Ulysses Accomplished

Monday, July 21st, 2008 | 1:24 pm and filed in Music, Friends.

Yes, it’s been a long time since my last post. Sorry about that. Life has a way of taking priority over posting random thoughts on the internets. The past few months have been really busy for me both musically and otherwise. Before the Producers Conferences came up I was tied down with Reason Electric Bass programming. That was a particularly challenging project but the core material of the sampled basses and amplifiers was really quality. It was a lot of fun to develop those sounds and the effects combinators.

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The one project that has been lingering on my to-do list(s) has been the completion of Goh Nakamura’s Ulysses album. It’s been over a year since we started on it and i’m happy to say that the gold master is completed and shipped off to manufacturing! This has been a long long journey, and i’m quite proud to have been part of this very unique project.

Back in early May, I had a week of tape projects including the transfers of the 1956 World Series Reels to digital - many thanks to Tardon at Mr Toads, who did an amazing job restoring the splices that dissolved on the reels. I have the files on this and will be moving ahead once i get my new workstation issues sorted out.

The big project was the final mixdown of Goh’s album at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco. Months after we did the first mixes, Scott Solter was back in town and we booked out half a week with him, and managed to finish the 11 remaining mixes. I can’t say that it was too grueling, because we were mixing from tape through the Neve desk, and the ear fatigue was not as intense as it is working on a DAW. Huge props to Scott, who created some amazing mixes from the raw tracks. I learned a lot from watching him work in a somewhat unorthodox style of mixing and effects chaining. Needless to say, that Scott’s technique has inspired a few combinator patches that i’ve been working on during my spare time.

The mixes went down on 1/2″ tape, so I got to play the tape transport ‘dude’ during the sessions, but I left the splicing and alignment to Scott who is quite simply a master of the medium. We walked out with digital references, so we could listen back to the album and start making decisions for the next phase of the project. There were a couple of issues with the mixes though. On one track, there was a section of 20 seconds that had this intermittent noise on the right channel that sounded like a scratchy pot or bad patch cord being jiggled. On another track, one of the crucial vocal harmonies seemed too low in the mix. Being that Scott returned home to North Carolina, going back into the studio was not an option to correct these problems.

Throughout June we were preoccupied with preparing the album for manufacturing as well as mastering as well as getting the artwork and design finished. I contacted Mike Wells in San Francisco to master the album. Mike’s suite is housed in the Hyde Street Studios facility, and keeping in the analog tradition of this album, he uses an analog signal chain of dynamics and equalization before digitizing the material. Of course, we still had the issues of the problematic mixes to deal with, so I had to consult Mike about making specific edits to the mixes after the mastering. For the scratchy section, simply cutting out the instrumental section worked like a charm. It was pretty fortunate that the problem occurred at the beginning of a very long repetitive outro section, and removing 20 seconds make very little impact to the song. For the missing backing vocal issue, I had prepared a mixed/eq’d/reverb’d replacement vocal track in Logic, and Mike was able to lay that back on top of the mastered file.

Also during June, Goh had a couple of live shows in SF. The first was at Amnesia in the mission which happened on one of those rare, extremely warm evenings in the city. The tiny place was packed and Goh, played with Tim Bulkley, Adam Shulman, and Justin Miller on the cramped stage. The other gig was at Bimbo’s 365 club where the guys along with Sadie Contini opened for Yael Naim and David Donatien. Their names may not sound familiar, but their song, New Soul, is featured on the apple MacBook Air TV ad, which any reader of this site has probably heard.

Gary Chou and Brian Kobashikawa have been working pretty hard on the preparation of the album packaging and media campaign for the launch. Gary has been going to all of the gigs and capturing digital video that has been posting on the masthead of Goh’s Website as well as youtube. It’s been decided to to a full blown production on the final product including a 20 page booklet as well as a Eight panel foldout CD case. Brian’s design and illustration talents have captured the feel of the project, and he has created a beautiful album package.

So again, my apologies for a lack of updates here. I’ve also been preoccupied with the hassle of migrating my workstation from my old Quad G5 to my new 8-Core Xeon. I have yet to upgrade my adobe creative suite to the native version, so the hassle of switching between machines has made it far more tedious to develop content and edit photos. The expense of the hardware upgrade and costs of production have pressed me to budget things, so I probably wont be upgrading the software anytime soon. Everything works fine on the old machine, so I’m switching between machines when i need to do any serious graphic work.

Ulysses should be back from the manufacturer in mid-august and hopefully online at iTunes by the fall. The record release party is already scheduled for August 20, 2008 at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco. If there are no problems with manufacturing we should have copies at the show! Also, if you live in New York, you can catch Goh playing this week at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg on Wednesday, and Pianos in Soho(?) on Thursday.

One Response to “Ulysses Accomplished”

  1. mark tarlton Says:

    man… that sounds like a journey Kurt. I can’t wait to hear it, and I look forward to seeing the show at Cafe Du Nord on the 20th.

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