I am the first to admit that I emulate my musical influences. I’m pretty confident that I always manage to fall well on the proper side of plagiarism, but it’s impossible not to emulate the styles of the musicians I admire. In fact, emulating their styles is pretty much the point.
With that in mind, I compiled a list of the artists and songs that influenced me as I created Anagrammatic Pseudonyms just like I’ve done in the past with the album notes I post here.
This time I’ve taken it a step further though: I’ve created an iTunes iMix. You can buy it now on iTunes. Here are the songs:
“Pocket Calculator” by Kraftwerk
“Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer
“Get Up Offa That Thing” by James Brown
“Let’s Work” by Prince
“White Mountain” by Genesis
“Inertiatic ESP” by The Mars Volta
“Out of Town” by Zero 7
“With Jupiter in Mind” by Joe Satriani
“Nobody’s Fault but Mine” by Led Zeppelin
“Anchor Drops” by Umphrey’s McGee
“Your Most Valuable Possession” by Ben Folds Five
“Hold the Line” by Toto
“We Own the Sky” by M83
“Clocks and Clouds” by National Health
“Down by the Sea” by Men at Work
Note that the songs in this iMix are in the same order as the songs on Anagrammatic Pseudonyms that they influenced (although there’s not a 1-to-1 relationship: some AP songs have more than one representative here — “Candor Stetson” has four — and some have none).
This iMix has a total running time of 73 minutes, which means that it’s a great set to put on a CD if you decide to go buy it (or if you’re as crazy as I am and already have all of these songs in your iTunes library).
I finished my “mastering” process, such as it is, a few minutes ago, and now I’m listening through to make sure there’s nothing egregiously wrong with any of the tracks. I’m also going to burn a CD (only the 3rd one for this project) to listen to in the car, mainly to make sure my track-to-track transitions work, since this is the first time I’ve done a “gapless” album.
I tried to make most of the songs blend relatively seamlessly one into the next, or at least to transition directly with no silence in between. Kind of makes up for not having a really cohesive overarching concept.
Mastering… whew. This has always been a weak point for me. I read through some of the mastering threads, and it made me realize how much I don’t know. I think I’ve managed to get pretty good with my recording quality, but I am definitely still an amateur, and when it comes to mastering, if it’s good, it’s just a matter of getting lucky.
I feel like I really screwed up the mastering of last year’s RPM album, with too much compression and some bad clipping on some tracks, but I think I’ve improved a bit since then. The Bee LP! turned out pretty good, but I think that was just dumb luck, and the fact that all of the tracks were fairly similar in instrumentation and sonic quality, so what I got out of GarageBand was already pretty close to “mastered” already — I just had to apply some normalization.
The tracks on this album are way too varied for that though, so I had to experiment a bit to get a mastering “configuration” (as it were) that worked.
I should probably get Ozone, but for now I’m still using my OLD copy of Sound Studio (version 2) to do my mastering. It lacks a limiter, which is all I really want, so I end up having to futz with the dynamic compression filter instead to get what I want.
Probably my other biggest problem is just a necessary limitation of how I have to work in a house with kids. I’m almost exclusively recording with headphones — in fact, with the “step-up” Sony earbuds I use with my iPhone. I should probably devote some of this year’s “music budget” (yes, this year it looks like I may actually have one!) to some better recording gear and not just new instruments. But, anyway, there it is.
So, a big thing I have to do in mastering is strip out anything that’s in the sonic ranges I can’t hear on my headphones — I don’t want a bunch of rumbling bass or high pitched whines that I can’t even hear to be in the mix and then bring it over to a decent sound system and wonder where all that garbage came from!
So… I run a high pass and a low pass, then I adjust the overall volume a bit if necessary, and then I apply dynamic compression. Not too much, just cutting off the peaks really, and boosting the overall signal to just below the saturation point.
Now I’m listening to the whole thing to make sure there’s no (well, not a LOT of) clipping. And to make sure there weren’t any glitches in the mixdowns from GarageBand. I already caught one of those and had to redo the mixdown out of GB tonight.
If all goes well, I will post the entire album as free MP3 downloads here tomorrow (and update the streaming tracks to the final versions). Stay tuned for the big announcement!
This is where a musical project gets rough. Especially when you’ve got some rigid plans for the final product, and you’re running out of steam.
The fundamental problem and challenge of my RPM album this year is that the number of tracks, and their sequence, was established from the outset. And given the nature of the concept, there is absolutely no room for changes. The exact style and duration of each track was certainly negotiable, but in order for the concept to work, there had to be 13 tracks, and they had to appear in a specific order (with the exception of the songs whose titles start with N, O, S and T, as there are two of each of them).
Here’s the track listing. Songs in bold are completed as of right now.
Orcas Don Tents
Actor Sends Not
Narcs Tote Dons
Dancers on Tots
Enact Rod’s Snot
Oats Tend Corns
* I think I’m done with “Notated Scorns,” but I might change my mind.
It’s down to three tracks. They have to have the titles they do, and they have to appear in the order that they do. Sure, “Sorta Contends” and “Scantest Rondo” could trade places, but the imagery the titles evoke suggests that they be in the order here.
I’ve got a fairly good idea of what I want to do with each of these tracks, but the execution has been lacking. “Scantest Rondo” needs to be a musical rondo (i.e. a “round” — think “Row Row Row Your Boat”), and a short one at that. “Radon Contests” is going to be an electronica thing. “Sorta Contends” is the one that’s giving me the most grief. It really feels like it should be acoustic guitar-driven, kind of folky almost. I even have a chord progression for it. But aside from the fact that it’s extremely derivative of a pair of songs by The Decemberists, I’m just not getting the sound I want.
Now I’m leaving for a 3-day weekend. I’m taking my 2-octave MIDI keyboard along, and my laptop. I really… really… want to finish these last three tracks while I’m gone. But that pretty much eliminates the acoustic guitar from the equation. But I have too much “real” work to do to be preoccupied with RPM much longer. It has to happen this weekend.
But am I putting too much pressure on myself, and on the project?