Tag Archives: Music

One music per day

My recording challenge had a difficult start (major equipment issues that took many weeks to finally resolve) and came to a premature stop thanks to running out of space on Soundcloud. I did record quite a bit by my own standards though, so here is the final playlist:

Final thoughts on the project? Things to improve: be better prepared in terms of practicalities; be more disciplined. Positive effects: learning this new, amazing rig I have; having more courage to trust where the playing takes me; reduced recording stress. Finally I really need to have my guitar receive a thorough servicing (including a new fret and probably a new bridge).

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First recordings

Ok, so I have started recording! Currently it is just guitar as I do not have a microphone yet, but that could very well be taken care of before christmas. Anyway, the guitar forum I am a member of has recurring jam sessions where someone puts together a backing track and anyone who feels like it can record a solo over it and submit the recording to the forum for final mixing by Gary, one of the members. I have taken part in the last two jams (numbers four and five) and below are the links to the relevant threads.

Unofficial Warmoth Jam #4 (I was actually on a break from the forum due to some drama, but came back for the jam, mine is the last one – my forum name is “kboman”)

Unofficial Warmoth Jam #5 (my solo is third)

I have some more stuff I am fiddling with, but that is for later. Thanks for listening if you do, I really am in some excellent company.

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Studio building, pt I

Finally! I am in the process of setting up recording capabilities in my home. I now have an audio interface and over the next few months I will add things like, oh, how about some microphones? Currently I have no other monitoring than headphones which clearly will not do: that part may prove the easiest to correct – if not ideally then at least acceptably.

When I get some software issues I am having sorted out I will start posting some specs and recordings. I just wanted to give a sign of life here…!

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Live Music

This, in my opinion, is the whole point of music – playing it live. Music is an event; it takes place when performer and audience meet. Music is an outside entity; it is created when performer and audience merge. I have experienced this for myself, but only a bare handful of times and always as an audient. A live performance has the ability to in a very real and tangible way change the people involved. One person enters, another person leaves.

Given the experiential nature of music, and the way a live performance involves many more senses than a studio record listened to through a stereo system, I have found many to be be of the opinion that live records are somehow inferior entities, below both the sweaty gig and the considered studio album. I disagree, and have always done.

I think the way I started to really listen to and be affected by music plays a big part in this. I can point out four, maybe five records that really got me interested in music, and two of those are live recordings. Well, one and a half at least: The Nits’ Urk and U2’s Rattle & Hum (for more on R&H, see my Achtung Baby review).

An important effect of this was that when at the tender age of 9-10-ish I heard the studio recordings of these songs, I became aware, at least subconsciously, of the concept of rearranging music. Of adding, removing and changing parts of songs to make them work better live, to add variety for the players and to accomodate new ideas. I was downright disappointed in the Joshua Tree version of U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” for example. At the very onset of when I started to really listen to music I was given the impression that live music was somehow better.

And it has been like that ever since. Of course there are exceptions, but take a band like King Crimson: here, the studio recordings are actually less important than the live performances. Yes, their albums provide an opportunity for considered statements and the introduction of new material to the audience, but it is not until the pieces have been played live for at least one whole tour that they truly become what can be. Very few KC songs are ever better in their studio versions. And happily in KC’s case there is a plethora of live material availiable for purchase and immediate download on the DGM Live website, currently spanning 40 years of playing.

I do not have a conclusion or anything to all this, I just wanted to present a few thoughts on the subject. Let me say this – I missed Leonard Cohen’s recent touring in Europe due to lack of money, and I am instead very very greatful for the live recording made in London that was later released on CD and DVD. Without it, I never would have had my life changed by hearing “A Thousand Kisses Deep”.

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King Crimson: Park West, Chicago, 7 Aug 2008

It is one of the greater musical sorrows in my life that I will probably never get to see King Crimson play live. I had a slimmer of a chance on 2003 when the Power to Believe tour visited Copenhagen but I missed it. In 2008, I had no chance whatsoever.

Luckily, pretty much everything KC do is recorded, especially concerts, and the best bits are released as downloads on the DGM Live website. There are two formats, flac and mp3, of which flac offers the best sound quality (essentially uncompressed cd-quality sound in a compressed format). DGM generally only release soundboard recordings as downloads – there are numerous multitrack recordings in the archives, but these take much more time and a bigger budget to release with any frequency and are generally released as cds.

This gig starts out with a brief and sparse soundscape from Robert Fripp which is at the same time questioning, cautious and unsettling. After a short while the rest of the band take to the stage and Pat Mastelotto and Gavin Harrison do a short duet on the drums.

Then, the first proper song – “The Construction of Light” from the album of that name. This was one Trey Gunn’s real show pieces during the 1999-2003 KC, and Tony Levin does not play it perfectly. This is fine, it is live, but I feel a certain flow and grace is lacking. Also, the guitars are not quite in tune with each other. This is not normally a big problem in a rock setting, but for this song – very distracting.

