come careening (demo)

July 21, 2009 7:13 PM

This is the demo I recorded for this song posted earlier. I slapped some kind of distortion effect over it to approximate the feel I wanted in the final version. Although it's too hazy-sounding and the vocals are nearly unintelligble, I really love a lot of things about this recording. It sounds like some kind of important uncovered secret to me. Anyway, this post is part of an "evolution of my songs" series I started here and here.

posted by edlundart (11 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Man, this song is brilliant and beautiful in BOTH forms.

Music is like alchemy, parts art, science, magic and illusion. Hooks, chords, phrases and notes are just the ingredients. YOU are one hell of an alchemist! (Even with the distortion your voice is incredible!)

I think that you, micayetoca and chococat are the only guys doing "evolution" posts. They are really educational for me.

(Please forgive the alchemy rap, but, man, being inspired does that to me!)
posted by snsranch at 7:14 PM on July 22, 2009

wow. I remembered listening to the original and thinking it was ok with some neat sounds but didn't really have a punch. this is much simpler but I think it's much more forceful, much more cohesive. and it certainly doesn't seem to be missing anything.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:59 AM on July 24, 2009

Doesn't matter about the unintelligable vocals and haze - that's what makes this work (cf The Cocteau Twins). There's only one rule in music so far as I'm concerned: if it sounds good, it is good. Period. And this sounds good regardless of any technical gripes.

Interesting example too of the frequent case where the demo is better than the "proper" version. Lesson I've learned from that happening to me is to make fucking sure that when you're in the heat of the crucible - creating something from nothing (let's face it, that's the best bit of all) - you need to have the discipline to note down what you're doing, how you got that sound, etc etc. Not easy to do - but obviously worth it. So you can capture that elusive butterfly - like you've done here.
posted by MajorDundee at 2:34 PM on July 24, 2009

Thanks -- I'd love more comments about how to make the "proper" version be the best one. It seems that for every demo I've ever played someone, they'll say they like it better. It's really quite elusive to me how I can infuse proper recordings with that magic. I know the answer many would give is to just stick with the demo -- to consider that the final recording. But that doesn't satisfy me. I suppose I could invest in equipment that lets me do better quality live recordings, and then I could conceivably let the demo be the final... but even then I would miss the tinkering aspect of music-making. I guess I want to get better at infusing life into that detail-oriented process.
posted by edlundart at 3:00 PM on July 24, 2009

This is an interesting area to me too - I guess to all of us really. A kind of philosophical issue I suppose. The difficulty - or one of the difficulties - is that you don't really know how an idea is going to grow and develop until you start to manipulate it. It's not often, for me at least, that I have a fully formed concept of something before I start to work with it. So there's a sort of organic, iterative, reactive element that is immune to the conscious will or the intellect (Christ - we're getting into Id, Ego and Super-Ego territory here) - the mysteries of the subliminal. I have, now and again, done the "detail-orientated" "proper" recording and thought I'd really nailed something - only to find that it meets with indifference. Whereas something I've put out "warts and all" has gone down well.

I think that a technically perfect recording is not, in a way, something that creative musicians should be too bothered about. If the song is good, or the track captures something, your audience won't give a shit whether there's a bit of fret buzz at 2.23 or the stereo image moves about at 3.39. People do, however, feel it when it's good. Music is, in the end, about communication. If it does that, the job's a good 'un. Food tastes the same if it's eaten off a plastic plate or a gold platter.....

I'm coming to the conclusion that this notion of a "proper" recording or even a "finished" piece is a red herring. I think that you only have one shot at it - and you'll never quite recapture the magic no matter how many times you try to do the "proper" version. So..........this is why I'd advise that you try to have some kind of discipline even when you're just pissing about with an idea. An example of what I mean - and something I do now - is to make sure that the rhythm track is synched via midi to the recorder so that you can reproduce it or mess about with it later. If you don't you'll come unstuck if you need to replace things. Not sure if I'm being clear.........

Sorry if that's all a bit rambling. It's a topic that I muse about often.
posted by MajorDundee at 3:48 PM on July 25, 2009

No, I really appreciate your words. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. For me, the demo recording is really the aural note -- it's instructions for how to play the song so I don't forget. I'll record it a second after I write it. But as you say, at that point I feel like I haven't had a chance to let the idea grow into all it can be. Sure, it has its charms, and there is obviously something I like about it, but I also intend to accomplish all kinds of X and Y on top of that usually pretty basic platform.

And sometimes in my recordings I feel like I really do that. I'll invent counter-melodies or little solos or a whole new section, etc, that I feel really build on the idea of the song and make it more interesting structurally, texturally, etc. However, I tend to be happier with the results than anyone who listens to it. I mean, often people will really like it, but when they then hear me play the basic platform of the song on the acoustic guitar, they REALLY like it. It's almost as though they feel that the "polished" version was like an interesting figure wearing a mask, but when they hear the demo it's like the mask came off and now they're getting to know this really awesome living breathing person with warmth and soul. It's like they go "oh wow, so that's who that song is!"

