Many years ago I was asked to prepare some background music for a student documentary on the WESTPAC Rescue Helicopter. One of the briefs, as I saw it, was to have music that could be chopped about and rearranged to suit the final editing. This is my excuse for choosing a theme and repeating it with variations. Unashamedly pulling equally from Ravel’s Bolero and, naturally, Emerson’s Abaddon’s Bolero on Trilogy. A lead guitar comes out for the finale, respecting Mike Oldfield circa 1978.
I was never super-happy with the draft version I turned in for the film production, which – perhaps just as well – was never completed. So as a breather after working on my second album, I decided to re-record this, using Hyperion Strings; Roland D550; XLN Addictive Drums; Roland VK8, and the Gibson L6S for authentic Oldfield.
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Notes on vocal processing technique
I don’t consider this track to have weird vocals or anything but after listening to it, Eldest Brother asked me what I’d done to my voice. So here’s the process:
First, I recorded 6 or 7 takes of the vocals. I use a nice cardoid condenser microphone with a pop screen but no additional FX, accepting the natural reverberation of my studio room.
I cut the tracks into separate clips for each contiguous lyric phrase, and selected the best to construct a single best take for each verse, and two best takes for the choruses. Not surprisingly, usually I ended up selecting from take 2 or take 3.
After assembling the vocal tracks, I use the Tools menu in SONAR to run Adobe Audition 1.5 as an external wave editor, and clean up each clip – removing any obvious spikes and reducing “breath” sounds, not to eliminate but just to reduce them a bit. This step could have been done using a compressor FX during the recording, but I’ve tried doing that, and I prefer to do it manually. (I probably just don’t know what I’m doing with the compressor parameters.)
At this point I cheated very slightly and used a pitch correction tool to fix the worst vocal glitches. It was usually just two or three slightly flat notes per verse. The tool in SONAR is called V-Vocal and although it has an ‘auto-tune’ mode, I don’t use it. I fix the flat notes manually, basically just moving them enough so that you no longer notice the flatness, rather than making them perfect. Subtle is best for this sort of thing. It’s easy to inadvertently introduce noticeable pitch artifacts so I always listen carefully to keep it natural.
For the choruses I panned the two takes 25% left and right for a “double-tracked” sound.
The verses are the single take, panned center. I also made a duplicate of the verse vocal track, and applied a “Guitar Amp Distortion” FX plugin to it and reduced the volume, so what you hear in each verse is the natural tone plus just a hint of the distorted version, giving the verses a slight gritty edge.
I have separate busses for the vocal reverb and vocal delay effects, and I use buss send envelopes on the vocal tracks so that I can be precise about what parts of the track have reverb and delay applied. That’s why only certain words in the phrase are accented with echo delay, and only certain parts of certain words get reverb’d. The effect is to make the lyric flow and sound good without drowning it.
Finally, and most obviously, in this track I have duplicated certain select phrases from the chorus and placed them into a separate track, using the Pentagon I virtual synth as an FX plugin to get the vocoder effect (the technique is explained here). I’ve used a custom saw wave patch for this, one with a wide frequency range that works well with the vocoder.
Melodic progressive rock songs and instrumental interludes, a touch of 70’s influence but a product of the dystopian Now.
“Very smooth, hi-tech sounding delivery…” – Chris Jemmett, alt.music.yes
“This guy is awesome.” – Dazed, on the Carvin Forum.
“..on a rare occasion you just have to conclude that the prog world should be feasting upon the birth of a new and promising act. That’s exactly the case with this [first] album.”
– Theo Verstrael, DPRP.net
“I find this new album attractive, [..] slightly less appealing than the 2014 debut. But as that is often the case with great artists, let it not distract you from trying this fine album. Especially those that are interested in bands that play varied, cleverly made, well played and sung [..], this might just be your cup of tea.”
– Theo Verstrael, DPRP.net