The album that made you want to work in audio…

Shire Studio

Studio  |  24/01/2017  |  By Andrew Low  |  Add Comment

Some albums are good, some are great and others turn your world upside down. These albums make you want to dig into the guts of the music and figure out what’s going on underneath the skin. For some of us, they started a life-long career in the pro audio industry. Below you can read about that very moment as described by members of the Sound Hub creative team. We would love to know which album made you think about music in a different way. Email us at andrewl@shuredistibution.co.uk.

Bells Driver – MIA, Arular

I was 19, living in Auckland, New Zealand when I heard the M.I.A. track “Sunshowers” on the local student radio station while walking to work (I can  remember exactly where I was). I was still rocking my Walkman that was on its last legs after five years of intense listening. The tune was so different from anything I’d ever heard before, as I’d been mostly into pop, indie and rock.

I bought the album Arular and it opened up my mind to new sounds, beats, styles, lyrics – It was AWESOME! I realise now that listening to a strong, outspoken woman who was, and continues to, push the boundaries in music and art has had a very positive and lasting impact on me.

She’s a legend!

Tuomo Tolonen – Nirvana, Nevermind

Something about Nevermind by Nirvana was so distinctly different to everything else that was around in the early 90’s. It was inspiring, raw, emotional, and made me want to sit around with my guitar for hours at a time, just playing along. I was already involved in music at this point, but it just reaffirmed how powerful music can be. If I can make a living working in this industry why would I want to do anything else? And here we are 20 plus years later.

Paul Crognale – Leftfield, Leftism

The moment of actually wanting to know how the hell something was recorded/made has happened twice to me – and both times I was in a car….

In 1995, I was just a 17-year-old nipper, having played in a men’s football team since the age of 15. I had already been taken to plenty of clubs and  been to several raves. There were a couple guys on the team in their early 20’s, one of whom seemed to know everyone at said raves and had a very large record collection. These were the days of people having additional speakers, and even sub-woofers in their cars. One day, on the way to a match the album Leftism was played. No one spoke while the album was being played, and when the song “Storm 3000” came on, that was it for me. I had never heard anything like it before.

To this day (I have been collecting electronic music, amongst other things, ever since) I don’t think any ‘dance’ music album sounds as good.

I am not the only person who has been sonically overwhelmed by this album – I love the Gearslutz thread with people arguing that ‘it can’t have been recorded on XXXXX desk because they are cr*p desks’ etc. This album sounds so good it would likely still sound great played through a toaster or an alarm clock.

Paul Crognale – LTJ Bukem’s Logical Progression Compilation

The second time was in the late 1996 ….as previously mentioned, I had listened to plenty of different types of music by now. BUT, when LTJ Bukem’s Logical Progression compilation was played on a super car system, I was in awe. Once again, I had never heard anything like it. As us English love creating a genre, I later found out this music was supposedly called ‘intelligent drum & bass’. Unlike the jungle music of this era which was aggressive, this felt classy to me, but also like it was from a different planet. The following day I bought the double CD for £20. Shortly after, I bought turntables and ended up buying almost everything that was released on vinyl from LTJ Bukem and his stable mates between 1997 and 1999.

Marc Henshall – Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

It’s difficult to pin down an exact moment of inspiration that turned me on to playing and producing music. For me, that process just came naturally through growing up in a house where music was always present, and the fact I was captivated by my dad’s guitar playing.

I can, however, name a few records that really left an impression, but since we have to pick one, I’ve chosen Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. I don’t think they’ll be many readers who don’t either own a copy of this classic or at least know someone who does. An obvious choice, perhaps, but for me, this album is the craft of creating a perfect pop record personified. It has everything: great musicianship, timeless songs, great production, and plenty of rock n’ roll debauchery when you consider the personal interaction between band members.

Interestingly, through all the excess, the production was almost compromised altogether. During the recording process, the original drum track master tapes were played so many times that the sound became dull and lifeless. Without modern DAW systems, the only way to restore the original, crisp drum recording was to sync the safety tapes with the overdubbed tracks. Back then, this meant playing the two copies side-by-side, with the damaged tracks in one earphone, and the safety tapes in the other. Using a variable speed oscillator, the engineer would use the kick and snare as a timing reference to listen for phase issues, which would suggest the source tapes were out of sync.

The story above is just one of many dimensions that add to a melting pot of “secret ingredients” that separate great albums from outstanding albums. When the combination is right, these records stay with the listener for a lifetime.

Andrew Anderson – The Godz, Contact High

The album in question is Contact High by The Godz. You might have heard it discussed in one of Lester Bangs’ record reviews; in fact, that’s where I came across it. It was issued on the ESP-Disk label in 1966. ESP-Disk was founded by an eccentric lawyer named Bernard Stollman, originally as a tool for promoting Esperanto…although mostly he released free jazz and other out-there stuff.

Anyway, the reason this album had a lasting impact on me is that it is totally crap. The songs sound like they have been made-up on the spot, by musicians who can’t play, with the whole thing engineered by someone who only had a vague acquaintance with microphones and their uses. But despite these problems the album works – it might be crappy, but it is memorable and catchy. I didn’t get it right away, but over time it made me realise something: you don’t need to be good at anything to make good music.

Andrew Low – The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin

The first album that really made me start thinking about the creative side of music production was The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips. As soon as the opening kick drum hits on opener “Race For The Prize”, you are pulled down a swirling tornado of sounds that enter your head, bang from side to side and leave your senses pleasantly dazed. The combination of loud, booming drums with reverberant key and pianos sounds is split down the middle by singer Wayne Coyne’s cosmically effected vocals, making it sound like a soundtrack for a mission to Mars. The great thing about the album is that they used the studio as an instrument to bend the songs into a more distorted medley of drones and orchestral swoons that ride on the backbone of, what is essentially, a pop record. This blew my 20-year-old mind and began a fanboy obsession with producer Dave Fridmann.

Once this can of brain worms was opened, I began to examine song writing that did not rely solely on a tradition rock foundation of bass, drums and guitar. It also encouraged me to enrol in the audio engineering course at SAE NYC, which began my foray into a 20-year career in pro audio.

I was lucky enough to see the Flaming Lips perform the album in it entirety, with all the production accoutrements that accompany their shows. Seeing this live recreation is the closest I will ever get to a being a fly on the wall of Tarbox Studios, with the band and Fridmann twisting knobs and de/reconstructing ideas with the help of studio outboard, midi controllers, space suits and everything else they used to make this mind-bending album.