Glass-Half-Full Blues

Murray and Rob (Arquilla) have passed the midway point in mixing: working on song seven now and quickly running out of time. Murray negotiated a few more days at the Hotel to finish the album, and due to scheduling conflicts we had to move our mastering date to April 21st. Aside from being totally exhausted, working fourteen-hour days and barely sleeping with Neptune waking up at 7AM, Murray is starting to burn out, worried that his mixes aren’t going to cut it. He says his ears are so hyper-sensitive to frequencies and sounds that he can’t see the forest for the trees. The unity is ceasing to exist and all he hears coming out of the monitors are layers.

This morning I listened to the six finished mixes and they are really impressive. I referenced them to some other albums with great production – Air’s Virgin Suicides, Beck’s Sea Change, Doves’ Some Cities, Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Kid A (lots of Nigel Godrich) – and one thing struck me about the production of these albums: they each have a unique sound. The textures created by effects and unconventional instruments are what make those albums stand out and, well, special. When I went back to listen to The Dears’ mixes, I was struck by the same nuanced sound: these tracks already have an identity, and aside from needing to be squashed in mastering, I think it’s all there.

Mixing this record is a huge feat: some songs have over sixty tracks, recorded digitally. They’re being sent out of Logic, through a pair of converters that are hot enough to fry an egg on, and into an analogue Neotek board. They’ve had to do in-the-box sub-mixes of grouped instruments to make everything fit on the 32-channels that they have. After running all the outboard effects and compressors, the patch bay becomes a total entangled mess, and Murray has the habit of stepping back and saying: “It looks like we’re ready to print a mix.” It’s intense, and I know I couldn’t do it in the amount of time that we have given ourselves (if I could do it at all). Actually, if I did it this album would sound pretty jazzy, and not in a good way.

I’ll just stick to keyboard playing, administrating, childrearing and blogging.

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6 thoughts on “Glass-Half-Full Blues

  1. Sixty tracks? Jesus. Murray is a machine.

    No Cities Left was mastered by Noah Mintz at Lacquer, and Gang of Losers by Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk, if I’m not mistaken… care to reveal who will be doing the new one? I’ve been trying to guess, and have gotten nowhere…

  2. dang it… I can’t friggin’ wait.. those albums are amongst my favourites… is other one of the Dears gonna make it again on my top 10?

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