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In Memory of Simon Katz

Places Pictures

I never actually met Simon. The only connection I had to Simon was listening to Simon’s bass parts in my studio and mixing them in Boats Without Oars’ album Places, Pictures. Simon tragically passed away in 2015. The album stands in Simon’s memory, and I was honored to be a part of it.

The goal for the album was simple yet challenging: take 7 home recordings by some talented high schoolers from Denver and turn them into a record. Yes, the recordings were a bit rough around the edges, and I’m sure the band would’ve done things differently had they had the chance to go back and clean everything up. With Simon’s sudden death, there was no such luxury. In hindsight, I think the imperfections only highlight the power of the songs and reinforce the aesthetic of Boats Without Oars…one of those recording “happy accidents.”

After hours of mixing, back and forth notes between the band and me, and revisions, I believed I had succeeded in doing Simon’s memory justice. The album was off to the masterer. It certainly increased the pressure of the project knowing that my mixes were a very concrete representation of Simon’s final musical stamp on the world.

Doing music for so many years, it would be a lie to say I haven’t questioned why the hell I’m still working in this profession. It’s certainly not the glamour (that was only tempting as a teenager). On the surface, my work in general doesn’t create a huge impact on the world. It doesn’t save lives. It doesn’t heal wounds. It doesn’t solve injustice…at least, on the surface it doesn’t. Music has the power to do all of these things in small (and sometimes big) ways. Working on Places, Pictures reminded me that at it’s core recording is just that: a record, a document. Recordings can help us document a certain time in a musician’s life, reflect on that time, and enjoy their art from that period. The album serves as a document of the music of Simon Katz and the band, and I hope it serves as a record of Simon’s creativity, genius, and the other qualities I was unfortunately never able to experience first hand. I hope it helps those close to Simon through their grieving and provides catharsis. Mixing this album gave me a strong reminder that music does impact the world in strong and positive ways.

If you’re a fan of emo, math rock, post rock, or punk, give the album a listen. You’ll hear the thoughts of a great musician that was taken from this world too soon.

A Good Year for Pacific Northwest Music

This year has seen a boom of solid releases in the local Northwest music community. I was blown away to have engineered and mixed a release by The Sextet that was chosen by KMHD as one of the top ten jazz albums of 2016. While the goal of producing music isn’t necessarily getting on a radio station’s top ten list, it does feel good to get some recognition.

After getting a little love from KMHD, I thought it might be nice to spread that love around. Below, I highlight my ten favorite Pacific Northwest releases of the year, as well as my favorite releases across the globe. Compiling this list was a great excuse for me to catch up on some releases I missed out on this year. Of course, there are many more artists I could’ve highlighted, but (in my mind) music shouldn’t be a competition. At its best, music should bring people together, not push them away. If a particular release didn’t make the cut, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. These releases spoke to my personal tastes, and I kept coming back to them throughout the year for repeat listens. Hopefully, you’ll find something on this list that speaks to you, too.

Everything is in alphabetical order. I find it hard to rate these albums in any fair sort of way, especially when they span genres from hip-hop to post-rock.

Pacific Northwest Releases


Amos Val – Yūgen

Post-shoegaze.

I’m sad that these guys won’t be playing these songs live anymore, but they left a great record of all their hard work with this awesome release.


Blowout – No Beer, No Dad

Pop punk.

One of the best live punk bands in Portland. Go see them.


Coastlands – To be found

Post-rock.

This album makes whatever you’re doing more epic and moody in the best possible way…adding in the fact that these guys are really nice people doesn’t hurt, either.


David Bazan – Blanco

Indie rock.

David Bazan made a synth album, and goddammit he hooked me again.


DETLEF – S/T

Instrumental math rock.

Ex-members of Rooftops. The album is definitely more restrained than Rooftops’ releases, but that only helps Detlef bloom in a lyrical fashion uncommon to instrumental bands.


Dust Moth – Scale

Rock.

Such a bad-ass band. Before I knew who they were, I walked into their set just in time to catch their last song, and I’ve been sad I missed the beginning of that set ever since.


Ellis Pink – Fist Day Around The Globe

Indie pop.

Stellar pop songwriting shines throughout this release. Connor’s intricate yet danceable beats provide a springboard for Simon’s catchy melodies.


Holy Tentacles – Won’t Be Saved

Math rock.

Tapping? Mathy rhythms? Intricate guitar interplay? I’m sold. It’s hard to pull off music this technical while keeping the songwriting catchy, but that’s exactly what Holy Tentacles does on Won’t Be Saved.


Sloucher – Certainty

Indie rock.

I was blown away by the production, writing, and simplicity of this release. I haven’t heard straight-ahead rock music recorded this well in a long time.


Two Planets – Procession

Jazz-Hop.

Dusty Fox and crew transcend hip-hop and jazz norms in a combination that elevates mind, body, and soul.


Non-local Releases


Blood Orange – Freetown Sound (New York, NY)

R&B.


Camp Cope – S/T (Melbourne, Australia)

Emo.


Enemies – Valuables (Kilcoole, Ireland)

Tropical post/math-rock.


Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math (New York, NY)

Indie.


Pingrove – Cardinal (Montclair, NJ)

Alt rock.


Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (Oxfordshire, England)

Art rock.


Russian Circles – Guidance (Chicago, IL)

Post-rock.


Still Parade – Concrete Vision (Berlin, Germany)

Psychedelic indie.


