You may remember from a while back that Carolan spent some quality time with folk-jazz band Carmina, during which their guitarist and composer Rob was inspired to compose a distinctive part for their new song Landmarks. If not you can read about Rob’s inspiration and also hear an early version of the song in Post 43.
Well, the band is now recording their new album, called Landmarks, featuring the new song. Even better, Carolan was invited along to the recording session to play a guitar part on the track.
The session was at Real World, a beautiful and secluded studio in Bath countryside that was established by Peter Gabriel and that has seen the recording of many great world music albums over the years.
It’s a beautiful sunny day in late May as we catch the early morning train down from Nottingham, enjoying a breakfast Panini on the way (one of those ones that they microwave so that you can drink them with a straw rather than having to exert yourself by chewing. Think bread, cheese and tomato flavoured porridge).
Breakfast aside (the best option), once arrived, we’re into the studio, a airy room with brick walls and wooden floors. It’s been set-up as a very comfortable working environment for the week, more like a rehearsal space with a great live sound than some of the more damped-down and dark studio spaces that we’ve been in before. It’s easy to settle in and seems like the perfect set-up for inspiring and capturing a live performance.
Its takes around an hour to refine and lay down the guitar part. This involves working through the chord sheet with Rob to figure out how a second guitar part that can thicken up the chorus and to work out how to manage the distinctive transitions in timing that feature in the song.
Rob has already set up a guitar-station in a corner of the room featuring an old desk and music stand.
Carolan is miced up while a second direct input feed is taken from a Schlerter David amplifier. It’s the first time we’ve tried out one of these amps and the sound is especially warm (another addition to our birthday present list).
We record a few takes of the part, hopefully giving engineer Tim Martin plenty of material to work his magic with, and then we’re done.
Along the way, there’s some technical tweaking needed in the form of a carpet adjustment and the removal of a boot to solve a foot tapping issue (although clog dancing can always add to a track as the Unthanks have shown from time to time).
One interesting technicality we note during the session is that the mic has been barcoded. It turns out that this was originally done for security purposes, with equipment being checked-out and back in again for each session so that it wouldn’t be ‘lost’ (though could do with that Schlerter amp being ‘lost’ in our direction).
It turns out that the resulting information in the Real World database about which mics (and other equipment too) have been used in which sessions has other value too. For a start, it makes it easier to recreate the same set-up should the musicians decide to come back into the studio at a later point, perhaps for overdubs, to rerecord some parts or even for their next album.
Beyond this, it might enhance the mystique or magic of the process. Here, we remember a conversation with or colleague Jon Eades from Abbey Road studios a while back during which he mentioned how some musicians were excited by the idea of recording using ‘famous’ microphones – the one McCartney sang into for example. So Real World’s tagging and tracking of their microphones mirrors Carolan’s tracking of its own history, giving further evidence of how connecting an instrument (including a microphone) to its digital record can enhance both its utility and its personal meaning. Cute eh?
Back at Nottingham, we hear from Carmina that they’ve had a successful week in the studio – you can read their own account and learn more about the forthcoming album on Facebook or on Kickstarter. We’re really looking forward to hearing the album when it’s finished and it’s a lovely thought that Carolan helped inspire the title track and then got to play on it too. Maybe we can even add some Artcodes to the album artwork that connect back to our records of how it all came to pass.
Layer upon layer ….