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These songs are the results of a four day recording residency I undertook from 18th to 21st August 2013 (with a few hours remedial work over the following weeks), under the banner of “Lo-Fi Symphonies”.

I finally found the time and courage to re-visit the recordings at the end of March this year. I’ll be honest it was really an excuse to try out an idea I’d had for a homemade space echo spring reverb. Each of the songs was kept in the state I had left them almost 3 years ago, and i mixed and mastered 2 signals from the 8-track: 1 outputted directly to Logic, and the 2nd routed to Logic via my homemade space echo.

I’ve released the four songs under the guise of Sylvania Electric (seeing them as a progression of a long-dormant pre-Miss Pain pseudonym Sylvania). I hope you like them.

 

 

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APPENDIX (Lo-Fi Symphonies Residency 1)
Rather than wracking my memory over a few overdubs and recording decisions I made 3 years ago, I’m just going to present the notes as a form of appendix – a long overdue full stop to this project.

REMEDIAL NOTES (Summarising work undertaken following the initial recording timescale)


REMEDIAL NOTES (Praying For Time)


MIXING & MASTERING NOTES

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Portslade-Aggregate
DATE:
Monday 22 February 2016
LOCATION:
BLANK Studios & Gallery, 108 North St, Portslade-by-Sea, BN41 1DG

MISSION STATEMENT
To create a sound piece, within 1 day, in response to the environs and surrounds of BLANK Studios & Gallery. In contrast to previous Lo-Fi Symphony exercises, there will be no preconceived ideas (sounds, melodies, etc) at the commencement of composition. The day will begin with a blank tape, a blank page and a blank mind. All sounds will be conjured from a limited array of low-fidelity sound-producing and recording equipment, plus found sounds and field recordings captured on location, on the day.

EQUIPMENT (all vintage and/or 2nd-hand unless otherwise stated)
Recording: Fostex X-26 4-track cassette recorder (channel 1 input not working); selection of 4 microphones of various vintages; Mighty Boom Ball mini-speaker (not used); Behringer 4-channel mixer; circa 1960s Park amplifier (low wattage); Headphones; Zoom H1 Handy Recorder (my one concession to modern technology)
Instruments/Sound-producers: Yamaha SU-10 sampler; Boss Dr Rhythm DR-110 drum machine (unused); metronome; Korg Gt-3 chromatic tuner (unused); Early Learning Centre plastic drum (purchased for £1.99 at local charity shop); wooden Teddy-bear marching band jigsaw puzzle with electronic noise chips (purchased for £1.99 at local charity shop)

ACCOUNT
I step off the train at Portslade station into a frigid sheet of grey drizzle. I head off down the high street, trawling the handful of charity shops en route seeking second-hand goods that produce some kind, any kind, of noise… Bingo! A plastic toy drum and the world’s most annoying jigsaw puzzle – it has electronic chips under each of the 6 pieces, emitting an approximation of the sound of a teddy-bear marching band. I am henceforth accompanied by a tourettes-style clatter of tinny noises with each and every step I take towards my destination.

I arrive at BLANK Studios at 11.06am, dump my equipment in the vaulted gallery space and set out with my handheld recorder to capture found sounds

Field Recordings
1. Raindrops in drainpipe (BLANK kitchen)
2. Ambient sounds – road traffic (BLANK hallway)
3. Ambient sounds – hum (BLANK gallery)
4. Ambient sounds – lorry reversing alarm (aggregate works)
5. Ambient sounds – lorry passing (aggregate works)
6. Ambient sounds – machinery (aggregate works)
7. Dripping drainpipe (aggregate works)

At 12.00 I set up and document the equipment I have at my disposal: a motley array of outdated sound-capturing gear. Key items will be a Yamaha sampler; a Fostex cassette 4-track (channel 1 – out of order); a selection of microphones; a budget Behringer mixer; and a circa 1960s Park amplifier of very low wattage).

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I dive straight in with the intention of creating a bubbling rhythm track from a snippet of the ‘raindrops in drainpipe (kitchen)’ field recording. I am still wrestling with the sample of raindrops at 1pm.

I abort a metronomic drum machine overdub just as it builds up and resonates around the gallery. Instead I turn to the plastic toy drum, picked up for £1.99 earlier this morning. It has elastic straps on the sides which twang when you pluck them, and a flimsy ‘skin’ that feels like any child worth their mettle would very quickly beat a hole in it. I place a mic under a wooden plinth, sit the drum on top and proceed with a stop/start rhythm, trying to match the burbling rain-drop backing. In the end I sample each of the 3 sounds – a twang, a tap on the drum-skin, and a bang on the plinth. These, recorded via the Park amplifier with 2 ambient mics (see diagram, page 1 of notes), will drive this lo-fi soundscape and give it some backbone.

— I must have stopped for lunch about here —

The ambient road traffic recording, captured in the hallway, is sampled and edited down to form a repeated swelling motif throughout the duration of the piece.

— at this point family responsibility intervenes, I must catch a train to collect my daughter from nursery. But everything is left set up for my return after dinner —

Disappointed with my progress so far, I sit at the train station mulling over the sparse arrangement that I have created. An off-beat clap suggests itself, and I furtively dictate a note-to-self in the shelter.

20.20: I arrive back at the gallery.

First, I stalk the gallery space clapping my hands looking for a sweet spot where the room’s natural reverb makes a single clap ring out like gunshot. This is duly captured via microphone and sampler.