Totorro – Come to Mexico (Rennes, France)

Math rock.


TTNG – Disappointment Island (Oxford, England)

Math rock.


I lied, and I liked it.

in-a-natural-state

Remember that one time I said there’s no such thing as a short production cycle? Maybe you don’t, but humor me anyways. Well, that was a lie. Last summer I took a break from mixing the sophomore WBPT album to work on The Sextet’s debut album, In a Natural State. The whole project–clocking in at 57 minutes of groove jazz–was tracked and mixed in a grand total of 6 days, two for tracking and four for mixing.

The affair was utterly refreshing despite the 90+ degree weather outside. We recorded everything live with all six musicians in the same room (drums, bass, piano/keys, alto sax, trumpet, and trombone). It was an experiment. I had never worked out of The Map Room before, but everything ran smoothly with the band finishing up three more tunes than expected. Josh and Kris run a well-thought out studio.

Paul Paresa (piano), Robert Castillo (bass), and Dave Kelsay (drums) lay down some nasty grooves on the album. I definitely had to take a shower after that session (nah, but really, it was like super hot out). The last track, Moving On, got in rotation on local jazz radio station KMHD, and they had the following to say: “The song brings an outstanding debut to a memorable conclusion.” I wish Robert the best in Kansas City where he’s recently relocated. Keep those catchy bass lines coming.

Relive our two days in the studio on bandcamp here, or hell, just play it on Spotify.

thesextet-7

photo cred: Daiva Trudeau (truphotos)

Singles goin’ steady.

That’s it. I confess. I’ve been dating sound engineering for the past 8 years now.

I’m celebrating my wonderful single life with the release of two new singles this fall by Almost Rock and White Bear Polar Tundra. They are both very different in style, but both end products turned out great in terms of sound production.

The Almost Rock single Cavity is a three-minute straight ahead indie-pop song. I engineered everything at my home studio, and we headed up to Seattle to have Matt Bayles mix the single at Red Room Recording (in addition to the rest of the forthcoming five-song EP Barley Love).

Listen to the single on bandcamp here.

Cavity

White Bear Polar Tundra’s reggae chill-rock single Waves was recorded at Big Red Studio in Corbett, Oregon by Eric Broestl. We recorded all the basics (drums, bass, guitar) to an analog 24-track Studer tape deck. The final take is a straight through pass. It’s hard to replicate that energy working in the digital realm.

I recorded overdubs at my home studio, including the very delicate backing vocal tracks by the lovely Carmelle Christine. Again, Matt Bayles mixed everything in Seattle at Red Room. He is great to work with, and an open-book when it comes to talking about recording techniques and strategies.

Listen to the single and download it for free here.

Waves

Happy Holidays!

City Where You Live

Love Songs - DWS

I’m slowly finding that there’s no such thing as a short production cycle. No matter how hard you try. This particular project was an all-together pleasant affair with the multi-talented Devan Wardrop-Saxton (director, playwright, and songwriter). We recorded this indie-folkpop cuteness over a few months in little morning sessions with plenty of tea and chit-chat. No, it doesn’t sound British. Give Devan’s EP, City Where You Live, some love over on bandcamp.

The Devil’s Dime

It’s been a long production cycle, but The Devil’s Dime by alt-country band The Golden Country is finally out on My Darling Records. Tim and Rose of The Golden Country are amazing songwriters, and truly a blast to work with in the studio. I engineered and mixed the whole thing. Oh, and I play drums on the album, too! From tracking until mastering, the project took about a year to complete. There are some truly inspiring guest musicians on the album including Dan Pantenburg and Vaughn Leikam of The Autonomics, Sam Wenc of Post Moves, and many others. Hit me up and I might just tell you the story behind the album’s title (it’s a good one). Give it a listen on Spotify!The Devils Dime

The Wishermen and Old Wave

Take a listen to the latest sounds coming out of Soundscape City!

The Wishermen recently released their EP called, “EPoch” on Cavity Search Records. We recorded the EP at Soundscape City last winter, and it’s been in post ever since. It’s got a great avant-garde mathy vibe to it. Dare I say you shouldn’t even call it, “Jazz?” Barra and The Wishermen killed it at their release show at Alberta Street Pub recently.

Adam Brock and Old Wave also just released their debut self-titled album. I did some extra drum tracking for the album with Barra and Adam last spring, and the album is a shining example of quirky Portland-Pop.

I’m so stoked that these projects came out so well! Really, I just press buttons while the musicians do all the real work…

EPochOld Wave

White Bear Polar Tundra – Strikes Back!

WBPT released our debut album, Strikes Back, a week ago! The production process took over a year, and the final product was well worth the wait. So many amazing people went into making the album from Ed Brooks, Karim Hassanein, to all our Kickstarter backers. Thank you all. Take a listen and tell me what you think. We’ll have physical copies out sometime this summer, and a CD release party to follow.

Loser Boyfriend – Debut EP

It’s been awhile since my last update, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy.  I recently finished mixing Loser Boyfriends debut EP, Cleaned Ourselves Up.  You can listen to it on bandcamp: http://loserboyfriend.bandcamp.com/

Loser Boyfriend - Cleaned Ourselves Up

We recorded the drums and guitar live with my Mackie D8B, and overdubbed more guitars, bass, and vocals later. And of course, Nathan’s voice wouldn’t be complete without some re-amping!