26 July 2010

Alive As You Are is out in the UK

And that calls for a few words on the record, how we made it, and on the product we're flooding the marketplace with, o informed consumer.

The LP bears a AAA code on the back (and when I say LP, I'm talking vinyl). You used to see these codes on CD's back in the 80's and 90's. It was designed to tell you how the CD was recorded (first letter), mixed (second letter) and mastered (third letter). For instance, AAD would mean a record was recorded analog, mixed analog, and mastered digitally (of course if it's on CD, it's digital and therefore the third letter would always be D). But those codes more or less vanished by the turn of the century. Fast forward to present times, when every band and their grandmother presses vinyl and touts it as the ultimate listening experience. In our neighborhood alone, two record stores have opened in the last year or two that only sell new vinyl. It's poppin' off. Except there's one caveat. If you recorded your album digitally, then it's meant to be listened to digitally (although someone on some message board somewhere might argue that this point is arguable). Once you go digital, it's always digital, and regardless of if it's on vinyl or not, your brain will be fed discrete little bits of data that sounds a lot like music instead of the continuous sound that is music. This vinyl revival hasn't been accompanied by renewed use of SPARS codes (as it's called; although it was never intended for LP's in the first place), so we usually don't know how these records were actually recorded, mixed and mastered; but I reckon that at least 95% of that new, shrink-wrapped $18 vinyl was recorded on a computer. Which means, at least in these eyes, your money might be better spent on the CD. But maybe you have a DJ night, and it's important to you to spin vinyl, who knows.


Anyway. Back to the AAA on the Alive As You Are LP. What this means is that we recorded the whole thing onto tape, mixed it onto another tape, and took that to Pete Lyman at Infrasonic Sound, whose very special needle etched grooves into what is now the vinyl platter you can hold in your hand (or, simply, he mastered it). Without any digitalia in the way, what comes out of your speakers is essentially a direct transfer of energy from us to you. All vibration and impulses. A more human listening experience. When we thought about our favorite records and what kind of record we wanted to make, we realized the common thread is they were pretty much all made this way. And here we are.

Why doesn't everybody do it like this? Well, it's easier to do every step of the process digitally, it's cheaper, it's more forgiving, you can "fix" mistakes and poor performances, studios are set up that way, people can't really tell the difference... and the list goes on and on. Digital production is insanely compelling, and it takes a lot of practice and discipline to lay it down, warts and voice cracks and all, on tape.

So yeah. After we were done tracking at Hyde Street in SF, we packed up and went an hour north to Prairie Sun, in Sonoma County and mixed for the next 10 days. It was our engineer Drew, our producer Nick, and us all crammed in this fishbowl of a control room around a mixing board turning knobs and moving sliders. Which is not textbook mixing, by the way, and was tense and not fun more often than not. But it worked - we mixed it on our own the way we wanted to do it, onto tape, and that is what's on the record.

The CD's different. When we turned the record in to our label, they said "hey, some of these mixes sound wack, let's have a professional remix em." So we transferred all the tapes onto a hard drive and got a guy named Jason Lader to mix it over a couple weekends at Rick Rubin's house in the hills on the days Kid Rock wasn't there, and I'm pretty sure he broke into it, because he made it out like we weren't supposed to be there and swore us to secrecy (oops). Since these mixes were bound for the CD (and iTunes/etc), to hell with all that analog self-righteousness; song by song, we picked the better mix, and five of his mixes are on the digital version.

All that said, what's so very nice is that when you buy the vinyl, you get a download code. Which gets you the digital version too. Best of both worlds. So there. If your neighborhood general store doesn't have it, you can order it here or here, or if you want to drop some Sterling on the CD here.

*** note: if you can't find the vinyl in the UK, order it from Dangerbird and they'll ship it straightaway ***

4 comments:

KYRAN said...

DML call up Dangerbird and tell them that all Canadian preorders should be shipped out ASAP since it's part of the commonwealth! Thus coinciding with the UK release date!

Anonymous said...

Brief review from 'The Observer' in the UK

If the band name raises eyebrows, it's worth knowing that Darker My Love's Tim Presley named his group after a song by 80s US goth-punks TSOL a lifetime ago. You'd be hard pressed to hear the influence here, however. DML's extremely pleasant third album is an unexpected curio – a psychedelic record with great affection for the Byrds and the Beatles, but played with the discipline and pithiness of former punks. Songs such as "18th Street Shuffle" evince a little glam too, making for a beguiling period piece that never fully commits to wearing paisley.

(Kitty Empire)

Anonymous said...

I hope all this means that you will go the whole way and have a MONO version?

RSA Online said...

*sigh* I miss vinyl!
Best of both is nice too though ;) I'll definitely check out Alive As You Are!