I first heard of this group when my friends Jules and Amber from Sea of Bees were asked to do the support slot for their US tour. So, I bought the album on iTunes and found myself liking it quite a bit upon repeated listens. I've seen Stornoway compared to Mumford and Sons, and while this is not a totally unfair comparison, I think Stornoway are more original sounding to my ears. I like the Mumford's album but it hasn't stuck with me as much as Stornoway has after repeated listens. The Mumfords sound to me like Coldplay trying to imitate the Fleet Foxes (in a good way) but I can't pin down Stornoway as easily, so maybe that's why it's stayed in heavier rotation around the house. I met the band for the last show of their tour in L.A. at The Troubador and at 2:30 am out front of the club, I started talking to Jonathan Ouin who told me they had recorded the album themselves on a Zoom MRS-802 MultiTrak Recording Studio. "We called her Mrs. 802," Jonathan said. "She is cantankerous, willful and getting on a bit now." I was a bit surprised actually, as the record sounded quite polished and produced. "It took us nearly five years to do as we were working mainly on weekends after Uni and such." Okay, in five years you can overcome most any limitations and embrace them, right? I followed up with an email to Jonathan a few weeks later. "It wasn't a conscious choice not to use a studio from the outset. In any case, at the beginning we thought we were just recording tentative demos for promoters to listen to in the hope that they might book us! As these sketches gradually took on more bolder and colourful forms, the process seamlessly evolved into a method for arranging the songs and a creative end in itself; in short, the demos actually became the songs as you hear them on the album. Besides the limitations of using such a basic recording setup (there are a few basic EQ and FX settings to play around with), the beauty of using the 802 was that we could take the music anywhere we fancied; from our college bedsits to rickety barns and the outdoors, as well as the bathroom and the kitchen. Also, the lack of any real visual display meant that we had to trust our ears, rather than staring at waveforms or faders on a computer screen. Most importantly though, it meant we could get absorbed in experimenting with mic'ing techniques and natural acoustics to find sounds that suited the song, learning what worked and what didn't by hook or by crook. 'Here Comes the Blackout...!' features lots of alternative percussion: Rob [Steadman] stamping on a drainpipe outside and Brian [Briggs] chopping carrots, cutting wood and lighting matches. For 'On the Rocks,' we wanted to get as much of a live sound as possible and to get a slightly more expansive sound than the bedroom, so we took the 802 to the Oxford Community Centre and recorded the drums, bass and acoustic there and overdubbed the rest later. I recorded myself whacking a load of pots and pans in my kitchen for 'The Coldharbour Road', and added a few overdubbed layers of piano - I was aiming for a sound like Thunderclap Newman's 'Something in the Air.' At one point, we tried recording Brian singing in the shower for 'Boats and Trains' and it gave it an unearthly quality, which wasn't really appropriate. The organ on 'Fuel Up' was recorded using a Leslie speaker cabinet owned by a friend. We had no outboard gear at all. Just a XIX Pure 1 condenser mic and a Shure SM58 for just about everything except drums (this was inevitably the hardest thing to record well). It was all incredibly basic. We had to mix everything live on the machine, so it was very painstaking. We did actually go to the studio for two songs on the album: 'I Saw you Blink' and the closer, 'Long-Distance Lullaby'. 'I Saw You Blink' was actually a re-record of one of our demos - we wanted to give it a fresher sound and improve the drums. We recorded these two tracks at Miloco (the Garden Studio) in London with Craig Silvey at the helm. The whole album was mastered by George Marino. Sadly, however, as Mrs 802 now resides in an old age care home, we'll probably have to turn to someone else for our next album" Beachcomber's Windowsill is a very solid album, and if you can pick up the vinyl pressing, I highly recommend it. It sounds great and the artwork is beautiful.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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