They must have tuned up quickly, for “Red” comes hot on the heels of “TCoL” – and it is an absolute monster. Now, it usually is pretty heavy and the guitars do their usual stomping about with the drums. It is Levin’s distorted Chapman Stick that really crushes everything in its way here. It becomes so absurdly heavy that I actually laughed out loud when I first heard it, it is a sound like nothing else. Maybe a collapsing mountainside comes close, but I can not imagine what else possibly could. Metal has nothing on King Crimson when it comes to heaviness.

Next up is perennial KC crowd pleaser “Frame By Frame” and thankfully all guitars are vibrating happily together. It sounds pretty good, but with a strangely tired tinge to it. A big surprise to me was when after the second verse and fast part the guitars suddenly play harmonically and not in unison, with the Stick coming in to play the main riff as well, I have never heard that before.

Now, “Neurotica” should be amazing with two drummers – and the drummers are great! But when Fripp’s frantic chord stabbing is gone from the intro and the parts in between verses, it sounds very very empty. Also no guitar solo! The song simply lacks the frenzy it needs to carry it to the end. Probably they meant the drums to provide this, but they just do not, at least without the visuals and sound volume  of a live performance. “Three of A Perfect Pair”, next, is another decent performance that, like “FxF” before, adds little new to the song.

The time traveling backwards continues with “The Talking Drum” and “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic II” – and finally some decent guitar solos during the “Drum” (yes I know KC music is not about the solos). “Larks’ II” sounds much like it did with the Double Trio KC during the 90’s, but somewhat heavier. Fripp’s guitar is distorted all the way through, and Levin plays the Stick rather than bass guitar. The distortion makes him sound a bit like John Wetton from the ’73-’74 Crimson!

In “One Time”, things are as usual, with the exception of the middle portion. Fripps builds a looped soundscape, but then solos over it with a muted guitar sound, quoting the beautiful solo from “The Power to Believe II” – very nice. A short transitory guitar synth burst then precedes the drum duet “B’Boom”, executed with, as one might expect from these players, amazing accuracy.

I would have loved to hear what this band could have done with “TRaK”, but instead comes “Dinosaur” with a very vicious sounding Fripp in the verses. The solo after the full band dead stop goes all over the fretboard, between menacing rumbling to high squeals. The faux-mellotron string intro/outros are back, somewhat unnecessarily for my tastes – I like the simpler version from the Double Duo.

“Level Five” must be one of the most unforgiving benchmarks for any band to play, and this KC does it pretty good. Again, like in “Neurotica”, between the sections with very fast guitar and Stick unison lines only the drums play without chord stabs on guitar – and again, like in “Neurotica”, it sounds very empty. And I miss a proper low bottom end on this track, the Stick does not provide the foundation it should. “Level Five” concludes the first disc of this release.

First out on disc two is “Sleepless” which has been given a very ProjeKct-y feel. The drums are all techno-beat-with-some-hi hat, with various sound effects sprinkled all over. Levin plays his signature digital delay-riff, Belew’s guitar does all kinds of eerie noise and Fripp plays his ominous arpeggios – but it just does not feel very alive and it even sounds like Belew makes a bit of a mess of the middle of his solo. This is a song I’ve always thought made more sense in its studio and remix versions, an impression which is reinforced here.

And then it happens again – “VROOOM” suffers the fate of “Dinosaur” and has to endure a mellotron/string intro. They sound wonderfully creepy on record, but live they simply do not work. Besides this, it sounds good with the odd miffed note due to lack of routine that really is not a big deal. For the first time in a long while, “VROOOM” is followed by its coda, “Marine 475” which  unfortunately suffers from a terminal lack of guitar solos. They usually add enormously to the drama, but Fripp chooses to abstain and just focus on some very creepy soundscapes. And creepy soundscapes are fine and can be excellent for a song, but this time it is just 2.20 minutes of a rhythm section stomping out a rhythm with no change in dynamics. It gets boring, frankly.

The soundscapes continue to loop for a few minutes and are then silenced by the steady introductory beat of “Drum Duet”.  The beat quickly becomes decidedly less steady and more ambiguous as the dummers execute their duet with flawless timing. It is certainly more interesting to listen to than a drum solo and must have been great to see live. With the visual input, it loses some of its charm but rewards attentive listening.

The duet comes to a sudden and dead stop, to be replaced by the frantic riffing of “Thela Hun Ginjeet”. It is performed with its usual verve and some surprises (Fripp’s sudden switch to a piano sound, ray gun samples from the drummers etc). Some things are a bit unfortunate – the somewhat too murky guitar sounds, the old “this is a dangerous place” spoken recording of Belew being played over, and obscuring, Belew’s excellent soloing in the middle part and the fact that Fripp’s solo is buried too deep down in the mix.

