The importance of good mastering

I’ll let you in on a secret. There will be a new XR1300 album in the new year. No more remixes or anything, but 13 brand new tracks!

As I was recording and mixing it, thoughts went back to two years ago when I released the second album, Surrender Is Not The Answer.  At the time I was creating it, I was really looking for a noisy and gnarled sound. I was having some issues at the time (moving, unrequited love, “the real world,” etc) and was in a pretty bad mood. The sound of the first version was a reflection of how I was feeling inside. Unfortunately, things got a lot worse after that, but that’s for another post.

At the time I thought the album sounded good. I was pleased with it and its ultra compressed and ultra loud mix. It wasn’t until a few months later that I tried to listen to it again and thought it was an abomination. It had far too much high end and the results sounded like a mess.  And not even a good mess. It literally hurt my ears.

A year later I remastered the album (which basically just involved me mixing the tracks and songs at much saner levels). And while the results no longer sound like the sonic annihilation I was originally going for, I thought it made for an infinitely better album. I was no longer embarrassed by the results and could actually listen to the songs again without killing my ears.

I would imagine some people think that mixing sounds too low sound wimpy and weak. And they might not be completely wrong. Though there is always the volume knob…

To show the difference between the original and remastered versions of Surrender Is Not The Answer, I present the waveforms of the song “Hiding On Planet Yuri” which was one of the more painful songs to listen to in its original incarnation. Obviously the one at top is the original version.

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While the waveforms can never tell the entire story of a song, there is absolutely no reason why a song should be mixed that way. It’s a literal brick wall of noise that allows for no dynamics and is exhausting to listen to.

Also, it needs to be pointed out, when you mix that loud, you have no real peaks. All you get is clipping. Look at the image on the bottom and you’ll see actual peak points. The one on top is just a smooth level all the way across. That’s digital clipping. That’s what you want to avoid at all costs.

Of course, one could make a middle ground between the two. I could have made the remaster a few decibels louder and still had better dynamics. But I’d rather mix and master a song so the listener can make the song as quiet or loud as he or she desires. That, and I wanted the remaster job to sound completely different without actually changing the music.

And that is why mastering is an important part of your final product.

Far too much music is mastered hot these days. I’ve talked about the loudness war before. Most products out there is nowhere near as loud as I mixed my album (which was louder in spots than Iggy Pop’s dismal remix of Raw Power), but few if any sound like the way I master things now. Hopefully things will change now that most online music services normalize sound levels.

Two new XR1300 releases

I’ve been a bit busy lately, mostly with the XR1300 project.

First off, on 13 August 2015, I released Rose Fioriscono Di Nuovo, a remix album that consists of five remixed songs from La Giardino di Gigli Rosa, a remix of Yuri Trib Dub called Rubfuckhouse and a new song called Fun With A Tomboy.

Today, 13 September 2015, I released another remix project called Xambient — The RCB Remixes. I remixed 13 classic Rural Citizens Band songs in a more dance oriented manner.

Depending on your outlook, you will either be pleased, or upset, to know that I have sequel volumes coming up in the next few months. The second volume of Rose Fioriscono Di Nuovo, is already completed and ready to go (minus the artwork). I will start working on the second Xambient volume later in the week.

As always, these albums are released under a CreativeCommons license and are free to download and distribute, provided you credit me, Ratan X.

Album covers below the cut.

Continue reading Two new XR1300 releases

To remaster or not to remaster, that is the question

Lately I’ve been playing around with the idea of remixing some of my old RCB material. Not in the traditional sense of adding different drum loops or whatever (I have XR1300 to do that!), but mostly to increase sound fidelity and dynamic range.

Most of the tracks I’ve released, even before I knew to care about such a thing, sound pretty good. But some of them are downright crusty and embarrassing.

I fixed some of these problems for the Best of RCB and Rest of RCB compilations.  I had no problem remixing them for a new album, since I could release them as new versions of old songs. But I have a problem with revisiting the past and changing it.

All the albums I have released were snapshots of where I was at the moment I created them. Going back and changing them would be like changing part of the past, in a vain attempt to improve them, when in their own imperfect way they’re already perfect. It would be like a painter going back and “fixing” old paintings because he learned a new technique in the meantime.

