Sunday, November 1, 2015

What Is A Recording Studio?

A specialized environment to record light and/or sound.  A tabla rasa, whatever you want it to be.  A contained vessel for shamanic journeys into sound spaces bringing back a souvenir (the recording) to communicate those spaces.  An experimental laboratory generating compound sonic assemblages with resulting quantum entanglements.  A landing pad for the descent of higher entities, i.e. the living percepts and affects - the sense, feeling and mood of the music; the intuitive ideas it inspires; the baraka it communicates; the gnosis released when lightening strikes.  We'll be looking at a particular sound studio, Ancient Wave, the one I work at locally, the new World Headquarters for High Velocity Sound Engineering.

The intention of a recording studio is to bring great music into the world.  Music can come from anywhere, but certain conditions help increase the odds.  When  I asked Paul Bowles what, if anything, he did to help inspire creativity in the people he recorded his immediate answer was, "make the musicians comfortable."   Usually the first thing people remark about when visiting Ancient Wave studios for the first time refers in some way to the high aesthetic of the space.  That may have something to do with the quality of craftsmanship, planning and tender loving care that went into the construction, design and finish of the studios.  It's warm, organic, and woody.  It also sounds really good in every room.  You can get some idea by visiting the website.  It has a little bit of a Tibetan or Japanese Zen quality to it. A Lamasery or Dojo for sound recording. Dojo translates literally as "place of the way."

All processing done via electronics in a recording studio, everything done in that domain, directly affects and changes things at the quantum level.  Having some recognition and understanding of that level can help get one more inside the music.  The quantum level is where magick occurs; Bell's Theorem and quantum entanglement offer explanations for "spooky action at a distance." The quantum level is a level of forces, intensities and speeds in a riverrun of ever-changing motion; here to go.  Consciousness affects the making and recording of music at the quantum level and music in turn affects consciousness at its quantum level.  The architecture and environment of the studio, the space it creates or allows to be created also affects consciousness. Feng shui for the quantum level, the realm poetically and affirmatively seen as sacred and holy by mystics and explorers of all stripes  because of its far-reaching effects; its power of will to create.   The name Ancient Wave reflects this awareness and sensibility.

Comparison of classical and quantum harmonic oscillator conceptions for a single spinless particle.

The crown jewel of Ancient Wave is the 40 channel vintage Trident TSM desk.  It has a rich, clear analog sound with extraordinary depth and dimension.  Its friendly, musical sounding EQ paints in broad strokes as is common with boards of that era ('70s and early '80s).  The sound is so good out of that desk that it seems to negate any need for tape to get that classic analog sound though a Studer 1/4" analog tape recorder is available for people, like myself sometimes, still in the cult of tape.

I  rely heavily albeit lightly on the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, a $7.7k boutique unit with a modern, warm sound, and subtle, but effective transparency of operation.  It's the Buddha of compression, a silent, glowing affinity with all sound and vibration.  It cracks me over the head with a stick whenever I fall asleep.  Another machine, a $10k Sony reverb computer (I don't remember model numbers only how much they cost!) has a virtual library simulating some of the best acoustic spaces on this planet: King's College Chapel, Power Station Studio A, Cello, the Parthenon, Sydney Opera House,  etc. etc.  I can add acoustics from spaces all over the world.

 Ancient Wave Studio B

I've been describing Studio B where I work with my Pro Tools HD upgraded by Ancient Wave to accommodate 40 outputs and boosted with increased computer speed on my Mac Pro.  Studio A is the recording room and also features a vintage Trident desk, a Series 24, I believe, with 40 channels.  It's a smaller desk, but still has the trademark rich Trident sound and extra-dimensionality (XD); great vintage sounding mic pres too! All of the microphone food groups are well represented at Ancient Wave - tube, ribbon, condensor, dynamic - and there is an excellent selection of instruments and amplifiers available to use which includes a 1924 Steinway Grand Piano, a Hammond B3 Organ with a Leslie cabinet, and a vintage pump organ from the 1920s.  A full microphone, instrument, and amplifier list is on the website.  Services at Ancient Wave include recording, mixing, mastering and production consultation

Ancient Wave is a labor of love, skill and intelligence assembled by the dyadic cyclone Saul and Elena Rayo, prolific solo recording artists of local, regional, and universal renown.  Together they bring a musician's sensibility and aesthetic to the design and operation of the studios.  Saul, in particular, has a passion for the art of recording.  He is also a talented producer.   Technician and engineer Michael Eaton is the one who literally put it all together and remains a vital cog in day-to-day studio operation.  Miguel is a veteran of the LA and Las Vegas music scenes with a background owning and operating a recording studio.

A few well-known clients already have benefited from the facilities at Ancient Wave.  Evolutionary Minded: Furthering the Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron  produced by Kentyah Fraser was one of the first projects mastered there.  American philosopher Dr. Cornel West called that album "... prophetic art at its highest level."  Rappers and poets featured on that include Dead Prez, Chuck D., Killah Priest and Abiodun Oyewole from The Last Poets.  Another early mastering job was done for the piano jazz trio Too Noisy Fish for their album Fight Eat Sleep, recorded, mixed, mastered and produced by your extremely humble reporter.  New York Jazz Record magazine named it album of the year for 2013. Two albums by the Sufi and psychedelia inspired Neo Folk World Rock ensemble HuDost were mixed at Ancient Wave this year.  The first one, The Word Is... is a collaboration with Steve Kilbey the lead singer from The Church.  One song, Omega, features additional lead vocals from Jon Anderson of Yes.  A personal favorite of mine, a cover of Velvet Underground's Sunday Morning was recorded as a homage to Lou Reed the day he died.  The second HuDost album mixed there is Sufi Kirtan which expands the Sufi practice known as zikr (remembrance) to include prayers and chants from the esoteric side of all the major religions.  It's only been out a few months and is in the running for a Grammy nomination.

 The soundtrack for Retour, a contemporary dance performance by the German dance collective laborgras was mixed and mastered at Ancient Wave in 2014; music composed and arranged by Phoebe Killdeer.  Also, some interestingly evocative soundtrack mixing was recently completed for L.A.'s Blasting Company.  The animated show is called Over the Garden Wall and will air on the Cartoon Network.  New releases were mixed this summer for Austin James and the free jazz trio Bro Jazz.

This summer also saw mixing for a few up and coming rappers with Aja Salvatore for KSK records in Studio B.  These were Cyhi the Prynce (signed to Kanye West's label and a guest on his album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), Fat Trel (signed to Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group), and Jon Connor (signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermatch label and performs on Dre's new album, Compton).  Aja and I also mixed a track with local singer Deja Solis (Hamsa Lila).  Deja is renowned in burner circles for being the model for the huge statue at Burning Man every year.  She's also an incredibly soulful singer.

Other local Ancient Wave projects include Rustler's Moon, the well received, debut release by novelist and singer/songwriter Sands Hall.  This one was produced by Saul Rayo.  The medieval, celtic, pagan, psychedelic folk group Lasher Keen recorded their vinyl limited edition Mantic Poetry, Oracular Prophecy in Studio A.

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