Once It Was The Colour Of Saying (Work In Progress)

August 12, 2009 12:32 PM

This is incomplete and very current WIP from my glacial synth-based alter ego and is perhaps something of a companion piece to White Feather. I'd really appreciate opinions on (a) the pretty drastic transitions in the piece from the rhythmic to the quasi-orchestral and back again, (b) whether the lyric theme has any kind of cheddar whiff, and (c) whether it needs more "oomph" under the orchestral bits (actually difficult to pull off without destroying the mood - I've tried....). Any other comments welcome of course - but this is unfinished and well rough so....geeza break.

The working title is a steal from a Dylan Thomas poem - that has fuck all to do with the theme of the track. I just like enigmatic titles.... The lyric has turned out to be a sort of "buddy" conversation (hhhmmmm...oh really...?) where one of the, er, buddies is trying to get his friend to pull himself together after his girlfriend has scarpered. Christ - that sounds shit when written down. Anyway, in my wilder imaginings I could hear this as a duet between two male singers - which, I think, would be pretty unusual though obviously not unprecedented.

posted by MajorDundee (10 comments total)

I dig this sound: smooth, clean, simple. I would, as you say, (c), like a little more. It never gets really "big." At 3:10 or so, when it turns instrumental and the chimey synth comes in, I think I want enormous breadth and depth. Instead, it sort of fades away. Maybe that's what you're going for. But I sort of wanted a big hook.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:17 PM on August 12, 2009

Once again, this really gives off that Bowie ('90s) vibe that I love so much. I kind of want it to sort of explode in the reprise of the chorus (big guitars, open up some real drums on top of the techno drums). The fade would still absolutely work where it is, ending right as it turns into something. Then again, I tend to like big things in my productions, so feel free to ignore me outright.

I think it's a great start. I kind of want even more verse before the chorus ever comes back again. I could also be talking out my arse.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 7:51 PM on August 12, 2009

uncleozzy - your stuff always sounds "big" with a lot of presence. I always feel slightly defalted when I hear it "Fuck....I can't get my stuff to sound that professional". What's your secret champ?
posted by MajorDundee at 12:26 PM on August 13, 2009

Typo - I mean "deflated"
posted by MajorDundee at 12:27 PM on August 13, 2009

Hey MajorDundee, I've listened to this track about 6-7 times now over the last couple of days, and wanted to give you some real feedback. First off, to my ears, your stuff always sounds impeccably professional, and this is no exception. It is astoundingly clean and clear, the synths wash over me in the most pleasant way, the bass is fatter and warmer than, uh, a really overweight person who is burning. And the vocal performance is killer, as always. In short, it's good.

I am unlikely to ever be able to match your production skills, and I feel I could learn a lot from you as a songwriter/arranger. As a singer, forget about it.

But. If we're comparing this to "White Feather" -- one of my favorite tracks ever to be posted on MeFi Music -- let me be a horrible person and say: "White Feather" has a killer hook, inventive lyrics, and an arrangement that takes you somewhere. I'm not sure this song has either of those things in its current form.

To me, (a) is not a problem at all. I don't hear drastic transitions. In fact, that's kind of what I miss in the arrangement. I feel like there could be more contrast between the verses and the chorus. This is similar to saying that I want the hook to come alive more. I guess I would envision that happening either by overdubbing another vocal or three on the "there is no other way" part, or by constructing and recording a vocal counter-melody that together with that part will then form a more memorable hook that stands out more from the rest of the song.

When it comes to (b), I do think the lyrics could use some work. I say this as someone who just wrote a song with the line "I ride the subway every day" repeated 7 and a half times. There are a number of very commonly used phrases in the song which make it a less individual observation (brighter day, she was my sunlight (i do like the "she was my rain" modification), she was the one and only burning flame, i can't shake this feeling, etc). I love your idea of two male voices having a conversation, and I get that maybe using lyrical cliches is true to this kind of situation, but personally I'd be more interested in such a conversation if it had more surprising turns in it.