On the other hand, I can also see an upside. The albums themselves would flow better and sound better. The sound would be more normalized. The quieter sound levels would be more appropriate for ambient music. La Teodicea di Odio especially had some problems with these regards. Three of its tracks rank 1 and 2 out of 20 on the DR chart, and are mix loud enough to fit on an Akibare album. I’m still not sure what I was thinking about when I recorded and mixed those songs…

Earlier this year I remixed the first two XR1300 albums, Love Won’t Get Us Where We’re Going and Surrender Is Not the Answer. Both of them were in dire need of a remaster, much more-so than the entire of the RCB discography. I had no real problem doing that, since I have both versions of the albums available. But at the same time, I don’t really think the sound of most songs are bad enough to remix in total.

In the end, I’ll probably split the difference and release another “Rest of” compilation, made up entirely of songs that needed remixed and remastered. That way the old albums are as they were when created, and the new versions can be on a separate release, released as the Definitive Versions.

Something to consider

Being an American, I had never heard of Mary Whitehouse until a few years ago. I mostly knew her as the inspiration behind the noise band’s name. And I knew she had something to do with censorship on British TV. Most people in the media portray her as a meddling, old, religious fanatic who was out to spoil everybody’s fun. And they mocked her accordingly.

Fast forward some 30 years to 2015 and we still have a band of Mary Whitehouses, but instead of claiming Christianity as their inspiration, they do it in the name of identity politics.

You see a Mary Whitehouse in every campus classroom that practices “trigger warnings” and “micro aggressions.” You see Mary Whitehouse in the pages of your favorite clickbait websites. You see Mary Whitehouse in the faces of people like Anita Sarkeesian and John McIntosh and Coralie Alison. You see it in the latest update of your favorite web comic.

Mary Whitehouse corporally died 14 years ago. But her spirit lives in in far more rancid ways than she could have ever dreamed. While the inspiration might be different, these men and women who have made every politically incorrect utterance forbidden are every bit as much a doddering old moralist as Mary Whitehouse was, the only difference is that the people who opposed Whitehouse are the same ones who are welcoming the new totalitarianism with open arms.

So much gear, so little time

I already have more than enough pedals, especially reverb and delay pedals, that I don’t need more.

But damn it, I really, really, really want the Boss RV-6 and DD-500. It seems that when I really shouldn’t get more gear, I want gear the most. I’m not even saying these pedals will inspire me to write more and better music, but I can see both being very useful. I’d even trade in my beloved RV-5 for the RV-6.

Getting back in the swing of things

It’s been too long since I posted something. Though I have released a new album and have another one on the way.

I’m still planning on doing a guitar ambient project soon. Something totally separate from Rural Citizens Band. This video I found tonight has kind of reignited the desire to do something like that:

I’m really impressed with that Jazzmaster copy. I’ve wanted a Jazzmaster since the early 90s when I noticed the guys in Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Curve, Dinosaur Jr, Television, Placebo and Swervedriver used them. I’m not usually one to buy a guitar because Gitah Player X used them. And in some ways I avoided using one because they’re so ubiquitous in the indie rock scene (especially among the louder bands), but damn it, I really want one. And those copies can be had for around $250 (whereas a Mexican JM will run you about $800). I just wish that company also made Jaguar (in both single coil and HH configs) because I could buy all 3 for less than the cost of one Fender Mexican JM.

Anyway, I plan on blogging more here. I can’t excuse my laziness. Not that anybody is reading this anyway.

Good grief, more recommended music!

The Living Sleep released a new album this week entitled Remnants.  I’ve given it a few listens and I’m really enjoying it. It’s more of a piano based work, kind of like the “Into The Blue” single they released a few years ago.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Into the Blue at first. I thought it was pretty, but the lack of guitars put me off. Also, to release one single song after a three year silence was disappointing. But mainly because Losing Today is one of my favorite Bandcamp discoveries and “We Were Infinite” is an ambient guitar classic to me.

But this full-length album is really great. It is a massive leap forward for the band and something I highly recommend. Not only that, but Losing Today was released in 2010, and you can’t expect them to be the same band they were half a decade ago.

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While I’m recommending new music…

The new Swervedriver (!!!) is out and it’s amazing! First album of new material in almost 17 years.

Swervedriver I Wasn t Born to Lose You

 

Called “I Wasn’t Born To Lose You” and it can be downloaded at the usual suspects.

Always loved the Swervies, even though I prefer their earlier works. This album sounds like it could have come between Raise and Mezcal Head and that’s a very good thing.

You got it!