverb, and set it to "Studio A"... Wow! All of a sudden, I saw the clouds part, and the sun came right into my control room. I did the unthinkable, I turned off the ambient mics on the drums and used the Bricasti instead. I put a little of the acoustic guitar through the same send, then the vocal, then the return of the mono spring reverb I was using on the voice. Then a little of everything went into the Bricasti. All of a sudden, I had eye contact between a drummer in Oregon and a bass player in Brooklyn. I had Jolie sitting in a beautiful dress-sounding wonderful-just in front of the drums. I had Marc Ribot and his acoustic guitar just over her shoulder and to the right. The drums were on the stage where they were supposed to be, as was the bass. I had an image, and the rest of my work was informed by that vision of where rather than how loud someone is.
I can't believe that kind of depth and space live inside that 1RU-height, little Knight Rider-esque rack unit. But it does. We now have a Bricasti M7 at Studio G and also at Strangeweather, my other studio in Brooklyn. Soon we will have a second M7 at Studio G; I'll use one M7 for the room sound on tracks I am presented to mix that are missing a good ambient drum situation, and I'll use the other for the primary vocal treatments. I also plan to purchase the cool, new M10 remote, which can control as many as eight M7 units.
Although the need for a great recording space can not be underestimated, the M7 puts the great recording space into a 1RU package-and it really, really works. This is not a reverb box that you slap on a bit and hope the band doesn't notice. This is a whole new thing. This is not a plug-in with a cute interface on the same old crappy reverb artifacts that make it tough to get it to sit in the mix. The Bricasti is space-in a box. I really can't stress that enough. Of course, there are patches that sound like just a reverb. A few of the plates, like "Bright Plate", sound like reverb. They sound great for what they are, but the real magic in the M7 is in the short spaces and chambers, in my opinion. The fact that a collection of bedroom tracks can be "placed" in any size space you want is a leap forward that I was not expecting to see in hardware form, or at least not in the next five years. Well, thankfully, I was wrong. The Bricasti M7 is here. It literally gives me the ability to place my mixes in any kind of "space" I want. Keep in mind that when I say this, I really mean that the "space" is very believable-not like you are just throwing reverb at poorly tracked sources. This is actual space around your tracks.
I can not believe how inexpensive this unit is, in relative terms. Only $3695 for great acoustic space? Amazing. Also, it's totally simple to use and looks awesome. I can't think of one bad thing about it, honestly. Though I am severely allergic to gross marketing hyperbole, I will say this from the bottom of my heart at the risk of sounding like I am writing ad copy. The Bricasti M7 could be the difference between your mixes sounding like a demo and sounding like an album. I really mean that. It takes a person to have the vision, and it takes tools to pursue that vision. This is a powerful tool. Thank you Bricasti for making this amazing tool for the art of mixing records. (M7 $3695 MSRP, M10 Remote $2099; www.bricasti.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.