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back to the creation of something special….

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2005

to me anyhow.
Today I wrapped up the mixes for Amber Smith and I’m really pleased with them. I’ll pop down to the la poste with them tomorrow and, depending on the efficiency of the French and Hungarian postal systems, they should get them in a few days. I’m looking forward to finding out if they are any good or not… well, that’s not true really, I think they’re pretty good.. it’s just that, for me, the artists happiness is paramount when mixing material for them. I do enjoy mixing things for other people, I guess because I can be objective. I haven’t been living with the rough mixes since the tracks were recorded (the producers nightmare) or even know all the technichal details, like the microphones used and stuff like that. It’s like assembling ikea furniture after your small child has eaten the instruction leaflet. No, it’s better than that because music is more rich that flat pack furniture, but you know what I mean. It’s assembling something and, not only making the best out of the individual parts, but making the finished mix somehow much more than just the sum of those individual parts.

I took a little time this afternoon to refresh my ears with some of the new music that I’m in the process of writing and recording. I have a lot of new music at the moment to work with, but the temptation is always there to start afresh on a new piece before the previous one is finished. When I recorded the album Imperial I had a starting point with the track Imperial and an end with the track Drift and the album became sort of journey, travelling from the first to the last. For my next album the same process has begun, I have my first and last tracks very firmly worked out and several points marked along the way. It is a question of flow, how to get from one place to the next in the most elegant and seductive way. That is why I have always been very concious of how I sequence a CD as it can make a tremendous difference in the way the album is percieved. The individual tracks can perform a function, if you like, within the entirity, which gracefully moves the listener from one place to the next. It always sounds odd, to me, to hear any of my instrumental music out of the album context, like hearing one on the radio or something like that. It’s also a shame that with the age of the digital download upon us, this context can be interrupted by people just downloading a song here or there. The actual concept of an album may exist, less so as we know it now, but rather, as like the directors cut of a movie, just a suggested playlist by the artist.
This isn’t really such a bad thing, and it’s certainly a change that can be weathered. Just recently while remastering Cocteau Twins songs I was amused to see that even up to Heaven or Las Vegas I was sequencing the albums for two five track sides of vinyl as opposed to a ten track flowing CD… Well after getting used to the idea of music albums coming in CD sized portions what is the future of the long format music media? Will people continue to make albums the same length just because they always have?
Me? I’ll stick with between 35 and 38 minutes as I have quite a short attention span and it’s about the time it takes to assemble a piece of ikea furniture without an instuction manual…..

9 Responses to “back to the creation of something special….”

  1. mike

    W/the economy the way it is here, they need to start producing those old Russian deals for Americans (bought one of yours this week for Tamara – Tiny, Echoes, Moon and…). Track sequencing is nice, but no one down here pays (or is interested in paying) for a goddamn thing. May be wasted effort.

  2. Joakim

    On the subject of album consumption

    Just started to use iTunes MusicStore (launch a couple of weeks ago here in Sweden), but I find that I tend to buy albums more then individual tracks, probably just habbit combined with a respect for the production as such. But I can definitively see myself buying most of my music this way in the future. With regards to this I would think it would be great if it would be possible for the artist to prompt the buyer to buy the whole album and not individual tracks (which is what some do buy allowing some tracks to only be available if you buy the whole album).

    However, the advantage of shuffling is not be disregarded since it makes the album last longer, in a subconcious kind of way, since it keeps you more on your toes 😉

    BTW love the “Mysterious Skin” soundtrack, which I got of iTMS yesterday. I thought that Harold Budd had retired with the last album, but maybe that’s just from “ordinary” album releases? 😉

  3. Dave

    Regarding your comment about compiling the early Cocteau releases as 2 sides of 5 songs instead of a flow of 10 tracks, if you had to organise them today, would the track listings be radically different to the original albums?, where you conscious of this whilst writing material for those albums?, as in making sure you had a starting point & finish for both sides of an LP?, and did your writing process change once CDs had become the norm?

  4. amber

    Great to hear that Robin….cheers….actually i used the instruction leaflet to pass the food orders to our studio staff…no, really, we loved the mixes so far so i`m excited to get the new ones soon!

  5. Adam | www.cocteautwins.prv.pl

    Regarding track order: even short album composed as a whole compact thing is better than 70-minutes-long collection of songs. It’s like a book of poetry: there may be some good poems, but reading them as an ensemble, and specific order gives reader wider context, wider range of interpretation and just makes artist’s work more powerful.
    Your/VI/CT records were never bunch of songs.

  6. tate

    length of compact disc = Beethoven:Sym.No.9 / conductor:Wilhelm Furtw䮧ler : Bayreuth Fes.Orchestra at Bayreuth Fes. 1951.

  7. Cedric Caspesyan

    I never finish a track ever.

    That is why I never made one album.

    Just this year I think I have over a 100
    snippets started but never finished.

    If I get rich I’ll hire musicians and say
    “here, can you complete and finish these tracks?”.

    My dream of making ne album would finally come true,

    Cedric Caspesyan

  8. Richard Millang

    With the immense popularity of purchasing digital music on a song by song basis, we are all in limbo. For some, it’s taken its toll with record sales, but one of the upsides is that we can do practically anything length-wise with little or no backlash. Our last record, Flaxen was under 30 minutes, yet for us it was a full-length record. One complete story. There’s no reason to force additional songs just to meet the “traditional” guidelines of 10 songs and 50 minutes of music. I believe each record should be it’s own entity.

  9. Julie Rae

    Life long Cocteau Twins fan. Met your Mum and brother on a drunken visit to g/mouth about 1985/6. Great day! Sorry to hark back. Saw Violet Indiana in Glasgow, good gig. Cheers.