And at that point, my love of the polished version diminishes a little... and soon I'm inspired to write a new song and try to beat this cycle all over again.
posted by edlundart at 10:43 PM on July 25, 2009

And I guess that's where record producers come in. The role of the producer is often misunderstood and dismissed - particularly by inexperienced musicians. How often have you heard a good debut album only to be disappointed by the follow ups? Check out the credits - what's happened, quite often, is that the band has decided that the success of the first album was down solely to their giant talent and they can go it alone on the production front. Bad move. Really bad move. Usually the last people in a good position to judge the strength of material/arrangements are the people who wrote it. What you've said above is band in line with this. So......this is where the producer comes in. He or she can "hear" the stuff "without the mask" as you put it. So if you're ever in the position of getting a deal and making a "proper" album remember that the producer is massively important. And so are good engineers. Leave all the record-making - "that detail-orientated process" - to them.
posted by MajorDundee at 3:46 AM on July 26, 2009

6th sentence. Freudian slip: that should read "bang in line" of course!
posted by MajorDundee at 3:48 AM on July 26, 2009

Should have added another analogy to that. If you had to undergo a surgical procedure you wouldn't expect one doctor to deal with everything. Why not? Because this is a highly skilled area where people specialise - anaesthetists, different surgeons for different parts of the body etc etc. Professional record production is the same. People are experts in their roles. In that pro context you're not dealing with the record-making. Not your job. You know jack compared with these guys, so leave it to them. Your job is to create the music and perform it to the best of your ability. And that's all.

Enough already!!
posted by MajorDundee at 3:57 AM on July 26, 2009

I both agree and disagree... sure, producers can be valuable, and no doubt they know what they're doing much more than I do. And certainly it can be really good to get an outside person's perspective on what you're doing.

But at the same time, I often prefer art where one person has taken on multiple roles that are usually played by different people. For example, some of my favorite movies are written and directed by the same person, even though those are often considered completely different specialties. Many would even say that writing music and writing lyrics are two separate jobs -- there are many examples of teams where one person does the words and the other does the music. Yet there are countless examples of people who do both, and often very successfully. Same thing in comics, with writers and artists. I have an affinity for the "auteur."

When you have one person for each specialty, at the extreme, you can end up with a product that's created by committee. Some of its quirk might fade in that process. Sometimes that's good and sometimes it's bad.

I guess it's a bit like with media, too. We have these huge media conglomerates and the traditional newspaper industry. They have the teams of expertise, they have the sheen and the clout. Then you have the talented dude writing a zippy blog in his basement. The former is valuable for its resources, access and experience. The latter, though, is valuable too, for its speedy delivery, its ability to research things that the larger institutions either don't care about or don't understand -- or they have corporate reasons not to go there.

I never intend to pursue a recording career, certainly not in the old-fashioned sense of working with traditional record companies etc. But if I did, I would definitely want to work with hugely experienced people who could bring the best out of me. But as it is, I enjoy pretending to be a producer as much as pretending to be a musician. So to me, my job is not just to create the music and perform it. I also take on the job of producing because I really enjoy that part -- even when I'm failing. Doing everything myself may not produce the best possible results, but it's how I enjoy working.

Having said that though, I think it could be instructive for me to bring people in to my process earlier, so they can give me feedback on a song before I've polished it to death!
posted by edlundart at 6:06 PM on July 27, 2009

I see what you mean edlundart. But I disagree with what seems to be an a priori assumption that making movies or writing books is the same as making music. Christ that sounds soo patronising - not intended (I'm enjoying this interesting derail). Sure they're all art forms, but very different art forms in my view. All music is a collaboration - even for solo artists. It can be a collaboration with a producer, or with other musicians or with an audience or with elements of all three - but it is always a joint effort at some level or other. Even if the musician thinks it isn't. Uploading stuff onto MeFiMu is a collaboration - you're seeking a reaction or feedback, and you'll maybe take on board what's said. And that's why, given the choice, I'd always want to work with or involve other people - because they will bring something else to the party and the fascination of that is that you don't know what kind of creative trip you'll go on. Collaboration doesn't have to mean capitulation or compomise or dilution of your artistic identity or integrity - if you get the right mix of people it'll just click into place. I guess the summary of this is that music is fundamentally a social activity - if you're creative it's never going to be enough to make music just for yourself - at some point, like it or not, we all have a real need to share our creations with someone else. But that's just my opinion....:-)
posted by MajorDundee at 3:10 PM on July 29, 2009

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