That’s my studio computer, on the left, a 2002 Macintosh. Every album released on SSRI was recorded on that machine, a total of fourteen albums I think. At this point my phone probably has a faster processor…
That computer keeps humming though and I am currently recording album number fifteen on it. Since 2002 technology has changed so much, and updating everything became such a daunting task, that it was much easier to keep working with this old beast. And perhaps I even love working with an ancient computer. It reminds me that ideas are more important than gear.
Jon suggested that I write “Classic Macintosh Sound” on the inside cover of the new album. It was a joke because computers don’t actually have a sound. The sound is determined by the file type and the digital to analog converter, which is usually not handled by the computer itself. It’s funny and I might do it. :-)
Last year I decided to record an album of songs that mix elements of the Tangos Flamenco rhythm with Reggae beats.
Reggae and Tangos Flamenco — not to be confused with the Argentine Tango — are deeply connected. Tangos has a lilt and features the same avoidance of beat one that Reggae and Salsa have, and to my ears it always sounded very different from other Flamenco forms.
I read that some believe the Caribbean rhythm was brought to the Spanish port Cadiz by sailors from merchant vessels, and that the catchy rhythm soon traveled to Andalusia, where it blended with local musical styles and became Tangos Flamenco. The word ‘tangos’ itself might be derived from the onomatopoeia ‘tang’ which resembles ‘the sound of the drum‘, while in some parts of South America the word ‘tangosa’ refers to Africans dancing to the beat of drums.
The deep roots of these three rhythms, Tangos, Reggae and Salsa, of course, lie in Africa.
The new album will be released on October 23rd.
On new year’s eve I redid three mixes for the new album “three-oh-five”. Then I sat down with a glass of wine and listened to the whole album using Audeze LCD-2 headphones – through an old Parasound DAC and preamp.
I loved every track and heard nothing that took me out of the experience, which means it looks like I was able to finish the music on the last day of 2013.
Now I can turn my attention to another album I want to release this Spring…
I will add another track from DUNE to this SoundCloud set every Tuesday, until the album is released on April 24th. Simply return to this post every Tuesday to hear another song.
Right after we came home from last year’s Summer tour I started working on a new album. I had a photo and a title – the album cover was photographed by Mike Lane in the dunes near Mendocino, California – and a few new songs we had been playing live for several months. So I started writing more music and imagining sounds.
I decided that I disliked the sound of the Line 6 Pod Pro I had been using for a number of years. To my ears it simply does not sound like a “real” guitar amp.
So I borrowed a few amps to try, and ended up buying another Mesa Boogie – I bought my first one upon arrival in the USA in 1979, used it on “The Hours Between Night + Day” and “Opium”, and sold it in 2002, thinking that the digital way would more convenient and perhaps better. My new Boogie is quite small, has a 5W class A tube design and sounds amazing. Unfortunately the model I bought, the Express 5:25™ 1×10 Combo, was discontinued this year in favor of the bigger 12″ speaker.
I recorded all of the electric guitar parts without a pick and without any kind of effect, mainly using my thumb, and sometimes my fingers.
I also decided that I wanted to play guitar melodies that sounded “sung”. For some reason I kept thinking about old jazz and pop crooners. So I sang almost every melody first and then figured out how to play it on guitar. Perhaps this album is about guitar anti-shredding…
The album seems to continuo the idea from “Opium” of contrasting traditional and electric instruments:
percussion : drum machine
accordion : synthesizer
flamenco guitar : electric guitar (my old Vizcarra Strat)
upright bass : bass guitar
We ended up using very very little synth on this album… there are some strings on “Dancing Alone”, but most everything else is processed guitar. On “Horse”, for example, Jon played a guitar chord of mine through a speaker into his piano, with a brick depressing the sustain pedal, miking the piano strings. And there is some classic Fender Rhodes on “Bridge” and in one or two other places.
Regarding the drum machine… I was feeling nostalgic for the old Roland 808, one of the first machines I used in 1984. But since I did not want to pay the going rate of $2,500 for a used 808, and since they are a pain anyway because one has to dial in the tempo with a knob and guess at the tempo, I found a company in the UK that sells 24/88.2 high def samples from an 808 and bought a really nice German app called Geist to program the beats on my laptop. The whole thing ended up costing about $300 and works better than a real 808 would, in my opinion.
01 Falling In
All of the sounds were created from one electric guitar chord and a few Flamenco guitar sounds. Treatment and sound design by Andrew Gaskins. This track is “Falling In”, the beginning of a dream.
A rumba with a little twist: it switches between a 4/4 rumba section (99BPM) and a 6/8 section (66BPM) that are related because the dotted eighth note of the 4/4 section becomes the quarter note in the 6/8 section. I was doing this naturally, but wanted to know what the hell I was doing – so Jon figured it out. I think it something that is done quite often in African music. Lovely accordion playing by Char Rothschild.
I found the Arabic scale on the Internet and immediately starting playing with it. I might have found it here. I added a couple of 5/4 bars in the chorus. Fun to play live. Great accordion playing, again! The cajon is also excellent and there is a beautiful bass solo at the end.
04/05 Bridge, Part 1 & 2
We have been playing this Tangos (Part 2 is a rumba) live for a year and a half. I love the bass w octave divider in the verses and the break with electric guitar and Fender Rhodes.
This one switches between rumba and tangos rhythms and different tempos that are nevertheless mathematically related. Jon suggested the upright bass which is perfect for the song. A little electric guitar during the outro…
07/08 Dancing Alone
I liked the song on “Petals On the Path”, but had a different vision for it. So we recorded it again and I love the way it turned out. We kept switching between two tempos on this one also. Great accordion playing, again! The ending of the Prelude is also a Flamenco guitar treatment by Andrew Gaskins.
I love the interplay between guitar and accordion. During the third verse Jon plays three bass guitars and a clavinet!
10 On the Road to Shiraz
Killer bass line!! That bass break after the second verse consists of three basses, the main line, plus a low note to the right and some strumming on the left. At the very end you can hear me “play” a shortwave radio using the fine-tune knob.
11 Five Clouds, Lenticular
As the title suggests this one is in 5/4. The cajon beat is some kind of Eastern European 5/4 riff. Very pretty chorus melody.
12 Night Exhales
Pretty straightforward rumba with a funky ending!
13 Horse Return
A funky section from track 03 with added dry guitar parts and drum boxing.
14 Moon Fragrance
The percussionist is Chris Steele, who is in the new touring band. He has a unique setup with two Cuban cajons, which don’t have snare strings like the Peruvian cajons. We hadn’t recorded a Bossa Nova in a few years and enjoyed playing this.
15 Sliding Out
This is the end of the dream. Guitar treatment and sound design by Andrew Gaskins.