Halogen Hills, Capelin and Keith Eddie Lyle

Mastering records is such a great job — I’m sometimes amazed at the variety of music that comes across my desk. Case in point: three of this week’s projects.

Anthemic, super-catchy, stadium-sized rock? Check! I mastered the Halogen Hills single “Stars” (produced by Josh Seawell) this week. They’re on the North Carolina label Nascent Republic Records. Great sound on this one. I’m hoping to hear more from them in the future.

I’m also working on an album for a band from Taiwan called Capelin, who play a hypnotic kind of instrumental post rock. Very cool. The record is (of course) not out yet, but here’s a YouTube video from a couple years ago that has many of the musical qualities of their new album:

Now let’s take a 180 degree turn to a new album I mastered for Long Island artist Keith Eddie Lyle. This is a really cool record in an Americana/country/roots-rock style featuring some fine guitar picking, piano and pedal steel work in addition to some great songs and lyrics. The challenge with this record was that there’s so much variety on it even though it’s generally all “Americana.” There are Stonesy rockers, straight country tunes and everything in between.

Keith Eddie Lyle

When you’re mastering a record that has a lot of variety like this one, you have to pick a place to start. Keith recorded and mixed the record himself, and told me which mix he felt was the best on the record — so we started there. And then the record was built around the sound of that one song.

Incidentally, Keith came to me for mastering through a friend of mine who’s in the punk rock-hockey band (no better way to put it!) Two Man Advantage. You have to hear and see them to understand.

See you next week.

The Human Experience Soundtrack

Today I thought I’d write about an exciting mastering project I completed last week with some talented filmmakers: the soundtrack to the documentary The Human Experience.

It’s a wonderful film. Instead of trying to sum up what it’s about, I’ll just quote what the filmmakers say about it themselves:

In a world fraught with hostility and violence, an altruistic group of young men endeavor to understand the true essence of the human spirit by visiting forgotten souls such as homeless New Yorkers, Peruvian orphans and isolated Ghanaian lepers. By spotlighting heartwarming stories from around the world, this uplifting documentary shows viewers that every single person, no matter his or her lot in life, is beautiful. Gorgeously filmed and masterfully narrated, THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE explores with depth and compassion what it means to be a human being.

The soundtrack is stylistically very diverse. There’s a beautiful orchestral score by Thomas J. Bergersen, some indie rock, African pop, traditional/tribal music from Africa, and a a variety of world music that stretches from avant-garde electronica influences to ska.

This kind of variety presents some interesting challenges in mastering. Basically, you start with material that is very different sonically and level-wise, and you have to make it into a “whole.” My goal was to stay true to the individual artist’s vision of their song while having the soundtrack as a whole transition and gel together seamlessly. There are also dialog interludes between some of the tracks which make for nice transitions.

In addition to my mastering work I’ve done dialog editing for films (I have quite a bit of film experience — more on that in a future post). So I’m accustomed to some of the problems that can come up. Frequently when dialog is exposed, you’ll hear clicks, pops or crackles. There was a bit of restoration involved in cleaning the dialog for this soundtrack. I have access to some great mastering tools that can work miracles in removing extraneous noises from music and dialog tracks. It’s always exciting to see clients’ reactions when restoring a portion of their track that they thought was irreparable.

Another thing that was different about this job compared to a music-only project was that mastering decisions were made based on the flow of the film. The goal was to have the soundtrack follow the movie closely, but with the complete songs, of course. An idea not that much different from a concept album where the spacing and pacing of the album is critical to the listening experience.

The DVD was just released this past Tuesday — you can watch a trailer at iTunes, or head over to Amazon for more info.

The soundtrack is only available through iTunes at the moment. Have a listen here.

Thanks for reading!

Mad Tea Party and The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn

Thanks for stopping by my site. It’s been up for a while, but I’ve only just been able to set aside the time it’ll take to fill it out! It’s a work in progress — there will be some changes over the next few weeks to the site’s functions and structure. I’ll also be blogging weekly about what I’m doing — and I hope you’ll come back and see what I’m up to, or drop a line. I’ve also jumped on to Twitter, so if you’re there too — please say hello.

Here’s what’s been going on lately.

Mad Tea Party sent me their new single for mastering. They’re a great punk/rockabilly band based in North Carolina. The new single “BatRatSpiderCrab,” which will be out this spring, is a continuation of the great work they put out on their last EP, Rock and Roll Ghoul which I also mastered for them. We did 7″ vinyl on that one — and it sounds great. You can hear their stuff or order the vinyl at their bandcamp page, here.

Another recent project I loved working on was the new album Permanent Magic by the “early jazz, swing, and blues band” The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn. Considering the splash that Mumford & Sons made at the Grammys, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a good year for swinging, passionate, back-to-basics music, and a good year for the Blue Vipers. Here’s what Jazz Times said about Permanent Magic: “…the Blue Vipers are able to resurrect the sounds of the past and make them feel so alive without any contemporary touches. For purists of Dixieland jazz, the Blue Vipers are a true wonder.” (The full review is here.) If you want to hear their stuff, head over to their page at CD Baby. And you can keep track of what they’re up to at their blog: http://thebluevipers.wordpress.com/”.

That about does it for now! Thanks for reading; see you soon.