COLLEEN 20TH ANNIVERSARY: THE WEIGHING OF THE HEART, 2013
December 12, 2022 § Leave a comment
INTRODUCING VOICE, TREBLE VIOLA DA GAMBA, PERCUSSION AND GOING BACK TO EFFECTS…
Of all my albums, my 4th has the broadest range of influences and instruments – perhaps as a kind of “I’m in love with you again” letter to music? In the 3 years leading to this album, I went back to devouring many styles of music as a form of nourishment for my own, much like I had done at the very start of the Colleen project. One musician really stood out: Arthur Russell. Sometimes you need a concrete person to look up to as the embodiment that things can be done a certain way – or more to the point with Russell: that things can be done in MANY WAYS, and you don’t need to choose between instrumental vs vocal music, experimental vs pop… Just as crucially, Russell dissipated the notion I had started to develop around the time of Les ondes that effects were something I had used because I wasn’t a “good enough musician” without them.
As for singing, it took me 2 years to “find my voice”, literally, and the lyrics for this first album are closer to haiku-style poetry than the more personal language I later developed to tackle the themes that are most dear to me: thoughts and emotions.
My interest for string instrument traditions deepened and broadened. One day on a whim I tuned the strings of the treble viola da gamba I had commissioned from my luthier down to a guitar-style tuning, fell in love with the sound and started to compose “Geometría del Universo”.
I also started to learn percussion instruments, and even though I did not persevere on that path, it paved the way towards a more rhythmical approach in my music.
The song I worked on last was “Breaking up the earth”: I was listening to dub again and I let myself a bit more loose by incorporating heavy delay and pitching. Viola da gamba + delay… the seeds for Captain of None were planted.
There was something important too for me to keep pursuing music professionally: I needed to process the massive stress caused by the soured relationship with my previous label, The Leaf Label. Finding a family-sized home Second Language Music really put me back on track.
The fabulous artwork was once again by Iker Spozio. The album is still available physically: booklet format CD and last vinyl copies on Bandcamp, shipping from Germany.
MAKING THE BEST OUT OF A BAD RECORDING SITUATION.
I started to record The Weighing of the Heart in late November 2012, during what remains one of the worst winters in memory in the Spanish Basque country: it rained almost non-stop for at least 4 months, and I remember one evening on the way back from the studio bursting out laughing as I saw water falling from a scaffolding as if someone was pouring it out of an eternally-lasting bucket… I left home every day for the studio – which was thankfully very close – as if for a battle, dressed Michelin-Man-style…
From the start I knew that recording the quiet parts of The Weighing of the Heart (vocals, classical guitar and viola da gamba – especially the treble viol, which when played fingerpicked is extremely low volume) was going to be problematic because of the noise problem in my studio (both traffic at street level and passersby), so I initially gave it a go at night. Even then, this didn’t work out, so I ended up bringing all my gear to the living room of the flat where I lived with my then partner, instructing him to stay in the bedroom with headphones and music on while I recorded late in the evening.
I then proceeded to record everything that was louder, such as percussion, piano, clarinet and some of the vocal harmonies, at the studio, continually starting and stopping whenever noise interrupted the takes. To say this was challenging is an understatement.
I recorded all the instruments in stereo using the Beyer MC834 and a Neumann KM184, except the clarinet and vocals in mono with the Beyer: I really love using this technique to create width by having 2 distinctive sounds panned on each side. I mostly used Sony plugins for reverb, delay and EQ. I was still going through my old cheap 2-input M-Audio soundcard, but the mikes were going through a modded Symetrix preamp. I still had no near-field monitors (something I forgot to mention in my previous posts!).
1. Push the Boat onto the Sand: vocals, classical guitar
2. Ursa Major Find: vocals, treble viola da gamba, piano (upright), guitar.
3. Geometría del Universo: treble viol
4. Humming Fields: vocals, toy gamelan, cymbal (played upturned with mallets, then chopsticks), Burmese bell (not in my possession anymore – see 2nd pic), floor tom and snare drum (both muffled with velvet cloth, played with mallets)
5. Break Away: vocals
6. Going Forth by Day: bass viola da gamba, clarinet, frame drum, maracas (forgot to include them in the pic!)
7. The Moon like a Bell: vocals, guitar
8. Raven: vocals, treble viol
9. Moonlit Sky: clarinet, guitar, vocals, Farfisa (Native Instruments Kontakt Vintage Organs emulation played on a Midi keyboard)
10. Breaking up the Earth: bass viol, vocals, floor tom and snare drum (both muffled with velvet cloth, played with mallets)
11. The Weighing of the Heart: vocals, treble viol.