Album reviews: Battles – Mirrored

Here you find my thoughts on some of the music I’m currently listening to. You can find the music I’m currently listening to on my Spotify Page (Click Here).

Battles – Mirrored (2007)

Battles are an experimental rock band hailing from New York.

Mirrored was Battles first LP and there is some amazing musicianship is on display. Warped whistling, layered effects over vocals, out of tune strings, slowing tempos. Clever beats. The drumming is very impressive. You would believe ther are two drummers hard at work.

There are very few clear lyrics on the album, with voices used more as instruments, which gives the album a strong identity. The effects used are similar to those by Rustie on Glass Sword (that comment might either attract or put you off).

This is an album I think I will come back to again and again and discover new things within the musical swirl.

I will look forward to listening to Battles other releases.

Advertisements

On Track: Me And My Steam Robot

In this ongoing series of articles looking at the development of the tracks found across the Grasslands EPs we look at track 3 from ‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’: ‘Me And My Steam Robot’. Pre-Order the EP here: (Click Here)

Song writing
‘Me And My Steam Robot’ was written around 2006 in Plymouth. The song was developed on the acoustic guitar and many attempts were made to transfer it onto electric guitar, but I always thought that it lacked some of the nice warm tones that the acoustic provided. It is one of Grasslands more structurally complicated songs with a few changes in tempo and some awkward time signatures.

Drum Challenges
The main challenge for recording this song was always going to be the drum track. I had attempted to layer drums over a song with a complicated structure on the first EP (This Is The Way I Rationalise), but I didn’t think this would work on this track.

I met up with my friend (and former band mate) Sam Armitage to jam with the track and see if we could get a feel for what the drums would be like. I soon realised that writing awkwardly structured songs is all well and good, but they take a lot longer to learn. Sam is a busy chap and I didn’t really want to force him through a drawn out recording session, so I started to wonder whether I could try and do the drums myself.

With Sam’s help I managed to get my head around the type of drum sequence I wanted and set to work recording the drum track to a metronome and a guide guitar track.

Awkward timing
The most difficult section of the song to develop drums for was the heavy section in the middle of the song (3:08). The timing makes barely any sense and both me and Sam struggled to get anyting to work. In the end I relied on a rather simple drum sequence using the crash symbol, which I was happy with.

Guitar rehearsals
Most of the summer of 2013 I rehearsed the guitar sections for the song (including over Sam’s stag do weekend) until I knew my fingers were strong enough to get through the full guitar sequence in one take for the recording. I played it on both electric and acoustic guitar.

Recording Software
‘Me And My Steam Robot’ was first recorded in Sonar Home Studio 7, but was shifted over to Logic X on the iMac for final mixing. I was a bit worried about doing this due to all the tempo changes in the song, but Logic X proved up to the job and after a few tweaks everything was sounding okay.

Mixing
As stated earlier, I opted for a cleaner final mix with crunchy electric guitars, but still with the acoustics punching through. This was probably the most challenging final mix on the EP, but I am pleased with the final result.

Have a listen to ‘Me And My Steam Robot’ here:

Remember that the full EP is released on 20th October (Click Here)

On Track: The Ball Starts To Move

This is the first of a set of articles that will look at the development of the tracks found across the Grasslands EPs. Today we look at the fourth track taken from the soon to be released ‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’: The Ball Starts To Move.

Writing The Ball Starts To Move
The Ball Starts To Move was written in 2012 and was always envisaged as a point in the narrative where things starts to happen (as the title suggests). The song was always going to require a powerful rhythm to truly reflect the titular ball rolling along.

The first thing you hear in the track is a raspy retro synth belting out a powerful jittery rhythm. This was the first aspect of the song recorded and Kate Bush was responsible.

A Nod To The Past
The sample used is from the groundbreaking Fairlight CMI. This was a machine I became quite interested in while researching its use by Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel. Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love‘ uses the Fairlight extensively, as does Gabriel’s ‘Melt‘. A more recent use of the Fairlight synthesiser was on the brilliant concept album by former Savage Garden front man Darren Hayes. His double album ‘This Delicate Thing We’ve Made‘ is a truly amazing left-field pop record. Lots of nostalgic imagery and interesting sound scapes and lyrics. Darren Hayes uses the Fairlight on each track and the work that went into his album spawned an ipad app emulation of the synthesiser called Peter Vogel CMI. The Peter Vogel CMI is a brilliant app that holds the nostalgia of this synth in high regard including loading times and common errors. The image at the top of the page is taken from this app. My first few sessions playing with the synth brought about the main riff for The Ball Starts To Move.

Other Synths
Other synthesiser parts were built around my go to synth: Sytrus. I then played drums over the synths and built up guitar sections.

The original version had a very different hook, which was much higher and sounded like a game show. This was soon discarded and the current version written.

Mixing
The Ball Starts To Move was a pig to mix. An early version of the mix was created in 2012 on Sonar. I have since moved to Logic X on iMac and there is now a brand new, much clearer mix available on the EP.

Listen to the track here:

For those interested in comparing mixes, why don’t you listen to the version above and then listen to the 2012 mix on Reverbnation (Click Here). Can you tell the difference?

Best Bit
Matching the guitar notes to the synthesiser at the end of the song. I love the lyrics too.

Grasslands New EP will be launched on 20th October

After two years of recording, Grasslands new EP ‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’ will be released on the 20th October 2014.

The EP is available to pre-order now on our digital store (Click Here). Pre-ordering gives you access to a free track and you will receive the EP before anyone else. The EP features six songs and two preview tracks and will be made available across all major digital platforms including iTunes and Spotify.

My Folks Prefer The Clone (Cover)

‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’ follows on from 2011’s ‘Time To Think’ with a mix of electronic and rock influenced tracks and the odd bit of awkward timing. Tracks include ‘Me And My Steam Robot’, a six minute-long rock epic with a strong Biffy Clyro influence, and ‘The Ball Starts To Move’ a synth driven rock track that is frequently popping into Reverbnation’s Newbury Chart.

‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’ was recorded in Newbury and Swindon and was written, performed and recorded by Tom Haynes. Tom learnt to play the drums over the past two years so he could record the songs with trickier structures on the EP.

‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’ marks the halfway point in the story of Grasslands, with two further EPs planned for release to complete the story.

Visit www.grasslandsmusic.wordpress.com for track previews in the coming days and further news and updates.

Here is a preview of the Pre-Order Track: The Ball Starts To Move