As for (c), I don't know if I feel it needs that specifically... as I said above, my only complaint with the song's arrangement is that it doesn't really push a hook forward. This isn't always an issue for me -- not everything needs to be hooky. But I feel like this song wants to have one, and could have one, so I'm commenting with that in mind. If you're not really going for that, I can dig that.

I think you could keep pretty much this exact song structure, but just tweak the arrangements to lift one repeated part up and out to grab me, and I'd be humming this almost as much as "White Feather."

I hope you take all this in the spirit it was intended. Would love to have more of this kind of songwriting conversation on MeFi Music.
posted by edlundart at 12:20 AM on August 14, 2009

"Fuck....I can't get my stuff to sound that professional"

Frankly, I think you've got some really great-sounding mixes, and lately, mine have been cluttered and small-sounding. One of the things that works best for your mixes is the relative sparsity and general pokiness of the instruments. Everything's got a space it fits into, and nothing steps on anything else. To me, that's what makes a mix sound huge. When you can pick out everything, and the space around, you're in a good place.

Me, I tend to fill in every available space to cover up the lousy equipment: my acoustic guitar is boxy and toneless, I don't record real guitar amps, my mics are rubbish, and none of them really matches my voice (your voice sounds fantastic through the K2, by the way; if I could come up with the scratch right now I'd buy one on that alone).
posted by uncleozzy at 5:49 AM on August 14, 2009

Edlundart - that's very kind of you, thank you man - given me a real boost (been going through one of my periodic "it's all shit, I'm going to sell everything and give up" phases recently).

This track is evolving in a very strange way, and I think it's potentially in a different universe from White Feather. It started with the "There is no other way" as a pure vocal melody with no obvious underpinning chord progression, and I deliberately avoided reaching for a guitar - which is what I normally do. I just put a very basic rhythm track together and sang that line. And when I first got the "she was my.." vocal melody (the whole lot came out in one take) I was getting shivers (always a good sign) and, unusually for me, made a backup of the data at that early stage. In a further twist, in my conception the hook in this isn't the "There is no other way bit", it's the lush bit. But the structure of the track is very strange - like a song within a song, or two hooks with no verses. It needs a lot more work - and maybe if I can get what I'm hearing in my head down, and take account of everyone's generous and constructive comments, you might get a better idea of what I'm trying to do.... I will change the lyric (uness one of you fancies writing something - no problem with me at all) because I find lyric writing a total pain in the arse.

Uncleozzy - you're doing yourself down big time there old mate. I always think your stuff sounds fantastic - you get a really "live", immediate feel. There's real excitement - it's rock 'n' roll, baby! God knows what you could achieve with better quality kit.. Although, having said that, good kit does not a great recording make - I once read that Mick Jagger records his vocals with an SM58 - hardly in the Neumann price bracket. I guess a fantasy would be to get you to record/produce/remix some of my stuff - now, that'd be interesting..... - logistically a non-starter sadly.
posted by MajorDundee at 12:45 PM on August 14, 2009

Re: Jagger's SM58: I hadn't heard that, but I heard the same thing about Bono. I wonder if either or both are true. I'm not really a fan of either artist, but I sort of want it to be true since I use the SM58 myself.

I recently read that Tape Op article that was posted in the blue a while back about Sufjan Stevens (who I do like a lot) -- he recorded several albums using only SM57s!
posted by edlundart at 11:48 AM on August 15, 2009

I think it might be true. It depends what sort of sound you're after - sometimes a high-end tube mic might be just too sophisticated/delicate for rawk 'n' rowull. I'm not a fan of Jagger either, but I have a soft spot for early(ish) U2 ("October", "War", "The Unforgettable Fire").
posted by MajorDundee at 2:36 PM on August 16, 2009

Funny you should mention about the SM58. I've just started using the SM58 in my closet for recording vocals instead of the cheap Chinese condenser, and I'm finding that it's much better than I remember. Granted, the preamps in my interface are better than the ones I used to use, but other than a little too much midrange bite and not quite enough warmth in the bottom end, it's pretty nice. And less room noise than the condenser, too.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:14 AM on August 18, 2009

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