After some enthusiastic cheering from the audience, Levin plays the immortal Stick intro to “Elephant Talk”. While the pace is more stately than before and the guitars (again) sound a bit muddy, it is well delivered with lots of humour – bicycle bells from the drummers, wonderfully weird Belew solos. So far, the best delivered ’80s song of the evening.

And once again, it is Levin who gets to start the very last piece – “Indiscipline”. When the mayhem starts, Belew plays just as well as you would guess but the drums just marches in step with the beat and the Stick disappears in the mix. Fripp’s soloing is absolutely explosive and played in the way that probably only he on the whole planet is capable of – strumming (dissonant) chords so fast that it becomes one continuous sound. It is an astounding thing to hear.

And then they bow out, to the cheers of the crowd. I believe this is the swan song of King Crimson, the last hurrah. King Crimson currently requires Robert Fripp and for him it is an enormous effort to re-activate Crimson with all that it entails. I suppose it is possible it could happen, but nowhere near likely. A King Crimson without Robert Fripp is the other option – but who could possibly pick up the mantle? No one I can think of.

Also, all of the players in the band are incredibly busy. Tony Levin has to fight off work with a (cough) stick, Adrian Belew has the time of his life with his Power Trio, Gavin Harrison has a full time job in Porcupine Tree and Pat Mastelotto is working in several constellations with among others Tony Levin and Trey Gunn.

And as for my constant nitpicking throughout this review – this was recorded in the very beginning of the tour and by all accounts they got a lot better later on.

King Crimson: Park West, Chicago, 7 Aug 2008. DGM Live flac download released 20 Aug 2008.

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Report from Studio Land #3

Been recording intensively with Keyo Ghettson this week for a demo to be used for promotion and reference for future rearrangements. I can not tell you how utterly mentally draining it is to record – for two days now I have arrived home  with a pounding headache, barely able to put together coherent sentences. Only one or two more days now, and then my guitar parts are done and Keyo will do the vocals in his own time.

Another development is the possible adding of more musicians. We will be meeting with a few instrumentalists and vocalists at the end of next week to see what might happen. Updates to follow!

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Report From Studio Land #2

I have just spent two days in a recording studio in Lund with Keyo Ghettson, laying down guitar for his songs. On the first day, I did all the basic guitar tracks – nine songs in eight ours including lunch break. For those of you who have not recorded in this tempo, let me tell you it is absolutely grueling work! The best parallell I can come up with is writing an exam at and advanced level (university level) for eight hours. Constant focus on keeping to the tempo of the click track, on playing the music without any mistakes, on playing cleanly without finger nail scrapes, chair squeaks or clicking toes (!) – and so on. It is quite a challenge, but we got it all down.

On day two, we revisited a couple of the songs with a few ideas for rearranging them with proper guitar solos instead of the bass figures I play live. I did one I was especially happy with, and then Keyo realised that the tempo did not feel right. Argh. I re-did the track with a slower tempo (and yes, it was better) and the engineer actually managed to move the solo to the new tempo in ProTools. It still sounds good, but not quite like it did in its own proper tempo. Oh well!

How finished the songs are is up to Keyo, I feel we have at least two to four of them down now. The next step is probably to do final vocals on as much as we can when Keyo is ready and rested, and then maybe sprinkle some decorative guitar and effects on top. My feeling is that the core is done, but obviously the last word is Keyo’s.

Studio Bengt

Photo from the control room of Studio Bengt by Mattias, our engineer. No actual bass guitar was recorded, but there may be some on the final product.

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Living out of a suitcase

I don’t intend for this to become a diary or something (at least not yet), but… Well I just moved, again. Me and my heart throb are living out of a few suitcases and bags with the majority of our stuff in bags and boxes in a friend’s garage. Currently, we rent a second hand apartment for two months – we have no idea where we will live on September 1st.

So, stressful times all around basically. I continue to look for employment while rehearsing with Keyo for our upcoming gigs and recording sessions. We currently have four gigs during the Malmö Festival and one in Lund a week later – this should provide some very good exposure for Keyo’s music. On the 4th of August we go into Studio Bengt in Lund to record as many of the songs as we can. It will be exhausting, but with discipline and good pacing we can do it.

Exact dates and times will be added to the gig page soon. Take care.

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New Adventures In Studio Land, pt II

All right, so that did not turn out very well. Two of eight songs were not recorded for some reason. My performances are so-so and the sound is too boomy with too little high end/clarity. They also lack the additional arrangements for bridges, intros, outros etcetera that I came up with the other day.

Keyo was unhappy with the results too and has chosen not to do any vocals this time around, we plan to do proper recording in a proper studio in a few weeks instead. Before proper recording we will also have the opportunity to do at least one gig, so hopefully nerves will be a smaller factor next time.

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