Lo-Fi Symphonies Residency – DAY 1 (18.08.13)

To set up a lo-fi recording studio at a remote location and record over a period of 4 days*.

The intention is to work on a collection of dirges and ditties that have been drifting around my headspace over the past couple of years, working on a battered old digital 8-track and a limited arsenal of instruments.

There is no hi-tech recording console, and no software studio. Instead I have a digital 8-track recorder, which I find lends itself to a non-precious, back-to-basics working style – if a take doesn’t make the grade, I have to go back and re-do it again. And again. There will be no luxury of countless overdubs to 32 tracks in ProTools here!

*please note: this is not some “bourgeois artist-type wants to feel tortured and authentic, and so heads off to the wilderness to live in a log cabin for 3 months with just an acoustic guitar and a wax cylinder to record with” schtick. No, I just want to have a few days to myself to get some ideas on to tape, without the distractions of real life.


So, you find me in the middle of nowhere, in the shadow of Gatwick airport. The nearest shop is a mile down the road and there is a bus about every 2 hours (if you walk a mile to the bus stop). There is food and drink, and internet (albeit very slow), TV and radio, but I am isolated enough that I shouldn’t have the urge to go to the pub, or the shops. I am also alone: just me and the sounds in my head with a load of equipment of various vintages and states of repair. (oh, and a needy cat)

Here is an overview of the equipment I have at my disposal

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I have forgotten a pretty essential piece of kit – a data transfer cable – which I need in order to transfer audio to the computer. I am an idiot.

14:00: I have returned from a round trip to Hove by car, then train, then another train, then foot, then bike, then train, then bike again. I will eat lunch and get on.  Looks like it’ll be a late night tonight if I am to catch up on lost time.


Rehearsing the 1st song, I thought I might as well film myself, so here I am bashing away at an acoustic guitar.

The Fledgling and The Moth (acoustic) – take 4

At some point, mid-afternoon, I realised the tempo of the song I am working on is a little too strident. It takes some courage, but I scrap everything I have done so far and start again (I do save the original recordings just in case). Working from the ground up, I create a click track (tempo 82bpm); record a guide track of acoustic guitar and vocal; add some swelling organ; sing an improvised three-part choral chord and sample each part; add two-part backing vocals (2 x mid-range, 1 x low); mix 2 organ takes, with a number of judicious fades, to make a (almost) perfect take.

I have no completed recordings to post at the end of play. I finish work at 03:52 hrs.

Here are my notes from Day 1 – they will probably make no sense outside of the context of the recording. And even then probably only to me, being that I can’t read or write music and have my own set of codes and signifiers to help me piece things back together.

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