finally got back to working on the new album after a pretty turbulent autumn. we’d all been so busy—ben was sick, mason and i playing in awkward bodies and sean playing in both under the old sky and 5am blue—and then i just moved, so that was of course a top priority. i was glad to just sit back and and try to finish off the songs we started this summer.
as luck would have it, i got back my old tascam 414 4-track that i had recorded endless fields of poppy on back between 2004-2006. for some reason, it had a different sound than the other 4-tracks had, especially the yamaha i used to record some miscellaneous tracks in 2010 and even my larger tascam 424 mki which i recorded echoes from the ultraviolet fuzz on. hard to describe but it is a happier 4-track. very warm and friendly. it soudns like it loves me, rather than the 424 who simply tolerated me and the yamaha who secretly loathed me. i recorded a demo for under the old sky a few weeks ago on my 414 and she’s still got the magic. this will be the center of recording for the new curiously strong peppermints album, placed in the basement of my new house, which will be our ramshackle as-yet-unnamed recording studio. if you have a good name for the studio, let us know!
mason came over to lay some things down… we start by putting some finishing touches on “how to navigate a space ship through a black hole”, which was really things we forgot to track this summer. mason throws on his backing vocals and then we add a guitar overdub, utilizing my beloved tascam’s overdriven fuzz sound (that is how we got the fuzz bass on endless fields of poppy, this 4-track) to get a mean guitar tone that will be hard to replicate. love it. and now this song is done. spend a while mixing it, which is what i have been slowly doing over the last few months—tweeking this mix every week. i think i’ve found the final one. it’s labeled “mix 10” but in reality it’s more like mix 27. so everything was pretty much alreday balanced in the mix before we even added those final two elements.
of all my songs, i think i hold this one dearest to my heart. it literally is about wishing your own destruction because your life is so inescapably miserable, and in the case of this song, a death by singularity: by crashing dead center into a black hole. not only are you destroyed, but you could escape your present time due to the effects of time dilation as you approach the event horizon of a black hole. time itself is warped, and you can escape from your life—and then be stretched into infinitely long spaghetti of course. “hammered by the gravity of a hundred-million suns’ energy / no more past and no more present / i don’t have to run / i am free” i really truly meant it, and this song needs to be right, it needs to be perfect.
so then we add some dreamy autoharps to “boy with wings’ which is otherwise very sparse at this point. we decide to scrap the harpsichords and pink floydian organs we tracked this summer. wait, the autoharp is out of tune to the recording? i take a 20-minute break while mason sits and tunes an autoharp into standard. two takes later we like the autoharp direction, but maybe we can retrack a tighter performance next week, giving mason a chance to actually learn to play this song, he hadn’t played in 6 months, on a zither. i throw on a scratch vocal because, well, i never actually put one on it yet. maybe that will help?
i then realize that on “how to navigate” sean had played the drum pattern i heard in my head for another new song “formaldehyde” so i track down the master 4-track tape of the drum tracks, cue up one of the takes we did not use, slow down the tape and reverse it and create a drum loop. it takes some time to get it right, to learn the ride should be the timekeeper and not the monster backwards snare hits or cymbal crashes. finally i find the right placement to create this drumloop that would be the backbone of the verse sections. we performed this song acoustically two months ago with mason playing a droning air organ and jeannette a droning clarinet, and it had a great feel—this is the direction “formaldehyde” should go. i overdub a scratch guitar part to the backwards drumloop as a placeholder and then add the droning air organ. I then track a scratch vocal of the verse verse for a placeholder for the other musicians who will layer this thing eventually. this is the basics of the verses, and we’ll have to record the choruses with sean and ben at a later date and just piece the song together. fun!