If you were under the impression that musical masterpieces were only crafted in the technological havens of the recording studio, you’ve clearly forgotten that the music industry is rife with folklore. From claims that Aphex Twin once lived on a roundabout in Elephant and Castle, to witnesses who saw Ozzy Osbourne eating a live bat on-stage, it can be hard to tease the facts from the fiction.
A common story told by music production enthusiasts describes how John Bonham, the drummer of Led Zeppelin, achieved a famously mighty percussive sound on ‘When the Levee Breaks’ by performing in the acoustically-rich stairwell of a mansion. This example highlights how important it can be to take music production outside traditional recording environments.
If you have the technology, you can record in your bedroom, attic, or simply anywhere that suits your sound. Looking to the future, with the new technology documented in the G2 Digital blog (a bespoke hardware solutions company resource), we could start to see an increasing number of producers who can single-handedly perform full AV (audio visual) shows. According to Perception Live, a technical event production company who configure the sound for niche live music events like Rivington Street Festival, it’s already becoming more common to see performers armed with little more than a laptop.
For those eager to get a head start and learn about music production in a professional context, there are more options available than ever. You don’t have to turn to long-term and expensive academic music production degrees either. Cheaper and more accessible music production courses like those of SubBass Academy are growing increasingly popular with producers who would rather learn the skills and then operate outside the confines of the recording studio.
So before you apply reverb to that synthetic snare or render your final mix, take a look at these three inspiring albums that were recorded far from the studio.Source: Official Artwork
WU LYF – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
The sadly no-longer active WU LYF were a four-piece band from Manchester (UK). In a fashion very much in step with the self-mythologising trends of the music industry, WU LYF made a name for themselves by being mysterious. They refused interviews, shunned the press and declined all offers from record labels.
Their self-produced album ‘Go Tell Fire to the Mountain’ was recorded in Saint Peter’s church in the inner city area of Manchester. The decision to move to the less-than-traditional recording environment was made when the band had no success capturing what they took to be their signature style in recording studios. Ultimately, they knew they would have to move to a large space to capture their sound.
The potential for naturally-occurring reverb, an effect that was integral to their music, made the church a logical choice, and it explains why the album has such a shimmering quality. Tracks like ‘We Bros’ feature glistening melodies that seem to occupy every inch of the listener’s aural space before slowly dissipating and hypnotically emerging again.
[divider]Source: Official Artwork
Animal Collective – Campfire Songs
Ever since they burst into existence, Animal Collective have always been the creators of thoroughly unpredictable and intriguing music. They have never strayed far from their experimental approaches to music production. Indeed, it’s impressive that a band who represent genres like noise pop can consistently draw comparisons to The Beach Boys.
They have recently been associated with dance music thanks to Merriweather Post Pavillion, an album which amazed long-time fans with its accessible but undeniably sophisticated floor-fillers like ‘My Girls’. But there was once a time when a google search for “animal collective” was less likely to return results for the musical outfit. It was during such a time that they released Campfire Songs, an album that was recorded in one take, outside on a porch.
As the concept, neatly detailed in the album title, was to create a warm, inviting and rustic sound, the capturing of the local ambient noise was an essential ingredient to the mix. Though it may sound like an exercise in improvisation, all of the songs were prepared and ready to be performed weeks before they were recorded.
What they achieved is a dreamy, ambient delicateness that would either be impossible or too time-consuming to recreate in a studio. With each movement made by the performer, the real-time recording reflects the varying intensity of each sound against a constant backdrop of natural sounds.
[divider]Source: Official Artwork
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
If someone were to time travel and tell a reclusive, mononucleosis-infected Justin Vernon, better known as Bon Iver, that he was about to record an album that would see covers from the likes of Phil Collins and lead to his collaboration with Kanye West – he might not believe them.
All of the above came to be so, and it was because of a series of unfortunate events for Vernon. Before he recorded For Emma, Forever Ago, his band had broken up, his relationship with his girlfriend had ended and he had recently developed mononucleosis. His plan was to hibernate for around three months in his dad’s hunting cabin in Wisconsin and purge the experiences of his recent life into song-format.
The DIY nature of the recording that was conducted with old microphones, various instruments resulted in a sound that seems complex due to its minimalism. With the sombre moods evoked, the snaps and pops of the antiquated recording apparatus lends the sense of an intimate space being shared between the listener and performer.