Let’s see what the Teddy-Bear marching band can bring to the symphony… Lifting each jigsaw piece lets off a clattering, electronic din. And the winner is: the “triangle” player – a tinny, ting-a-ling metallic trill, sampled and ready to trigger.

The off-beat metallic trill and clap are duly added to the mix in 1 take. Running out of time, all parts will be done in 1 take from here-on

I find a 2 metre length of cardboard tubing in the building. This is mic’ed up at one end, with an additional ambient mic close by (see diagram page 2 of notes). A quick run through, then I hit record and begin humming a low, cello-like bowing sound, in tandem with, and contrast to, the ebbing road-traffic sample.

Mixdown: Toy drum sample with Teddy-bear triangle + clap
Mixdown: Raindrops + road traffic with Cardboard tube vocal

I listen back to the now fleshed out arrangement, and as I listen a haunting, whistled melody suggests itself. I listen through again, whistling the tune as I set up microphones and work out where to position myself. I need to nail this in 1 take if I am to get a final mix in the can before the last train.

I stand atop a bench, a microphone held at arms length + another atop a plinth to capture the room-sound and I whistle an eerie, Morricone-esque top-line through dry lips.

The time is 22.30. Time to mixdown to master tape: a dry mix straight from the Fostex outputs + a 2nd mix run via the Park amplifier with my trusty Zoom handy recorder and tripod perched atop a plinth to capture the sound as it fills the room.

I pack up all my equipment, lock it in my studio space and exit the building at 23.16 to catch the 23.26 train home.

Notes recorded throughout the day:


Post-production: the final Dry mix + Ambient mix were transferred to Logic audio software; the two mixes were then combined and volume levels tweaked for an overall “wet + dry mix”.

Wells Art Contemporary 2013 winner exhibition

Excitement and trepidation abounds, my first solo exhibition in London begins a week tomorrow…

45 Park Lane and The Dorchester Collection present:
A Solo Exhibition of neon lights in oil paint by Dominic Bradnum, winner of the Wells Art Contemporary 2013 First Prize.

Dominic Bradnum – Wells Art Contemporary 2013 winner, solo exhibition
Wednesday 7th May – Saturday 31st May 2014
45 Park Lane, Dorchester Collection, Mayfair, London W1K 1PN

 

After much frantic searching I have now found and moved into a studio space at Blank Studios, Portslade-on-Sea.

The building is a converted end-of-terrace house in one of those rapidly vanishing liminal zones on the edge of Brighton and Hove.

You can find me in Studio 6.

Blank Studio 6

I am just getting together a post for my Wednesday Painter blog, with a little account of the move and organisation of all my paraphernalia, watch that space…

I am painfully aware that my lo-fi symphonies project has ground to a halt, at least in the public eye. I have found a bit of time to work on one of the recordings to a point where I think it is complete, and I have made a rough mix that needs a couple of tweaks but stood up to scrutiny on the last listen.

I have just been diagnosed with opthalmic shingles, which ain’t the joyride it sounds like it could be. This is hampering progress. Also, there was a holiday, and there is work, and there is family life, and there is childcare. All of which mean that I can only work the odd stray hour or two when I have the energy to do so.

I shall soldier on, and post things when I feel they are ready for consumption.

02:45: Is it Day 3 now, or still Day 2? I drag myself out of bed, neck some breakfast and black coffee, close the curtains, then mic’ up and record a few takes of the piano for The Scars On Your Face; mix two takes together (more judicious cross-fading); then back into the live room for the vocals – recorded watching the sun rise across the field.

Day 3 sunrise 04:42

Day 3 sunrise 04:42

Then the planes started again, and I just about manage to squeeze in the brief verses and middle-eight vocals in the short gaps between take off.

NOTES AT START OF DAY 3
How are the recording notes looking as we creep loudly into Day 3?

I spend an interminable length of time creating 4 combinations of 6/4 drum patterns for We Didn’t Have Much Time, then painstakingly sequence them to fit the composition. I play along on the guitar to check everything is in its right place. Everything swings…

We Didn’t Have Much TIme (guitar/drums) take 1

14:45: A nasty electrical POPPING sound has me rushing into the live room. I unplug everything without any shocks and my heart is racing. I haven’t dared plug most of it back in yet, but there is no evidence of short-circuiting (melted plugs, burns, etc), so I have no idea which piece of gear it was.

I head off for a nap with the intention of rising later in the evening for another late night session.

16:15: I feel a little rested though I haven’t really slept. Might as well get on with some more work then.

One of the things that kept me from sleeping was the tragic sound of a lowing slide guitar accompanying The Fledgling And The Moth inside my head. That, and the aeroplanes and the caffeine. My first task on waking, then, is to lay down some slide guitar, which I combine with E-Bow to vicious, atonal effect.

E-Bow + Slide = atonal + vicious

E-Bow + Slide = atonal + vicious

That electrical POPPING sound I reported earlier: the only evidence I can find is a 9-volt battery which has blown up. I must say it was bloody loud for such a small thing, must have been each of the individual cells blowing…

POPPING battery

POPPING battery

After dinner, I’m back in the live room with the amp turned up to, er, 1, and I record two full takes of the wild west-style guitar, close mic’ed with another mic’ to capture the room sound.

I pack up, fingers sore, but pleased with myself. I phone my wife, poor another glass of wine and take myself to bed by 21:45.

NOTES AT END OF DAY 3

MISSION STATEMENT
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.

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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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10:30: SLIGHT HITCH

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.

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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.

NOTES FROM DAY 1
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.